Improve Your Hiring Options

white chairs with one blue chair

Use the right recruiting strategy when building your practice.

By Tyler Williams, VP of Administration

While reading an article on employee engagement, I came across this sentence that will forever stick with me:

Employees are central to any physical therapy business, private practice or otherwise. Whether a company is large or small, it relies on employees to take care of patients and keep the business moving forward, day in, day out. For those of us who are actively engaged in building and growing a private practice, it is essential that we are skilled at hiring and managing talented people throughout the organization. Whether you have one person or many involved in the hiring process, the end goal is to employ the best possible people both for our benefit, and more importantly, for the benefit of our patients.

As a practice owner or manager, it is difficult to meet the demands of the business in the midst of an unplanned employee exit or when you have an employee who is performing poorly. We have chosen to mitigate the risk of being left “hamstrung” by these problematic staffing circumstances by incorporating a recruiting system that essentially creates a talent pool that we “manage” internally. A talent pool is simply a growing list of individuals who have responded to advertising about job openings, career opportunities, or upcoming positions. We keep our talent pool stable by managing communication with candidates from the day we first identify their interest, until the day we bring them onboard as a staff member. In order to build our talent pool, we must not only advertise when we need to hire, but we must continue to do so when we have no immediate need to fill a position. We have taken the role of an outside recruiter and internalized it. We take an intentional approach to finding candidates and take the time to develop relationships with them. We then stay in touch until we can place them in our workforce when ready. We have adopted an organizational mindset about hiring—a mindset that directs us to place the Right person in the Right position at the Right time. We are learning to follow our own (3)R strategy.

Recruiting is not the same as hiring. The end result of hiring is to make a final selection; the end result of recruiting is to provide options. Being a recruiter in your practice is more than advertising for job openings and reviewing résumés. It requires effectively gathering candidates, not only based on qualifications but also based on who they are and how they fit the roles you have to fill both now and in the future. It also entails determining if applicants are a good cultural fit for your company, and then effectively holding their interest until you have a suitable role available. It is important to look at recruiting as an organized, consistent cycle of action (1 – advertise, 2 – engage, 3 – track, 4 – retain, 5 – place), focused on developing relationships and matching candidates to openings.

Recruiting goes nowhere without applicants to populate your talent pool. We believe we find the best applicants through referrals from our current employees, so we have developed an internal incentive program by which current staff can earn additional cash by referring successful hires. For advertising to the public, there are innumerable choices available, depending on your area and budget. Find the online job site or advertising method that works for you and stay with it—consistency and longevity of the message is key. Ads should be direct, meet all the standard Human Resource criteria, and reflect the culture of your company. In addition to advertising specific open positions (hiring action), we consistently advertise opportunities for upcoming positions (recruiting action).

Your company website should feature a careers section that is up to date with all current and future opportunities. Make sure this page is welcoming and effectively communicates an attractive workplace that inspires interest and engagement. Additionally, inquire with your state board about obtaining email lists of all licensed PTs and PTAs. These lists can be valuable for email advertising directly to those most appropriate for your message. Advertise within your clinic so that patients, many of whom care deeply about you or your company, have an opportunity to refer someone great. We have hired by direct referral nearly as often as by public advertising.

We are interested in all qualified respondents. We need to know them well enough to match them to our hiring needs—location, salary, specialty, etc. We want the candidate to know us well enough that they can envision a good fit and will consider making a move when our time is right. We engage in this process by using straightforward communication, starting with the language in the ad we place, and continue it through ongoing interactions. We are welcoming, complimentary, and inquisitive in our communication style, intentionally working to stay connected through emailed newsletters and individual outreach.

Tracking candidates and communicating internally about hiring needs is very important in the (3)R strategy. Most private practice environments have administrative staff handling multiple responsibilities. The person handling recruiting may not be the one making the hiring decision, or determining the need to hire. The system you use to list, track, and communicate about your talent pool should be transparent and available to your entire hiring team. Shared spreadsheets and online work platforms are some of the best ways to keep and communicate this information. Additionally, establish a regular meeting time to discuss upcoming openings and possible candidates. These meetings need only be 15 to 30 minutes every couple weeks, or more frequently if your hiring needs increase. Decision makers appreciate knowing that there are candidates interested in working with your company and that they do not need to start from scratch. There is a sense of stability born from knowing that you have an ongoing plan to address staffing shortcomings, regardless of the cause.

Our end goal is to have a “team in waiting” when we have a need to hire so that our decision makers have a recommended list to work from as they identify the final placement. In recruiting and hiring, we work to convey the message that the right opportunity, for the right candidate, will happen at the right time when we have a pool of options to consider. A successful ongoing internal recruiting strategy requires an uninterrupted investment in advertising dollars and staff time. When carried out successfully, it will keep you better prepared, at a considerable savings, over using an outside recruiting contractor.


Tyler Williams

Tyler Williams is vice president of administration for OSR Physical Therapy in Phoenix, Arizona. He can be reached at tylerwilliams@osrphysicaltherapy.com.