< Back to Hiring Blog

What We Do Matters: Talent Teams Make Essential Healthcare Possible

May 29, 2020
iCIMS Staff
5 min read

Pivot, get creative, pivot again, and have some faith.

That is how so many healthcare recruiters described the start of the pandemic, as they had to throw out 2020 hiring plans and quickly fill the frontlines with essential workers.

“In the first few weeks our recruitment team had to quickly adjust our strategies to address the changing needs brought on by this pandemic,” said Debbie Eberenz, AVP of recruitment at Trilogy Health Services.

Crisis Breeds Innovation  

While so many businesses made difficult decisions on cutting their workforce to survive the economic downturn, healthcare was making the necessary pivots to ramp up their efforts. The recruiting teams – who were working remote – had to get creative in hiring essential healthcare talent faster than ever and for likely temporary roles.

A boomerang campaign to target alumni employees was launched by Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, with incentives such as shortening the benefit period and getting back previously earned paid time off. It’s resulted in a steady flow of quality applicants for the behavioral health organization’s centers.

Trilogy Health quickly set up virtual career fairs – but with a twist. Rather than slotting in back-to-back interviews, one recruiter decided to spend extra time to give a presentation to the job seekers about the organization and the roles available. From there, she scheduled one-to-one interviews through text message with those who were interested.

When the recruiters at CommonSpirit Health shifted their recruitment efforts to focus on mission-critical roles, they picked up the phones and began to personally reach out to every single candidate that applied. It was important to them that they stayed consistent in their message and took time to understand what the person on the other end was going through.

Taking Care of The Frontlines 

On a drive through any town center across the globe you’ll see homemade signs on lawns of healthcare workers that say, “a hero lives here.” For these recruiting teams, they’ve always felt part of that rally cry and have been more connected than ever to their colleagues on the frontlines.

St. Luke’s Health System has focused on moving people around the organization where they’re needed the most so no one is sidelined. Devereux employees that are able to work remote are making masks for their colleagues who are on-site. The team at Trilogy Health Services pulled together to craft new ways to continue their well-loved employee recognition program when monthly celebrations had to be cancelled.

“We are just really driven to help ensure that our campuses have the staff they need to take care of our residents,” said Eberenz. “That’s part of what’s so rewarding about being a recruiter in this industry. Just ensuring that we are getting the right people in the door to be part of the team.”

Eberenz is also zeroing in on employee onboarding. Like many organizations who are hiring for the front lines, recruiters are engaging with unlikely applicants due to nonessential workplaces being shut down. As these new, temporary workers come on board, Trilogy Health Services is focused on investing in their future.

“They came to us for an opportunity,” said Eberenz. “So part of what we’re working to do is [showcasing] here’s what your career could look like with us and here’s people that actually did it.”

Brookdale Senior Living is focused on keeping their team set up for success, starting with new hiring best practices.

“Interview guides are different, talking points are different, so recruiters and hiring managers need to understand how to interpret body language,” said Deborah Jandt, senior director of talent acquisition at Brookdale Senior Living.

Jandt explained that the shift between a structured interview environment to virtual conversations means candidates shouldn’t be critiqued for their surroundings, such as where they’re taking the interview or if their dog starts to bark. That documentation of best practices and how to use virtual tools was critical in order to properly support over 50,000 associates.

But setting their team up for success with their new way of work also meant taking into account how that impacts their team’s well-being. They brought in their physical therapists on team meetings to talk about how to take care of their physical bodies when remote, from the right chair to sit on to optimal lighting.

a group of people standing on top of a grass covered field

Staying Focused on the Good  

With major hiring pivots and virtual work under their belt, each healthcare talent leader was poised, passionate, and grateful for the work their organizations were doing.

“Kindness goes a long way when it comes to problem solving and letting people process change,” said Renee Stacy, director of talent acquisition at St. Luke’s.

It’s easy to get caught up in the public health panic and the economic downturn. Yet, these leaders are focused on the good.

“Recruiting teams have a lot of camaraderie,” said Wanda Cole-Frieman, SVP of talent acquisition at CommonSpirit. “If you’re centered around people, it’s really easy to stay motivated.”

And that internal camaraderie can shine in external candidate messaging.

“What we do matters and our message has changed to show that,” said Erin Herda, senior director of talent acquisition at Brookdale Senior Living. “We want you to be part of our family.”

When asked if they had any advice for others who are hiring for essential roles, here’s what our talent leaders shared: 

  • Virtual tools are a win-win for candidates, recruiters. Trilogy Health Services leans on texting to get in front of applicants fast. Even when job seekers “blanket apply” to numerous organizations, Trilogy Health Services can get in front of them faster than their competitors. Speed is critical as recruiters say they’ve talked to more RNs in the past 2-3 weeks than they have in the past 4 months.
  • Shift to passive talent hiring over reactive sourcing. Strongly leverage talent pools and prioritize building pools for hard-to-fill roles, says Stacy. Start preparing now for future roles openings, before hiring managers start asking, “Where’s my talent?”
  • Identify soft skills remotely with behavioral interviewing. As a mission-driven organization, CommonSpirit has put a big emphasis on behavioral interviewing – especially asking “humankindness” questions to “unpeel the onion.”
  • Optimize for new work conditions and requirements. The pandemic entirely changed how Brookdale Senior Living would market their open positions. The talent team started optimizing job descriptions for keywords such as “immediately hiring nationwide” and each job advertisement drives candidates to a landing page on how the organization is handling COVID-19.
  • Be open minded with changing processes. If you need to keep hiring, it might not look the same as the situation evolves, explains Raegan Downing, Devereux’s people operations director for talent acquisition. Creative solutions for today’s current challenges might stick for the long-term.

For more tips on filling critical roles, check out our rapid hiring resources here


rapid hiring resources to help full critical roles button

Join our growing community

and receive free tips on how to attract, engage, hire, & advance the best talent.

privacy notice

Explore categories

Explore categories

Back to top

Learn how iCIMS can help you attract, engage, hire, and advance the best talent

Read more about Healthcare

iCIMS February Workforce Report: A tale of unrequited love

Read more

By the numbers: The healthcare talent crisis

Read more

Why the best hospitals use automated reference checks

Read more