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How to Hire Home Health Aides: Job Skills

How to Hire Home Health Aides: Job Skills


By: John Rossheim

Are you looking to hire home health aides (also referred to as HHAs)? Home health aides often spend long hours alone with clients, charged with ensuring their health and safety. So recruiting for these jobs is serious business.

By 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts home health aides will increase by 70 percent as the demands for assistance and companionship continue to increase.

The tips below will assist with hiring home health aides, including how to interview, source and close the deal.

Home Health Aides Certification and Training:

  • Agencies and other home health providers typically require workers to hold a high school diploma or GED
  • Home states have no certification requirement per se for home health aides, but all 50 states mandate 75 or more hours of training, with supervision
  • HHAs may train at community colleges, vocational or technical schools, on the job, or with a nonprofit organization such as the American Red Cross
  • The National Association for Home Care & Hospice offers the certification exam as well as training
  • Some states do not require criminal background checks for HHAs, but all employers should

Recruiter Tips:

  • “In New York State, home health aide must a minimum 75 hours training, including 16 hours supervised practical training in areas including nutrition, infectious disease control and patient confidentiality,” says Roger Noyes, a spokesperson for the Home Care Association of New York State.
  • “Some agencies are not certified for Medicare patients – they may not Medicare’s Conditions of Participation,” says Noyes. These agencies are more likely than others to hire home health aides with lesser qualifications.

Key Home Health Aide Skills:

  • Provide personal care and ensure the safety of clients in their own homes
  • Monitor vital signs and giving medication, when permitted by law
  • Schedule doctor appointments and related transportation
  • Some meal preparation and housekeeping may be required
  • Provide companionship

Recruiter Tips:

“Our home health aides do bathing, dressing, grooming, meal prep and light housekeeping and de-cluttering,” says Ruth Farrago, director of operations at Humana Inc.’s SeniorBridge, a multistate home-care agency. “They make sure their patients get out of bed, and they arrange outings and transportation.”

Key Home Health Aide Experience:

  • Most home health providers prefer that HHAs have some experience
  • Mature adults who have cared for a loved one may qualify, without having specific training or work experience as a home health aide

Recruiter Tips:

  • “A lot of providers run their own training programs,” says Noyes. “In many cases when agencies hire aides, they will retrain them, because they’ve got their own approach.”
  • “Although we usually ask a minimum of one year of experience, we sometimes take new graduates of home health aide programs if they have significant, relevant life experience,” says Farrago. “We’ve done scrambled-eggs classes, because many of our caregivers come from other countries and don’t know how to make them.” 

How Home Health Aides Are Sourced:

  • Some home health agencies regularly recruit graduates of training programs
  • Word of mouth can yield high-quality candidates for HHAs
  • Job postings are most effective when they specify available shifts and locations

Recruiter Tips:

  • “The vast majority of our candidates come to us by word of mouth,” says Farrago. “We do open houses, go into communities, place ads in local publications, do job fairs and get involved with community organizations.”
  • “Our best caregivers give us our best candidates,” says Farrago. “We have a referral bonus program.”

When Interviewing Home Health Aides:

  • Communication skills must be tested face-to-face
  • Home health aides should demonstrate a positive attitude
  • Real-time problem-solving skills should be probed

Recruiter Tips:

  • “We use a number of tools, including a screening test and face-to-face interview with role-play questions,” says Farrago. “We ask real-life questions to see how the caregiver would think. Do they know when to call a supervisor?”
  • “We assess their presentation and language skills, their comfort in speaking,” says Farrago. “So we know who we’re hiring. And it helps us match caregivers with our clients.”

How to Close the Deal when Hiring Home Health Aides:

  • Shifts matter. Don’t try to talk a candidate into a shift he or she doesn’t want
  • Providers that subsidize health insurance premiums and offer a 401(k) plan have a big advantage
  • Among experienced home health aides, the reputation of the agency is very important

Recruiter Tips:

  • “One thing that attracts candidates is long-hours candidates, who may stay with one client for their entire work shift,” says Farrago. “Across the industry, many HHAs are required to visit two to four clients per day, and must travel between clients on their own time and at their own expense. And with these short cases, you don’t get the feeling of making a difference.” 
  • Continuing education can be a real draw. “It’s also important to many caregivers to learn and grow,” says Farrago. “A lot of them are immigrants – they want to do better, and they want their children to do better.”

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