August 18, 2015

The Good and Bad of Using a Healthcare Recruiter to Find that Perfect Job

The Good and Bad of Using a Healthcare Recruiter to Find that Perfect Job

A job search can be overwhelming and tiring, and become a full-time job itself. Working with a professional healthcare recruiter might help gear up that search for the perfect nursing job. But working with a recruiter isn’t just about handing them a resume and hoping they do their best for you to get you that amazing job.

Related: Nursing Career Resources

“There are so many career movements for nurses now,” says Lydia Ostermeier, vice president of senior executive search at B.E. Smith in Lenexa, Kansas. B.E. Smith has provided executive search solutions to healthcare organizations for more than 35 years.

“But if you are going to use a recruiter, you need someone who really understands healthcare – someone that specializes in that, not just a generalist recruiter that may not be able to speak your language (healthcare language),” she says.

She advises finding someone to be your partner in your search.

More than just a recruiter

“You want someone who will spend time with you and invest in you, help with your resume, coach you with interview skills, and help you to look for new opportunities,” Ostermeier says.

Ostermeier was a staff nurse for 12 years before going into leadership, then human resources, and later, executive recruitment.

“When I started as a nurse, I never thought I would do anything besides be at people’s bedsides helping them,” she says. (Learn more about nursing career beyond the bedside here .)

But many nurses, even those just starting out, don’t want to stay in a hospital or doctor’s office setting. Using a recruiter can help you uncover jobs that aren’t advertised anywhere. Recruiters have connections within businesses and organizations. Many times, recruiters have contracts with larger clientele (companies and organizations) as their exclusive recruiter; you can find this information on their websites.

Recruiters are looking for good candidates just as much as candidates are looking for good opportunities

If you're concerned the cost of a recruiter, rest assured, oftentimes, it will be free to you.

“Clients (companies and organizations) pay us upfront for retaining searches, then a portion once we are halfway through the search, and more when they have hired someone,” she says.

Nurses turn to Ostermeier when they cannot find what they want in their own organization, or when they want to move on to something bigger and possibly with a leadership role.

“Sometimes, when you are looking for a career opportunity that can’t currently be found in your own organization, that’s when a recruiter can help out and possibly find something somewhere else close by or where you want to move,” she says.

B.E. Smith uses its own website to post openings, and it uses all major job boards. LinkedIn groups for specific categories of jobs can also be a great resource for recruiters.

Do your research to find a reputable recruiter

Andy Baker, the owner/president of Baker Consulting Group LLC in Chicago, emphasizes that if someone is going to use a recruiter, they should find a reputable one.

“Check out their websites. Does their client list match the places you would want to work? If they don’t, they might not be the right place to go,” he says.

Many do post their client list as a way to brand or advertise for them. It’s like an informal reference check.

“But you have to dig a little deeper. Remember, if it’s on the internet, it might not be true,” he says.

For instance, his company has placed one person for Northwestern University Medical Center. He could put that on his website that he has recruited for them. But it was just one placement, and he feels that just wouldn’t be telling the whole truth.

“If there is a specific hospital that you want to get into and you see that a certain recruiting company has a relationship with that hospital, that could be your way in,” Baker says. “Larger hospitals and organizations usually have preferred recruiting vendors. They might have two or three or even five vendors that they use.”

These organizations need to fill hundreds of positions per year. Having your name in at those recruiting companies could be your foot in the door.

All about timing

However, recruiting is all about timing.

“It really is. Yes, you could have all the skills, education, and experience. But you have to be in the right place at the right time,” he says. “But sometimes that hospital that you want to work at doesn’t have an opening or the budget to hire someone else.”

Sometimes, you don’t necessarily need a recruiting agent, he adds. Many medical centers have their own human resource departments that do their hiring.

“Your best bet then is to actually call the HR department and tell them that you saw a position posted. Ask them how their recruiting process works, do they have recruiters in outside agencies, and is there a firm you should contact or work with them (HR) alone.”

Take your time in finding the right fit

If you do decide to go with a healthcare recruiter, then you must ask the right questions to make sure you know the process and what expectations you should have of them.

“They are your agent. If you choose the right recruiter, they will take care of you,” Baker says. “If this is your first job outside of graduating, sometimes you can be naïve to the whole thing of getting a job. A recruiter should be able to tell you the truths about how the industry works.”

Just like hiring a contractor or a doctor who you have to spend a lot of time with, there must be rapport.

Do you like this person? Can you work with them? Do you feel they have your best interest at heart?

“You don’t want to be the proverbial number to your recruiter. You want to know that they care, and that they have a plan for your future,” he says. “They need to ask you what motivates you, and what things are important to you? If they aren’t asking those sorts of questions, then walk away and find someone that will.”

Signing up for a recruiter doesn’t guarantee that you’ll land that perfect job. But by finding the right recruiter, you will get honest answers and predictions of what is possible in your job search. Remember it's important to feel comfortable with your recruiter and be honest about your desires for the position you hope to find.

Want more? Read advice on applying to your first nursing job , or how to raise your salary .

Find open positions for Nursing near you.

Lee Nelson of the Chicago area writes for national and regional magazines, websites, and business journals. Her work has recently appeared in,, Yahoo! Homes, ChicagoStyle Weddings, and a bi-weekly blog in

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