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How to Build Your Healthcare Talent Pipeline (Beyond "Post and Pray")

This is the second post in a blog series where we’ll explore how healthcare recruiters can implement a sourcing strategy to build talent pipelines. In this series, you’ll learn why sourcing is important, where to find and connect with qualified, passive candidates, how to communicate the differentiated value of your organization, and tips to improve your recruiting efficiency.

Just joining us? Check out the first installment of the series to read about why healthcare recruiters need a sourcing strategy, the importance of understanding your employer value proposition, and how to prepare for your search for talent.

I) An introduction to Boolean search 

Originally formulated in 1847 by English mathematician George Boole, Boolean is a mathematical logic that uses a system of symbols that represent relationships between entities. 

In the context of recruiting, a “Boolean search” allows you to combine keywords with “operators” to limit, widen, or define your search for better results. How you string together keywords and operators will determine how to control your search results and make finding talent more effective and less time consuming.

An important note: While many Boolean operators work similarly across various tools, there may be nuanced differences—so consider this introduction as best practices within SeekOut. 

1. AND

  • AND is the simplest of operators and will narrow your search. Any keywords you combine with AND means the candidate profiles must contain both values. The more keywords you add, the narrower your results will be. 

  • Using a space or line break between keywords has the same effect as the AND operator, and the order in which you use keywords with AND does not matter. For example, surgeon AND trauma, trauma AND surgeon, and trauma surgeon would all return the same results.

2. OR

  • OR is an opposite operator of AND—it will broaden your search. Any keywords you combine with OR means the candidate profiles can contain either of the values—which includes candidate profiles that have just one value, but not the other, or both values. 

  • OR statements should be enclosed by parentheses. However, the order in which you use keywords with OR does not matter. For example, (physician OR doctor) would return the same search results as (doctor OR physician).

  • The OR operator is especially useful when considering the different ways a certain attribute may be represented, for example (“Electronic Medical Record” OR EMR), (ICU OR "intensive care unit").

3. ( ) parentheses or brackets

  • The () operator tells the computer your order of operations by grouping (or “nesting”) keywords together.  

  • This helps in searches that contain both AND as well as OR operators. For example, surgeon AND trauma OR emergency needs to be clarified, because there are different search results depending on how the keywords are nested:  

    • surgeon AND (trauma OR emergency) means candidate profiles must contain “surgeon” in addition to either “trauma” or “emergency”.

    • (surgeon AND trauma) OR emergency means candidate profiles can either contain both “surgeon” and “trauma” or simply “emergency”.

4. “” quotation marks

  • Putting keywords in quotation marks groups terms together as a verbatim phrase, thereby specifying and narrowing your search.

  • For any keywords containing multiple words, you should use quotation marks to avoid each keyword being searched individually. For example, “pharmaceutical sales” would return profiles with that exact phrase, whereas pharmaceutical sales without quotes operates as an AND statement; so you may get candidates where the words “pharmaceutical” and “sales” appear separately, in other contexts. 

    • In healthcare recruiting, this is important for many terms that include specialization, like "registered nurse", "travel nurse", "emergency medicine", "skilled nursing facility", "physical therapist", etc.

5. NOT

  • NOT is an intermediate operator that excludes the term from search results, thereby narrowing your search. For example, (physician OR doctor OR MD) AND NOT assistant would exclude any profiles containing "assistant" from the results.

  • The NOT operator is an extension of AND in the sense that you cannot use the NOT operator alone, nor at the start of an expression.

  • The NOT operator is also helpful for search terms that may have different meanings across various industries. For example, if hiring a programmer and searching for "Java", you could also end up with coffee baristas in your search. Here, you could formulate the search Java AND NOT barista

6. The wildcards: * asterisk, ? question mark

  • Wildcards act as placeholders for any and all terms that contain a word. The * asterisk can represent any number of additional letters, while the ? question mark represents just a single letter. 

  • Wildcards are incredibly helpful for building broad-reaching Boolean searches without listing out every possible phrase connected with OR. They can also help capture results that are abbreviated or that may contain misspellings. For example, derm* would return results for keywords containing "derm" like "dermatology", "dermatologist", as well as the abbreviation "derm".

Related SeekOut Help resources:

II) A quick shoutout to filtering

Filters offer another way to narrow your search results by certain candidate attributes, from geographic locations to experience, education, diversity, and more. SeekOut also offers Power Filters, which provide one-click access to a growing number of candidate attributes to make complex sourcing tasks much easier. These complex search code queries are developed in partnership by our engineering teams and some of the best recruiting experts in the industry.

For healthcare, SeekOut offers 100+ Power Filters, diversity filters, and more to help tailor your search to specific nursing specialties or distinct healthcare roles like physicians, dietitians, genetic counselors, and more. 

“As a recruiter, the demands are high. Stakeholders want roles filled with urgency and that’s not always possible… We’re providing our team with tools to find qualified candidates more quickly. This will reduce the time spent on finding talent, so we can spend more time on candidate engagement, and reduce time-to-fill.” 

Cathy Henesey, Vice President of Talent Acquisition, AdventHealth

III) Candidate outreach and engagement 

Once you’ve sourced some candidates, it’s time to begin outreach. Fundamental to engaging with candidates is being clear with your goals. For example, it’s much better to get someone on the phone for a conversation than to simply encourage them to apply to your open role.  

Personal connections will help you more quickly determine whether or not you can meet their needs, and if they’re a good fit for your organization—whether for an open role now, or perhaps another role later on. To create a great candidate experience, you should use empathetic messaging in multi-touch, omni-channel campaigns. Let’s dive in. 

1. Empathetic messaging 

Hiring and retaining a diverse, multi-generational workforce will require tailoring your message to meet a variety of ambitions and needs. Engage your prospective talent with empathetic messages that demonstrate how you offer what your candidates are looking for—their “what’s in it for me?”—leaning into your unique employer brand. What’s attractive about your health system, and specifically your unit? 

We’re currently experiencing the most generationally diverse workforce in history. Together, millennials and Gen Z are expected to surpass 50% of the working population in the latter half of this decade. As these younger generations are shaping how organizations are attracting and retaining talent, it’s important to understand their needs and motivations. 

What do Gen Z and millennial nurses want from employers? Which benefits will attract younger generations to your health organization? Find out in our Healthcare Staffing Trends eBook.

Exploratory conversations with prospects are a best practice to explore motivations, career aspirations, and fit. Depending upon where they are in their life or career, benefits like loan forgiveness, tuition reimbursement, or internships could be very important to them. Others may be motivated by paid parental leave, flexible shifts, or hybrid work.  

Once you understand the needs and desires of your audience, then you can tailor your messaging to resonate with them. Remember all the work you did to solidify your employee value proposition? Now you’ll align the elements of your EVP with what your candidates are looking for. Telling an authentic brand story is the best method to demonstrate that you’re a fit for their needs—not just that they’re a fit for yours.  

2. Stylistic and structural best practices 

Outreach can be a delicate balancing act between personalization, brevity, and providing enough detail to pique interest. It’s always a good idea to address your candidate by name, so they feel you’ve taken some time to learn a little about them.  

Generally speaking, shorter messages that focus on a specific value proposition tend to be more effective. You should also use a tone and voice that aligns with the working environment—is it serious, relaxed, or even a little playful? This gives the candidate a sense of your organization’s culture. 

Structurally, the AIDA method is an effective framework for crafting messages and can serve as a great starting point to test what resonates with your target audience. AIDA comes from sales and marketing and stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action: 

  • Attention: Grab the recipient's attention with a compelling subject line that addresses a pain point or offers a benefit. 

  • Interest: Use the opening of the email to pique their interest with a detail about the job or organization that may appeal to them. 

  • Desire: Create a desire for the position by highlighting a unique benefit or perk—this can include the culture and values of the organization. 

  • Action: End the email with a clear call to action, such as inviting them to set up a call to learn more about the organization and role. 

This doesn’t strictly apply to text—you may want to try recording a personalized video message to include in your outreach, and apply the AIDA format to your talk track. Some additional tips and considerations to keep in mind: 

  • Try to keep subject lines between seven and nine words, at roughly 40-60 characters. This will avoid your message being truncated, especially on mobile devices.  

  • Certain words in subject lines act as spam triggers, prompting email services to send messages right to the spam folder. Familiarize yourself with some of the most common offenders and avoid using these phrases whenever possible. Additionally, don’t send messages in all caps or with many repeated question marks or exclamation points. 

  • Use an integrated scheduling service to offer candidates the opportunity to schedule their own call with you. 

  • Proofread your message for errors, and if you’re adding any media like images or video, be sure to test your email to ensure it’s formatted to properly display on different devices. 

3. Creating a multi-touch, omni-channel campaign 

A multi-touch, omni-channel approach to candidate engagement involves creating multiple messages and using a variety of communication channels such as email, social media, phone calls, and even snail mail, to reach out to candidates at different stages of the recruitment process. 

This is important because it often takes multiple interactions to build a relationship with a potential candidate and before they’re ready to apply for your position. In fact, to maximize the replies you’ll get in your outreach, it’s important to have at least four to five different outreach attempts. Sometimes as many as eight attempts are needed. You’ll also want to experiment with the time between messages. Depending on the timeline for your campaign, this could stretch over several weeks or even months.

This also allows you to focus messages on various aspects of your employer value proposition. For example, you may create a campaign where the first message introduces the role and team, another may share career growth opportunities, others yet may explain unique benefits, and another could highlight an accredited leader within the company that the candidate would get to learn from. 

A best practice is to create a bank of templated messages that can be customized and personalized for various roles and candidates. You can also employ an email automation solution to set up a “drip campaign”—scheduling a sequence of messages to continue nurturing unresponsive candidates. 

4. Moving candidates through the funnel 

As you engage with candidates, you’ll need to use your influence, discretion, and credibility as you partner with your hiring managers to decide which applicants to move through the interview process. You don’t want to waste any candidate’s or your own team’s time if they aren’t the right person for the role. With this in mind, don’t be afraid to be transparent about salary requirements early on in your discussions. 

As you test, track, and refine, you’ll learn what is resonating with your audience, which channels work best for outreach, and what timing works best between messages.  

5. Playing the long game 

In the face of immediate talent shortages, it doesn’t come easy to think long-term. A proven talent acquisition strategy has been to segment your target audience to create and nurture relationships with top candidates. In other words, identify a pool of contenders with the skills and qualifications you need and cultivate a relationship with them.  

Share your employer value proposition to build relationships even before your prospect is interested in changing roles. Educate them through your brand by providing educational content and resources to keep them engaged with your brand. 

This helps set your recruiting organization up for future success. Top candidates may not always align perfectly with the open roles you have today, but building relationships keeps you top of mind for when the timing or opportunity is right. 

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