Recruitment tips for healthcare practices

In this week’s post, we take a look at recruitment. Practice managers – in GP surgeries, allied health and veterinary clinics – are often telling me about the challenges they face in recruitment.

When I’ve explored the challenges with these healthcare managers and leaders, it seems that there are a few hurdles that stand out. The problems they face include:

  • Finding time to do a great job in the pre-interview and interview phase
  • Getting sufficient candidates to apply
  • Having the ability to uncover issues in the interview, and then being caught out after the person starts
  • Having the time to focus on the new recruit when they start
  • Knowing what the right person for the job is
  • Balancing their gut instinct with their rational thinking

Recruitment is a complex process and distilling this down to a few key tips or recommendations is in itself challenging! I’ll choose 5 things to focus on today, and will expand this into a comprehensive training module, with more information in our online members community (so if this topic is important, don’t forget to sign up – it’s a super small investment in making your working life much easier!)

The 5 recruitment tips for healthcare that we will cover here are:

  • This is not about filling a vacancy
  • Know who you need and what you don’t want
  • Check yourself on bias and assumptions
  • Make interviews more meaningful
  • Be outstanding at on-boarding

This is not about filling a vacancy

Of course, there is a vacancy and that’s why you are recruiting. If that was what it was all about, then you could do it in a flash, and life would be good. Anyone would do, there would be no long term thinking, and if the person destroyed your team and culture, that would be ok?

I have spoken to healthcare leaders who are so busy that they rush the recruitment process – the planning, advertising, interviewing, deciding and on-boarding. And so often, this leads to a hard to fix disaster down the track.

Can you think of anyone that you have recruited in the past, where it didn’t turn out as planned – maybe straight away, maybe months later? Think of the worst example you have, now look back – what made you recruit that person at that time? What did you miss? What would you do differently if you had that recruitment time over again?

Some of you may say nothing. Many of you, though, may be able to identify something that was missed, that you could have explored further, or maybe it was something you didn’t do after they started? I’m not saying it’s your fault. All I’m saying is, that as recruiting managers and leaders, when things go wrong later, there often is something that we could have done to have avoided or minimised it when we recruited.

So if it’s not about filling a vacancy, what is it about?

Let’s start with:

  • It’s about patient or client experience
  • A profitable business
  • Team culture and morale

So, while you HAVE a vacancy, it’s about making sure that you continue or improve all 3 of these things by welcoming a new member of your team.

Think about when it goes wrong – we can have team conflict, financial losses, disgruntled patients or clients, increased stress in the workplace, poor service delivery…the list goes on. We could add in some cases we may have negative impacts to healthcare outcomes.

I really do think that it’s important to get our mindset right on this. If we see it as just filling a vacancy, then it’s more of a ‘let’s tick the box’ exercise. Done. If we treat it this way, we won’t spend the time getting the job description right, advertising with impact, short listing well, or preparing a great interview. And if these things aren’t prioritised, we may regret it later.

Consider the 3 points above – what do you need to look after these elements? This leads us to the next tip…


Know who you need and what you don’t want

Think about the ideal person for the role. Can you describe them? What are they doing and saying? How are they making the people around them feel? What skills and experience are they demonstrating? What’s their attitude like? Who is the ideal person?

Well, we do know that people are not perfect, and so candidates are not always perfect. So we need to consider the deal-breakers before we advertise and interview.

  • What are the things that they MUST demonstrate, be or have to even be considered for the role?
  • What are the things that would indicate this person is unsuitable? Try to prioritise your top 3.

Doing this will help you write your job description, word your advertisement, and plan your interview questions.

Not ‘just anyone’ will do.


Check yourself on bias and assumptions

Biases, we all have them, whether we admit it, or like it. What biases do you bring to interviewing? What assumptions do you tend to make about people – from their name, resume, experience or appearance?

Of your biases and go-to common assumptions, Which are helpful? Which are harmful?

Only you can know your inner self, and what you bring to a recruitment decisions. Just know that sometimes our bias can hold us back from seeing the true potential in a candidate, or what they might add to the team or business.

Here are a few things to think about around some common recruitment bias and assumptions:

  • Attitude beats age every time. Many people judge first on the age, yet explain it away as a physical fitness issue, a speed issue, or a current knowledge issue. In reality though, the right attitude overcomes these issues. Attitude is so much more important than whether someone is considered “too young” “too middle-aged” “too old”
  • Look beyond passion. In healthcare we hear a lot about passion. Passion for the sector, for the area of health they work in, passion for the patients, passion for helping people. Passion is wonderful. Yet there is more to being effective in healthcare than passion. There is more to effective teamwork and team culture than passion. So look for genuine passion and give it a tick. Just make sure passion is not covering or blinding you to a lack of skills, a poor attitude, a lack of emotional intelligence, or even a lack of empathy.
  • Balance technical/clinical capability with emotional or social intelligence. We can all at times be dazzled by someone’s obvious intellect, their experience, overseas work placements, or qualifications. That’s great, if they have all of that – wonderful. We just need to remember that healthcare generally requires team work and interpersonal interaction. It requires empathy and the ability to communicate. You can be the most qualified nurse, the most intelligent receptionist, the most experienced Dr. Yet if the human-to-human skills are lacking, what impact will that have on the people around them?

The point is – we simply need to recognise the biases and assumptions that may be impacting our decision making. Don’t let one thing hold you back from seeing the full person and their full potential.


Make interviews more meaningful

Too often I’ve seen healthcare managers rush into interviews unprepared, ask a few standard – “to be expected”- questions and then wrap quickly. I’ve seen them engage little with the candidates, then make a quick decision on the successful one.

And I’ve seen this fall apart at times afterwards.

I know we are busy in healthcare. I know that sometimes a quick process and decision has amazing results. I’m suggesting here that we can have a more widespread impact here than just finding that right person.

Your whole recruitment process is advertising your business, your team and you as a leader. How will we come across if we are ill prepared, rushed, disengaged, or stern as a recruiter? If you have a fabulous candidate – you want them to want to work with you. What if they are also considering a great opportunity elsewhere? What if that opportunity was equal to yours in all but the way they felt during the recruitment process?

Ultimately, my philosophy here is that we want people to want to work with us. At the same time they are selling themselves, we are actually selling us – us as a manager, us as a team, us as a business.

The other side to this is, that even if they are not the best candidate, wouldn’t it be great if they spoke well of us after the interview? Even if they were not successful? We never know, it might be good for business when they tell their family how great the experience was, it might be good for future vacancies when they praise us to their colleagues.

The other aspect may not be so obvious. If we make people feel welcome, and they have a great experience, they are more likely to relax a little in the interview. When people relax, they let go of some of their nerves and they tend to open up. So we might discover an amazing talent they have that would be beneficial in the workplace, we might hear of a future aspiration that shows their dedication, or we might learn what motivates them so we can tap into that if we employ them. And of course, we might just uncover a deal-breaker – one of the things that is a red flag that helps us identify NOT to employ them!

So we make interviews meaningful by making it a positive experience – we are engaging, we communicate well on the role and the business, we are courteous and listen well.

The other aspect to meaningful interviews – is to ask great questions and dive deeper. Create (i.e. prepare) questions that have purpose and help uncover the information that will assist in your decision-making.

Create questions that generate dialogue, getting the other person to talk and open up. Create questions that challenge thinking, that explore deeper layers, that uncover the true person beneath the nerves, the rehearsed answers and the impressive resume.


Be outstanding at on-boarding

We have the right person and they are ready to start. They are excited, a little nervous, and keen to get to work. We can’t wait for them to hit the ground running, settle in with the team and get up to speed.

So why, then, do so many of us forget to start right with on-boarding – you know, that first day, the first week, first month?

How people start in a company can have a big impact on their morale, their effectiveness and their ongoing thoughts on your business. It can even have an impact on how long you keep them. First impressions count.

While we’ve spoken about the importance of a great experience in the interview, it shouldn’t stop there. Help people feel like they made the right choice accepting the job.

At the very minimum, welcome them on the first day as their manager, have a coffee together, explain what you have planned for the first week to induct them. Make sure they have the equipment they need – computer, desk, phone – whatever it is that is required for them to do their job. Have a plan for meeting the team and other people in the business.

On-boarding is not just about getting them to read the company policies online!


There are so many more tips to explore with recruitment. If you’d like more, we have awesome courses available in our Members Community. Click  here to find out what you are missing!

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