Some friendly advice for pharmacy recruiters

I get a fair number of emails and phone calls from pharmacy recruiters. The number has decreased over the past couple of years secondary to the change in demand for pharmacists, but I still get them. Lately I think it’s a byproduct of having a LinkedIn profile, which makes me wonder if LinkedIn is worth the time, energy and effort of keeping an online work profile up to date. That’s a post for another day.

Regardless, most of the recruiters that contact me offend more than intrigue me, and here’s where they make their mistakes.

  1. Saying “new grads welcome” – New flash, I’m not a new grad. I’ve been a pharmacist for a long time and I haven’t needed a job that will accept new grads since I was a new grad back in 1997. Any job that would pique my interest wouldn’t hire a new grad. Why? Because the willingness to hire a new grad means one of two things: 1) The job doesn’t require any particular skill set; I have several. I have no desire to start at the bottom again. 2) The pharmacy director views his/her pharmacists as interchangeable cogs with no discernable value other than filling an open hole in their schedule. Boy, who wouldn’t want a job like that! *sarcasm*. If you’d done even a tiny bit of homework you’d realize this type of job wouldn’t interest me for a second.
  2. Selling the location – If you’re trying to sell me on a job based on the location – i.e. great views, nearby lake, lots of outdoor activities, etc – rather than the merits of the job, then I view that as an attempt to pull the wool over my eyes. I refer to this as the used-car-sales-approach to recruiting. I’ll tell you a secret people, I live in Fresno, CA. Fresno will never be on any of the lists of top places to live. The air quality in the Central Valley is poor, it gets hot in the summer (> 100 F), the winters are not cold, but they’re dismally foggy and ugly, etc. But, it’s my home and I like it here. I chose to live here for various reasons, none of which has anything to do with lakes or fishing or views, etc.
  3. Salary – I absolutely hate it when a recruiter says they have a “high paying” opening that I’d be perfect for. Really? Do you know what my salary is? From item #2 above – I live in Fresno, which just happens to be one of the highest paying areas for pharmacists in the country. The pharmacist shortage caused a lot of problems in the Central Valley of California because it’s not a desirable place to live. If you could go anywhere in California, the Central Valley probably wouldn’t be at the top of your list. So to entice pharmacists to come here hospitals and retail chains had to create some type of incentive, and that incentive was money. I’ve looked at director’s roles in other states that pay less than the lowliest staff pharmacist in California. Salary shouldn’t be the only reason for taking a job, but it’s certainly important for you and your family to consider. No one wants to go backward. Yeah, yeah, I know – the “cost of living is less“. See #4 below.
  4. Cost of living – Ok, I’ll say it one more time – I live in Fresno. Do a little homework and you’ll find that the “cost of living” in Fresno is low compared to many other desirable places. And just remember, when a recruiter says the cost of living is low they really mean housing is cheap. My car will cost the same, the bread I eat will cost the same, Diet Pepsi costs the same, buying a plane ticket to take vacation will cost the same, my Quarter Pounder with Cheese at McDonalds will cost the same, and the new laptop I order from Lenovo online will cost the same; so on ad infinitum. So please don’t try the “cost of living is lower” crap on me because it makes you look like a complete idiot.
  5. Disconnect between recruiter and client – Some recruiters, not all, will try anything to get you to take a new job. Hey, it’s how they make their living. Unfortunately I’ve found that some of what they say may not be in line with what their clients want. Let me give you a prime example. During my last year as an IT pharmacist in the hospital I started looking to move up in the world. I wanted to get a job that would allow me to make decisions that would drive the automation and technology inside a health-system. In other words, I wanted to wear the big boy pants for a while. I put out some feelers and one recruiter offered me what I thought would be the perfect fit. The job was out of state, which was a big deal for me and my family, but we all agreed it would be worth it if the job met my expectations. The job seemed to offer what I was interested in: informatics role over multiple hospitals, working directly with the decision makers, overseeing projects and driving the pharmacies toward a new practice model with the use of automation and technology, yada yada yada. It looked so good that I flew back east for the interview. During the interview it became obvious that the healthcare system was looking for a grunt to handle “pharmacy dictionary” cleanup and lots of data entry for smartpumps and BCMA readiness. At one point the COO of the hospital asked me what I was doing there because he didn’t think the job was going to meet my expectations. I appreciated the candor. We terminated the interview early and I got on a plane and flew home. That was the last time I used a recruiter.

So are all recruiters evil? No, not at all. In fact I think they provide a necessary service and can be useful given the right set of circumstances. With that said, if you’re going to present me with an opportunity please do your homework first. Take a few minutes to realize that I’m not a new grad, a desirable location to live isn’t my first priority and quite honestly I never want to go back to being a grunt again. These things are no secret. All you have to do is look at my job history and CV posted on LinkedIn to figure it out, and common sense says you’ll do that before contacting me. After all isn’t that what having all this information at your fingertips is all about? Just sayin’.

7 thoughts on “Some friendly advice for pharmacy recruiters”

  1. Wow, what a great post. I don’t think this problem is limited to pharmacy recruitment. It looks like jobs in the computing world are starting to open up, so I’ve seen a lot of interest lately, and it’s quite obvious some quick search turned up my name, but they didn’t bother to read my resume to get a feel for who I am.

  2. How refreshing to hear this truthful tale…and also so true for nursing informaticians as well! Glad to see we are not alone.

  3. Nicely said Jerry! I have to wonder how often pharmacy or nursing recruiters are actually pharmacists or nurses. It seems like it is less and less of the time. Perhaps it would be more relevant if the recruiters shared the profession?

  4. Rob,

    I am glad I came across your blog. Believe it or not, I was doing a search to look for a recruiter out of central CA whom I had spoken to before and was very sincere. Had lost his info. he used to be the head of HR at one of the Catholic hospitals. Would like to get your opinion on Information Systems management. I graduated about the time you did with a couple of specialty by experience.
    I will be starting graduate school this fall at one of the nationally known schools here in Chicago for a Masters in Information Systems Management. With the intention of going all the way up the decision lather. I noticed the great number of on-line Informatics programs that have popped up all over the country just like the private pharmacy schools breeding pharmacist like rabbits.
    I wanted to be able to do beyond simple pharmacy informatics grunt work. I have been involved in at least 3 different pharmacy system implementations. And what I find insulting from most so called hiring directors or pharmacy managers making it sound like you are developing software from scratch, you are not. I am aiming for Chief Information Officer position (not Chief Medical Information officer, primarily reserved for MD’s). Since you are already there based on what I just read, what is the salary range? What is the mid range with experience? Based your search for such position and not simple pharmacy Informatics position.

  5. Hi Michael,

    It’s hard for me to give you my opinion about Information Systems Management as it’s one of those things that continues to develop over time. While it appears to be well defined you’ll find that what the role encompasses is nebulous depending on where you practice and what the particular needs of the facility or system are.

    CIO’s can do pretty well. Salaries at or above $200K aren’t outside the range. As I said above, it all depends on where you practice and how much experience you have, i.e. larger systems will be willing pay more for a well rounded veteran, while someone with less experience and working for a small hospital will likely make much less.

    I would encourage you to speak to a well known recruiter that specializes in this type of thing. David Kushan, Managing Partner at HealthcareIS here in California is a good guy. I’ve talked to him about industry trends many times over the years. He’s one of the few guys I’ve met that’s interested in what you want. He won’t push you into something that doesn’t fit. Give him a call. He’ll talk to you, not at you.

    And finally, you’re absolutely right about hiring directors or pharmacy managers when it comes to looking for grunts to do their dirty work. There are few people in the industry that understand or appreciate the true value of someone that specializes in healthcare informatics.

    Good luck,

  6. Hi Jerry,

    Thank you for your response. Very helpful.
    I have spoken to David a few months back, when I was in
    the process of picking an area of interest to “reinvent” myself. he was very helpful. I need to contact him again for detailed info. You did reaffirm what I found regarding salaries. Initially I was just looking at the so called “Informatics” or “pharmacy informatics”, but the more I researched, realizing that’s is not what I want to do. I did not wish to do more grunt work. To get more education and do a lateral move from verifying orders to do simple tasks such as protocol formation, maintenance… and very much with the same pay! Also having a degree that just says “Pharmacy Informatics” is not going to be helpful in the long run. Pharmacy market is getting worse b/c of all the new schools turning out, almost, twice as many pharmacist now than before. It was time to diversify , and diversify beyond just pharmacy, or healthcare. Thank you Jerry. I will be back for more to take advantage of your experience.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.