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Five Ways to Improve your Healthcare Hiring Process

Five Ways to Improve your Healthcare Hiring Process

By: Heather Boerner

Shifting reimbursements. Readmission penalties. Thirty million patients newly insured under healthcare reform. The looming retirement of millions of Baby Boomers. Put together, it’s a recipe for an especially challenging healthcare hiring process.

Here are five ways to hone your hiring practices for healthcare hiring, both today and in the future.

Hire a Team Player
The bulletin board behind Eileen Rowland’s office at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City lists at least a dozen councils her nurses can join. Rowland, HHS’s director of nurse recruitment, uses the list as a teamwork test for job candidates.

“I point at it and say, ‘Can you imagine yourself on one of these councils?’” she says. “Some people are genuinely excited. Others, you can tell they don’t give a hoot. If they don’t care, this isn’t the right place for them.”

With the rise of coordinated care, healthcare organizations are reorienting toward recruiting team players – and that means the hiring process has to target technically adept candidates who also have soft skills: communication skills, an ability to work with different personalities and group problem solving skills.

Rowland recommends that once you vet a candidate, get specific about their team player experience: Have they been part of teams in their current jobs? What roles did they play? How did they contribute to a hospital initiative or project?

And she asks these follow-up interview questions: Were they involved in sports? “It’s not that someone who hasn’t [played sports] can’t be a good team member,” she says. “But when you’re looking at new grads, looking to see what group activities people are part of is always a good idea.”

Interview Smartly
If you’re taking a team approach, it makes sense to bring the team into the hiring process as well, says David Twitchell, co-director of HR for Rutland Regional Medical Center in Vermont.

This serves two purposes: careful vetting of new hires and employee engagement.

Be sure to include at least one person in the interview process who will be the new hire’s coworker, as well as someone on a different hospital team with whom the hire may have to coordinate care. Hiring managers and supervisors should also be given a shot to vet the candidate.

These can be done over multiple interviews, but too arduous a hiring process can backfire, leaving the candidate with a bad impression of the company and ultimately damage the company’s reputation among job seekers.

The only exception to this, says Esther Cuno, recruiting manager for the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, is executive leadership. It’s often hard to get all the players for those positions together at once, necessitating multiple visits.

Otherwise, says Rowland, try to confine the interviews to one visit, if possible.

“Good people won’t linger” on the market even in this economy, she says. “I don’t want to give the candidate an opportunity to meet another recruiter because I couldn’t get it done today.”

Create a Consistent Interview Process
Cuno has heard it over and over again: A hiring manager will tell her, “I thought he would do so well. He really gelled with the team. He had a great personality. But it’s not working out.”

“You absolutely can get blinded by personality in interviews,” she says.

The key to avoiding that, she says, is to be prepared and consistent. Strong personalities can pull interviewers off track, leaving them to realize later that they didn’t get all the information they need to determine whether the candidate could succeed in the job.

If you’re consistent and ask everyone the same interview questions, you’ll be better able to weed out candidates who interview well but may not serve your organizational mission.

Hire Tech Savvy Candidates
The emergence of electronic medical records has added a new layer of vetting to Twitchell’s hiring processes.

“You have to make sure candidates are computer literate and savvy,” says Twitchell, also leader of the Society for Human Resources Management’s HR Disciplines Expertise Panel.

“Ever since we went to electronic medical records two years ago, we’ve done an assessment across our organization internally, to see where we had to develop opportunities to coach current staff. New staff must already have the skills.”

The good news is that many candidates are HITECH savvy — so much so that in the tech-savvy Pacific Northwest, Cuno considers it a core function. Rowland verifies that people have experience with the programs they use and, in the end, tests candidates’ tech skills to provide an extra layer of protection.

Invest in Your Staff
It’s been proven over and over again that employees accept or decline an offer based in large part on the employee benefits offered. That will become more important as newly-insured patients guarantees flood the system.

“One of our current challenges is forecasting in advance of actual needs,” Cuno says.

“In order to really plan for the future, it’s important to recruit at all different experience levels, so you don’t have a huge wave of retirements and a huge wave of change.”

So take your recruiting further. Cuno plans to expand recruitment beyond the region this year and target candidates nationally. She’s also exploring new internship programs, residency and preceptor programs, and is looking outside the oncology field for potential hires.

She’s also looking for better ways to provide employee training and advancement for their current staff. Rowland even brings continuing healthcare education on campus for staff convenience.

While such investment can be expensive, Cuno says, “so is hiring the wrong person.”

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