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Discover New Healthcare Talent in Today’s Career-Switchers

Recruiting healthcare workers is a Sisyphean task, even for the most experienced staffing professional. Career switchers who have the right skills can be a valuable stopgap.

Discover New Healthcare Talent in Today’s Career-Switchers

By: Catherine Conlan 

As a healthcare staffing professional, you're well aware of the explosive healthcare job growth and escalating healthcare salaries that are in full swing. The phenomenon has also attracted the attention of workers in other industries, many of whom are looking for a fresh career opportunity. The result is that many professionals are heading back to school to pick up degrees in nursing, healthcare administration and other roles. 

While the trend will help increase the labor pool for healthcare employers, it’s not always easy to tell how well a recent grad will do on the job–particularly if their previous experience has been in other fields. 

The good news is that there are many ways to spot someone who can make the switch to healthcare. These strategies will help supplement your healthcare talent pipeline. 

Look for Lifelong Learners
Healthcare is a rapidly evolving field. Those who thrive in it often embrace continuous learning to stay apace.

When evaluating a career-switcher who is moving into healthcare, look for clues that they’ve taken their continuing education into their own hands. 

Steven Stein, a clinical psychologist and founder and CEO of Multi-Health Systems, suggests asking whether they subscribe to any professional or industry journals, attend conferences or do extra reading in their free time. During the interview, ask about their previous career, not just the one they are switching to. 

“I find that people committed to a certain career path use their own personal time to learn more about their area of interest,” Stein says.

In addition, look for examples of applicants who take the initiative to develop vital skills such as computer skills, research and analytics. These are key for people who are interested in becoming a registered nurse–or a nurse practitioner, says Keith Carlson, a nursing career coach. “It can’t be overstated for nursing and healthcare, as informatics becomes ever more crucial,” he says.

Look for Consistent Growth
Healthcare employers rely on workers who are committed to excellent performance. When evaluating career switchers, look for a history of candidates who strive for more responsibility and greater leadership

Keep in mind that people tend to stay for shorter amounts of time at employers than they used to. If their experience includes a step up from previous roles it shows they have talent and drive, says Stephanie Troiano, executive recruiter at The Hire Talent

Short stints at different employers aren’t necessarily a red flag or a sign of job-hopping, especially if the jobs have increasing amounts of responsibility and increased results. “You can often spot someone who is attempting to find these step-up opportunities by their resume history, how long they were in each position and any skills and accomplishments listed,” Troiano says.

For example, while a job candidate applying for their first job as a pediatrician after a career outside of healthcare was obviously committed enough to make it through med school, it’s still worth probing their work history before they returned to school. 

They Connect the Dots
Healthcare workers often have to take in information from a variety of sources and develop their own conclusions.

This also applies to the candidate’s own career. A good career-switcher will be able to provide concrete examples of how her skills will apply in a new setting; they will display a knowledge of the position, even if she hasn’t worked in it yet. 

"The fail-safe indication that a candidate can truly switch industries is their ability to connect the dots,” says career coach Kathryn Sollmann. “A recruiter knows this when the candidate draws clear parallels between the same job function in Industry A and Industry B.”

For example, a former teacher who can clearly describe how she developed rapport with difficult students is likely to be able to apply those skills in stressful situations as a nurse practitioner. It’s easy for confident candidates to say “I can do this,” Sollmann says, but a candidate committed to switching careers will be able to draw detailed parallels between the two.

They Volunteer
Being service-minded is a must in healthcare. Volunteering can indicate an inclination toward that outlook, says Linda Kuriloff, an author and career specialist.

Look for evidence of a prospective employee's interest in the helping professions, Kuriloff says. “Also, those who choose to volunteer tend to be humble enough to be trained to do what they haven't done before and comfortable meeting others’ needs,” she says.

For example, a newly-minted licensed practical nurse with a volunteer history of working with the elderly, the underserved or in shelters will bring those skills and experiences to his career.

They Get Consistent Results
People with an ability to switch careers get results no matter their role–so look at their successes over time, says Elene Cafasso, founder of Enerpace, an executive coaching company. Ask about how they generated success in their different roles and how they solve problems.

Applicants for high-profile positions such as healthcare administration should provide examples of results they’ve achieved through data management, supply and inventory and conflict resolution. 

In the end, all career-switchers should be able to provide examples of their customer service skills. “Providing five-star service is as important to a nurse these days as it is to a hotel staff person,” Carlson says.