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Getting Hired Shouldn't Be So Difficult

February 15

My daughter-in-law, Archana, got a new job last week. She is an older Generation Y employee with about 10 years of professional experience, is so tech proficient I stare in amazement and someone any company would be lucky to hire. I mention this because while she was getting job offers, I was embroiled in several large-scale Secret Shops where we go in as a perfect candidate and measure what is really happening when candidates apply for jobs at our nation's healthcare providers.

The difference between the "Shop" and Archana's experience was startling. It also illustrated how, in healthcare, we lose control of the recruiting process because we haven't taken the steps to structure our processes to reflect what is needed in today's competitive environment. There is, too often, no accountability, a lack of standard operating procedures for the hiring managers and/or recruiters, and a seeming disregard of time. All of this is crippling for healthcare's recruitment success.

Archana applied online with a simple functionality that took less than 10 minutes to upload a resume and leave just enough information to tip the recruiter that she was a candidate worth pursuing. Nothing crashed. She wasn't asked to create an account with passwords and her mother's maiden name. There was no request for social security numbers, EEOC information or dates of birth. She scrolled around the website to gather information and was sold on the position, benefits and the company- and did much of it with videos.

Her entire experience for getting hired took a week, and that included an almost immediate response from the recruiter who pre-screened her, two in-person interviews and some salary negotiating. The recruiter called her every day to keep her warm and to instill in her the fact she was valued and sought. Archana laughs when she talks about the promise of this new position, and she can't wait to come in and immediately overachieve like any other good Generation Y employee.

That was not our experience when applying for more than 70 separate positions for several healthcare providers. Pharmacists, Physician Assistants, Directors and Physical Therapists applied through a website and immediately went into a black hole, even though some of the hospitals were paying headhunters to find these very professionals. Days, even weeks went by before we heard anything about our well crafted and perfect credentials. Most of the time we received automatic e-mail responses letting us know that indeed we had applied, but even that was not consistent and it certainly didn't mean a recruiter might be calling anytime soon. We followed up and called the recruiters and Human Resource Departments, and we presented in person to beg for an audience. In the end, we managed to get one interview for a pediatric RN- three weeks after we had applied.

For any entry-level position we were almost always treated as something disposable. We were asked to take tests that were set up for measuring skills other than those which would be required for the position we were seeking. Not a single entry-level candidate got a return phone call, and they certainly didn't get an interview.

Of course, by the time the shoppers had begged and stalked the recruiters, they were upset they hadn't heard anything--and, presumably taken another job. As the various shops progressed, the shoppers felt angry and marginalized. "I didn't want to work for them anyway" said a fake applicant, taking her rejection personally. "You're just a shopper" I responded, "you wouldn't have taken the job if they had made you Queen For A Day." "I wanted them to respect my credentials," the shopper said. "I feel like they dissed me totally and I really don't like it."

According to the Harvard Business Review, 50% of our workers will be Generation Y in the next four years. They are now over 80 million strong compared to the 46.1 million who make up Generation X. And while the Baby Boomers, especially in healthcare, make up a huge group, those over 48 years of age are retiring every day and the workforce is becoming steadily smaller.

Healthcare providers need Generation Y and X employees, and those groups believe in applying on-line efficiently and quickly and then hearing something personal almost immediately. This is not being done in healthcare. Even if recruiters are able to finally reach the candidates who apply and convince them to join, they often come in with a bad attitude. "It shouldn't be this hard," said one of the applicants, and they are right. It shouldn't be.

Most healthcare websites are set up to frustrate both the applicant and the recruiter because they are set up to be all things to all people. One application and process for everyone--from the most skilled to entry-level. Candidates are essentially being told to fill everything out just in case someone needs it later. All the fields are required even though some information has nothing to do with certain positions. The message is often "Yes, we need to know what elementary school you attended and we aren't going to test you for skills associated with the position for which you are applying, but just test because that's what we do."

Online applications need to be easy so both the applicant and the recruiter can get and provide just the information needed--not everything and the kitchen sink. Appropriate prescreening is vital in cutting down the number of unqualified applicants, and it should be different for different positions. Everything needs to be interfaced with the Applicant Tracking System, and candidate information needs to be saved because it cost a lot of money to get.

But most of all, recruiters need to re-think how they recruit. The Generation Y and X employees will not tolerate the current processes. Healthcare delivery systems who are able to respond almost immediately will be the ones who have the right employees for their organization. This needs to be extended to the Hiring Managers who must also recruit quickly and efficiently.

Vacancy rates for employees haven't been this low for over 40 years. In April 2010, 290,000 jobs were created. That was the second month with job creation, indicating that the economy is not only rebounding but including jobs in that rebound. The low vacancy rates will probably last through the summer, but come fall, recruiters will see their open jobs report expand. It would be wonderful if by that time recruitment processes would have improved to the point that job offers could be extended within a week. Because controlling the recruitment process, getting the best fit employees, having them come in laughing out loud, and looking forward to their new job is exactly where you want to be.

It should be easy and right now it isn't in healthcare.

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