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Recruiting 101

Meyer, Stephanie MS-FNP, RN, NEA-BC

Nursing Management (Springhouse): December 2019 - Volume 50 - Issue 12 - p 51–53
doi: 10.1097/01.NUMA.0000605180.97596.20
Department: Performance Potential

Stephanie Meyer is the senior director of perioperative services at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

The author has disclosed no financial relationships related to this article.



You know the drill. You have an open position that you desperately need to fill. You notify your recruiter, the job gets posted, and you wait. If you're lucky, your team will have a waiting list of people wanting to work with you. If you're like most of us, that isn't reality. As we work to build teams of hard-working, passionate staff, it occurred to me that I should know more about the recruitment process. What goes on behind the scenes? What's happening between the call to the recruiter and an application landing in your inbox? More important, what should nurse leaders be doing to help with recruitment?

As we consider what our role is in recruiting top talent, it's necessary to think about how much we spend on finding the “right” staff. This demands that we're knowledgeable about nursing turnover and how it affects the overall cost of healthcare. Current data show that the average cost of turnover is approximately $75,000 per nurse; nationally, RN turnover costs approximately $7.9 to $8.5 million annually.1 With the healthcare landscape continously changing, recruiting and hiring the right nurse from the beginning is even more important. To hire the right people, we must understand current recruiting strategies. After all, we're ultimately responsible for the individuals on our team.

To get started, let's examine basic recruitment strategies that will help you build the team of your dreams. Remember, competition for top talent is fierce so it's worth your time to ensure that you understand what attracts the very best and why top candidates often pass on what appears to be a great offer.

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Recruitment strategies

The first critical step is one that's often overlooked: Befriend your recruiter. Ensure that you and the person responsible for sending applicants to you are on a first-name basis. Work to have regularly scheduled time together where you can review current and future needs, progress, and challenges. Your relationship with your recruiter is an important one. Invest some time here and you won't be sorry.

When you meet with your recruiter, review the specific characteristics you're looking for in a candidate. This should include any items that you consider to be nonnegotiable. What characteristics will turn an applicant from a “go” to an absolute “no”? Clearly define what you're looking for at the beginning of your search. This ensures that the recruiter is on the same page as you. It's important to note that recruiters are responsible for multiple units, positions, and tasks. They don't like to waste time any more than you do.

Work with your recruiter to develop a job posting that would make you want to say “yes” to the position. Ensure that the posting describes the key components of the position while also focusing on what makes the job exciting. For example, you could reference the continuing-education program you offer or other promotional opportunities that set you apart from the competition.

Review where your best candidates have come from in the past 3 to 6 months. Have they been internal applicants from other parts of your organization, previous students who've worked with your team, employee referrals, or candidates sourced by your recruiter? Candidates who have a preexisting relationship with your team are ideal for recruiting. When a potential applicant is contacted by a professional of the same level, there's a nine times higher response rate from the candidate.2 This is attributed to the candidate demonstrating professional courtesy and the possible opportunity for additional learning and networking. Focus your efforts on the areas that have produced top talent for you in the past—they'll often produce again.

Take a look at your department's website. What do potential new hires see? Is it exciting? Ensure that the website is eye-catching and up-to-date. The data should be current and easy to understand. If you have pictures of your team, they should be recent and demonstrate the type of candidate you want to hire. This is where you get the opportunity to brag about your unit and your team. Showcase your diversity and why any solid candidate would want to work with you.

Understand applicant types and recruitment terminology. There are two categories of applicants that your recruiter will be entertaining; knowing which type of applicant you're interviewing plays a role in your hiring process. Active candidates are individuals who are looking for employment. It's important to remember that this doesn't always mean that they're unemployed. Many active candidates are searching for new opportunities and will be interviewing with more than one organization simultaneously. As your recruiter searches for the perfect candidate, he or she will use platforms like Indeed and Glassdoor to find this type of candidate. Passive candidates aren't actively looking for employment or interviewing with multiple organizations; your recruiter has reached out to them. LinkedIn and Facebook are two of the platforms utilized to recruit this type of candidate.

According to research, 85% of our workforce would happily accept a new job if it meant a better opportunity.3 This is one reason why the passive candidate pool is a worthwhile place to spend time. Keep in mind that passive candidates won't necessarily have an updated résumé ready to go nor will they be willing to spend a large amount of time on an application. They aren't unhappy in their current position, so making the application process as easy as possible is essential when recruiting this type of candidate.

Treat your candidates like a customer. Top candidates will quickly lose interest if they aren't treated well during the recruitment and application process. They'll be quick to assume that if they're treated poorly before accepting the job, they'll be treated poorly after they start. Ensure that your application process is simple and alerts candidates when their application has been received. Inform them when they should generally expect to hear from you. This shouldn't be a guessing game. Clearly communicate the process and follow through. Be sure to personalize your communication, which demonstrates interest. You want top-priority candidates to know that you value them. Remember, this is a two-way street: Candidates are evaluating you just as you're evaluating them. It's important to make a positive first impression.

Candidate “ghosting” is one of the more recent developments that recruiters and organizations are experiencing with potential new hires. Ghosting can occur in several ways. Candidates will unexplainably cease all contact with a recruiter they had been regularly communicating with previously. Ghosting also presents as candidates accepting an offer to interview and not keeping the appointment or completing the interview process, accepting a position, and not showing up for their first day. In addition, they don't call or follow up with the organization as to why they changed their mind. The Washington Post reports a 10% to 20% increase over the past year in candidate ghosting, which causes lost time and is expensive for both you and your recruiter.2 It's important to discuss what you can do to limit this as you search for candidates.

Consider activities that support recruitment efforts. Shadowing opportunities for students or interested internal candidates are one way to showcase your team and what you have to offer. Shadowing also gives you and the candidate a chance to evaluate one another before the application process has officially started. Host an open house for your community, inviting interested parties to come evaluate you as a potential employer. Hosting an open house for local nursing schools allows you to meet with multiple candidates at one event, saving you both time and money. In addition, consider partnering with these same schools by developing and delivering a unit-specific presentation for students during their coursework. Many nursing programs can no longer introduce students to multiple nursing specialties. Your presentation may be their only exposure to your area of nursing.

Technology has changed how we recruit top talent. We must be comfortable and open to utilizing the candidate's preferred communication channels. The old-fashioned telephone call is no longer the best way to communicate. Candidates expect a response to questions and inquiries within a relatively short time frame.4 Texting offers a quick and easy way to reach them anywhere, anytime. In addition, explore how you can use platforms such as Facebook or Instagram as a fast, inexpensive way to reach potential new hires. Some organizations are now using video interviewing as an initial screening tool to identify top talent. Become familiar with best practices and innovative ways to get best-fit candidates. Your recruiter can help you with this.

Lastly, the most important recruitment strategy is time. Slow hiring and lack of timely follow-through are the primary causes for ghosting or top candidates saying “no” to an offer.5 Unnecessary delays allow time for candidates to receive multiple offers or their current employer to take action. It's the recruiter's responsibility to send you applicants as soon as he or she has screened them and believes they meet the criteria you've outlined. It's your job to review applicants quickly while communicating with your recruiter about who you want to interview. Scheduling interviews in a timely fashion is essential to the recruiting process. Every leader's schedule is busy but making time for interviews gives you the best opportunity to find the best talent.

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Dream team

With declining unemployment rates, sustained organizational growth, and higher turnover rates, top candidates have multiple opportunities. These candidates have no problem walking away from an excellent offer because another one is just around the corner. This has shifted the decision-making power from the organization to the candidate. Schedule an appointment with your recruiter and begin building an amazing team today.

You've got your list of candidates to interview. Now what? Next issue's Performance Potential answers your questions.

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1. Kurnat-Thoma E, Ganger M, Peterson K, Channell L. Reducing annual hospital and registered nurse staff turnover—a 10-element onboarding program intervention. SAGE Open Nursing. 2017.
2. Sullivan J. Candidate ghosting—effective tips for minimizing this growing menace. 2019.
3. Živković M. 11 recruitment strategies to attract top talent in 2019. Hundred5. 2018.
4. The key to a successful recruiting strategy.
5. Sullivan J. The emerging issue of candidate ghosting and how it damages your TA results. 2019.
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