Creative Solutions for Healthcare Recruiting

How the Tight Applicant Market is Changing the Way We Recruit
Andriy Popov/

As the marketplace for healthcare talent continues to tighten, most institutions are looking for creative solutions to achieve and maintain head count. In a bustling metropolitan area, there may be more candidates from which to choose, and there will also be more competition to hire them. In rural areas, you likely see fewer candidates, making it difficult to hire. Whatever your market conditions, workforce demands are constant.

In a typical applicant market, recruiters need to adapt; in today’s applicant market, institutions need to adapt. The lowest unemployment rate in decades is forcing healthcare providers to shift the way they search for and acquire talent. Today’s tight candidate pool is changing the way we recruit, hire, and maintain staff to assure the highest quality of care and services. Some solutions might help in these challenging times, depending on your market conditions.

Assess and Adapt


The first line of attack is typically compensation. Offering more than the competition can put your institution top of mind to candidates. Beyond higher starting/hourly salary rates, bonuses can be an attractive lure for talent. Signing bonuses can be offered when candidates join your ranks initially; retention bonuses can be paid out over time (at 6 month or 1 year intervals) to assure new hires stay in place. Structured salary bumps, beyond the typically annual increase, can be another enticement for talent. However, don’t wait until the interview to outline these offerings – make sure your postings refer to them to pique the interest of active and passive job seekers.


A look at what the competition is offering with regard to benefits and perks can let you know where you stand in the market. Most institutions offer similar benefits packages, so this is an area where creativity can make a difference. Is work/life balance an issue for staffers? Can you provide amenities that help address their needs, like on-site daycare, fitness facilities, or even nap locations? Can you offer access to financial or legal assistance, retirement planners, stress relief classes, or other providers? A poll of current employees is helpful to uncover what new benefits or perks you can provide to add value to their employment, or how you can better help them achieve professional and personal goals.

Training as a benefit
Candidates are looking beyond the initial hire date at their long-term career goals. Do you provide or promote training as an employee benefit? An investment in staff members’ professional growth is a win-win for employees and a top enticement for candidates. Don’t forget to tout your programs when recruiting.

Shifting shifts

Many healthcare providers are in the unique position to offer shift changes and flexibility to entice and retain staff. Creative scheduling, like three 12-hour days or weekend-only shifts can make your facility more desirable than the next. Working with department heads and team leads, recruiters can help address immediate need for coverage with flexible shift hires.  Part-time staffers and job shares could be another option to maintain head count. Some institutions even find shift flexibility helps retain current staff.

For some specialties, longer shifts are advantageous for the facility as well as the physician. A 3 or 3 ½ day workweek can help with work/life balance and make your opening more enticing.

Reviewing Expectations

When was the last time you really reviewed job descriptions? Even if they’re current, they may need to be adjusted. In an employer market, you can ask for 5 years plus of experience, but in an applicant market you may need to lower expectations. Take a careful look at every “disqualifying” requirement (like years of experience) to assure they’re still relevant and required. Some minor tweaking could open up a much larger candidate pipeline.

Employee Referrals

If you don’t have an employee referral program in place, you should. If you have an employee referral plan in place and it’s not working, consider adjusting it to market conditions. That $100.00 payout for referrals that make it through their six-month probationary period might not be worthwhile, but a larger bonus that pays out earlier may invite staffers to be more proactive in trying to find talent.

Backup Planning

A significant issue in the healthcare industry is staff shortages. While market conditions are not helping, you can hedge your bets somewhat when recruiting. While it may seem like overkill, if possible, consider over-hiring. Found two great candidates for an opening? Hire them both and find a place for each before the market sweeps them away.

As an enticement to new recruits, emphasize you have coverage. Having hospitalists on staff, for example, demonstrates to potential physician hires they will have coverage and won’t need to take after-hours calls. This simple personal life benefit could tip the scales in your favor.

An Unlikely Source

Exit interviews are an excellent way to find out where your facility is missing the mark when it comes to retention. Take note of what impelled staffers to leave your rolls and adjust accordingly. This might also offer an opportunity many overlook – rehiring. If a staff member is not going full-time to another provider (or even if they are), ask him or her to consider a future contract, part-time or on-call work. Many Americans are looking for more work flexibility – an opportunity to spend more time on personal pursuits. An invitation to exiting employees could help you cultivate a talent pool that can fill in for planned vacation time, for example. It could also provide staff members a chance to keep their career on track, even if at only a lesser pace.

In a tight candidate market, institutions that react to conditions will continue to struggle to find talent. For those who proactively assess conditions and adapt, recruitment and retention can be easier, even as the market becomes more difficult.

By Riia O'Donnell