An In-Depth Look at Candidate Psychology for Healthcare Employers

Oct 30, 2019
8 min read

Have you ever sat and pondered, "How do I go about hiring a great candidate?" The key is understanding the candidate's mindset and decision-making process.


The hiring process can sometimes feel like walking up a never-ending staircase. You post job ads, review resumes, interview applicants, and finally . . . you make your decision. It’s the same thing for the candidates!

The psychological challenge is that you feel like you’re making an investment and nothing’s paying off; you still have a void to fill. It might feel like your work is being wasted and that you’re not getting any results. However, that’s not necessarily the case.

Depending on the position, the time of year, and the location of your practice, you (the employer) will be in a stronger or weaker position have a good amount of control during this stage. When there’s a high supply of candidates, you’ll have a line out the door. When there’s an undersupply of applicants . . . crickets.

Don’t fret! When seeking an allied health or eyecare professional, having a small pool of applicants is more likely given the tight labor market. That’s why understanding candidate psychology is crucial for those looking to hire rehab or eyecare professionals.

A look into candidates’ decision-making lifecycles

Alternatively, but not surprisingly, the organizations with the most success are the ones that OWN their brand and perception as it relates to employment (which differs from consumer perception). For example, a practice where business is booming but hires are elusive might have an impeccable consumer image—five stars on Yelp, bravo!—but a measly one-star Glassdoor rating.

The right move, then, is to invest in your brand. And to do so consistently.

Remember the importance of recruitment marketing. The steps that you take during phases one and two of the hiring journey will affect the quality of candidates who you’re able to reach. The impact of what you do now will affect every step of the process later on. Start now and find the best possible candidate to fill your position.

Let’s delve into the journey that a candidate takes from just browsing to actively applying. Having a better grip on candidate psychology will prepare you with the knowledge you need to successfully find a great new employee!

Phase one: Passive professionals

During the first stage of the cycle, job seekers are not yet seekers. They’re professionals (or students) going about their daily lives. They might not be consciously seeking a new job, but they’re subconsciously open to information and new opportunities.

Humans have a tendency toward growth and change. They are always looking for ways to improve their daily lives. Our minds are subconsciously tuned into any signals that identify potential opportunities that will improve our regular state.

How to target these individuals:

Brand awareness is key. You’re not making a sales pitch, you’re introducing your story to potential candidates. You need to meet the job seeker where they are—since they’re not looking for you, you’ll need to come to them.

According to the 2019 Optometrist Report, the average optometry employer ranks the importance of their “brand” at a 5.88/10. However, 95% of candidates state that an employer’s brand is an important part of their decision making. It’s time to close this gap.

Conversely, over 90% of PT employers claim that their employer brand is important when hiring. However, according to the 2019 Physical Therapist Report, a staggering 43.8% reported that they spend $0 a year on employer branding and recruitment marketing. There’s a clear divide between what people know they should be doing and what they’re actually doing. So, what can you do?

Target these individuals through social media platforms. Keep in mind the content they might be looking for and reading. This step is a primer for the rest of the decision-making process. The subconscious mind is powerful and planting seeds of awareness now can bear fruit later on. Keep candidates’ motives and interests in mind as you begin the hiring process.

Phase two: Active investigators

Seekers in the “active investigation” stage have not yet made the decision to look for a job, but they’re open to it. They’re either experiencing enough frustration to seek change (looking to switch settings, perhaps?), or they’ve been exposed to enough subconscious inputs that they feel drawn to find a new position.

How to reach active investigators:

Make your business easy to find.

How can you do this? SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of modifying your online presence to appear higher in search results (i.e., the first page of Google). You do this by maintaining and updating your website, social media accounts, Google My Business page, and more. Make sure that your website and career page are optimized for search results, whether you’re focusing on local or national searchers.

Now, SEO is difficult. There’s a lot of competition for keywords and queries, particularly when it comes to hiring in-demand professionals like optometrists or physical therapists. Focus on making yourself discoverable on career-based websites that allow you to promote your brand and reach the type of professional you’re looking for. For example, if you’re trying to reach allied health professionals or optometrists and techs, you could explore sponsored placements or featured content on CovalentCareers. Sponsored job postings on a site like Indeed or even sponsorships of grad school events could also work.

Remember: you want to curate an audience of people who will eventually want a new job.

Phase three: Intrigued individuals

These seekers want to talk to you, hence their name. They’re looking to engage personally with you, the employer. The “phone screen” step of the interview, where you speak with them on the phone, is crucial for individuals in this stage.

During this phase, you’ll really need to be prepared and know what you want. Understand what you’re looking for, know the value propositions that will resonate with seekers, and make sure to put your best foot forward.

Strategies for interested candidates

This stage requires you to be highly active and engaged. This process can be enormously time-consuming, but it’s absolutely critical.

Many employers drop the ball during this stage. All too many employers miss the opportunity for a great candidate. Delays in outreach and follow up can make all the difference during the hiring process.

Shortening the time between first engagement and the job offer can significantly increase your chances of hiring a given individual by up to 80%.

It’s as simple as this: if you receive an application, reach out that same day. No exceptions. If you’re working with a recruiting company (which can be necessary for those with limited time or those having a particularly tough time ), it’s important to reach out to the candidate they present immediately.

Phase four: In-demand interviewees

The final stage of the candidate decision-making lifecycle requires plenty of effort and communication. As described earlier, when in oversupply, candidates aren’t receiving many offers, so the decision is easy. You won’t need to be as competitive with your offer, although you should do the right thing. Not just because it feels ethically better, but also because it boosts employee retention in the long run.

However, currently there is an undersupply so coming in with a strong offer is critical to landing the candidate.

How to encourage candidates to accept your offer:

When creating an offer package, know what’s competitive in your area and what compensation elements are most important to the traditional job applicant in your area.

It’s best to present the offer in person. This way, you can go line-by-line and gauge their interest toward each piece of the offer. You’ll also connect with them further, which will help throughout the negotiation process. If you can’t meet in person, give them a call. Try to avoid email, as it’s highly impersonal and difficult to pick up on subtleties.

When waiting for a candidate to accept the offer, the worst thing you can do is be pushy. It’s important to show empathy for your candidates. Remember, you’re trying to establish a long-term employment relationship with them and the best way to do that is to make a good first impression.

Additionally, make sure that you have a well-thought-out employment agreement to include with the offer. It should contain agreed-upon guidelines that detail what they can expect from you and vice versa.

Throwing the dice

Making all the right hiring moves doesn’t guarantee that you will find a great hire in the timeframe you want. However, pursuing every opportunity to find a hire will increase your odds of achieving that outcome.

By remembering the importance of your brand and considering candidate psychology at every stage of the job hunt, you will boost your chances of filling your position quickly.

Do you have any tips for finding the perfect applicant? Leave them in the comments below!

About Brett Kestenbaum, PT, DPT

As co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at CovalentCareers, I am afforded the opportunity to connect with thousands of healthcare practitioners around the country. My goal is to assist doctors in improving their careers and focus on providing the best healthcare …

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