SSM Health, Dignity Health improve experience for job candidates

April 1, 2018


Finding the right job and hiring the best candidate to fill a slot are two sides of the same coin. To stand out from the field, a candidate will research a prospective employer and prep for the interview. Likewise, to land talented applicants, companies polish their approach to hiring.

SSM Health Dignity
Before she accepted a job as a medical/surgical nurse at SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital — St. Louis, Bridget Gordinier became versed in the hospital and health system's culture and mission through the hiring process. She is shown here with nurse Sean Conway. Photo courtesy SSM Health

San Francisco-based Dignity Health and St. Louis-based SSM Health are among companies that have rethought the job candidate experience from the point of view of job seekers. As mission-driven employers, both systems separately revamped their application and hiring processes to demonstrate respect for the time and talents of prospective employees.

SSM Health wanted to demonstrate its values of compassion, respect, excellence, stewardship and community when it reset its hiring process about two years ago, explained Tom Ahr, system vice president of talent. Those changes put it in good stead now that unemployment is low, giving some candidates their pick of employers.

Pledge to job candidates
SSM developed "Our Promise to Candidates," to express its commitment to be fair and transparent about the hiring process, Ahr said. The system pledges to communicate so that people know where they are in the hiring process and to refine its own hiring practices using feedback it seeks from job candidates.

A "train stop" feature on its website looks something like a list of transportation stops on a map. It marks where an applicant is in the entire process from application to potential job offer. Recruiters check back in with candidates through phone calls, texts or emails, to let them know how the process is going, and when the person has progressed to the next step.

Recruiters host group chats online where candidates learn more about career opportunities. SSM recruiters even coach job applicants on how to make a good impression. They take part in employment events helping candidates or potential candidates with resume review and mock interviews.

Those efforts, Ahr said, speak to the system's mission of caring. And, if the system can help people present themselves better, or suggest skills to advance their chances of finding a job even with a different employer, that strengthens a community, he said.

SSM employs about 40,000 people in Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Oklahoma. It filled almost 10,000 positions in 2017 for full- and part-time work. Many of those selected were internal candidates pursuing career advancement. While some candidates are recruited in person and some virtually, all candidates from line cooks to surgeons apply online for positions and the selection protocol proceeds in the same way for all roles, the system said.

About 2,000 SSM managers involved in hiring learn about the system's hire for fit approach in four-hour training sessions. A health care system spokesperson explained in a statement that the approach "is focused on ensuring that potential candidates understand the importance of our mission and values, as every employee learns the history of SSM Health and becomes connected to our 145-year heritage of healing upon hire. We not only want employees who are skilled at their jobs, but also exemplify the healing presence of God."

Ahr said for every person hired at SSM, the human resource department may have to say no to 10, 20 or more candidates. And SSM makes certain to treat those individuals respectfully too. If a candidate doesn't move forward in the hiring process, the person is notified through an email and thanked for their time and interest. If an internal candidate is not selected, the applicant receives a personal communication from the hiring leader or talent specialist, a spokesperson said.

SSM Health Dignity
Tom Ahr, SSM Health's system vice president of talent, says the system is fair and transparent with job applicants.
Photo courtesy SSM Health

Interviewing for cultural fit
In its work to enhance the recruiting and hiring process, Dignity Health drew from its "Hello humankindness" campaign, which began in 2013 and continues. The effort is intended to encourage people to treat one another kindly, and to highlight the importance of human kindness in health care. That Hello humankindness brand promise extends to its hiring approach.

Dignity Health has 63,000 employees. It hires about 10,000 new employees a year from outside the system. About four years ago, it began transforming its approach to human resources, said Wanda Cole-Frieman, Dignity Health's vice president of talent acquisition. "Just as we're evaluating the candidate, they're evaluating us," she noted. She said every point of contact with a potential candidate is important.

She said the system works to build pipelines of prospective employees, in part by telling people about what it's like to work for Dignity Health. The system develops short video clips for social media on what it's like to live and work in an area where the health care system is hiring.

"Talent communities," a feature on its career site webpage, allows individuals to create a candidate profile that sets out the type of job they want and the markets where they'd like to work. The applicant gets targeted career opportunity alerts.

Cole-Frieman said that in addition to asking interview questions that get at the applicant's competencies, experience and potential for growth, interviewers ask questions intended to flesh out whether a candidate has traits like empathy and compassion.

Cole-Frieman said Dignity does 30-day and 90-day new hire surveys and draws from new employees' responses to refine its hiring process.

SSM Health Dignity
A screen shot from Bridget Gordinier's video job interview shows her responding to a question from SSM Health.
Photo courtesy SSM Health

Reaching out
Registered nurse Bridget Gordinier initially interviewed with SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital in the St. Louis suburb of Richmond Heights, Mo., in late 2017 by logging onto a website and launching a video that posed screening interview questions. She used her smartphone to create a separate video clip of her response to each question and uploaded the replies to the web platform.

The next day, she was contacted by Britta Hammond, an SSM talent specialist. Hammond gave Gordinier her cell phone number, and told Gordinier to call, text or email if she needed anything. Gordinier interviewed directly with supervisors of nursing units at the hospital who had seen her video interview and wanted to talk to her about existing openings. Hammond arranged for Gordinier to job shadow on two floors at the hospital. "I was able to schedule my own interviewing time and shadowing time based on my schedule, which I really appreciated," Gordinier said. She was offered a position as a medical/surgical nurse, and started in January.

Gordinier said the video interview process made her feel SSM was interested in her as an individual and in the skills she could bring to the job. She said the way that the system presented its mission and values to her during the interview process gave her confidence her values were aligned with SSM's. And the job shadowing confirmed she would be working with supportive colleagues as she begins her nursing career. "Having those values and having a core community behind you is really important to me," she said.



Copyright © 2018 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.

Copyright © 2018 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.