May 22, 2020

Social distancing has upended many of the day-to-day processes that organizations rely on to vet and onboard staff. And at a time when we're more isolated than ever, HR leaders are tasked with "getting to know" candidates without ever meeting them face-to-face. WellSpan Health, an eight-hospital system in central Pennsylvania, recognized this need early on and pivoted to an entirely virtual recruitment process for physicians and APPs.

Since the beginning of March, WellSpan's provider recruitment team has facilitated more than 50 virtual interviews with candidates, extended offers of employment, and executed contracts with providers to join WellSpan—with some candidates participating in a 100% virtual process.

We spoke with Josh Irwin, WellSpan Health's Director of Physician Recruitment, about how his team has adapted their provider recruitment efforts in response to Covid-19—and the steps they're taking to make virtual recruitment a positive experience for candidates and staff alike.

WellSpan Health's virtual recruitment at a glance

WellSpan Health's virtual recruitment process begins when a recruiter engages a candidate through an online platform, such as a virtual job fair or job posting. After an initial phone screening between the recruiter and candidate, the recruitment team invites candidates to participate in a video interview via Zoom to assess the candidate's fit for the role.

The WellSpan team then decides to either schedule additional virtual interviews with internal leaders or invite the candidate to participate in an abbreviated in-person interview. In-person interviews are only extended if the candidate participates in a Covid-19 screening and acknowledges the risk, agrees to participate in social distancing during the visit, and can travel to the site safely. If WellSpan's recruitment team and internal leaders feel the candidate is an exceptionally strong fit they may jump directly to a virtual offer.

2 lessons learned from transitioning to virtual recruitment

Throughout WellSpan's shift to virtual recruitment, Irwin and his team identified two key lessons.

1. Equip candidates and interviewers for the transition to virtual interviewing

Although WellSpan Health had conducted one-off virtual interviews in the past, transitioning all their recruitment efforts to Zoom was a significant process change. To set the conversations up for success, Wellspan's team created supportive materials to help interviewers and candidates navigate the new environment.

For example, WellSpan Health's recruitment team created a list of Zoom tips and tricks for candidates and interviewers that they share a week before the interview. WellSpan's recruitment team encourages the interviewer to introduce all participants on the call to the candidate at the start of the conversation—and to repeat their names multiple times to help the candidate keep track of participants. Their team also works with interviewers and candidates to make sure they feel comfortable with the virtual platform, including test runs with candidates so they aren't navigating technical difficulties moments before their interview.

Before each interview, WellSpan's team sends candidates a templated email that includes the Zoom tips along with a virtual itinerary so that the interviewee has insight into how they will spend their time. The goal is to make everyone feel comfortable with the virtual format before the interview so that the focus stays on the candidates rather than technical difficulties or uncertainty about the platform. 

2. Give candidates a virtual snapshot of the organization's culture and local community

Virtual interviews make it challenging to "sell" candidates on your organization's culture and local community. In place of onsite visits, WellSpan uses creative strategies to virtually show candidates what their work environment would be like.  

For example, WellSpan circulates existing video walkthroughs of their facilities to give candidates visibility into the health system's physical space. In some cases, providers have volunteered to take videos and pictures inside the OR or shared spaces to give candidates an inside look at the environment they'd be working in.

On their job postings, WellSpan includes descriptive information about the local community and links to WellSpan's YouTube page, which hosts videos highlighting WellSpan's mission and culture. When a candidate is further along in the recruitment process, WellSpan's recruitment team also offers to set up a time for providers to speak virtually with realtors to discuss the community and housing options.

How other systems can adapt their approach to provider recruitment

As you rethink your provider recruitment strategy in the wake of the Covid-19 epidemic, consider:

What skills or positions are most critical for your organization to fill at this moment?

Covid-19 has caused WellSpan Health's recruitment team to re-prioritize the positions they'll recruit for over the next several months. The recruitment team slowed their efforts or pushed back start dates for some positions because of slowdowns in non-critical care volumes and delays in opening new facilities. However, there are other areas, including critical care, where WellSpan is expediting their recruitment timeline for physicians and APPs based on its current needs.

Your organization may also consider any skills or experience that will be particularly valuable in candidates due to Covid-19. For example, Irwin anticipates that a candidate's comfortability with and experience using telehealth platforms could factor into their recruitment processes in the future.

Is there an opportunity to pilot new changes as you transition to a virtual strategy?

Covid-19 has forced organizations to quickly adapt their approach to tried and true processes—and some of these changes may (and should) last long after the crisis. For WellSpan Health, the transition to virtual recruitment presented an unanticipated opportunity to streamline recruitment processes with a recently affiliated health system.

Throughout the transition, they've been able to integrate their teams and share cases between recruiters who previously operated in silos. They've also used the opportunity to implement a new Outlook function to collect interviewer feedback using a standardized, mobile-friendly survey. After all interviewers submit their responses, the platform automatically compiles into a spreadsheet that the recruiter can reference to facilitate decision-making and share personalized feedback with the candidate.

Wellspan's team notes that the key to their success in making these changes was their team's positivity and willingness to iterate on the process—and the support from senior leaders to rethink their approach.

There is no question that Covid-19 will have a lasting impact on how organizations run well into the future. And for many, virtual platforms will continue to play a key role in the way we recruit staff. As you consider how to adapt your recruitment strategy in response to Covid-19, invest in support now to set up a system that will benefit you and your team in the long run. 

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