Guest Post: Winning the War for Talent in the Healthcare Industry

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019
This post was written by Melanie Matthews

How can healthcare facilities recruit and retain top candidates?

It’s no secret that a “war for talent” exists in the healthcare industry, with doctors, nurses and other medical professionals being recruited to large organizations, the impact of which could have serious trickle-down ramifications to patients.

So, how can a smaller practice compete with “deep pocket” healthcare facilities to recruit and retain top candidates?

It all starts with the tried and true—competitive pay and benefits. This is not to say that offers must be at the top of the market, however they should be within market range. And with an increasing number of states and cities enacting pay equity legislation, compensation must not only be reviewed in terms of the market, but also against gender-specific compliance rules.

In terms of benefits, the “must haves” to be competitive include solid medical and retirement plans and generous paid time off. Dental, vision, life insurance and commuter benefits can help sweeten the deal for a prospective candidate. As a means of attracting top talent directly out of medical school, some healthcare practices are offering to help pay off student loans.

To many candidates —particularly millennials—providing opportunities is just as or even more important that receiving top dollar. But let’s not confuse development opportunities with providing a career path. Employers do not need to guarantee promotions; rather, top talent is typically more interested in continual learning and exposure to new experiences. By creating a culture of learning, with solid reimbursement policies for job-related training and programs, a workplace becomes that much more attractive.

The healthcare industry continues to innovate at a rapid pace, so making certain that your practice embraces up-to-date technology and best practices in the field can go a long way toward securing top talent.

Today’s applicants also takes corporate citizenship into consideration when job interviewing. The desire to work for an organization that makes a difference by giving back to the community has become a priority for many. While some larger healthcare facilities practice good citizenship with financial support only, smaller practices can up the ante with volunteer programs. This is an element of corporate culture that can genuinely resonate with a candidate.

Speaking of interviews, when dealing with a war for talent, a disciplined and strategic approach is essential. In times past, the candidate was often on the hot seat, sometimes made to feel they should be grateful for being considered for the job. Not today – while the tables have not completely turned, they have definitely moved in a different direction! Hiring managers and HR professionals within healthcare organizations should concentrate on three primary areas during the interview process:

Selling: In this hyper-competitive market, it’s crucial to sell your organization and clearly state the reasons why the candidate should come on board. The mere “this is a great place to work” spiel won’t do the trick. You need to articulate why it’s so great.

Seeing is believing: Give prospective hires a tour of your facility; show them where they would work and let them speak with potential colleagues. By doing so, there should be no doubt with the candidate as to the nature and expectations of the job.

Ask the right questions: Use open-ended behavioral questions to see if the candidate has the proper skills for the job. Questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no” only provide a blurry snapshot of someone’s abilities. Instead consider asking “tell me about a time when you worked on a team, why were you or weren’t you successful and what was the outcome?” These behavioral questions allow candidates to paint a true picture of their behaviors in certain circumstances. And the answers are more interesting to listen to! Finally, they provide the candidate with a better experience as you are really listening to their responses.

Once the right candidate has been identified, stop shopping! A great applicant can be lost to another organization with unnecessarily drawn out and over-extensive comparison shopping. No single person is perfect for any job, but when you find an excellent candidate, hire them—if you don’t, someone else will. The healthcare field is particularly competitive and not acting quickly can cost dearly. This is not about settling; it is about recognizing and moving forward with a good fit.

Some of the best candidates come from internal referrals but avoid that outdated policy of paying out a referral bonus after a 90-day “trial period.” This type of policy was intended to prevent employees from referring subpar performing candidates, but let’s face it —no employee wants to jeopardize their own job by referring someone who is underqualified. Use referral bonuses only for specific difficult-to-fill positions; pay out the bonus as soon as the hire starts; and make the bonus substantial enough to grab employees’ attention and motivate them to take action. The paid-out bonus is certain to be less than the cost to retain a recruiting agency.

And finally, there’s nothing like a good swag bag! Every candidate should come away from the interview with a couple company-branded items. It doesn’t have to be expensive —a water bottle or mouse pad —something that makes them feel a part of the team even at this early stage. And when the job offer is extended, send a plant or gift basket (or something hobby-related you may have gleaned in the interview process) to the new hire’s home. Organizations that go this extra personal mile increase their chance of getting the desired candidate.

Amy Allen

Amy Allen

About the Author: Amy Allen, SPHR, is a partner with blumshapiro, the largest regional business advisory firm based in New England, with offices in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. The firm, with a team of nearly 450, offers a diversity of services, which include auditing, accounting, tax, and business advisory services. blum serves a wide range of privately held companies, government, education, and nonprofit organizations, as well as provides non-audit services for publicly traded companies. To learn more, visit the firm at

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