Healthcare Hunt (Part 3 of 3) Tips for Human Engagement

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Jun 28, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

When ordering the Starship Enterprise into Warp Speed, Captain Picard would always point his finger and exert the word “Engage!” Sometimes engaging a candidate can feel like jumping to warp speed, so in Part Three, I have included some best practices in human engagement so this doesn’t feel like a harsh command.


Prep Yourself, Don’t Wreck Yourself

Some people have to mentally prepare and pump themselves up before making calls. Others prefer to have a spreadsheet pulled up and a resume front and center in case they to need to talk further about the candidates background. These steps help the caller feel ready and energized to talk. And if you still need a boost, a grande vanilla latte helps too.


Have a Battle Plan, Red Shirt

To better prepare, it is recommended to organize your call list how you see fit. If you don’t like others listening to your calls or work in chatty call center environment, jump into an interview room or find a quiet controlled setting. You need to feel comfortable and confident when you engage a candidate. Fear and nervousness are the barriers to success, so do what you can to control the situation.


Words, Words, Words!

So what do you say on a cold call? Start by saying anything and almost everything. With practice, your speaking points will improve, but it is important to start somewhere. What works for us at MD Anderson is keeping the message “short and sweet,” and mentioning something specific about a person’s background, usually the detail that we noticed in their resume or profile.

Some sourcers have a template or script they use, but we have had success at MD Anderson around these key points:


Greet them like a human would, with a “good morning” or “how are you doing today?”

“Good Morning, my name is Greg Hawkes with MD Anderson. I don’t know what you job situation is like, but…”

“The Meat”

What about their profile or resume sparked your interest?  Highlight this in your message, it is an honest reflection as to why you are reaching out and shows you are reading their profile (not blasting 100+ candidates based on a keyword).

“I noticed you had some great outpatient oncology experience, and I was wondering if you or anyone you know may be looking for a nutrition role”


“Just let me know what you can do, and thanks”

Give them just enough to spark interest, but don’t sell the “whole cow” via an overly wordy  message. Leaving a bit of mystery can make people think.


Avoid Templated Android Speak

The slight variations in our messages make us human, the imperfections in one’s speech or a mix of words make us who we are. No call should contain the same words because we do not want to sound like an android. We are attempting to open a conversation, not simply elicit a response. The variations are what make the conversations real, and other humans can pick up if you are feeding them an over-rehearsed line.

When you write an email, especially for a star candidate, it is my opinion you should write from scratch, and throw out the formulated outreach completely. Try and speak as you would in a new conversation at a mixer or conference. Who introduces themselves by shoving a job description down a stranger’s throat?

Let me paint another picture.  You are in an auto parts store and need a replacement part for your 2011 vehicle. Auto Parts Bob is at the front desk. He asks you how your day is, what he can help you with, and tells you what part you need without looking at his computer.

He’s done three things:

  1. Greeted you upon entrance
  2. Had sound knowledge of the product
  3. Created a personal experience

That is an ideal conversation.  That personal element makes a huge difference to our audience. Simply asking how someone’s day is going can give you clues. Maybe your candidate just got yelled at by his boss, or is overworked, or is doing fine and happy and not looking. Whatever the case, a “no I’m not interested” is never the final endpoint. That initial conversation can lead to additional referrals or a later hire if you play your cards right. Remember your Stars, they can be a huge asset later on.


Knowledgeable Recruiter > Surface Recruiter

A recruiter working a complicated position, like a mass spectrometry role, needs to express interest in the candidate’s specialized experience, and they need to also know the design software required for the role, as well as the type of products worked on. There are key elements that must be understood before reaching out to an expert in the role. You’ve got to get off the surface and dive much deeper to roll with a subject matter expert.

One of the coolest parts about this job is learning about different industries, different roles, and learning the jargon. This comes down to your own research, knowing your job, and having a good idea what a hiring manager is looking for before the intake call. You have to know the product like Auto Parts Bob.

For an example, HVAC can be split into different segments, commercial, residential, and industrial.  It’s important to know this because the systems, equipment, and the customer base will be different. I would not know any of this if I didn’t research my client group, their products, and who they support.  To know the job, you must become a “Beaker Type;” not know the inner details of how to repair an HVAC system, but enough to know what that looks like.

Information such as, is this a “turn the wrench role” or a design role, or do they “watch the dials.” Be a sponge, absorb everything you can, and if you don’t know something, look it up or ask a teammate. If you don’t know what the job entails, how are you supposed to explain it to a candidate? You have the power to avoid that trap.

Take the time to research and validate the specifics, and when you call a candidate, they’ll take notice. There’s a saying on the agency side that goes “fake it until you make it,” which is just a terrible methodology in my view. Put in the effort to research prior to talking to a client and understanding the role and the candidate base. It is what separates a successful recruiter from a surface recruiter, and your hiring manager and candidates will appreciate the effort.

For example, when recruiting nurses, we want to know how many beds are on the floor, what’s the shift, what’s the patient population, is this a charge role, is it acute care, ICU, hematology, pediatrics? If we are reaching out to a nurse, we want to be as human as possible, because they provide care to the rest of us. Knowing the audience is an important piece when reaching out to your candidate. It’s the best way to connect and start the conversation.


Taking Engagement to Maximum Warp

Speaking of Beaker Types, at the Sourcecon 2015 Hacking session, Steve Levy showed me how to pull patent information from sites like Free Patents Online for engagement purposes. This is a great example of how knowing your sector can boost engagement. To pull in a candidate’s interest through a patent or article they wrote (Pubmed or Research Gate) takes outreach to another level. You must speak to a scientist on a different plane of existence so be prepared to “think it so you don’t break it.”  There are even ways to pull authors on certain topics via a Boolean search, but you better know the facts before calling a “Beaker Type.”

Google this:

(inurl:”/author” OR inurl:”/publication”) mass spec

In closing, the main takeaways for successful engagement are to prepare yourself, personalize your approach, and know your role and your audience.  This will provide a much better and human response than the generic overly wordy, job description filled, email blasts. I hope this helps, and now go forth and Engage.


Image credit: Betto Rodrigues /

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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