Is Your ATS Hurting Your Healthcare Staffing Agency? Probably

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Applicant tracking systems are utilized by the vast majority of healthcare staffing agencies, and for good cause. They streamline human resource processes and institutionalize procedures. They also provide some invaluable reporting mechanisms. However, there’s a very good chance that your healthcare staffing agency’s ATS is hurting your recruitment efforts.

The unique nature of talent acquisition in the healthcare staffing industry

Deloitte defines talent acquisition as, “a strategic approach to identifying attracting and onboarding top talent to efficiently and effectively meet dynamic business needs.” They view recruiting as a subset of talent acquisition. Recruiting, “includes the activities of sourcing, screening, interviewing, assessing, selecting and hiring.”

Note that the definition of recruiting stops at hiring. It leaves off the onboarding process. This is a critical demarcation for healthcare staffing agencies to consider due to the unique circumstances they face. First, unlike permanent employers, healthcare staffing agencies do not have complete control of the interviewing, assessing, selecting, or hiring components of the recruitment process. These components are largely controlled by the agency’s client hospitals.

Second, and more importantly, healthcare staffing agencies are competing with other agencies to fill the same exact jobs. Moreover, the proliferation of Vendor Management Systems and Managed Services Providers has dramatically increased competition for the vast majority of agencies. Simply put, these services allow hospitals to work with more agencies than ever before.

This means that healthcare staffing agencies need to be much more customer oriented than their permanent counterparts. This is why we argue that Deloitte’s definition of recruiting is lacking one key component for healthcare staffing agencies, the customer service/sales component.

Deloitte includes a sales/branding component in it’s strategic talent acquisition matrix. However, as every healthcare staffing recruiter will tell you, selling the candidate on the job as well as the agency is a major component of supplemental healthcare recruitment. More importantly, it falls under the sole purview of the travel healthcare recruiter.

So for healthcare staffing agencies, recruitment is the act of sourcing, screening, service, and sales. Sourcing is the act of finding the talent. Screening is the act of determining that the candidate is qualified and proficient. Service is the act of determining the candidates’ needs and delivering customer focused solutions. Sales is the act of convincing the candidate that your job and your agency are the right fit for them. The primary goal of this process is to get candidates to agree to be submitted for assignments with your agency.

It’s important to remember that the recruiting process is distinct from the onboarding process. The onboarding process begins after the candidate has been offered and has agreed to accepting an assignment with your agency.

How your ATS can hurt your healthcare staffing agency

If your agency maintains a strict policy requiring candidates to complete online applications and skills checklists during the initial recruitment process, then you are most certainly hurting your recruitment efforts. While there is no question that convincing candidates to complete your application and skills checklist is a win, there is also no doubt that a strict policy requiring it will drive candidates away.

The recruitment consulting firm Lean Human Capital reports that organizations using applicant tracking systems experience an application abandonment rate of nearly 30%. David Gee from Staffing Talk argues that the longer your application process is, the higher your abandonment rate is. And we all know that the healthcare staffing industry has the longest possible application process.

We’re sure you’ve heard travel healthcare professionals complain about the paperwork process. They’ve gotten more vocal in recent years. Not a day goes by that we don’t see complaints about paperwork on the various social media channels.


Paperwork also serves as a deterrent to potential travel healthcare candidates. This means that if you are able to track application abandonment via your ATS, then the numbers are most certainly understated. You can’t measure the number of candidates who are staying out of the game entirely.



Know your candidates

A healthcare staffing agency’s target candidate is highly employable. They are experienced, licensed professionals in a tight labor market. They have tons of options. They are the exact type of candidates who have the confidence to abandon the application process or simply avoid it altogether.

Liz Ryan is a former Fortune 500 Human Resources VP. She has written articles for BusinessWeek and Harvard Business Review. In her Forbes article 10 Ways Companies Drive Away Talent, she rights:

Those Applicant Tracking Systems are horrible talent repellents, but most of their owners don’t know they serve the same function as massive, barking, teeth-bared attack dogs at the gate.

Fearful people who believe they don’t have any power in their job search will submit to those awful systems. Switched-on people with alternatives will quickly say “Yikes, I’m not sticking around here” and apply for a job somewhere else.


Some healthcare staffing agencies seem to believe that there is no alternative to maintaining a strict policy requiring candidates to complete applications and skills checklists during the recruiting process. Agencies may harbor this belief for a couple of reasons.

First, they may believe that their competitors are all engaged in the same practice and therefore candidates have no alternative. Second, some agencies believe that alternative approaches risk violating JCAHO compliance standards. Neither of these beliefs are warranted.

Alternatives, competition, and accreditation

There are indeed many agencies who have more flexible approaches to paperwork during the recruiting phase of the talent acquisition process. For example, some agencies have their recruiters assist with the application process by completing applications on the healthcare professional’s behalf. The recruiter can use the resume provided by the candidate, or complete the application over the phone with the candidate. 



This post in a popular travel healthcare Facebook group was written by a recruiter from a respected healthcare staffing agency. The recruiter went on to point out that all they needed was a resume to get the candidate’s file up and running.

Of course, hospitals typically require a complete “submission profile” which includes a resume, job application, references and skills checklist. Here again, there is an alternative to the status-quo policy requiring that candidates complete a healthcare staffing agency’s online documentation during the recruiting process.

BluePipes, a healthcare professional networking website, provides members with the ability to generate their own travel healthcare resume, travel healthcare job application, and travel healthcare skills checklists. Members are free to email their documents to recruiters at their convenience. This provides everything a healthcare staffing agency needs to initiate the submission process. Accepting BluePipes documents improves the agency’s customer service experience during the recruiting phase and dramatically reduces the time it takes to get candidates submission ready.

Agencies are able to accept BluePipes documents for free. There is no charge. Moreover, BluePipes maintains a list of healthcare staffing agencies who have verified they are accepting the documents. The list is advertised on the BluePipes website, via biweekly member newsletters, and via social media channels. It’s free to add your agency to the list. Simply let us know that you’d like to be added.

Some agencies may still be inclined to adhere to their strict policies requiring candidates to complete documents during the recruitment process due to concerns over JCAHO violations. However, BluePipes has consulted with some of the most respected healthcare staffing agency JCAHO consultants. We have been assured that the use of our services is in line with JCAHO standards. And all agencies that have verified they are accepting BluePipes documents are JCAHO certified.

JCAHO’s primary concern is that agencies take measures to ensure that all clinical employees are certified, qualified, and competent to provide care in the capacity for which they are employed. The use of BluePipes documents does not abrogate the agency’s responsibility in this regard. Agencies must still conduct all the reference and background checks, and compile all the necessary documentation.

And it’s important to remember that the recruitment phase is separate from the hiring and onboarding phase of the talent acquisition process.  Agencies are still able to require completion of all documentation during the onboarding phase if they wish to do so.

The healthcare staffing industry is extremely competitive and its target candidate is highly employable. Agencies must always be looking for a competitive edge. Abandoning strict policies requiring candidates to complete lengthy applications and skills checklists during the recruiting process in favor of more candidate friendly alternatives will  improve customer service and reduce the time to submission. And most importantly, it’s what your customers want.

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1 reply
  1. Orlando Garcia (@PharmProNetwork) says:

    This is one the first articles that no agency or JC certified health care staffing agency really takes notice of. I hear from many owners that they utilize a specific ATS that requires them to complete the entire credentialing process in a sitting or worse yet having the candidate save and the application for later completion. This is an absurd process I thought in my first few months of staffing. Lengthy online applications annoy many healthcare providers and lose site of the real goal which is to gain a quality assignment with a great rate. A resume is really all you need and doing as much of the paperwork for the candidate is counterintuitive to productivity and time management but you gain quality candidates by simplifying and streamiling the process as much as possible so that the candidate is expedited to just payroll document completion. Customer service in staffing means quality time spent with each candidate gathering information that allows the recruiter to connect and build a relationship while getting pertinent information to use for fulfilling the JC standards for a complete clean profile for submission. The less paperwork the more likely a candidate will move through the process to affirm his or her commitment to an assignment. We are a certified staffing firm and streamline the process so that the candidate can complete online fillable documents and electronically sign. This is only done piecemeal to minimize the bombardment of paperwork or time intensive application and credentialing process completion by candidate. Do more for the candidate by minimizing paperwork that the recruiter can do and get them focused on the assignment they are about take and the lifestyle and work culture they heading into. I have heard so many candidates complain about these online applications that take hours to complete and its not recruitment friendly. The JC or Client contract requirements for what is needed and what is not should be the focus but not at the onset of the recruitment process. This is a definite deterrent for quality candidates to complete the process even for an assignment they really might be interested in. I enjoyed this article as it reaffirmed my beliefs and practices about the recruitment and onboarding process needing to be streamlined and taken over as much as possible by agency completing documents for the candidate while establishing the relationship with them over the phone.

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