Recruiting Professionals Often Is a Long Courtship

(First of two parts)

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio Candidates for an entry teaching position could feel they’re in a whirlwind courtship, sitting for a first interview on a Monday and offered a contract later that week.

Candidates for an entry position in an architecture firm, on the other hand, are more likely to find themselves in slow, lengthy and deliberate courtships where caution and prudence take precedence over the professional equivalent of romantic impulses.

Accountants, architects, bankers, hospital administrators, lawyers and school superintendents devote considerable time, treasure and other resources to recruiting college graduates and masters’ and doctoral candidates who aspire to have satisfying careers in their professions.

The Business Journal approached these professions to learn how they recruit, their criteria to identify candidates to interview and then whom to offer employment or an internship. We chose one entity in each category, except schools, to represent that profession.

In this, the first of two reports on our findings, we look at recruiting for health care professionals, accounting, and architecture.

Recruiting Physicians

Joining the network of UPMC hospitals last May 1 has made it easier for Patti Eppinger to recruit physicians to her hospital in New Castle, Pa., she says. The business of recruiting physicians remains highly competitive, she says, and “Many settle in the area where they train.”

The veteran recruiter – she has been with Jameson 37 years, the last 25 as vice president of medical affairs – says the men and women who grow up in western Pennsylvania and become physicians are the most likely to return and practice here. While she recruits candidates from New York to California, those who accept do so based on their familiarity with the region where they grew up (geography, family, friends) or are completing their residencies.

Courtships can last as long as a year, Eppinger says. Physicians begin their search the last year of their residencies. For those UPMC Jameson will hire in June, Eppinger began reaching out last September and October.

UPMC advertises openings online and in medical journals. It also uses a recruiting firm to sound out experienced physicians when hard-to-fill vacancies occur.

Eppinger and Elizabeth Piccone, her counterpart at UPMC Horizon in Mercer County, cooperate in promoting the benefits of living and working in western Pennsylvania, such as “a very good cost of living” and proximity to Pittsburgh and Cleveland. They reach out to those they know serving internships and completing their residencies.

Eppinger tells them of the improvements and enhancements, such as “the heart and vascular institute on our ground floor” that the merger with UPMC made possible. Jameson is seeking to fill 10 openings in pulmonary critical care, emergency medicine and primary care, she says, and “Physicians contact us.”

Her first contact with a candidate is usually a phone interview, which if it goes well, leads to an invitation to the physician and his or her spouse to a one- or two-day visit to New Castle that includes a tour of Jameson to meet staff and administration. Eppinger doubles as real estate agent, guiding them through Lawrence County and showing neighborhoods where they could choose to live.

“We have a welcoming atmosphere,” she says, “and they get that feeling immediately.”

If the candidate is interested in setting up or joining a practice in addition to working in the hospital, Jameson can help. “It’s about fit,” Eppinger says. “You talk about their practice, the opportunities they have. You learn what they’re looking for and lay out what you’re looking for. It goes both ways.”

Two weeks or so after the final dinner that wraps up a candidate’s visit – assuming all went well – UPMC Jameson extends a contract, Eppinger says.

Recruiting Accountants

The shortage of accountants is such that firms begin identifying and recruiting candidates as early as college students’ sophomore year. “Sophomores are not so rare anymore,” says Trinette Simon, a senior manager in the Youngstown office of Cohen & Co. “Colleges are doing better in preparing students for interviews.”

More than any other profession, accountants keep in touch with professors of accounting and finance, both to ensure they’re teaching what their students need to know and to identify talent. “Professors are vocal about wanting to stay informed,” the senior manager says. “They’re good about seeing that their students are prepared to be accountants.”

Cohen’s CPAs attend the job fairs colleges hold on campus and at Youngstown State University sponsor a “Meet the Accountants Night,” Simon says, limited to accounting majors.

After getting to know juniors and seniors, the firms conduct interviews, usually a half-hour long – and often a second – before extending paid internships. Fifteen or 16 from the departments in the Youngstown office take turns conducting the interviews.

Cohen pays its interns the same as first-year accountants at the firm and, Simon says, “Our interns are treated the same as first-year staff.”

Each intern is assigned a mentor who guides him, or her, through the semester, Simon says. In this way, the interns show their knowledge, initiative, work ethic, ability to communicate and work with clients, manage their time, and how they fit into the corporate culture.

Most interns perform so well that Cohen (and other accounting firms in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys) extends a job offer at or near the end. Their transitions from internships to positions in auditing, tax preparation or general accounting are generally seamless.

The success of Cohen’s recruiting efforts are reflected in the hiring of 92 this past year across its seven offices, spokeswoman Megan Howell says. The offices stretch from Milwaukee to New York City, running southeast through Detroit to Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown and Pittsburgh.

Once they join, Cohen is eager to retain the newly hired. The Youngstown office pays for their memberships to the Central YMCA a block away and has renovated and remodeled its suite on the fourth floor of the Commerce Building.

Cohen also pays for the new hires’ preparation to sit for the CPA exam and offers tuition reimbursement to complete the 150 semester hours needed to take the exam. Most new hires choose to enroll part-time in the MBA program at YSU and earn the additional 25 hours that way, Simon says, while others take related undergraduate courses.

Recruiting Architects

“Our professional support needs are unique,” Gregg Strollo, president and CEO of Strollo Architects, begins.

The majority of architects who practice in the Mahoning Valley earned their masters’ degrees at Kent State University, which recently ended its five-year undergraduate program leading to a baccalaureate in architecture and instituted a four-year program that leads to a B.S. in the discipline followed by a master of architecture – six years in all.

Like accountants who sit for the CPA exam, Ohio has those pursuing a license sit for the seven-part Architect Registration Exam (ARE). As with accountants, architects can retake the parts of the six-hour exam they fail (and pass them) to earn their licenses.

Because of the use of computers, the architects of today have a different set of skills than those when Strollo entered the profession, he says. They’ve gone from CAD – computer-assisted design – to more 3-D modeling, he explains.

Strollo describes the curriculum architect majors study as “brutal. It’s a mix of math, science, art and history.”

Those who master it embark on “an emotionally satisfying career” where the psychological rewards make up for the relatively low compensation. Someone with a master’s degree just starting out earns in the mid-40s before he earns his license.

On the other hand, architects not only like their work, they like their work environments because “turnover is low across the profession.” One firm declined to be interviewed, explaining it hires interns but its staff has been stable for a long time.

At Strollo, the average tenure is 20 years. “The work is extraordinarily rewarding,” the veteran architect says, because “you drive by and see your work.”

Of the five schools of architecture in Ohio, four – Kent State, Ohio State University, Miami University, University of Cincinnati – hold job fairs for their students to meet practicing architects and develop relationships, as does the school at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The fifth, Bowling Green State University, just started its graduate school of architecture.

Strollo and his colleagues attend the fairs to meet students and consider whom to offer internships.

Two interns will return next fall, Strollo says.

The architects in his firm stay alert to learn of students who express an interest in the profession as early as high school, Strollo says. They keep in touch with the students and professors at Kent State more than the other schools.

“We advertise nationally. The responses we get are generally from the region,” he says.

Those who would work for the Strollo firm are allotted a half-hour for their first interviews conducted by “a principal and project architect, sometimes more,” Strollo says. The firm expects the candidates it invites will perform well – the interviews are more a final screening than an initial assessment – before being extended an internship or full-time position.

As for inducements, “We don’t have a ping-pong table in the basement. There’s no room,” Strollo jokes, but the firm orders pizza every Friday and “you don’t punch a time clock here. We have flex-time that allows you to take your pet to the vet’s or kids to practice.” No one tracks an employee’s time spent in the office. “They’re responsible for completing their projects,” Strollo says.

Recruiting Nurses

Attracting nurses to work in a hospital is challenging, Carissa Rosselli-Redmond says, because nurses can choose to work elsewhere, such as nursing homes, other health-care settings and as traveling nurses.

Rosselli-Redmond is the recruitment lead for nursing and nursing support at UPMC Jameson.

“It’s a very competitive market,” she begins, to hire registered nurses with a B.S. in nursing.

UPMC Jameson has its own candidate tracking system, she says, and Rosselli attends 15 national conferences each year to meet newly graduated nurses “face-to-face.” She prefers meeting candidates one-on-one.

Rosselli uses “a lot of social media,”, and “can send a lot of email blasts” to student nurses at the universities or hospital programs where they’re enrolled.

She uses the UPMC Academic-Service Partnerships to identify and bring in student and graduate nurses to work at Jameson, a new development that benefits both the students and the hospital. “UPMC nurses help to create robust learning experiences for the students in clinical rotations,” the UPMC website says.

Working three 12-hours shifts is becoming the norm and the ability to work part-time is another inducement.

“It’s never too early to talk to a student,” Rosselli and her staff of seven have found. And Jameson offers paid internships after students complete their junior year. She sees no difference in male and female student nurses’ abilities or desire to help patients.

She and her staff target sophomores during their clinical rotations. By the time they’re seniors, Rosselli makes sure they are fully informed about the opportunities at Jameson.

First interviews take place at Jameson, not the college, and run a half-hour to an hour that includes a tour of the hospital and shadowing a nurse, Rosselli says. Second interviews often follow and when Jameson decides to extend an offer, she or one of her staff phones to notify the candidate.

Upon acceptance, an email is sent outlining the terms and conditions of employment and acceptances follow anywhere from a day to a week later. Knowing the hospital is willing to invest in them is a major factor in why they choose Jameson, Rosselli says.

“We have a nursing career ladder,” she says. “We have a lot of opportunity for growth, a lot of opportunity to assume leadership positions.”

Rosselli believes that bringing candidates in to meet the staff and see firsthand all the hospital has to offer allows Jameson to sell itself.

Jameson cites nurses’ ability, once hired, to “add to their skill sets” and UPMC offers tuition reimbursement for those who want to pursue a master’s degree in nursing, become an administrator or learn the clinical side.

Nurses who work in other settings might tire of them, Rosselli says. A traveling nurse, for example, might be attracted to travel to Alaska or Hawaii, but the time away from home and assignments that last only 12 or 14 weeks could make the stability of working in a hospital more attractive.

COMING IN PART TWO: the chief academic officer of Youngstown City Schools, Tyrone Olverson, and Struthers schools Superintendent Joe Nohra discuss how they recruit teachers; two recruiters at PNC Financial Group tell how they recruit bankers; and the managing partner of RothBlair, Ted Roberts, tells of his firm’s efforts to attract lawyers.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.