Project Description

Nurse Recruitment: Be obsessed with talent!

The healthcare industry has been hit with a recruitment virus that has rapidly infected all branches of the industry with a case of severe staffing crisis.  One of the symptoms of this has been increased usage of temporary staffing.  A reduction in staff potentially leads to reduced quality of care… but that’s beyond the scope of this post.  If you want to read more about how understaffing reduces quality of care click here.

There is an estimated 40,000 vacant nursing positions. That is alarmingly high! The strains of understaffing is felt by patients, working nurses and by managers alike.  For managers, it is impossible to see through your visions and make improvements if you are constantly trying to fill gaps in your rota.  Having to result to using agencies to plug the gaps in rota’s is a manager’s worst nightmare.

The average cost for hiring a temporary nurse for one shift is said to be around £434! More than triple that sum is being spent on bank holidays, that’s scary to think about… Reducing agency usage is high on any manager’s priorities when attempting to troubleshoot a poorly performing home/ward.

The only way to do this is through effective nurse recruitment.  The ‘Driving Improvement’ publication by the CQC recognised recruitment and retention to be key for improving a care homes CQC rating. A more stable staff foundation and improved induction policies were both mentioned as important influencers for driving positive change.  But isn’t there a massive staffing crisis at the moment? How do you find the missing pieces to the puzzle of your nurse recruitment?

The common mistake people make when recruiting is just that – they focus on recruiting.  Recruiting works to fill a single vacancy… Recruiters go through the process of attracting, shortlisting, selecting and appointing a person to fill an open position.  The healthcare industry has fallen victim to traditional recruitment methods. These methods are redundant in their abilities to attract talented nurses for many reasons.

Job Boards

Job boards have seen their best days come and go. Job boards face a great struggle of remaining relevant in the era where social media is king.  Recent studies have suggested that less than 5% of people find their jobs through online job sites.  So why are there still over 40,000 nursing vacancies collecting electronic dust? Firstly, it is truly a cost and time efficient way of recruiting new staff. Most job boards will allow you to post adverts free of charge. However, these may not get the same time and attention as paid job ads on their portals.

Once a job is out there you can just kick back and wait for all the applicants to come rushing in. Well it’s been three weeks, only 7 applicants,  three aren’t even nurses. A dead-end. This is one of the major flaws of job boards. A job board vacancy posting does not necessarily equal a filled position.

As you read this, there are thousands of unfilled nursing job vacancies currently posted on job boards that may never get a single applicant. As you have posted the job advert publicly you have no control over who can apply for the shift. You have to sort through countless irrelevant candidates. Remember, be obsessed with talent! Your selection pool of candidates is a reflection of your recruitment strategies. You can only hire from the candidates who apply or show interest in the role.  Whilst job boards offer a quick and easy nurse recruitment strategy, the quality of candidates can be significantly compromised.


Another popular method for recruiting full-time staff members is through nursing agencies. The large numbers of unfilled vacancies on job boards would suggest that the majority of nurses are either in full-time employment or signed up to an agency.  The result of this is large amounts of agency usage across the healthcare sector… but this isn’t all bad.

Agencies provide a great selection pool of pre-vetted nurses who you would most likely not be able to attract when posting on a job board.  Agencies can be a reliable source for finding talent.  It’s like a trial to see what type of nurse they are.  You get to assess their core skills, how well they perform their duties and most importantly, if they are the type of person you would enjoy working with on an everyday basis.

However, the downside to recruiting through agencies is something that I won’t have to explain to you too much.  I wouldn’t want you to relive the past trauma of forking out extortionate amounts to cover gaps in your rota or go through the pain of finding your ideal nurse to then be hit with the dreaded ‘finders fee’.

Overall, these traditional recruitment strategies are commonly used across the industry – but aren’t the most effective way of getting vacancies filled.

Nurse recruitment is periodical, designed to fill one vacancy at a time.  Recruitment has become more strategic, a mystical art that blends calculated planning and long term engagement to acquire a higher quality pool of candidates to select from.

“Effective organisations gain the interest and commitment of job applicants who will become excellent employees.”

If you haven’t caught on yet let me make this clear…  Talented people are passive! The acquisition of top quality candidates is a special art that takes time and effort to be done effectively.

But what do we mean when we talk about acquisition as opposed to recruitment?

Acquisition is the systematic process of converting potential hires into long-term engaged employees.  In comparison…  Recruitment is a linear process that involves searching for a candidate to fill a specific position.

Acquisition is a much more methodical approach to recruitment that requires a lot of planning and strategising to get right.  Quite often talented individuals are already taken and settled in what they are doing. The ultimate goal of acquisition is to disrupt those that are happy with what they are doing by shoving a better offer in front of them in the hope that they may leave to join you.  The art of acquisition is composed of key elements which help in guiding the overall strategy Knowing the skills, abilities and experiences of different roles within your company is key for building up the profile for who you need to target.

The employer brand plays a key role in whether talented workers hear about you and influences the decisions for if they want to work for you.  Talent scoping and management refers to the way you maintain communication and interact with your identified talent.  Using metrics to measure and analyse key information will allow you to fine tune your acquisition strategy and make necessary improvements .

Employer Branding

Why would someone choose to work for you? Just like Apple distinguishes itself from Microsoft, Nike from Adidas… employers must also find what is unique and different about them to promote why candidates should choose to work for them.  This is also known as the “Employer Brand”. Employee branding is the overarching strategy for which employers try to influence the impressions candidates have of the organisation and what it would be like to work for the organisation.

Much of what we love about brands is not just the product or service they provide, but also what they represent  how it makes us feel.  The employer brand works in the same way. How do you think the potential of working for you make the candidate feel? What would make them want to brag to their nurse friends? Answering these question will more likely than not guide you towards the best way to acquire nurses… this is more in your control than you think.

Here are two things to think about when starting your acquisition strategy: Employee value proposition and social media engagement.

Employee Value Proposition

To effectively acquire your desired nurses you must understand your employee value proposition.  In simple terms, the employee value proposition relates to the unique set of benefits and offerings offered to candidates in return for their skills and experiences they bring to your organisation.  It is easy to mistake value proposition for just monetary compensation such as high wages. Whilst this may work to garner interest there will always be more money on offer elsewhere.

To really offer a compelling value proposition for your employees you must understand what they value the most and this isn’t always money. Your employees are also people outside of work, what do they like to do? what is important to them? Nurses don’t leave their full-time jobs and join agencies for more money. The number one reason nurses join agencies is for flexibility and for control of their work life.

Flexi-working is the new in thing, it is being adopted across all industries. The number of hours a nurse does through agencies is very similar to that of a full-time nurse per week. However, through agencies a nurse is afforded that flexibility to pick and choose shifts to fit around childcare and other needs. More to that, nurses often work long and hard with their agencies to have the opportunity to travel back to their countries as some still have strong family ties back home. Working in a fixed contract that doesn’t have the option for nurses to do so is a massive turn off and sends great nurses over to agencies.

Whilst some of the above may be important to some nurses, there are nurses who don’t share those values.  It is important to create a value proposition which encompasses the needs of various types of candidates in order to fill your selection pool with as many talented nurses as possible.

Now that you have drawn up a compelling employee value proposition it is time to let people know about it. We’ve already discussed about why job boards are not great and this is definitely not where you will find your talented nurses. Avoid posting on there if you can.

Social media has fast become the number one place for workers and professionals to connect and network. It makes sense as this is where people spend large amounts of time. If you add up all the times we spend on social media, it is estimated that we spend on average 5 years and 4 months of our lifetime on social media platforms. This is second only to watching TV (7 years and 8 months.)

Recruiters have noticed these trends and shifted their focus to acquiring talent through the different social media channels.There are a number of ways you make use of social media.

Building social connections

Social media offers the easiest way for people to network and stay connected. Thoughts, images and life updates are shared at exceptional rates to all those that are open to viewing and engaging it.

Like never before, social media offers up the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world. Search through Facebook, you will see countless pages and groups full of people from all walks of life interacting over just about everything and anything.

Whatever you love, from health and well-being to windsurfing there are people talking and engaging about it online. Organisations have caught on to this and have began to brand themselves in a way that makes them the most talked about company in their industries.

Understanding what platform is best for what

Different social media channels come with different tools and features which allow you to acquire nurses in different ways. Below are a list of key social media channels and a how to best use them for your nurse recruitment strategies.

Facebook: Facebook is one of the most powerful acquisition tools, especially in the healthcare industry, as this is where most of the talented nurses you are trying to target are. Have you tried Facebook jobs? Facebook is a great way for candidates to learn more about your company. They are able to get a feel for the company culture and see how others feel about your business.

Twitter: It is worth considering twitter as a viable strategy for connecting with your desired candidates. Twitter is the home of conversations about what is currently happening a great source for understanding opinions and thoughts of your network. Twitter allows you to get involved and even lead relevant discussions that help build a following to which you can advertise jobs to. For 14 hot tips on how to best use Twitter for social recruiting click here.

Instagram: Instagram is a great way to push your company culture. You can showcase all the exciting things that are happening in your home, any events you are running or taking part in. So much emotion and feelings can be captured with the lens of a camera. This serves to excite candidates about the possibility of working for and being part of your group. If you want to read how others companies have successfully used Instagram in their acquisition strategies click here.

Social media offers unique ways to connect with the talented nurses you are trying to find. The fact that it is largely free to use is also a major incentive for why you should start acquiring nurses through such methods.