The healthcare recruitment industry can be a minefield to negotiate as there are as many genuine agents who are hardworking and ethical as there are agents who look after their own pocket before the interests of the employers and candidates they serve.
Many employers turn to international recruitment often as a last resort when local recruitment strategies have failed to meet their resourcing needs. Legitimate agents can add true value to international recruitment and ensure great experience for all healthcare professionals involved in the process. On the other hand, agents that do not have the local knowledge nor reputation abroad to resource candidates directly will most often result in failed campaigns and high candidate attrition.
What is not known by most western employers is that their local recruitment agency don’t actually resources any of their own internationally candidates, instead, they use overseas third party agents, often in developing nations to do the difficult work for them and then only pay a fraction of the commission.
To manage international recruitment effectively, many employers find success by building partnerships directly with overseas agents who are local to the candidates they resource. Benefits of using agents who source the candidates include:
Allows honest conversations with agents about what was achievable within their local markets
Allows employers to monitor and ensure partner agencies practiced ethically and understand their responsibilities towards candidates, the communities they serve and most importantly, the patients
Allows employers to standardise HR operational practices to ensure an appropriate level of scrutiny and validation was being delivered
Allows employers to put into place communication and reporting processes to measure campaign deliverable and success
It can significantly reduce recruitment costs and commission rates
If you’re considering working with an overseas agent, here are a few tips:
1. Find Legitimate Recruitment Agents
Most territories have regulatory or affiliations that support ethical recruitment agents, this should be your first port of call. If the Philippines is your most desirable location, search for POEA licensed agents. If India is your preferred location, approach the Ministry of Labour or if you prefer New Zealand & Australia, approach agents who are accredited with the RSCA.
At Endorse Jobs, we have made your search easier by providing a free online directory of licensed and affiliated agents, to start your search, click here.
When you have shortlisted a few agents, review the number of nurses they have deployed and to which countries they have deployed.
It is essential that you protect your organisation, but most importantly, your patients. The due diligence process will assure you that the agencies you have chosen are legitimate, ethical and safe. Your organisation will most probably have a process in place to support this process, however these are often not specialised enough to reflect the checks needed for the overseas recruitment agency market. You could also turn to local procurement framework agreements. Their standards and principles are excellent and they are a good resource to use. It is important to note that these frameworks often only assess agents within your own country, therefore they have their limitations.
If you’re looking for a matrix to measure overseas agents potential, review national and international standards of international recruitment. If you’re an employer in the UK, turn to the Department of Health Code of Conduct for International Recruitment and NHSemployers. If you’re from outside the UK, review the World Health Organisations Code of Conduct for International Recruitment, they don’t only outline good international recruitment practice, but also list the barred territories western countries should not source healthcare professionals to prevent any negative impacts on local communities.
3. Know What You Want
Recruitment agencies do not find people jobs, they search for potentially suitable candidates to fulfil employers hiring expectations. The recruitment industry is hugely sales driven, so agencies are under pressure to perform and will do so when they understand your needs and time expectations. Providing the agent with detailed information regarding your needs, including the number of roles on offer, the knowledge, skills and competencies needed, and criteria that each candidate most demonstrate prior to being considered for interview. This will save you time, money and ensure candidates are deployed against your expectation.
When it comes down agreeing what staffing benefits should be made available to overseas candidate to attract them to apply for your jobs, do your research and learn what other employers are offering regarding staffing benefits and be realistic which essential staffing benefits will attract candidates. Be warned that not providing competitive benefits will impact on the agencies abilities to attract candidates. Also be careful not to go above your competitors by offering more benefits, this will only create a bidding war. Once the agreed staffing benefits have been identified, have honest conversations with each agent regarding the number of positions they can fill and the likely timing for deployment. Ask where staff are currently residing and what are the main influences pushing the candidates to consider working abroad. Ask the agent about what is needed to make a campaign a success and how they attract candidates.
All this information will establish a clear memorandum of understanding which should be specific about your needs, including methods of attraction, timings in regard to selection and deployment and reporting in responsiveness to your organisation’s needs. Ensure your agent has the necessary marketing material and organisational logo to use within their advertising, this will help in the long term to establish branding and reassure candidates that the agency is credible and legitimate.
4. Ensure Agents Have the Experience
Be realistic when it comes to deployment timelines, many skilled professionals are required to gain English proficiency and complete professional examinations before being able to gain a visa before an arrival date can be agreed. Speak to the agent and ensure they have experience in deploying the same occupational groups to your country, otherwise this could great significant delays in deployment which will impact on your service needs.
You will certainly still be able to find recruitment agents who are willing to give you personalised advice and assistance, but don’t set your expectations too high in terms of the success rates. Take charge of your own situation, give yourself the broadest possible exposure by providing any necessary marketing assets, and establish communication and reporting methods and timings.
5. Understand the Numbers
Overseas recruitment is a numbers game and you will be successful if you embrace this when planning your international campaigns. Ensure agents are honest in regard to the number of candidates who are actively looking to work aboard and the total number on their databases that could turn into a potential candidate over time. This will give you a good indication as to how much work is needed to attract the numbers they need to meet the agreed deployment.
International recruitment is not a quick process, and many regard it as a long-term strategy as many candidates can take up to a year to be deployed whilst they weave their way through the professional registration and visa process. Therefore, when agreeing the selection criteria, be open to the amount of experience required, and if a language requirement is essential to gain an interview. Broadening your selection criteria will allow you to access a greater number of candidates and the likelihood that you will fulfil your workforce needs. It is common practice to significantly offer over and above your vacancy needs with the knowledge many will not meet the deadlines required to start work, however it also allows you to pool talent against future vacancies. Many candidates will apply through more than just one agency, they are most likely to stop chasing further opportunities if they have received a job offer.
When choosing an agency, it is important to understand who the people are that operate the business, who will be managing your contract and who will be representing your facility. A large agency will have the advantages of extensive marketing and people resources but could lack a personal touch. A smaller but locally-based agency could be more in tune with the local community and be more responsive by changes in the market. Weigh up the pros and cons of both types of organisations before deciding on an appointment.
Building a partnership with an overseas agent places you in a great negotiating position. You’re offering agents the opportunity to break into overseas markets. Approach agents with an open mind, find out what they can offer and at what commission rate. Many agents set their rates as a percentage, however when committing to long term or large contracts, the agents will agree a fixed rate.
Rates will also be higher in developed nations. Ask about additional or hidden costs. Many agents in these countries will expect a marketing retainer. This is because there is a general shortage of skilled professionals and with a lack of candidates on their database. Agents will want to reduce any potential risks by asking for an upfront retainer. This can be worth the risk if both you and the agent are honest and transparent about how, when and where the money will be spent.
Examples of Fixed Commission Rates for nurses when working directly with overseas agents:
Once you have chosen and signed up your first overseas partner agency, a clear deployment strategy has to be agreed prior to commencing any activity. Ensure your memorandum of understanding (MoU) outlines each parties responsibility and who is going to do what and when. The agent needs to understands what verified documents are needed and how they will be presented and provided to fulfil GDPR and other legislation. Ensure you have a clear agreement with the agency as to the process when Certificates of Sponsorship (COS) are assigned to candidates to reduce the risk of candidate attrition and who is going to cover what visa costs. It is always recommended that the employer sets up an “international recruitment committee” prior to making the final decision. This group should include all stakeholders including HR, occupational leads, clinical managers, educational leads, facilities and when possible, the recruitment agency. This group can then work together to ensure an integrated approach to international recruitment keeping both candidates and patients in the centre of every decision.
At the centre of this process are the two most important aspect of any overseas recruitment: the candidate and the patient. Select the skills, competencies and values needed within your organisation for the patient. Understanding the motives, desires and ambitions of your candidates as it is imperative that the outcome to any international recruitment is happy staff. When choosing an agent, be conscious about the needs of the candidates from the very beginning and be realistic about how to measure success. Candidates who are motivated financially will need to gain affordable housing and transport to minimise costs, candidates motivated by gaining life experience will need flexible contractual or grouped days off to allow them to explore the country.