Blog Recruitment Performance 8 Recruitment Challenges in the Healthcare Industry

Employers have continued to face recruitment challenges in the healthcare industry. This article addresses what these challenges are, and how exactly you can solve them. 


Recruitment strategy is becoming vitally important across many industry sectors where there is a shortage of skills, but the healthcare sector, in particular, seems to be in turmoil, and many companies are almost at the point of meltdown.


We have dedicated the last 10 years to developing recruitment solutions for businesses, and have worked closely with more than 100 healthcare organisations in this time. Through this, we have gained many insights into the most common issues and challenges facing people recruiting in this sector.


The good news is that once we applied our processes and solutions to these issues, we were able to make significant improvements, and resolve the lion’s share of their challenges.


Common Challenges

Some of the more common recruitment challenges in the healthcare industry that crop up are as follows:


  • A lack of funding for job advertising (yet the same companies are using agencies to provide staff)
  • Salary budgets are not competitive (yet the same companies are paying double to recruitment agencies)
  • Seasonal talent shortages even though they know its coming, many companies make no advanced preparation to deal with this)
  • Lack of time/resources for managing recruiting internally (again leading to an over-reliance on agencies)
  • Unattractive/restrictive location for potential employees (I was surprised how many out of town institutions struggle with this)
  • High attrition levels, especially in the first 12 months (too many organisations are recruiting the wrong people culturally. Add in poor onboarding, training, and a lack of a clear career roadmap, it really isn’t that surprising)
  • High levels of competition for care staff (there are staff out there and although there are not enough to go round, we have been amazed how many companies are doing recruitment so badly)


Key Recruitment Challenges

Here we cover 8 key recruitment challenges in this sector, that make recruitment of staff so much harder than it needs to be, and a few useful insights into where positive changes could be made.


1. Your adverts suck!

We assessed over 200 healthcare job adverts posted across the 5 largest UK job boards. We measured them against essential criteria that determine if a job advert is likely to succeed, and found that 90% failed miserably.


Most adverts sounded like a job specification, rather than an advert promoting a career move. Many failed to follow any sensible structure, and nearly all the adverts were written using a very formal style or tone that was uninspiring. There was nowhere near enough emphasis on what the opportunity was for the prospective employee.


Statistically, we know that over 90% of job searches are performed by people who already have a job. These people will not apply for a job just because they think that they can do it – they need to believe that the role sounds better than what they have already got. Oh, and don’t forget to use a job title in your adverts that candidates are actually going to search for.


Our eBook on How to Write the Perfect Job Advert covers this in more detail, from the right structure to use, and how to select the ideal job title.


eBook Download Banner on how to write a job advert


2. Job adverts were usually posted on the wrong channels

Around 75% of all online job-related searches start on Google. It was clear that most advertisers hadn’t tested the job title and location for their job adverts on Google to discover which job advertising channels were most likely to get the best results. Ideally, you’d want to select the first three/four natural search results that appear here.


Here is the top tip for the Health sector: Healthcare job-related search traffic clicking into more traditional job boards exceeds the number of people visiting NHS jobs many times over. In a survey of more than 100 applicants who had applied for a nursing role for an NHS trust, more than 70% said that they started their search on a search engine like Google, and visited several traditional job advertising channels before going into NHS jobs.


It might be free, but it isn’t where the majority of online search traffic is going.


3. Your recruitment process is far too slow or long

According to research performed by Indeed involving more than 250,000 candidates, over 70% said that they were assessing the company that they had just applied to by their experience of the company’s recruiting and interview process.


In the healthcare sector, if you take more than 48 hours to respond to a new application, there is a 25% chance that they are no longer available.



If you take more than one week to respond to an application, even if it is to arrange an interview, then there is a 50% chance that the candidate is no longer interested.


This can get worse, especially for harder-to-fill roles. In many cases, we discovered that a nurse who has just uploaded their CV onto a job board to apply for a job will have received more than 5 job-related telephone calls within the first 48 hours. So time really is of the essence.


4. Your recruitment strategy is all about you

Passive applicants, particularly those already in work, need nurturing and romancing to win them over. Whether that is in your job advert or in the way that you engage with them during the recruitment process.


If your adverts or selection process is all about screening out unsuitable applicants, then you will not attract the best candidates for your job, or even if you do, they will potentially drop out during the selection process.


5. You are not performing your due diligence

There are two equally important factors that you need to assess candidates against:


  1. Can they do the job?
  2. Will they fit into your organisational culture?


The tools and processes for making these assessments need to be chosen carefully and must be deployed in the right way. By not performing due diligence you will undoubtedly run the risk of recruiting people that under-perform, become disengaged, and ultimately leave.


By delivering these tasks inappropriately, you will put off some of the best candidates who will subsequently drop out of the process. High levels of attrition in the first year of employment within the healthcare sector can often be put down to poor cultural and behavioural alignment, and a bums-on-seat recruitment strategy.


6. The best applicants are not buying into you or your organisation



According to the CIPD, over 90% of business owners agreed that recruiting the very best people they could each time they have a vacancy, was probably the most influential aspect of future commercial growth. So why do we not approach the recruitment of staff appropriately?


Do you and the organisation build a relationship with the best applicants? Were the best applicants invited in to tour the facility and meet other people as part of your onboarding process?


Are you genuinely in touch with what the most important aspects are for candidates deciding on what new job to take in your sector?


It is a massive decision for most people to quit their current job, so do not expect candidates to accept an offer just because you made it to them.


7. Your recruitment process is counter-productive

If you are re-directing applications from your job adverts to a careers page or an application form, then you will be losing over 50% of the candidates that hit the apply button.


If you can get candidates to hit the apply button, then you have done the hardest bit – so why re-direct them to a pre-screening questionnaire? If you are doing this, then statistically you are losing a high percentage of candidates that wanted to apply to your vacancy.


It gets worse… research proves that the most passive (and probably the best) applicants are the most likely to drop out.


I also want to add into the mix, that multiple-stage interview processes can also lose great applicants. Unless the level or the complexity of the role determines it (and that usually means the salary will reflect this too), then more than one face-to-face interview places the best applicants at risk.


I should note that on some occasions I would support a second interview presentation and a meet the team type exercise; however, for most roles, getting the candidate to keep coming back is quite frankly unnecessary, and reflects badly on the company’s organisational ability.


8. There is a disconnect between the recruiting team and the business

Most coalface recruiters will admit that getting the job filled quickly and efficiently is their top priority. But how can a business deploy an effective process for always recruiting the best talent, when the people on the coalface are prioritising just getting the job filled?


Until the business starts to influence and reward the behaviours that change this mentality, it will never achieve its objective.


What can you do?

So there you have it, the 8 biggest recruitment challenges in the healthcare industry. We’ve covered just some of the ways you can solve these issues, but this can feel like a daunting task, especially if you’re stuck on time, or aren’t sure where to begin.


Smart Recruit Online has established our own talent acquisition platform that will help you recruit staff directly anywhere in the UK, without the use of any third-party services. We help you solve all these challenges, from writing the perfect job advert to tools that help nurture, screen, and build a great experience for your candidates.


Find out how we can help your business on our Healthcare Recruitment page, or book a demo for a discussion.


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Mark Stephens

April 25, 2021

Mark has worked in and researched the HR & Recruitment landscape for over 20 years. His key focuses are how recruitment technology, evidence-based processes, and human behavioural science can be used to optimise recruitment performance. He is a serial entrepreneur, previous winner of the prestigious Chambers of Commerce 'Innovation in Business' award, and founder of Smart Recruit Online Ltd, and Corporate Wellness & Mental Health UK Ltd (Corpwell).

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