Should Recruiters Be Paid Like Sales People?

Let’s not kid ourselves. We aren’t recruiters in the historical sense anymore. Today’s successful healthcare recruiters are sales people. Long gone are the times when an advertisement would go into the Sunday classifieds, qualified people would respond, the recruiter would select the top candidates and then get the best individual through the hiring process.

So, to that point, Jason Sanders, Associate Director of Applicant Services at Florida Hospital, Orlando writes to ask if today’s recruiters should be given pay, based in part, on incentives and the number of hires they make as opposed to a straight traditional salary. The short answer is yes, but only if you have enough open positions, applicants, the numbers to measure success and a system of accountability for hiring managers.

Recruiters who receive performance based pay are generally much more productive than those paid a salary. Salaried recruiters are not necessarily slackers, but they tend to get pulled in different directions as opposed to recruiters who are being paid to stay focused on making the hire.

When considering paying incentives based on the number (and quality) of hires, you need to remember:
• The recruiter cannot be the final decision maker on the hire. The hiring managers must make that call and the hiring managers must have a system where they are responsive to the needs of the recruiter attempting to make the sale. There are many reasons for this past the obvious, including the fact that the recruiter stays on top of the good candidates, is driven to ferret out top talent and to be exceptionally time sensitive.
• Hiring managers must be accountable and realistic about the quality and experience of today’s applicants and the immediacy needed to “make the sale.” There should be a program in place where on the spot interviews can always be granted. If the hiring manager is not able to interview on the spot then he/she needs someone—equipped with the authority to make the decision—that can. And then there should be back-ups to the back-ups for the interview. You cannot hold a recruiter accountable if a manager does not have time to interview.
• Numbers are critical to individual situations. Based on national averages, RNs should be hired at a 3:1 ratio, allied health professionals on a 5:1 ratio and entry-level at 10:1. A sales recruiter must have enough applications coming in to make those ratios realistic. And, they must have enough open positions to make it worth the effort. For example, on average a nurse recruiter should make about 14 hires a month. So the base expectations for hires might be 14 and the recruiter would be paid on the hires over that number. But, asking a recruiter to make, say 14 Physical Therapist hires in a month is not realistic. You would need to mix in pharmacists and some respiratory and imaging professionals for that recruiter. Everything must be based on true numbers. Don’t make it too difficult or it becomes self-defeating.
• How much to pay as an incentive? It depends. Many factors impact the amount including how much the base pay is, but lately about $300 a hire over the base of say 14 hires is a fair price. For that amount of incentive, the base pay should remain about the same as market band for a recruiter. The healthcare system is getting a great deal when you think about what it costs to keep a professional position open. Paying $300 a hire is much less than an eight hour shift differential, paying agency, travelers, overtime or PRN salaries. Not to mention the cost, if you need to reduce the number of treatments completed in your Rehabilitation Department because of lack of staff.
• If you want to make sure new hires have someone to help them stay, pay the recruiter a bonus of $100 for every hire that stays a year. The new hire stays connected with the person who sold them the job and the recruiter stays connected with the people and the culture of the organization. And, knowing they are in line for $100 bonuses in upcoming months helps the recruiter stay as well, which is also a good thing.

There are several very successful US healthcare providers who pay their recruiters like salespeople and they have an impressive return on investment. One seven-hospital system pays recruiters in excess of six figures and their average savings is around $9 million a year on agency—just for the RN hires. They haven’t had any turnover in the recruiter ranks for the past five years and that is a savings on a number of fronts.

If you have a question related to healthcare recruiting you’d like me to answer on a future blog, send me an email at

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Thomas Delorme
Written by Thomas Delorme

VP, Digital Products & Strategy

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