This is my account of an encounter that I had with a travel therapy recruiter when I was a new travel therapist. I am sharing this specific story because I think it has a variety of red flags to watch for when speaking with new agencies and recruiters. I think this is a good reminder why it is so important to find a recruiter who is honest and has transparency. The events described below occurred around seven years ago and the details are as I remember them.
My second contract as a traveling speech therapist was at a skilled nursing facility in Dallas. Looking back over my years of contract work, this was my worst assignment. It was the worst as far as productivity expectations and managing a caseload were concerned. I was the only SLP in the building and managing a caseload of 14-22 patients. Initially, I was told to be above 95% productive; although no number was written in my contract. When on day 2 of the job I said that 95% was not possible my agency was contacted and told that my contract would be terminated if I was not immediately above 90%.
I learned a lot on that assignment.
My days were busy. I rarely saw a patient outside of the gym because frankly I did not have time to walk down the hallway and walk back.
The Cold Call
On an especially busy day, I heard another therapist yell my name. She told me I had a phone call in the office. I told her to take a message because I was with a patient. She then handed me piece of paper with a number on it.
When I finally had a chance, on my lunch break, I called the number. The caller turned out to be a male voice I did not recognize. I am going to call this person Joe, although that was not his real name. Anyway, Joe started complimenting me on how he heard I was such a good traveler. He wanted to talk about finding me a new position when this one was over.
I was confused. Who is this guy calling me at work who seems to know my business? I was suspicious when he said he heard good things about me because my coworkers were not happy with my job performance. Yet, it was good to hear a compliment for a change and I asked him who he worked for. He said the name of his company and it did not register with me. I later learned it was a traveling agency and he was a recruiter. I asked him if he had jobs in Dallas and he said his company had many job openings in Dallas. Hearing the words “jobs in Dallas” rang a bell with me so I gave him my phone number and we talked later outside or work.
The Red Flags Begin
I do not know if recruiters still do this, but cold calling people at work was a popular thing when I started traveling. Recruiters from certain (not all) agencies would keep tabs on when a building hired travelers. If the traveler did not work for them, the agency would call around a month or so after the start date and ask to speak on the phone to the “the speech traveler” or something similar.
Here starts the problem: from the beginning this relationship was built on lies. Joe had no idea what kind of therapist I was. He surely did not have jobs in Dallas; nobody did at the time.
I was a novice in the travel industry and knew that the building I was in was trying to cancel my contract. This pushed me forward to pursue phone calls with Joe. I knew switching companies would be a hassle but I was ready to go with anybody who could get me another job in Dallas. I set up a file and resume with the staffing agency and told Joe to call me if any jobs opened up in Dallas; which he was promising there would be. He knew I was also working with my current agency to locate a job and accepted that he was in competition with another agency.
More Red Flags: Not Being Told Facility Name Prior To Submitting
One day Joe called about a job in an inpatient facility outside of Dallas. He said he could not give me the name of the facility and said that he did not know much about the assignment. He said it was a high pay rate. The rate wasn’t any higher than what I was currently making, but he said that was good. I thought it was odd that he could not tell me the name of the facility, but I was new to travel therapy and did not know what to expect.
When I got a call for the phone interview I was surprised to hear that the facility was a residential school for children with severe developmental disabilities. It over an hour and a half from Dallas. The woman I interviewed with was a fellow SLP who took time of out her day to speak with me. She told me the caseload would be AAC heavy and most of the visits would be integrating functional communication into daily routines. For some, this would be a dream job. For me, it could not have possibility been any further from my skillset or interests. I politely told the woman that it would not be appropriate for me to take a contract there. She understood and I thanked her again for the time she spent with me.
Joe had heard from the client that I refused the job and was sharp with me when he called. I told him it was not a good fit and that I was going to continue to look for a job through his agency and the agency that I was currently working for. I knew that I could have saved my time and the SLP’s time, if Joe would have told me the name and demographics of the facility. However, I was still learning the industry at the time and didn’t know how things worked.
Oddly enough, about an hour after I had that disappointing phone interview I had the recruiter that I was currently working for call me with a job opportunity that was very high paying in Houston and matched my start date. The job in Houston sounded like a good match. So, I went over the details and told him to submit me. I also told him about the interview that I did through the other agency and that I passed on the job. He understood.
The facility in Houston was eager to sign on a traveler and I interviewed and got the job within hours.
As I was working with my agency to write up the contract I got a call from Joe. He was asking me about my plans and I told him that I look a job in Houston. Joe put a guilt trip on me and said I betrayed him. He offered to match any pay that I was making from my agency to work with his agency. I was confused: a week ago he said he could not pay me above X dollars. Now, all of a sudden he could pay $200 more a week?
I told Joe that I stand by my decision to stay with the agency I was with and that I am signing the contract with them. What happened next is a blur but he called me a liar and told me that I was playing him. We spat some words back and forth before agreeing never to talk again.
We never did talk again and I never worked for that agency. I have had many friends who had great recruiters through this specific agency and wonderful experiences. Yet, I will likely never choose to work for this company because of my experience with this one person.
This relationship was bound to fail from the start. It was based on lies, from the very beginning. Calling me at work, saying he heard about me, had jobs in Dallas, could pay better than any agency, etc. He made all of the promises in the world and could not fulfill them. When I got suspicious, he blamed things on me.
I learned a lot during that assignment in Dallas. Among other things, I learned to trust my gut and ask the right questions to avoid negative situations. I stopped wasting time with recruiters who were sneaky. Instead, I found those who were not and have built a lot of good working relationships. Now, I work with recruiters that will offer me a rate and I do not question it. I know it is their best offer; not only because of the “shopping around” that I have done over the years and price comparing, but because I trust them.