What you MUST know to work with Healthcare Candidates

As I discussed in the Laws of Motion in Recruiting (2/06 TFL), I mentioned being in balance with: Connection, Urgency, and Broker Status! I know there’s nothing more important than that, and finding that perfect balance is a combination of blood, sweat, and experience. So as I reflected on how I communicate with Healthcare candidates to create this balance, I felt there were some additional details that you MUST know to be effective at creating balance with this very elusive group of people.

Let’s walk a mile in the shoes of Sally the healthcare candidate for a second…

As a Healthcare candidate, Sally started out her life as a small child longing to help animals, birds, insects or anything else that walked or crawled the earth. She couldn’t stand to ever see anything killed or harmed. Her favorite book was “Where the Red Fern Grows.” She has seen every episode of Lassie, Flipper, Little House on the Prairie, and has watched Old Yeller’ scores of times and cried each time. During her high school years, she volunteered as a Big Sister mentor for the less fortunate. The turning point in her life was the day she participated in a High School field trip to a nursing home. Sally found herself wanting to stay and help each of the people living there. She felt that the reason that she was put on this planet was to help others. Sally would become a care giver.

Let’s fast forward to 3-5 years after Sally has graduated from college.

Sally loves what she does. She makes a real difference in so many people’s lives. But she is beginning to become concerned. You see, she finds herself having to fight with the management just to deliver the quality of patient care she feels needs to be delivered. It’s different than she felt it was going to be. Her administrator tells her that it’s just part of the business of healthcare and things will get better soon. Sally sure hopes her administrator is right!

Now let’s fast forward to 7-10 years after Sally has graduated from college.

Wow look at Sally, she just finished her Masters degree, so she can really make a difference. People have to listen to her now. Sally can remember feeling that as a care giver, nobody cared about her, or the concerns she had for her patients or the industry. Well, now they have to listen. She has been promoted to the Director of her department and will advocate for the care givers who report to her and the patients they serve. Although her administrator couldn’t make positive changes, SALLY WILL! She can still make a difference!

We finish this walk, 15-20 years after Sally’s journey started. Sally finds her time being consumed with putting out fires that have nothing to do with the patients. She never has time to do the things she loves to do. Sally now hates her job. She’s lost that loving feeling! She wonders … how did she get to this place? She asks, “Is there anyone who can help me?” The CEOs, the Doctors, and Industry are so callus! They just don’t care about the little people, our customers and/or, patients anymore. How can she EVER make a difference? It’s impossible! What is she going to do with her life? Sally feels that she’s made a horrible mistake in her life! But is there anything she can do?

I bet you thought I was joking in my first paragraph of Sally’s journey. Well, can you feel for that person? If you can’t, then you need to stay out of HealthCare Recruiting, because you’re going to do more harm than good (I will explain “Why” later). However, if you can feel for that person, you’ll be a sight for Sally’s sore eyes.

The reason I have pointed out the FEELING elements of our care giver’s journey is because she was born and walks this earth as an emotionally driven individual. In a female dominated industry, that is the first thing you MUST know. Even the males you come in contact with got into healthcare for emotional reasons and will be more compassionate towards others than most of us guy types. Learning to relate and communicate with healthcare candidates emotionally is the first important step to take as a recruiter.

During the 20 year journey of our care giver, she came into contact with elements that began to change the way she looked at her avocation. Sally started to feel underappreciated, misunderstood, taken for granted, and then finally (and ironically) not what the industry wanted. I hear people like Sally tell me, “How could they (the powers to be) not want to do this for the patients?” “It just doesn’t make sense!” These care giver candidates are trapped in an industry where they can feel certain things, but they are not equipped to reason with them. They’re not equipped to logically work out the problem, so they ignore or put it out of their mind. Years down the road, while living the largest part of their career in denial, it finally hits them. They love the fact that they want to help others, but they hate the industry they work in.

Thus, the greatest crisis facing Healthcare today is losing the experienced care givers who are in the industry right now.

Here is a little factoid for those of you who are new to the healthcare industry. In a rush to produce more healthcare professionals to meet the pressing demand, our schools and universities are not doing as good of a job educating new healthcare professionals before they’re released into the market. Many of these clinical programs are sponsored by hospitals and require professional tutors or, at the very least, an experienced mentor on the job to teach these new students the ropes. If these experienced mentors have left the industry, then who is going to train our new professionals? Answer: Nobody! As a matter of fact, this situation has become so commonplace that they now have a phrase for it, “We eat our young in Healthcare!” You think I’m kidding, well I’m not! It is already happening. I won’t tell you in which areas, because I’m not interested in creating a panic, but this is a serious problem.

Before I digress too much, let me get back to Sally the care giver. She wants someone to talk to about what she sees as a slow downward spiral to nowhere. Sally can’t see it as a career problem, because she can’t relate in that way. As a care giver, she has never run away when faced with a problem, she stays until the patient either walks away healthy or flat lines. So if Sally’s in a bad environment, or surrounded by bad managers, or facing difficult decisions about patient care because of the facility where she works … she will just do the best she can to make the patient comfortable. IT’S NEVER ABOUT THE CARE GIVER, (in their minds), IT ALWAYS ABOUT HELPING THEIR PATEINT.

Our care giver believes their current hospital is like all the rest, so what’s the big deal … she’ll just stay there and try to make a difference. As an emotionally driven professional, she may (just by the nature of this characteristic) imprison herself in the wrong facilities until it kills her career.

In my experience, the care givers who reach 20 years of experience are either too disgruntled to compete anymore or they have been fortunate enough to find a mentor along the way to help them stay focused on the positive. I see healthcare candidates as little flowers. If the little flower is removed from the sunlight, it will begin to wither, and will soon dry up and die. But, even if the little flower has spent sometime out of the sunlight, if you can bring it back into the sunlight before it’s totally gone, you can reverse its situation.

Sunlight to a care giver is both the direct and indirect interaction with their environment. Here’s a small list of what I mean:

• An administrators’ positive reinforcement during their performance review,
• An administrator knowing them and their families well enough to provide for time off during difficult family times,
• An administrator knowing and caring about their future goals for their continued education,
• A co-worker caring enough to jump in to help them with a difficult or heavy patient,
• Being asked to contribute ideas about the way the departments schedule is organized,
• Being given the opportunity to do what they were trained to do,
• Being ask for their input towards patient care improvements,
• Having access and the ability to offer input to other people in the facility that impacts their department.

This is just a short list, but there are so many things that contribute towards a care giver’s happiness or their loyalty towards their facility. It is an unfortunate statistic, but in my experience I’ve found that over 90% of the hospitals across this great country provide ZERO sunlight to their little flowers we call healthcare candidates.

Armed with this information, now walk with me for a second…

As I also mentioned in The Laws of Motion in Recruiting (2/06 TFL), I interview 18 healthcare candidates about every two to three days. During those 18 calls, I conduct a very thorough and personal interview; probing deep into the candidates’ work environment. I am looking for “dark” areas in their current work environment that could contribute to the long term destruction of their career. I call it “pouncing.” Once I find an area of concern it goes something like this, “You mean you haven’t resigned yet?” “And you’re going to let them do that to you and your family?” Most healthcare candidates need to be shocked back to life. They’ve been living in denial for so long that they’ve become numb to the slow death of their own careers.

By becoming a valued career advisor to these healthcare candidates, I become the one person they feel they need to complete their care giving life. I’m a person they have never had the experience of meeting before. The care giver now feels they can still make a difference; and through my leadership, they come to understand that the only way they can find the right facility…the facility that matches “Who they are!” . . .is by having someone like me assist them.

Thoroughly interviewing these healthcare candidates is the only way to make a placement with them. I mean, thoroughly connecting with them like they’re a part of your family or they’re a long lost buddy that you’re trying to reconnect with. Having a conversation with them which debates the pros and cons of their ideals for their career is extremely important to them. I find that by challenging everything these candidates believe about their careers is the best way to earn the credibility I need to maintain Broker Status. These healthcare candidates will not consistently respond to any other approach.

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The best way to understand how candidates actually think is to hear directly from a candidate who has experienced this approach. Here is a link to an interview with one.


Please be aware that this interview is what I use on my website to market myself, so while this is clearly educational, it also markets me. Ignore the marketing and as the interview plays, ask yourself, “How has this candidate responded to this approach and what can I learn from it?”

Here’s another little test to that last statement, “How many of you have had healthcare candidates who sent you a resume, answered your call, listened to you recite your job order, only to disappear for no reason?” I’m sure all of you who have ever recruited in healthcare can answer in the affirmative. Well, what happened? Was it your breath? Was it your lack of clinical knowledge? Was it your pathetic job order? I’ll bet you never figured it out, did you? It just went down in history as another one of those mysteries. Well, I’m giving you the answer. You’ll never place the best in the healthcare industry without thoroughly connecting with them first. The healthcare candidate will not stick around long enough to place without feeling a connection.

One of the biggest reasons I encourage recruiters who can’t relate to the emotional concerns of healthcare candidates to stay out of this industry is because trust is a fragile commodity we, as recruiters, can’t afford to lose. If a recruiter locates a healthcare candidate, leads them to make a change, and the new position turns out to be as bad or worse than their current position, a recruiter is reinforcing to the healthcare candidate that all facilities are alike and will contribute towards their frustration with the industry.

In the past 3 years, I’ve noticed a growing reluctance of healthcare candidates to trust recruiters. I’ve been told by healthcare candidates that they don’t return calls to recruiters because (they feel) recruiters are only interested in their placement fees, and not what the healthcare candidates want. I have found a way to reverse this reluctance, but feel I need to warn recruiters of the long term consequences of misleading a healthcare candidate out of a good position and into a bad one just for a placement fee. As a healthcare recruiter you must know your candidate’s needs and the details of your job orders well enough to make an affective placement for the candidate … otherwise you’re doing more harm than good to the industry.

My goal when I get on the phone with a Healthcare candidate is to become closer to that healthcare candidate than their own managers are. To know bigger and better secrets than their boss ever cared to ask about. To find out what’s wrong and to provide them an ear for their great ideas. In 30 minutes, I want to go so deep into the candidate’s life that the healthcare candidate feels like I’m the only one who cares about what they are feeling. When a manager is faced with that kind of outside opposition, they are powerless … and if that manager has not provided the sunlight needed for that little flower … its check mate!

During one of my public speaking events for hospital managers, I showed an audience of over 100 hospital managers what I do to undermine management authority. I did a mock interview with one of the attendees and did a standard interview with all the questions I normally ask. I probed deep into that person’s life … the crowd was shocked, outraged, and completely unequipped to provide a solution.

After the session, I had a standing line of people wanting to ask me questions. These questions ranged from, “Is that legal?” “Should I really get to know the people in my department that well?” “Can you help me understand the importance of connecting with my associates?” I couldn’t believe it! These people didn’t have a clue. And this was one of the more progressive facilities I had worked with … as you can image, since they had invited me in to speak. But these are the same people who are causing Sally the care giver such problems.

What you MUST know to work with Healthcare candidates:

• They don’t want an email describing all the money they can make at some other facility,
• They aren’t interested (deep down) in hearing about your (so-called) great job order,
• They don’t trust resume, job boards, or most recruiters,
• And they love their jobs.

A healthcare recruiter finds success with Healthcare candidates by genuinely showing an active interest and listening to the care giver’s accomplishments, goals, worries and concerns. A healthcare recruiter who wants to provide a positive change in the healthcare industry will only take a great candidate out of a bad situation. A healthcare recruiter will become a person that the care giver can trust for their career advice, whether it makes that recruiter money that day or not. What goes around comes around. If a healthcare recruiter works to become the one person the healthcare candidate trusts and relies upon for career advice … the healthcare recruiter will always find themselves successful at the end of the day.

But the most important part to all of this is that the healthcare recruiter helped the healthcare industry keep another one of its scarce resources … the care giver.

Job well done!

Clay Abbott is the President and Founder of the Academy of HealthCare Recruiters, Inc. Clay is one of the HealthCare Recruiting industry’s leading recruiters, trainers, public speakers, and consultants. He has 20 years of healthcare experience and has successfully developed the only guaranteed Home Study HealthCare Recruiter Training programs in the industry. And many solo recruiters’ and recruiting managers are finding the cross over into healthcare possible with Clay’s leadership and knowledge. To learn more about his training products and services, visit his web site at: www.academyofhealthcarerecruiters.com. Clay can be reached at (812) 522-2992 or e-mail him at clay@academyofhealthcarerecruiters.com.


1 Comment on “What you MUST know to work with Healthcare Candidates

  1. Thank you so much for this article. As a former healthcare worker (current stay at home mom of 3), I am working on building my recruiting business. The 2 RNs in my life cringed when I told them my plans. Even I have a hard time believing I’m doing it! This article has strengthened my resolve, however. I look forward to building deep relationships and building trust with others of the same mind as myself and other loved ones in this industry. I sincerely hope I can help those healthcare workers that are so terribly burned out, down hearted, and even bitter about how far their careers have strayed from true patient care.

    Thank you, again. What a fantastic resource this is!

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