“Medical school teaches the science of medicine, but not the business of medicine," is a statment that Doximity CEO and founder Jeff Tangney has made repeatedly—and physician recruiters know better than anyone that employment contracts are a daunting yet definitive part of the business of medicine.
Yes, physicians can diagnose and treat medical conditions; they can even recite (and pronounce) complex anatomical and pharmaceutical terms. But even doctors need an attorney to dissect and digest a legal employment contract. That’s where a letter of intent fits in nicely.
A letter of intent (LOI) or “offer letter” is simply a gesture of intent to join an organization or team. An LOI is not legally binding, but using an LOI is commonplace both within and outside of the healthcare industry for one very important reason: It helps candidates take an all-important “mental” step towards formalizing an employment contract.
An LOI is simply a written gesture and agreement based on mutual interest and good faith of both parties. It outlines the terms of employment in a less daunting form because it cuts out the complicated legalese.
The premise of an LOI is simple: When someone makes a promise, they stick with it. Most candidates don’t sign an LOI if they aren’t serious about taking the position, and a recruiter or employer doesn’t issue an LOI if they aren’t serious about a candidate. So an LOI can be a big incremental step in the hiring process.
First, an LOI can relieve the immediate pressures of interviewing and recruiting. As you know, the job search/recruiting process can be lengthy and stressful. When your candidate signs a letter of intent, however, both sides promise on good faith to stop pursuing other jobs or candidates until the terms of the final contract are complete. Your candidate is now one step closer to accepting a formal contract.
Next, an LOI explains the potential compensation, benefits, and position responsibilities in plain English—no legalese. Clear language that everyone is comfortable with makes it simpler for everyone to make a decision and keep the process moving forward.
Last, because an LOI spells out the details of a position, it gives your candidates a window to negotiate. It's much easier to negotiate at this stage, too. After all, no one wants to rewrite a complicated employment contract multiple times.
How do you write a letter of intent? Bo Claypool, a physician recruiter and managing partner at Monroe & Weisbrod has some good advice on Kevin MD. Here are the salient points:
1. Use a warm and sincere tone. Most employment contracts are dry and unforgiving so make the LOI serve as the buffer.
2. Be as brief and succinct as possible, but use some human sentiment.
3. Hit all the highlights of the agreement (pay, benefits, terms of contract) but don’t include anything that would be viewed as negative, like non-compete language.
4. Clearly state this does NOT constitute a legally binding agreement.
5. Make sure there’s a place for the candidate to sign—and have the employer representative sign it first (it makes the offer seem more “real”).
Of course, a signed LOI doesn’t mean things can’t go wrong before you finalize an employment contract, but an LOI can go a long way toward securing a candidate earlier—before the barriers of the legalese and other contract minutiae potentially stop them in their tracks.
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