Justin Meschler’s pandemic story started with hope and ended with a letter of resignation. After a year of strain and fear from caring for COVID-19 patients, he quit his job as an anesthesiologist, leaving the industry for good. 

Justin’s narrative isn’t unusual. The pandemic has created a mass exodus of healthcare workers, and their reasons for leaving the profession are similar: a lack of personal protective equipment, a hostile work environment, long hours, low pay, and stress. Those on the frontlines are tired, traumatized, and terrified of catching the virus and bringing it home to their families, but HR teams might underestimate these monumental challenges.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the number of healthcare workers who have quit fluctuates depending on which source you reference, but it could be in the tens of thousands. As recently as April, four in 10 nurses have considered leaving their roles, with many citing burnout as the motivating factor. When COVID does finally subside, the next pandemic could be a mental health one.

Now, perhaps more than any other time in the history of modern healthcare, HR teams need to communicate with empathy when acquiring talent. It’s been a tough 18 months for all of those on the battle lines, so compassion has become the most critical healthcare recruiting skill of all. 

Use Emotional Intelligence in Job Ads

Healthcare workers might feel jaded by their COVID experiences, possibly burned by the promise of a pay raise that never came or a lack of protective equipment. Those considering new roles might be skeptical of a profession they once considered a vocation and now see as a burden, so address these concerns in your job postings and recruitment materials. 

Don’t advertise a “phenomenal” or “unimaginable” opportunity, but use emotional intelligence to manage expectations for what’s likely to be an incredibly tough proposition as the pandemic rattles on. Yes, a job in healthcare can be rewarding, even exhilarating, but it continues to deliver difficulties, especially now. Don’t gloss over them.  

Articulate your objectives instead. Why do you want someone to fill a particular role? How will that role benefit patients? What should applicants know about the job? Be clear and specific, and don’t make a job sound like something it’s not. 

Incorporate Benefits Into Your Organizational Culture

Healthcare workers often feel underpaid and undervalued, so incorporating benefits into your company culture, no matter how insignificant they might seem to managers, can lighten the load during the most significant healthcare crisis of the last century. 

The benefits of benefits are almost limitless, and healthcare workers want more of them. The most desirable perk for employees is — ironically for healthcare workers — healthcare insurance, with 54 percent of respondents in a recent study saying they would give this benefit “heavy” consideration when job-hunting. Next on the list are flexible hours, vacation time, work-from-home programs, and unlimited vacation.

You might lack the budget or bandwidth for unlimited flex-time or a month’s paid-time-off, but all benefits, even small ones, can improve work-life balance and result in healthier, happier healthcare teams. Consider free coffee, complimentary Netflix subscriptions, or any other freebie that will make life easier for overworked and often overwhelmed employees. 

Make Interviews Less Stressful

Some HR teams approach job interviews as if they were in the boardroom, leaving applicants red-faced and sweaty-palmed. Post-pandemic, be more cordial to candidates. Introduce yourself, tell applicants about your organization’s values and culture, and avoid trick questions. You’ll want to create as good of a first impression as the person on the other side of the table does. 

The goal of any interview is to find the right candidate for the job. Creating a highly pressurized environment is unlikely to achieve that goal, so try less interrogation and more conversation. Ninety-three percent of applicants already experience anxiety at interviews, so there’s no need to make things worse, especially when so many healthcare workers are battling burnout. 

“It’s been a tough year or so for healthcare workers who have been there when we needed them most, so it may be more productive to employ a kinder, gentler approach during interviews, defusing an already high-stress situation and making it easier to find top talent,” says Julia Buckley, Sr. Account Manager at Bayard Advertising.

​Look for the Intangibles

The humble resume has long been the barometer for finding successful healthcare candidates, but there’s more far more to candidates than what appears on these documents. Someone might have listed a volunteering position, for example, which demonstrates that a person can work in a team and cares about the community, even though they didn’t explicitly mention these qualities. Through interviews, too,  you can also gauge qualities and capacities like willingness to learn, coachability, and positivity — all things that you won’t find on a traditional resume.

Not everyone articulates their qualities or characteristics well on a couple of sheets of A4 paper so, rather than writing a candidate off, read between the lines to get a clearer picture of the person behind the paperwork.

Before You Go

Healthcare recruiting looks almost unrecognizable since the start of the pandemic, with burned-out employees more skeptical and dissatisfied with the profession than ever before. That’s why a little empathy can go a long way when hiring staff. Using emotional intelligence in job postings, incorporating benefits into your culture, making interviews less stressful, and looking beyond what’s on a candidate’s resume could result in more successful recruitment outcomes during these testing times.

Are you looking for recruitment strategies, ideas, and creativity in the post-pandemic landscape? Bayard is the recruitment marketing and employer brand agency for healthcare employers searching for top talent. Learn more.

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