Four Traits of an Honest Travel Therapy Recruiter
Perhaps more than any other element of travel therapy, having great recruiters you can trust is integral to finding success. But when you’re just starting out, it can be overwhelming to sift through everyone who contacts you to find someone who is actually a good fit.
And even if you find someone you get along with, there is always the chance that they are promising you the world without much intention to back it up. While there are a ton of great recruiters out there, there are also a lot that feel like they just stepped off the used car lot into this position.
So beyond general vibe, how can you tell if someone is being truthful with you? Here are four traits to determine if you’re working with an honest travel therapy recruiter.
1. They’re honest about the jobs they have and the ones they don’t
Facilities turn to recruiters for a reason. If the job was very easy to fill, there would probably be applicants in droves. There’s usually some sort of “catch” to why a facility needs a traveler – maybe the location isn’t the greatest, maybe the pay is not up to par for the cost of living, or maybe the director of rehab is hard to work with.
Sometimes the reasons are less sinister and may even be a boon to you – there are a ton of contracts in beautiful, rural locations for example. I generally like to stick to the “pick 2” rule: setting, location, pay. This may require some expectation checking on your part. It’s likely you will have to make some compromises.
All of this being said, recruitment companies know that the most sought-after assignments tend to be in big cities in settings other than a SNF. So don’t be fooled by any company who advertises jobs like this as the norm. Sometimes it can be as innocuous as leaving a desirable job post up that technically got filled a few days ago. All the way to specifically lying about having tons of jobs open in your preferred setting/city.
Even if it’s not what you want to hear, you need a recruiter who will tell you “I very rarely see outpatient pediatric positions come open in Portland. I will definitely keep my eye out, but if you’re willing to consider a different setting or living a bit further out from the city, I will have more options for you.”
2. They’re honest about pay
Being a great recruiter takes a lot of skill. One of those skills is quickly and efficiently presenting a pay package that is easy for you to understand.
In most cases, you’ll even have this pay package before you agree to spend time interviewing. To understand a pay package, it helps to know what a recruiter is doing on their end to assemble it. In general, a recruiter will receive a bill rate from the facility, which is just an hourly rate that the facility will pay for your services.
From this bill rate comes all of your pay – hourly, tax-free stipends, mileage, etc. It is also generally where your licensure reimbursement and other bonuses or benefits come from, though companies do sometimes take this from their marketing budget instead. From this bill rate, the travel company also takes a cut for operational costs – they have to keep the lights on somehow – and your recruiter’s commission (smaller than you think!).
It’s helpful to think of it as one big pot of money that everything must come from – so any travel company that advertises tuition reimbursement as an “advantage” compared to other travel companies is probably just taking it from your take-home pay. Since we are eligible for tax-free stipends, it’s almost always more advantageous to the traveler to shift any would-be bonus to that column instead.
A good recruiter knows this and will present it to you as such. A good recruiter will also answer any questions you have about a pay package. The pay package should be something you fully understand hopefully before you even interview (and definitely before you take the job). There’s also something to be said about negotiating here – there is not usually any flexibility with the bill rate the facility provides.
So if your recruiter agrees to try to haggle for you, it’s pretty unlikely that they are actually discussing it with the facility who posted the job. In the most sinister scenario, they planned to take a higher-than-normal commission from you and are now giving some of it back. You want a recruiter who is going to try to get you the most money they can the first time around.
There are sometimes exceptions to this, like if you have a very marketable skill the facility didn’t originally know about, they might be willing to budge a bit on the bill rate. But these situations are few and far between. Generally a facility is already paying “top dollar” to try to entice a traveler.
3. They don’t try to pressure you into doing something you’re uncomfortable with
Setting off on your first travel therapy adventure is a scary and wonderful thing. It often involves uprooting your life and moving across the country, saying goodbye to family and friends for an indefinite period of time, and trying out a setting you’re not as familiar with. It may even be your first job as an OT!
So it’s important to have a recruiter that you can trust to be on your team. A recruiter’s job is hard – harder than we sometimes give them credit for as therapists. It often involves a lot of upfront work before they receive any payoff, if they ever even get to that point.
A good recruiter is aware that this is a facet of the job and puts their all into finding you a placement where you will be happy. A dishonest recruiter, on the other hand, may try to get you to agree to take the first job that pops up, or one that’s been very difficult to fill.
They may even use scare tactics and tell you that if you don’t say yes within a couple of hours someone else will get the job, or that another job in this setting may not come up for a while. And sometimes these things do have a modicum of truth to them – but even if they do, a good recruiter is not going to make you feel like a job is your only option.
More jobs get posted every day, and if something doesn’t feel right to you about a position, don’t take it. You definitely don’t want to get yourself into a situation where you feel inexperienced and unsupported, or worse, at a facility that is likely committing Medicare fraud.
4. They play nice with other recruiters
If you’ve read any of our other articles on travel therapy, you’ll notice that something I always advise is working with multiple recruiters.
This is for a couple of reasons – it’s unlikely that one company is going to have all the jobs all the time and it’s also the best way to ensure that you’re getting paid a fair amount for an area. Recruiters are aware that it’s advantageous for you to work with multiple companies – and the good ones will encourage it!
The best recruiters want you to be happy, both on a person-to-person level and also because it’s what’s best for business. Unhappy travelers do not tend to stay in the field for long. But the bad recruiters will see you working with other companies as unwanted competition. If a recruiter was planning on trying to pay you less so that they can take a bigger cut, they know they will have less of a chance to get away with it now.
They also realize it opens them up to the possibility of putting in a ton of work to find you a job only to have you accept a position with someone else. Again, good recruiters knowingly accept this risk as part of the job, but the bad ones may try to discourage you from working with someone else – they may speak poorly of other companies, or may even try to get you to tell them the name of the other recruiter you’re working with.
On a related note, a good recruiter will never submit you to an assignment without your permission. If you are working with multiple companies it’s likely that they may have access to the same jobs. It’s not the end of the world if you get “double submitted” somewhere – but it does look a little unprofessional to the facility, so a good recruiter will always check with you before sending your profile to someone.
It can definitely be challenging to find a great team of recruiters when you start doing travel therapy, but keeping an eye out for these behaviors can help you narrow down the list. Above all else, trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right with a recruiter, don’t hesitate to politely but firmly let them know that you no longer require their services.
As occupational therapists, we have a tendency to demonstrate a lot of compassion for people which leads to conversations like this being difficult and awkward. But it’s important to remember at the end of the day, it’s just business.