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How to Hire Certified Nursing Assistants: Job Skills

How to Hire Certified Nursing Assistants: Job Skills

By: John Rossheim

By 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts certified nursing assistants will increase by 20 percent. Most jobs will be offered in long-term care facilities. Unfortunately, recruiting certified nursing assistants (CNAs) isn’t a slam dunk: These professionals are not highly paid, but they must be counted on to provide essential services to patients in nursing homes, rehabs and hospitals.

Here’s how to recruit certified nursing assistants that get the job done for providers.

Key Licenses and Certifications: 

Recruiter Tip: Although some nursing homes will hire unlicensed nursing assistants and train them for certification, professionals, many providers will balk at them. "Our nursing assistants must have state certification," says Monica Bonderer, staff development coordinator at a skilled nursing facility in rural Missouri.

Key CNA Job Skills: 

  • Provide bedside care and assistance with activities of daily living
  • Record vital signs and convey information between patients and RNs
  • In some states, dispense medication with the certified medication aide credential if required

Recruiter Tip: "We look for CNAs who know how to provide ADL (activities of daily living) care, plus restorative care," which keeps patients functioning at their highest possible level," says Bonderer.

Key CNA Experience: 

  • Nursing homes may hire licensed nursing assistants who have little or no work experience.
  • Hospitals often require that CNAs come with a few years of experience.

Recruiter Tips:

  • "At some schools, you can get a CNA in 3 months, even 6 weeks," says Aram Svajian, vice president of recruitment for nursing and allied health at Randstad. "But we try to recruit CNAs with a minimum of three years of experience. Experienced CNAs are less prone to fall-offs — cancellations by either the candidate or the client — and they're more reliable and committed."
  • Some employers are happy to hire capable new grads who are eager to learn the ways of the provider organization. "We hire brand new CNAs; so being in the workforce isn’t a requirement," says Bonderer. "We look for a caring demeanor, and people who fully believe they are professionals and not just looking for a job.”

How to Source CNAs:

  • A provider's positive presence in the community can help attract qualified CNA candidates
  • Recruiters can create pipelines from CNA programs at community colleges and vocational and technical schools
  • Word of mouth and relationships with well-placed CNAs are key

Recruiter Tips:

  • “We’ve not had a huge issue with sourcing; we do really well with getting quality staff," says Bonderer. "Sometimes we place an ad, sometimes it's just word of month. We’re in a small rural community and everybody knows about us."
  • "Sourcing changes — it’s cyclical," says Svajian. "If there's an overabundance of CNAs, the schools training them shut down, and then there’s a shortage. When CNAs are abundant, you can just place an ad. In lean times, it’s all about referrals: you’ve got to find the head honcho CNA in the organization and take care of them."

What to Cover in the CNA Interview:

  • Evaluate the candidate's attitude toward work that is physically and emotionally demanding.
  • As in their daily interactions with patients and nurses, in interviews CNAs should communicate clearly

Recruiter Tips:

  • "You’ve got to look for somebody who is nurturing," says Svajian. "My recruiters ask question the candidate to talk about someone they've taken care of. And they’ve got to be able to deal with family members. But they have to be fast, too." 
  • "We do some behavioral interviewing, some testing of the terminology of what they do on a daily basis," says Svajian.
  • "We ask, why did you choose us, why should we choose you?" says Bonderer. "What is long-term care, and what are its goals?"

How to Close the Deal: 

  • In an occupation that offers modest compensation, pay that's a little better than the competition's can carry the day
  • CNAs want to work close to where they live • Nursing assistants are attracted to prestigious institutions

Recruiter Tips:

  • “What wins over CNAs? Location, facility and money, in that order," say Svajian. "They want to work close to home. Location and prestige of the hospital are important, as are the stability, culture, and work environment of the facility."
  • "Money is the deciding factor," says Bonderer. "Pay tends to be low around here; one home pays their certified staff $7 an hour. We work with people as much as we can with scheduling, though we don’t have a lot of leeway.”

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