Three Mistakes Healthcare Staffing Agencies Make That We All Can Learn From

There is no denying that each industry has its share of unique recruiting challenges. On the flip side, there are aspects of recruiting that are same the world over. With that in mind, healthcare staffing agencies make three common mistakes that we can all learn from.

1: Sacrificing Inbound For Outbound Marketing Spend

Healthcare staffing agencies tend to be fixated on immediate results. I'm sure that's the same in many industries and there's good reason for that. But it's counterproductive when it causes an overemphasis on outbound marketing to the detriment of inbound marketing efforts. 

I spoke to the CEO of a mid-sized healthcare staffing agency last year at a conference. He told me that they had spent over $300,000 over the last year on telephony technology after receiving a small infusion of venture capital. They now had an auto-dialer and IVR system that would "take them to the next level."

In response, I asked how much they had spent on their inbound marketing efforts. "What, like Facebook?" he replied. "Sure," I said, "but more importantly, do you have a blog?" "Oh no, that's a waste of time!", he said.

I proceeded to tell him that our company had a blog specifically devoted to his niche, travel nursing, which was generating over 30,000 pageviews and 15,000 unique visitors per month. That doesn't sound like much, but in a niche with fewer than 20,000 professionals where the key search term gets 9,900 global monthly searches according to Google Adwords, that's actually a lot!

And more importantly, it took one person 1.5 years to get there and it would generate similar traffic for years to come. Additionally, the 3 largest players in the market all have blogs generating as much or more traffic. So I told him that for less than $100,000, he could have created a blog that would bring in over 300,000 pageviews per year for many years to come. 

I get it. The telephone is king in the recruitment industry, and it should be. However, don't neglect your inbound marketing efforts in favor of shiny new Ferraris. You're a staffing agency, not the Bank of America call center.

2: Specious Marketing Messages

At some point, the healthcare staffing industry experienced a race to the bottom with its marketing messages. You see, much of the industry works with "travel healthcare professionals." These folks are placed on short-term assignments away from their tax homes. Therefore, they qualify for tax-free stipends and/or benefits like company provided housing.

One day, some agency decided to pass these benefits off as "Free." They offered free housing, free medical benefits, free rental cars, free license and certification reimbursement and on, and on. On the flip side, if a candidate chooses not to take one of these benefits, then they can have money instead. How is that free? IT ISN'T.

But every agency felt it had to match this genius marketing message. This causes two problems. First, it puts recruiters in the ever so inconvenient role of explaining this mess to candidates. Second, candidates quickly begin to view the agencies as shady and the recruiters as charlatans.

Bottom line, while it's not necessary to be fully transparent in all aspects of recruitment, that doesn't mean you should resort to the shifty sales gimmicks that would typically be found in online marketing scams. Candidates are smart. They'll quickly figure it out and, when they do, your company will look like it sells snake oil.

3: Making It Difficult For New Candidates

My particular area of expertise is in Travel Nursing. It's not the most difficult niche to recruit in, but it's far from easy. First, it requires sourcing candidates with highly specialized skill sets, licenses and certifications. Additionally, the proliferation of Vendor Management Systems and Managed Service Providers has made the niche highly competitive. In many cases, there are at least 50 agencies competing to fill the same job. Moreover, candidates are not flocking in droves to agency websites to apply for jobs. The vast majority of agencies will receive fewer than 20 organic applicants per week.

In a highly competitive market like this, it's always wise to treat candidates like customers. Instead, the vast majority of healthcare staffing agencies require their candidates to complete perhaps the lengthiest online application process known to man in order to even be considered for an assignment. Sure, travel nursing agencies are required to submit these documents to their client hospitals and they want to get candidates into their applicant tracking systems, but as Liz Ryan says:

Those Applicant Tracking Systems are horrible talent repellents, but most of their owners don’t know they serve the same function as massive, barking, teeth-bared attack dogs at the gate.

Healthcare professionals HATE these applications with a passion. In fact, we conducted a survey of our members at BluePipes in which 72% of respondents said they would be more likely to work with a new agency if they didn't have to complete the initial paperwork at the outset. In addition to avoiding the process altogether, candidates will abandon the process and/or submit half-completed applications that require recruiter input on the beck-end to be usable. 

As front-end applications, applicant tracking systems are designed to help employers screen candidates. If you're receiving less than 20 applicants per week at a staffing agency, is it really worth the loss of candidates to save yourself what amounts to very little time? Aren't there alternatives?

Yes, there are. A small number of agencies simplify this process. They have their recruiters complete online applications on behalf of candidates using the candidates' resumes. They send the application signing statements separately. They complete documents with candidates over the phone. And some even have virtual assistants to fulfill these steps. Others accept universal documentation from niche professional networks like BluePipes.

The bottom line is that this process can be simplified for the candidate and the reward will far outweigh the cost. Agencies and companies that exhibit agility and adopt new technology quickly will win the battle for talent. Those that don't will be lucky to survive.

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