Direct contact with applicants can make all the difference

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Will Thornton, recruitment manager at York Teaching Hospitals, shares his thoughts on the positive impact of face-to-face contact with applicants through event-based recruitment. 

We all know that recruitment is a big headache at the moment. There are very few clinical groups and specialisms that aren’t affected by skills shortages, while recruitment to non-clinical roles is often characterised by high volumes of poor applications from individuals with very limited understanding of the position that is available. Both scenarios regularly turn recruitment into an unproductive and demoralising experience for employers. Worse still is the effect on the quality of provision to patients while vacancies are left unfilled.

Obviously this isn’t a position that any of us want to accept, but the question is - what can we do about it? It’s a conundrum that tends to provoke a lot of debate and opinion, and the difficult truth is that there isn’t a single answer to address all of the recruitment problems  we are having at the moment. That being said, however, there is a tool in our recruitment armoury that is having a consistently positive effect on recruitment outcomes, and it is one which is currently under-utilised in the NHS.

At York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, event-based recruitment (also sometime referred to as ‘open day recruitment’) has been used for a range of different roles. Some people may be familiar with our healthcare assistant recruitment events which have been running for a number of years. The Trust has also hosted localised events for consultant vacancies and a recent ‘Recruitment Marketplace’ event at York Hospital provided a platform for recruitment to a diverse range of vacancies across different staff groups. In each case, turning a campaign into an event helped managers overcome a number of difficulties associated with more conventional recruitment methods, principally because it enabled us to connect with applicants on a more personal level.

Recruitment is very process-oriented, necessarily at times, but it also has to be recognised that process can create a barrier between applicant and employer. The beauty of event-based recruitment is that it breaks down that barrier and re-establishes a direct connection between the two. For candidates, it means being able to find out about the things that matter to them  so they can evaluate the suitability of the opportunity much more accurately. For you as an employer, it’s a chance to showcase what you can offer and put your message across to candidates more clearly and effectively than a short written advert ever could. The combination of the two, when done well, can create genuine excitement, produce insightful applications and ultimately deliver better quality hires at the right time for our patients.

The evidence is there for all to see. Before the introduction of HCA recruitment events at York, turnover of HCAs was at 17 per cent but within 18 months of implementation, it had reduced to 10 per cent; In 2015, both our child health and specialist medicine directorates filled consultant vacancies that had previously been vacant for up to two years in some cases. Just a couple of months ago, through the marketplace event, the child health admin team were able to fill a part-time vacancy where three previous ‘standard’ campaigns had failed to do so.

Recruitment and selection is most effective when it is an immersive, people-centred experience. If you’re struggling to fill a vacancy at the moment (and most of us are), you could certainly do worse than taking an events-based recruitment approach.

Find out more about planning and delivering successful recruitment strategies on our employer-led recruitment web pages.


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