Recruiting amidst COVID-19: A New Reality


Experts predict a volatile labor market for the foreseeable future, and urge healthcare system leadership to differentiate their facilities in the eyes of job candidates. 

The shortage of healthcare professionals was a concern even before the coronavirus pandemic, but now recruiting prospects have become even more tenuous.

Naturally, COVID-19 has exacerbated the issue, and healthcare systems’ staffing concerns aren’t likely to go away anytime soon. 

On one hand, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the healthcare profession will add 2.4 million new jobs by 2026. 

On the other hand, there’s Mercer data suggesting there might not be enough available talent to fill these roles as growth in healthcare employment booms over the next decade. 

Add all of these factors up, and you get a healthcare job market that figures to be volatile in the days and months ahead. What will your healthcare system’s recruiting strategy look like in this new reality?

Healthcare hiring on the rise?

Make no mistake: the coronavirus pandemic has changed how your organization must attract talent. 

Given the large number of healthcare employees that have been furloughed, healthcare systems will need to learn how to hire nurses and other professionals at scale, says Steven Rothberg, founder and president of College Recruiter, a provider of job postings and interactive media platforms designed to connect students and recent graduates with part-time, seasonal, internships and entry-level career opportunities.  

Indeed, federal labor statistics put coronavirus-related job losses in the healthcare sector second only to the restaurant industry. 

Many of these healthcare workers have been furloughed due to a decline in elective surgeries and non-emergent visits. Rothberg finds it unlikely that they’ll come back to their current roles when the number of elective procedures and non-emergency visits pick up again.  

“The separation they’ve experienced from their previous employer will make it mentally and economically easier for them to return to work for another employer, which will lead to far greater vacancies than many healthcare providers probably anticipate.” 

Rothberg points to other sectors that have started to re-open—from retailers to restaurants—as evidence of this movement. 

“Their initial hires have largely been from previous employees, but most of their hiring has been of candidates who used to work for other employers,” he says. “There’s no reason why healthcare will be immune to this trend.” 

As healthcare organizations prepare for this reality, they will need to make the distinction between duration- and performance-based job posting ads. The difference is significant, says Rothberg. 

“A typical job posting ad on a typical job board should deliver enough candidates to the employer that it can hire maybe one person,” he says. “That’s fine, as most employers who post a job ad only want to hire one person, so it would be a negative if they received enough applications to hire 10, 50 or 500 people.”

However, an employer recruiting 10, 50 or 100 new employees needs an ad to generate 10, 50 or 500 times as many applications. 

“That’s feasible with a cost-per-click job posting ad, as you’re paying for the number of candidates who respond, instead of how many ads you run.” 

Efton Hall, senior vice president, healthcare, life sciences and public sector at Berkeley Search Consultants, which is part of The Sanford Rose Network, also expects healthcare hiring to increase in the days ahead. 

“Significant layoffs and employee furloughs, even though not complete, have already occurred on a large scale,” says Hall, noting that healthcare systems of various sizes are messaging members/patients notifying them of what on-site services and procedures are now available.  

“The volume of patients who have deferred non-emergent procedures,” he adds, “are more comfortable going to their health providers and re-entering healthcare facilities.” 

As such, healthcare systems are faced with “a dynamic tension” between the loss of some of these furloughed and laid-off workers to other employers, other industries or, in some cases, to retirement, says Hall. 

The end result “is likely to cause a ramping up of hiring in Q3 and a spike in Q4, as some systems plan their recovery strategies.” 

Gaining an advantage in the war for talent

Those healthcare system leaders who begin to open the hiring pipeline might find their organization in a better position as the war for talent escalates, says Hall. 

“By being proactive and determining the critical positions that will be needed in Q3 and Q4, hiring managers will have a more robust selection of highly qualified candidates,” he says. “This will allow the health systems who time it right to minimize the risk of being in a position where they need to settle for less than the technical skills and soft skills that would truly add value to their organization.” 

In terms of attracting and recruiting top talent, making job titles and responsibilities crystal clear is a good start, adds Hall. 

“An engaging overview of the job will hold the reader’s attention. Use bullet points that highlight key responsibilities and qualifications, and how these contribute to the business objectives. Gender-neutral language works best. Emphasize the culture so that [candidates] can identify what it would be like to work in your facility.”

On the recruitment front, an effective strategy should focus on three elements, says Toopan Bagchi, a senior advisor at Minneapolis-based management consulting firm The Navio Group. 

“Elevate the employee value proposition, source from non-traditional talent pools, and train and retrain,” says Bagchi, noting that healthcare systems should also emphasize the mission-driven nature of the work in order to inspire potential candidates. 

These same candidates figure to have concerns related to their safety working in healthcare, he adds. 

In addition to taking the necessary measures to ensure their safety, employers must provide the type of adequate pay and incentives when recruiting to help offset those concerns. 

And, given the recent level of displacement in the workforce across retail, food service and even non-essential areas of healthcare, Bagchi urges those recruiting to target healthcare talent from “non-traditional” sources such as the retail and food service industries, and even non-essential sectors of healthcare. And then provide professional development opportunities to help these employees grow and advance within your healthcare system, he says. 

“As an added incentive and means to get this talent job-ready, [your organization] should invest in providing or reimbursing any required training.”


  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018. Accessed June 15, 2020.


2. Mercer, 2018. Accessed June 15, 2020. 


3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020. Accessed June 17, 2020. 



Standing Out to Job Seekers

In healthcare, as in any industry, the top talent gets snapped up quickly. With healthcare hiring set to increase, offers a handful of tips to help set your facility apart in the eyes of the most qualified candidates.  

Position the company. When candidates are searching for their next opportunity, they are not just looking for another job that will be like their last. They are looking for a whole new experience in itself. In a way, candidates are “shopping” for their next employer. When creating your job posting, you need to have a catchy company profile to get the candidate excited about what could potentially be around the corner. Tell about benefits, give insight into the work culture and the value that the organization places on its employees.

Keep in touch with candidates. Keeping in communication with talent that is both actively and passively seeking employment is key to keeping your pipeline fresh. Understanding the needs of your candidates will allow you to pinpoint opportunities that will be of interest to them. This can also help to avoid a slowdown when it comes to finding the right candidates for hard-to-fill niche positions.

Use referral programs. If your organization offers a referral program, promote it to candidates. Referral programs are too often forgotten, but they can be a great way for employees to earn extra money and increase their engagement. 

Get in touch with professional associations. Connecting with professional bodies in the healthcare industry can be an excellent way to connect with potential candidates. Typically, when candidates join a professional body, it is because they want to advance in their career. Getting your posting on their job boards or going as a guest to networking events can be a great way to see and hear firsthand what employees are really looking for.


  1., 2018. Accessed June 18, 2020. 


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