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Choosing the Right Healthcare Hiring Tool Can Reduce Time to Fill

April 22, 2016

healthcare-hiring-tool.jpgHealthcare HR professionals, particularly recruiters, are always under pressure to fill slots. They’d love to wait for the perfect candidate but the nature of the services means that being short a nurse, or a nursing assistant, makes it hard for current staff to meet the needs of patients and fulfill the organization’s mission – that’s the reality.

As healthcare has become more interested in using the talent tools and strategies used for decades in other industries, including pre-employment testing – the question naturally comes up – “If you put this test into our hiring process, will you lengthen our time to fill?”

Time to fill is one of the most important HR metrics. The department is judged on its ability to find candidates, screen them, choose the right ones, and get them up and running – quickly. Anything that might slow down this process, even if it increases the ability to find the “best” candidates, is a problem.

The answer is that, if used correctly, a pre-employment behavioral assessment should not increase time to fill and, in fact, can reduce it. We tell clients all of the time that building an effective, predictive behavioral assessment is easy – at least for us because we have some of the top experts in the country working on building and refining these tools every day. The real challenge is choosing the right tool for the job and using it the right way.

I recall my father teaching me how to use tools when I was a kid. Step one was choosing the right tool for the job, but just because I chose the right saw, hammer or pliers, it didn’t help if I cut the wood at the wrong angle, I missed the nail (and I did that a lot) or I didn’t know which direction to turn the bolt! The same is true with behavioral assessments. Things to consider:

1) Choosing the right tool

There are plenty of personality/behavioral assessments to choose from. Our recommendation is to always use an industry-specific and, where possible, position-specific tool. We don’t encourage clients to test nursing candidates with the same tool they’d use for sales people. Similarly, if you are trying to make a selection/hiring decision, use a tool designed for that – a general personality profile telling you whether someone is an introvert or extrovert doesn’t help. Define what’s necessary for a nurse to be successful in the role and use a test that targets those specific behaviors.

2) Deciding where in the hiring process to use it

This depends on several variables including what you are trying to accomplish and the nature of your candidate pool. As an example, if you have a large candidate pool and need to remove those least likely to succeed, then use a short screening tool early in the hiring process. If you are looking to compare a final few candidates for a manager/supervisor role, use a longer, more in-depth assessment that targets management and leadership skills and presents the data in a format that helps the comparison – later in the process.

3) Deciding how to use the result

Many tests are designed to give you very broad, general personality information. In our experience, these results aren’t very predictive when it comes to specific job performance. Accordingly, with larger candidate pools, we often have a pass/fail methodology. If we’ve established job relevance of the competencies, we know that those who score really low are not likely to succeed – so don’t move them forward in the process. In other situations, where you have smaller candidate pool or the position warrants a longer assessment then you can skip the pass/fail methodology and use the results to inform the interview and as a data point for a selection decision. Either way (and there are others), you need to come up with a fair, consistent and predictive way to use the data from the assessment.

4) Consider the candidate experience

Our higher volume, shorter screening tools tend to take the candidate about twenty minutes to complete. If we could use a sixty-minute assessment we could be way more predictive, but the candidate drop rate and experience would be negatively impacted. It’s of no use to have REALLY predictive data, but from a process that creates a barrier to you getting enough candidates. Similarly, we could build a ten-minute test (and they are out there), but research shows there is not enough data here to be very predictive –and validation studies show this over and over. What we do is closely track candidate reaction data and – surprise “time to fill” to understand the impact of the entire “selection system” on the not only the quality of hire, but on time to fill – i.e. the entire process.


Are you sensing that there’s more to using a behavioral assessment than just buying the slick, short, supposedly magic test you’ve seen online? Even if that test is a solid tool, the way you use it makes all the difference in the world. We see plenty of clients who’ve been sold a fine hammer by one of our competitors, but they just keep missing the nail and wondering what’s wrong! Fortunately, our team of experts are happy to help you to figure out not only what hammer but where to swing it.

healthcare talent strategies

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.