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‘Virtual open house’ used by Renown in recruitment

John Seelmeyer

The potential applicants had dozens of questions about schools, weather, working conditions even whether northern Nevada is home to professional hockey.

But unlike traditional employment interviews, these potential applicants were able to ask their questions anonymously as Renown Health conducted its first virtual open house.

Thirty-six potential candidates for nursing positions at the Reno-based medical system logged on for the session late last month. On the other end of the line were five Renown Health recruiters, four nurse managers and a couple of representatives of the advertising agency that assists Renown with nurse recruitment.

The net from the three-hour session? Two candidates one from Florida, one from Alaska made applications to join Renown.

That might not seem like a big harvest given the investment that Renown made in the virtual open house, but Dennis Hoban, the organization’s director of recruitment services, was beaming.

Given the exceptionally tight supply of nurses nationwide, and costs that run from $10,000 to $45,000 to fill a single nursing vacancy, Hoban says two qualified leads is a solid outcome.

At a more traditional career fair, he says, Renown’s representatives compete with every other health employer in the building.

But with the virtual open house, a program created by Nurse Week magazine, Renown had the full attention of potential applicants who already had shown interest in learning more.

And by hosting a virtual open house, Renown ensured that the potential nursing candidates were comfortable with technology.

“It’s the reality of our world,” Hoban says. “These nurses need to be comfortable with that reality.”

Renown recruiters believe that the virtual open house may have opened a pool of applicants who hadn’t been drawn by the organization’s traditional recruiting efforts.

Because the potential applicants were anonymous, some of their questions were the awkward ones about pay, for instance that often don’t get asked in preliminary interviews. And that helps screen applicants early in the process.

Renown aggressively promoted the event in advance, says Laurie Brucks, a marketing business partner with the organization.

It placed notices in professional magazines’ calendars, sent advertising collateral with recruiters at career fairs, pushed the event on its own Web site and hit its database of applicants with invitations to participate.

Nurse Week also promoted the event, sending two e-mails to each of the 500,000 nurses in its proprietary database. On its advertising rate card, Nurse Week lists a price of $24,900 to host a virtual open house such as the event at Renown.