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Is Recruiting Top Talent #1 at Your Organization . . . or Not?

Many of you have probably heard the phrase, “People are our #1 asset.” It’s a common sentiment in business, but let’s consider the implications. If talent is indeed the most valuable asset, then are you taking the necessary steps to maximize and protect it?

My unique perspective comes from being the first known recruiter in the Veterinary profession. I’ve worked with hundreds of Animal Health and Veterinary employers, both on the industry side and on the clinical practice side and both with corporate practice groups and independent practices. For more than two decades, I’ve experienced firsthand the successes and pitfalls in Animal Health and Veterinary talent acquisition. In this article, I’d like to shift your perspective from HR-centric to talent acquisition-focused, which is more about sales and marketing than administration.

There are two main ways to recruit top talent: doing it in-house or partnering with an external search firm, or both, which can work quite well. Let’s delve into the reasons why this is crucial.

The Cost of Not Hiring

 Let’s talk about recruiting veterinarians, for example. Recruiting veterinarians is more challenging than ever due to increasing demand and a shortage of professionals. But do you understand the true cost of not hiring a veterinarian? It encompasses several factors.

  • Wellness Implications: Existing employees can experience stress, burnout, and reduced productivity when understaffed.
  • Employee Morale and Turnover: Stress and burnout can lead to higher turnover rates, creating a cycle of understaffing.
  • Decreased Customer Satisfaction: When pet owners can’t access your services, they go elsewhere and might leave negative reviews.
  • Missed Business Opportunities: Delayed hiring translates to lost revenue and profits. The financial impact is often underestimated.
  • Vicious Cycle: Turnover stresses your current team, leading to more departures and recruitment challenges.

To illustrate the cost of not hiring a veterinarian, one client told me that for each veterinarian he hires, that veterinarian typically brings in around $400K per year. He needed to hire eight veterinarians, and if he could do that, he would earn $3.2 million in revenue during the next 12 months. The opportunity cost of not having those eight veterinarians was costing the company $3.2MM in a year’s time.

According to some industry reports, the average full-time veterinarian can generate $530,000 to $800,000 in revenue. If a position remains open for a year, you could lose between $530,000 and $800,000, or even more, in topline revenue.

Auditing Your Recruitment Process

Given the current veterinarian shortage and its impact on the profession, a good idea is to audit your recruitment and hiring process. There are best practices and poor practices, and your approach significantly impacts your success. A streamlined process can make all the difference. For instance, consider a successful process like this with an internal recruitment team and external recruitment team working together:

  • External recruiter sends a candidate to the Director of Talent Acquisition.
  • Head of Talent Acquisition responds within 5-10 minutes.
  • Phone interview is scheduled immediately, the same day.
  • Phone interview takes place within a few days.
  • Face-to-face interview is scheduled promptly.
  • Offer is made.
  • Candidate accepts the offer.

In contrast, an inefficient process can deter top talent:

  • External recruiter sends a candidate to Recruiting Manager and a week passes.
  • Follow-up needed by external due to lack of response.
  • Recruiting Manager forwards to internal recruiter.
  • More delays.
  • Internal recruiter checks internally (more time passes).
  • Lengthy follow-ups.
  • Candidate becomes hesitant due to other offers.
  • Lose the candidate due to other offers because too much time passed by.

A positive candidate experience is crucial. Businesses that enhance this experience include:

  • Sending gift baskets to candidates.
  • Rolling out the red carpet.
  • Providing agendas before interviews.
  • Greeting candidates warmly.
  • Taking candidates to lunch or dinner.
  • Addressing the needs, wants, and desires of the candidate.
  • Discussing next steps.
  • Prompt follow up and good communication.

Conversely, a poor candidate experience can turn top talent away:

  • Candidates arrive for interviews to find an empty office.
  • Incorrect or outdated hotel recommendations.
  • Candidates wait at a restaurant without a practice representative.
  • Unprepared staff at the interview.
  • Not reading the candidate’s resume before the interview.

Recruiting vs. Hiring

Let’s clarify recruitment: it involves engaging passive candidates who aren’t actively job seeking. Good recruiters market and sell opportunities, enticing candidates to explore new roles. Recruiters are proactive, reaching out to potential hires rather than waiting for applications.

Recruiting is akin to sales and marketing for three reasons:

  1. Attraction and Engagement: Top candidates aren’t job hunting; they must be sought out.
  2. Relationship Building: Building relationships with candidate’s mirrors sales and marketing practices.
  3. Persuasion: Convincing candidates your opportunity is superior to their current role is central to successful recruiting.

Should talent acquisition fall under Human Resources, and does HR provide the best candidate experience? In a candidate-driven market, where top talent holds leverage, HR’s role may be reevaluated. Here are four considerations.

  1. HR is Not Sales: HR isn’t inherently a sales function.
  2. Administrative Focus: HR can tend to prioritize compliance and administration over recruitment.
  3. Risk Aversion: HR may be risk-averse, hindering top talent acquisition.
  4. Budget Over Talent: HR can prioritize budget concerns over hiring the best talent.

Recruiting high-quality candidates might require investment, but it yields substantial long-term benefits.

Consider a practice that lost more than $1.5 million in revenue due to a vacant veterinarian position. Initially, the owner who sold to corporate agreed to pay a $35,000 recruiting fee to find a suitable candidate and the agency found a suitable candidate. However, the corporate office refused to pay, believing they could save money by recruiting their own veterinarian for the practice. Three years later, the position remains vacant, costing them far more than the recruiting fee. Clearly, recruiting top talent wasn’t their #1 priority and it has caused demanding workloads for the existing team due to the vacancy. The doctor the agency found went to a nearby competitor.

I propose that the C-suite should take ownership of hiring. Top talent directly influences overall performance and profitability, areas the C-suite is responsible for. As a leader, you can:

  • Invest in employer branding.
  • Audit your recruiting process regularly.
  • Evaluate hiring tools and technologies.
  • Participate in interviews, especially for key positions.
  • Invite talent to company events.
  • Send personal messages to congratulate candidates.
  • Be present during onboarding.
  • Solicit feedback to improve the hiring process.

When to Use a Recruiting Firm

The severity of the Veterinary talent shortage may necessitate partnering with recruiting firms. Consider this option when:

  • There’s a shortage of candidates.
  • You’re filling high-level or technical positions, including for veterinarians.
  • You have a time-sensitive or urgent hiring need.
  • You’re losing money.
  • You anticipate a return on investment.

Recruiters excel at engaging passive candidates, persuading them to explore opportunities, and managing the hiring process efficiently.

Working with a recruiting firm requires the three C’s: cooperation, communication, and collaboration. Treat recruiting firms as allies, not adversaries. Ensure seamless collaboration, consistent communication, and aligned goals to secure the best talent effectively.

In the ’90s, hiring managers had the freedom to use various means, including executive recruiters, to hire top talent. However, there was a push to bring talent acquisition in-house, which hasn’t always yielded the expected savings. The Veterinary profession, relatively new compared to others, faces unique challenges. Hiring internal recruiters with no Veterinary experience can hinder your efforts. Instead, partner with experts who understand the industry intricacies. Last year, a corporate recruiting group hired a recruiter who was unfamiliar with the Veterinary profession. That recruiter called me to ask if he could recruit pharmacists or human doctors to become veterinarians. I felt bad for him and for the group who hired him. He was not given the proper training.

Recruiting top talent is more critical than ever in the Veterinary profession. The correct approach can enhance your business’s success and profitability. Talent acquisition, when executed correctly, ensures your organization remains competitive and retains its most valuable asset—its people.

We invite you to find out more about our Veterinary recruiting services for employers and also learn more about our recruiting process and how we can help you hire more veterinarians this year.

We help support careers in one of two ways: 1. By helping Animal Health and Veterinary professionals to find the right opportunity when the time is right, and 2. By helping to recruit top talent for the critical needs of Animal Health and Veterinary organizations. If this is something that you would like to explore further, please send an email to stacy@thevetrecruiter.com.

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