When it comes to securing your first job as a traveling physical therapist, you may have heard that traveling PT recruiters can help—and what you’ve heard is right. Many traveling PTs have built lasting, successful relationships with recruiters—and, as a result, enjoy prosperous, rewarding careers. But are travel PTs and travel recruiters always like two peas in a pod? Not always. Sometimes traveling PTs prefer to embark as a lone pea. Other times, you might find yourself in the wrong pod—with the wrong recruiter. But whether you go solo, or pair up, I can happealy tell you the choice is yours! Seeking out a recruiter is all about what works best for you and your professional goals.
If you’re ready to kick off your travel PT journey, but aren’t sure how to find the recruiter who’s the peas to your carrots, we’re here to help. Let’s explore the signs of a good travel therapy recruiter—and what you should watch out for.
What’s the best recipe for finding the right recruiter?
Traveling recruiters come in the form of independent contractors or representatives of travel therapy staffing companies. While you can find them by doing a simple online search, there are other ways to seek them out.
“Generally the best way of going about finding a recruiter is to ask other travelers or physical therapists for recommendations,” suggests Steve Stockhausen PT, DPT, OCS, and co-creator of PT Adventures. A traveling PT who’s been around for a while has likely worked with several different recruiters—something many seasoned travelers recommend—and is willing to share their experiences, good, bad, and ugly (but we’ll circle back to this later).
Sometimes, a travel recruiter may actually find you, as was the case for Stockhausen and his wife.
“Way back, when I was in graduate school, my girlfriend at the time—now wife—and I both had an interest in traveling,” Stockhausen says, “and there happened to be a job fair at my college—the University of Kentucky. It was there we connected with a recruiter.” While Stockhausen didn't immediately call upon the aide of the recruiter, they remained in contact. Years later, when Steve and Ellen decided to move forward and become traveling PTs, they connected with the recruiter and got their first job placements.
In addition to attending job fairs and asking other traveling PTs about recruiters they have worked with in the past, you can find travel recruiters by:
Okay, now you know how to find ‘em. But how do you know if the recruiters on your list are good or bad? Or, more importantly, if they’re the right match for you?
Get a recruiter who’s the peas to your carrots.
Whether you heap them on your plate—or decide to pass—peas and carrots are widely recognized as complimentary veggies. As a travel PT, how can you achieve the same magic pairing with a recruiter?
“Just like any field there are really good recruiters and there are ones that aren’t that great,” Stockhausen says. “Ideally you want to find a recruiter who works with you and builds a relationship and your career side-by-side.”
Here are a few attributes of a good recruiter:
- Responsiveness. Even before you secure them by signing on the dotted line, a prospective recruiter calls you back quickly and returns emails expediently.
- Insightfulness. Traveling PT experts unanimously agree that a recruiter “worth their salt,” knows the therapy traveling landscape like the back of their hand. This means they keep up on the latest trends, job postings, and high-paying positions.
- Attentiveness. In addition to having their finger on the pulse of what’s currently happening in travel PT, quality recruiters will prioritize the job postings that match your wish list. Plus, they’ll funnel opportunities to you in a timely manner via email, text, phone call, carrier pigeon, or all of the above.
- Extra-mile-ness. Even when it’s not convenient for them, your recruiter will let you know about an incredible job opportunity that just came in—even if it’s on a Saturday or after weekday business hours.
Here’s one thing on which many indoctrinated travel PTs agree: Once you find a good recruiter, find another one. Stockhausen has worked with four or five recruiters, three of which he maintains ongoing, working relationships.
Working with multiple recruiters ups your chances of job placement, largely because each independent contractor or therapy travel agency has different client pools. The more quality recruiter relationships you have, the more exposure you’ll have to a variety of possible contract positions.
Avoid an icky recruiter mix-up.
Did you ever make weird concoctions as a kid (mixing up ingredients you knew would be gross like milk and apple juice) just to say you did? While strange mixtures are fun as children, they aren’t as entertaining when it comes to your desired profession. There may be instances you and a traveling recruiter simply won’t mix.
“Sometimes recruiters might just be in it for the money and not to really help you build your career,” Stockhausen cautions.
To avoid a recruiter who doesn’t have your best interest in mind, watch for these signs:
- Lack of follow-through and follow-up. If a recruiter promised to check into a specific job post, but dropped the ball, that’s not only a missed opportunity for you, but also missed potential revenue for your pocket. Along the same lines, if a recruiter doesn’t routinely send you travel posting options or check in with you, it may indicate a lack of proactivity and interest in progressing your career.
- Poor attention to detail. Did you specifically tell a recruiter that you don’t want to travel outside the Southwest, but they keep sending you postings for the East Coast? Or, are you being sent hand therapy job positions, when your specialty is pediatrics? The same goes for pay range. If you’re bombarded with salary ranges well below your target earning bracket, you have to wonder if your needs are prioritized by your recruiter. Having a recruiter who listens to your short- and long-term goals ensures you’ll get the kind of travel posts you want and help further your career.
- Revolving personnel. In the case of working with a therapy travel staffing agency, travel PTs may interact with multiple personnel as opposed to a dedicated recruiter. In addition to increasing the probability of miscommunication and error, too many cooks in the recruiting kitchen make it difficult to establish lasting relationships that promote optimal job placement.
Check out these tasty travel recruiter FAQs.
Before we send you on your way to find your best-ever recruiter match, take a look at a few frequently asked questions.
Do you have to partner with a recruiter to be successful?
Nope. However, many travel PTs who choose to work with a good recruiter find that a recruiter can:
- Provide access to a greater number of opportunities in a shorter period of time than if they were to independently search for contract positions;
- Offer assistance with credentialing and other traveling PT requirements (although some recruiters may not include this as part of their services);
- Know details about certain job postings and clients that you wouldn’t otherwise be aware of; and
- Serve as your intermediary during your contract, addressing any questions or concerns you might have.
Do you have to pay a recruiter?
Typically, no. Most recruiters collect their earnings from the clients with whom they partner—not the travel PT who signs with them.
When should you start looking for a recruiter?
According to Travel Therapy Mentor, it's wise to begin your search for a travel PT recruiter no later than eight weeks prior to when you’d like to start your travel PT job. Even better—try to space out your search three to four months in advance of your ideal start date.
Are you a travel PT who has worked with a recruiter specializing in therapy travel staffing? If so, we’d love to hear about your experiences. Tell us more below.