Cant find an associate? Adopt these three hiring strategies right now

March 28, 2019
Oded Marcovici, DVM

Veterinary recruiting is as intensely competitive as its ever been. Step up your game or get left in the dust.

stock.adobe.com The good news is that you're not crazy. The struggles and aggravation you're experiencing trying to recruit a veterinary associate for your practice are absolutely real, and that pain is felt by everyone looking to hire.

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The bad news is that there's no panacea. Every corporation, academic institution and private practice is fighting the same fight, going back to recruiting basics and re-evaluating their hiring practices.

The veterinary profession is caught in a perfect storm when it comes to recruiting. Here are the factors contributing to the craziness:

Roughly 30,000 baby boomer veterinarians will be retiring in the next five years. Not only does this increase the number of open positions, it also decreases the applicant pool.

There is a generational shift occurring in which newer graduates want to work nontraditional hours and have different expectations of how to balance work with personal life.

An ever-increasing number of corporations and buying groups are using their deep pockets and extensive resources to recruit veterinarians, making the hiring market intensely competitive.

The percentage of Americans moving is at an all-time low-just 11 percent of U.S. residents moved in 2017, according to the Census Bureau. This affects the veterinary applicant pool as well, because fewer practitioners are wanting to relocate for work.

More veterinarians are pursuing relief work rather than full-time employment. With an increasingly competitive job market, more open shifts and rising salaries, we should expect this number to continue climbing. (This is, of course, related to newer veterinarians preferring greater independence in scheduling and working nontraditional hours.)

The gig economy is also affecting the profession, with more opportunities for veterinarians to work in housecall practice and telemedicine. (Did I mention that this generation wants to be in control of their schedule and work-life balance?)

And finally, more veterinary school graduates are devoting their careers to altruistic causes such as shelters, wildlife conservation and zoo medicine.

Accepting that these are new and difficult times, what are three hiring practices you need to consider? Let's take a look.

1. The best recruiting strategy is a strong retention policy

In this super-challenging recruiting world, the most important thing any hospital can do is make sure its associates are not looking to leave. Do everything in your power to ensure employee satisfaction. Do not take your doctors for granted. Ensure that they're engaged in their work and feel motivated, not like a cog in a machine. Make sure they're happy about coming to work, feel listened to and would not consider a move elsewhere even if an opportunity presented itself. (With more and more hospitals using external recruiting agencies that spend entire days tracking down candidates, job opportunities are finding doctors who aren't even looking for a change. The days of passively waiting for candidates to respond to ads-the old “post and pray” approach-are quickly disappearing.)

 

Having said that, even the best hospitals find themselves hiring replacement positions or, better yet, growth positions. But before you place that ad or call an agency, do yourself a favor and ask yourself if you absolutely need to hire. Can you make do with what you have? Too often we find ourselves automatically replacing departing employees without considering alternatives. This might be the perfect opportunity to rearrange the schedule or leverage your support team more effectively.

These are very difficult times to recruit. It might be best to wait a bit, run lean and look into longer-term strategies. Which brings us to the next point …

2. Invest in the long game

This is still a close-knit profession, with far fewer than six degrees of separation. Veterinary medicine is all about personal connections. Start attending veterinary school career fairs, and participate in the Veterinary Business Management Association's regional networking events. Take this time to work on your hospital's recruiting brand. Identify what makes your hospital a unique place to work and develop that brand attribute. Being all things to all people won't help you stand out in a crowd. Find something that will set you apart from all other hospitals and then market that attribute in all your recruiting activities.

3. Remember that what brought us here won't get us there

I used to encourage veterinary job applicants to send a thank-you note after leaving an interview. It's a common courtesy that employers appreciate and a way to stand apart from the competition. Today, I tell hospital owners and managers that they're the ones who need to send the thank-you card. The tables have turned. Swag bags, gift baskets and constant contact-now through texting-is the new normal. It's a seller's market, and with veterinary unemployment at an all-time low (0.4 percent), it's the candidates who have the luxury of being selective, taking their time and-in many cases-ghosting their suitors. Employers simply have no choice but to be more proactive in their recruiting.

Of course, nothing we've discussed here is groundbreaking. Basic strategies like making candidates feel welcome, appreciated and valued will stand the test of time. Keeping your doctors from looking elsewhere-and planning ahead for when they inevitably do-are fundamental techniques that can benefit any employer.

Finally, remember that the best jobs are never posted. Word gets around quickly, so run the best hospital you can. Not only will associates tend to stay, but when they do leave, your name will precede you and candidates will seek you out!

Oded Marcovici, DVM, is a frequent speaker on hiring and recruiting topics at veterinary conferences.