Recruiting Nurses (With No Recruiting Budget)

As the economy winds down, many organizations have severely curtailed their recruiting. However other organizations are still fighting the war for talent, in spite of the economic downturn. Hospitals and healthcare facilities, for example, face a continuing struggle to find nurses. Some have approached the nursing shortage with advanced strategies and exceptional recruiting teams (Tenet Healthcare, for example, is an industry leader) while others are still struggling. I’ve done a great deal of work in this area, so if you need to recruit nurses but have only a minimal budget, here are some no-cost suggestions and tips:

  1. Top performer referrals. Ask your top nurses individually to increase their referrals (give them a target of five a month). Ask them to refer their “mentees,” friends, and former colleagues
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  3. References of candidates. When checking the references of candidates who look exceptionally promising, ask them, “Who else do you know who’s also good?”
  4. First day of new hires. Ask all new hires on the day they start who else is good at their former facility. Ask them to help you recruit any targeted individuals who they know.
  5. Ask during the interview. Ask interviewees for the names of other good nurses that they know.
  6. Job descriptions. Rewrite your job descriptions to make them more like marketing pieces. Identify the WOW factors that you have and the features that excite your current employees. Put them in your job descriptions.
  7. Promotion/awards announcements. Track other facilities’ announcements of promotions and awards. Then identify and target those that top candidates as well as those that are likely to be frustrated because they didn’t get the promotion.
  8. “Find you again” profile. Ask your current nurses how you would find them again. Ask them what healthcare and social events they attend, magazines and journals that they read, TV shows that they watch, etc. Use this information to identify the sources that are the most likely to produce results.
  9. Name the five people. Ask your better nurses to list “the five nurses that have impressed you the most during your career” (former classmates, bosses, colleagues, and mentors). Then ask them to call the five. Use the five for direct hiring or for referrals.
  10. Almost qualified. Take another look at the finalists from previous hiring efforts and see if they are more qualified now or if you are willing to give them a second look.
  11. Promise them an interview. Guarantee potential recruits an interview. Consider giving them a reward ($50) or a free meal if they show up for an interview.
  12. Turned you down. Revisit finalist who, in the past, rejected your job offers. Try a new approach and try to resell them.
  13. Boomerangs. Call nurses that left your facility and ask them if they would like to return. Also ask them to be referral sources.
  14. Mentioned in/wrote tech article. Have your best nurses written articles in nursing journals? Being written about for your best practices is an excellent referring tool.
  15. Ask customers. Ask patients, strategic partners, vendors and suppliers to be referral sources (when there’s no conflict of interest).
  16. CEO calls. Have your facilities CEO call the candidate directly and encourage them to sign on. CEO calls are incredibly effective.
  17. When a competitor is in trouble. When a competing facility is undergoing cutbacks, staff reductions, or other labor turmoil, increase your recruiting efforts at their facilities. Ask your current nurses to help you recruit away their best. Recruit outside their parking lot if you must!
  18. Select a hiring team. Some managers just aren’t good salespeople (recruiters). Identify the nurses who are good recruiters and salespeople and let them do most of the hiring. Give them recruiter training and reward them for their efforts
  19. Employee referral program. The most effective recruiting tool of all is the ERP. Revisit it and reenergize its marketing program. Consider holding a raffle for a free trip to an exotic place for all of those that made referrals during the quarter.
  20. Seminar on site. Sponsor a technical seminar and hold it on your site. Offer attendees a tour and provide a mechanism for them to mingle with your current staff. This is an effective tool when your name isn’t that great but your people and facilities are!
  21. Search engine/bot search. Do an Internet search for nurses’ resumes. Specifically target (by their zip code) those that live within a short commuting distance of your facility.
  22. Direct mail. Also consider using professional association and nursing magazine mailing lists (sorted by local zip code) to mail out recruit pieces.
  23. Trade fairs. Have your best nurses attend and speak at trade fairs and industry conferences. Having them discuss your best practices is an excellent recruiting tool.
  24. Social events. Identify the type of social events that nurses attend often. Set up a booth there and use it as “soft sell” recruiting tool
  25. Chat rooms. Have your best nurses frequent nursing-related chat rooms and list servers. Have them answer tough questions in order to build your image and brand as a great place to work
  26. Bring a friend to work day. Hold an invited open house on your site and encourage your nurses to bring friends (who are also nurses).
  27. Free training. Offer top candidates whom you have pre-identified any vacant seats in your training classes in order to build a relationship and to assess their capabilities.
  28. Professional association officer referrals. Ask association officers to be referral sources and to help you identify any “up and coming” nurses.
  29. Sell sheet attached to your application. Attach a “sales sheet” to your hard copy application forms that highlights the best practices and features of your facility.
  30. Market research to identify triggers. Conduct focus groups among new hires and college students in order to identify their job acceptance criteria. Use these criteria to improve your offer letters.
  31. Side-by-side offer sheets. Provide your hiring managers with a single sheet that shows how your offer compares favorably with offers from competing facilities. This helps improve both retention and offer a acceptance rates
  32. Increased retention efforts. Spend some time with each of your top performers. Ask them what frustrates them and what would make their job more exciting. It’s cheaper to keep them than to recruit new ones!
  33. One year ahead “hit” list (pre-qualify). Identify the nurses you really want to hire long before you have an opening. Use that time to prequalify and to pre-sell them.
  34. “Push” jobs to top prospects. Develop an email mailing list that “pushes” announcements of job openings to individuals that you are targeting (or that have expressed an interest in receiving position openings).
  35. Weekend hires. Consider hiring nurses for a weekend or during their vacation for a “tryout.” Once they’ve worked with your team they are more likely to say yes to an offer.
  36. Hold a contest. Challenge your nursing staff to spend a month identifying the best nurses within the region. Make it a friendly competition (with a prize) and encourage each nurse to scour their emails, and address books for the names of potential hires. Encourage your nurses to “ask around.”
  37. Hire them both. Offer a program where you will hire a nurse and their best friend (colleague, spouse/partner) at the same time. Offer an exceptional nurse an opportunity to commute together or to work together with their best friend.
  38. Offer them privileges. Some nurses are reluctant to leave because they will have to start “at the bottom” at a new facility. Offer the very top candidates “shift choices etc. ” for six months and continued preferences if they perform on the job (rank among the top 20%)

College Recruiting Tips

  1. Interns as on-campus reps. Ask your college interns/part-time staff to serve as recruiting representatives when they return to campus. Ask them to visit nurse related events and to provide you with the names of the best and what it takes to convince them.
  2. Two-years-out college hires. There is a lot of competition for nurses graduating from school. Instead, try re-contacting those you wanted but couldn’t get (before) two years out of school. You might find recruiting them now is a lot easier as their preferences change when they become more experienced.
  3. Use last years hires as sourcers/recruiters. Ask last year’s college hires to help you identify and recruit this year’s crop
  4. Ask college professors. Ask college professors and graduate assistants to be referral sources. Identify the best and begin selling them more than a year before graduation.
  5. Grad assistants/student leaders. Recruit officers in student organizations to act as talent scouts for you.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ere.net. He lives in Pacifica, California.

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