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Nursing recruitment

Finding top talent requires asking the right questions

BY: Elise Oberliesen on October 2, 2019

When it’s your job to find the best nurses for the organization, fierce competition can derail those efforts unless you go in prepared.

Setting clear hiring goals is a good start. Talking to the right people within the organization is every recruiter’s best line of defense when it comes to finding top talent.

We asked nurse recruiters just how to gather the necessary information prior to the recruiting efforts.

Recruiters who develop strong relationships with hiring managers fare better when it comes to finding top talent to fill those roles. Start by beefing up communication strategies with those nurse managers.

In a study conducted by Deloitte and Touche and hiring platform, iCIMS, 80% of recruiters thought they understood the jobs they are trying to fill — whereas 61% of hiring managers disagreed — according to a report on the Society for Human Resource Management website.

The following strategies can help you gain the confidence needed to find nursing’s best and brightest.

Tips for finding top talent

We talked to Greg Zoch, partner and managing director with Kaye/Bassman International Corp in Plano, Texas. Zoch brings about 20 years of nurse recruiting experience primarily in executive leadership roles.

What information do you need from hiring managers to find top talent?

One of the things critically important is to know the person to whom they will be directly reporting. And that dictates we have a real time conversation about the position, the expectations and desired personality traits of the nurse candidate.

Why is finding top talent so important?

Because the fit has to be good for the hiring manager or boss and for the organization.

Sometimes people are highly competent but their personality are not a fit with that particular manager because they are not compatible with the boss.

What is the best way to pull this information out of the hiring manager?

Good processes require discussing candidates, not bouncing emails back and forth.

People think they write emails well, but email loses tone and nuance. Conversational flow is necessary for something as important as hiring a new member of the team.

What screening criteria from the hiring manager would make your job easier?

I want to differentiate the need between “must haves” and “want to haves.”

  • A “need to have” means the hiring manage must have these qualities in a candidate.
  • A “want to have” example could be something like a candidate who worked in an academic setting or at a nonprofit.

What should recruiters ask hiring managers to assess the needs of the department?

I would ask the hiring manager: “What’s important to you for the person we hire for the role?”

And they might say, “Improving clinical quality of the unit, or I don’t want a whiner.”

Or they might say, “I want somebody who is tough because our team is very direct in communication, so the job candidate needs to be thick skinned.”

Another perspective on finding top talent

Next, we caught up with Nurse Recruiter Lois Lewis, MSN, RN, from University of Kentucky Health Care. Here’s what Lewis had to share.

What specifics do you need from the hiring manager to help you identify the best candidate for the job?

I need to know the culture of the unit. How welcoming are the staff? Do they get along? What is the patient population?

We meet with our managers weekly to talk about the unit and census and what they are looking for in applicants.

The nurse recruiters skill match applicants to the positions that are best suited to their abilities and expertise.

When we interview the candidate, we take a deeper dive into what their professional goals are and their areas of interest. Putting the needs of our internal and external customers together to be mutually satisfying takes some finesse.

We want working here to be a win-win for everyone so we can achieve our mission every patient, every time.

What helps when finding top talent for a nursing job?

Post it and they will come. It is hard to find experienced RNs, so we decided to “grow our own staff.”

Our training and orientation are very in-depth and we spend time on the front end of the hiring process — onboarding.

We don’t just push staff out onto the floor after only a few weeks. We ensure they are competent and confident in caring for our patients.

It would be nice to streamline all of our training so it could be done in one or two days.

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Elise Oberliesen

Elise Oberliesen has 15 years of combined media and marketing experience. Her work appears on corporate blogs and publications, such as the LA Times, Chicago Tribune and AARP. Her specialties include healthcare, high tech and finance. Elise is a member of the Association of Healthcare Journalists and founder of Big Mountain Media.