Newly defined pandemic-driven realities are requiring recruiters to learn new routines and new steps to select the ideal candidate with the best fit. Recruiters are striving to offer a “thriving” lifestyle, recognizing that it takes more than money to attract candidates today. In other words, it’s a buyer’s market – the candidate is the buyer, and the seller represents the recruitment professional. The ASA Monitor spoke with five individuals about their perspectives on hiring today to uncover the pandemic’s new demands.

While recruiting challenges persist, the job market for anesthesiologists is strong, said Brian Bateman, MD, MSc, Stanford Medicine Professor of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, and Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology. There are many options available for new graduates, so it’s important for departments to define and differentiate what they offer to candidates.

Recruiters can no longer offer the standard pre-pandemic package; they must redefine value for each individual candidate. Differentiation is crucial, and the key to differentiating the offer is “attracting exceptional faculty by fostering opportunities for mentorship and career development, providing protected non-clinical time for all faculty, and offering competitive salaries,” said Dr. Bateman.

Differentiating the value for each candidate also requires faster moves in the race to recruit, Kiara Tierney, MBA, Executive Director, Anesthesia and Critical Care Department, the University of Chicago.

Of course, employers must quickly assess their compensation and benefits packages, but regardless of how quick the assessment, recruiters are also racing to navigate the individual idiosyncrasies of each candidate. The recruiter’s job responsibilities seem to have doubled in the age of COVID-19.

“Prior to the pandemic, we scheduled recruitment tasks a few times throughout the year to keep up with increasing locations and programs,” said Tierney. “Recruiting in 2022 is a full-time job” and emphasized, “it’s not a cakewalk either.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to rapid changes in the labor market, and most practices need more physician anesthesiologists. The high demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has also driven an increase in salaries for many health care professions. Reevaluating salaries throughout the year while finding the exact match in a high-demand profession calls for flexibility and a supply of patience when the positions are taking longer to fill.

But it’s not just salary, Tierney says. Candidates are looking for more – a reasonably predictable schedule, less on-call time, and compensation for time working outside of what is deemed a “regular” day.

The pandemic’s unpredictable but steady wake is generating higher expectations from every position, resulting in mass burnout, and the state of recruitment continues to pose unique challenges for both programs and candidates. It’s as though the recruitment process requires an updated or an entirely new corporate recruitment standards manual defining the “new normal.”

Adam Blomberg, MD, FASA

“The anesthesiology landscape continues to evolve, especially as we all navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, clinicians retire, and the health care system moves toward value-based care,” said Adam Blomberg, MD, FASA, National Education Director and Regional Medical Director of Anesthesiology, Envision Healthcare.

Anesthesiologists have more opportunities than ever before in deciding how they want to practice, he said. As a result, anesthesia groups must adapt and grow to meet the needs of clinicians in order to provide the resources they need to thrive.

“Along with a competitive salary and benefits, anesthesia clinicians are looking for a more flexible schedule and a true work-life balance, keeping in mind that defining work-life balance is subjective to each individual candidate. We understand the many considerations clinicians have and make an effort to work with each individual to find the best ways to support them throughout their career,” said Dr. Bloomberg.

Recruiters recognize that when searching for the right position, each person has their own definition of work-life balance and list of priorities. For example, some people want a specific practice location like an academic hospital or an ambulatory surgery center.

Kelly L. Mishra, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Anesthesiology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the decision to broaden and diversify their recruitment team, as well as centralizing the recruitment process, has extended the department’s human resources and allowed greater efficiency.

As a junior faculty member, she said, “Much of the recruitment process is talking to graduating residents and fellows, which makes us potentially more approachable. Previously, the chair and division heads conducted the recruitment process, but have recognized the benefit of empowering junior faculty with leadership positions even early in their career, which is important to new graduates looking for an academic faculty position,” said Dr. Mishra. With a project manager organizing all of the interviews, the challenge is to keep everyone in the loop knowing that communication is the cornerstone of a good recruitment strategy.

While increased recruitment support seems to be a good move, the regular workday also requires a faster routine, says Krista Whiting, CSAM, Vice President, Healthcare Recruitment, Parkwood International.

“The newest currency in effective recruitment is urgency. The faster you move candidates through the interview process, the higher the likelihood you have of hiring the talent you want. Companies no longer have the luxury of slow hiring decisions because top candidates are entertaining three opportunities simultaneously.”

A sense of urgency while highlighting the company’s brand reputation could make the offer seem more convincing. Whiting notes that brand reputation is more important than ever in a candidate-driven market and advises expediting decision-making and eliminating unnecessary conversations to lessen interview burnout. If you know you want them, make the offer, and if you don’t, give the candidates closure so they can move on, said Whiting.

At the end of the day, “regular” or not, every recruiter must adapt in their own way – whether that means faster routines, redefining value, or diversifying and centralizing departments – keeping in mind that each anesthesia recruit brings their own individual expectations.