Active Recruiting – Comparing Methods of Healthcare Recruiting – Part 3

In Physical Therapy Articles, Recruiting by Steve Passmore, DPT1 Comment

In Part 2 of Comparing Methods of Healthcare Recruiting, I contrasted active and passive methods of recruiting. Then I discussed passive recruiting techniques. In Part 3, I will be discussing active recruiting techniques. While I classify techniques as either active or passive; please don’t assume that one is superior to the other. As with any recruiting need, you should determine what mix of techniques would work best for your clinic.

For review, we divide recruiting techniques into passive or active:

Passive Recruiting

Passive recruiting requires a lower level of interaction from the recruiter/employer. Passive recruiting methods include such things as: Internet job boards, newspaper ads, journal ads, status in community (e.g. hospitals are visible healthcare institutions), expertise in community (you are recognized as the leader in the area), social Internet sites (e.g. Facebook), and professional newsletters. These were discussed in Part 2 of this series.

Active Recruiting

Active recruiting requires a higher level of ongoing activity by the recruiter/employer. Active recruiting methods include such things as: employee incentive programs, post card mailers, cold calling, in-service programs, student internships, open house (requires a lot of prep work), scholarships, and using outside recruiters.

Active recruiting methods include:

Postcard Mailers

Direct mail can be incredible effective, when used correctly. Current research points to the effectiveness of direct mail in sales. Results occur when you build an effective message and target your audience. Simply mailing out to the entire state may work; but, can be overly expensive. A major strength of postcards is that a person must at least glance at the card, as they make a decision to read further or discard the card. Often, a well-designed postcard campaign will be forwarded to a friend or held for future use. My postcard motto is “Right Message – Right Person – Right Time.” Typical success rate is 2-4 leads from a well-designed mailer and 0 leads from a poorly designed one.

Letter Mailers

Letters are similar to post cards, but have some unique advantages and challenges. The advantage with letters is they can include more information than a postcard; plus, they present as more confidential. An inherent problem with letters is that they may be tossed into the trash unopened or barely read. If you are sending recruiting information to people to their workplace, a letter can provide a confidential method for the information to reach the staff. If you are sending the information to people at home, then keeping the information confidential is not important.

Cold Calling

I know cold calls have a stormy reputation; but, they work. The downside is that some of the leads will fall through, since the candidate is taking no active move toward the job search. With cards they are taking an active step toward calling the job employer to submit their interest. Cold calls rarely work when done by untrained recruiters; it takes a certain personality to know how to sell on the phone. Typically, we see two leads per 10 hours of calling for out-patient and three per 10 hours with home health and nursing homes. I would NEVER recommend robocalls and recent federal regulations limit their usage.

Present as an Expert

I often encourage facilities to “position” their clinic as an “expert in the community”. One way to do this is by providing in-service programs to their colleagues. It’s time-consuming to develop professional in-service programs; but quality therapists want to work with experts.

Open House

Sometimes an open house event works and sometimes it flops. We tend to see better results in the Northeast and somewhat in Florida. In the central states, where therapist density is lower, these events tend to not do as well. You must do a lot of prep work in preparing an open house. Advertise the event and consider giving away door prizes that people would want to receive. Combining the event with an educational session or touring a new department can be helpful. Read the chapter on “Recruiting across Generations” for some helpful ideas. We do huge numbers of these with nurses all over the country, but I think their higher success rate has to do with higher nurse density and greater variety in jobs. Some customer ideas – Shrimp Boil (worked) vs. Free Food (nah), iPod Door Prize (worked) vs. Day at the Beauty Spa (nah), and Tour a New Hospital (worked) vs. Meet Our Staff (nah).

Outside Recruiters

Outside recruiting services are expensive, but can work. Typically, they will ask for a fee that represents a percentage of the salary offered. We work with many outside recruiters; in fact, we find candidates for them to present. You should hold recruiting firms accountable for what they are doing. (On a personal note, our company offers recruiters to do cold calls; but, we are unique in the market. At HRT, we work on an hourly rate with zero placement fees.)

Email Campaigns

There are two types of email campaigns commonly used. The first is sending info to an “internal list” of people who want to follow your openings. You build this list through such things as former employees, trade shows, and website opt-ins. Emailing this “internal list” can be effective and low-cost. The second type of email campaign is an email blast using an “external list” of professionals. Response rate to these is extremely low (see chapter on “Comparing Recruiting Methods”). The rules for creating this second campaign are extensive to meet the CAN-SPAM Act. With a limited target audience and low response rate, I do NOT recommend you email to “external lists”; however, we do recommend you build and utilize your “internal list”.


Scholarship programs can be very frustrating. As a former hiring manager, few things upset me as much as when I would interview a therapist, who took a scholarship; then the person offered to dump the funding employer if I would match their offer. Scholarship programs often work better for larger organizations, than for smaller programs (Larger organizations may have ongoing needs; while smaller organizations have intermittent needs.) Another fundamental problem with scholarship programs is that students rarely know what type of practice they will want before they start school; they may want to enter an entirely different type of practice than the one who is paying for their scholarship.

Final Thoughts

Recruiting in healthcare can be a challenge with the competitive hiring market. Long ago, hospitals would advertise in the newspaper or expect students to call them for jobs. Clinics were able to recruit for internal referrals and maybe a journal ad. Outside recruiters would call hospitals and break through to therapists and discuss openings.

Times have changed and recruiting must be planned and professional to be effective. Future articles will discuss pre-planning for your recruiting event.

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Steve Passmore, DPT

Dr. Steve Passmore graduated as a Physical Therapist in 1977 and has enjoyed a unique career from clinician, to management, to operations, to consultant. In 2002 he established Healthy Recruiting Tools and later Focused Mailing Services. Healthy Recruiting Tools provides the “tools” for companies who need to recruit healthcare workers (primarily therapists and nurses). Focused Mailing Services, on the other hand, provides discount direct mail services for any company that needs to advertise by direct mail. We work with mega corporations, to charities, to the mom-and-pop operations who need to grow.

For additional information please feel free to contact at Steve at [email protected], visit our web site at or, or call at 888-993-9675. Also available is an in-service training course for conferences and our book Recruiting in Healthcare: Unlocking the Methods and the Magic 2nd Edition available thru Amazon hard copy or kindle.


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