The CNA shortage is hitting crisis levels. With fewer available CNAs and an uptick in demand, healthcare facilities everywhere are feeling the pressure — especially when it comes to recruiting.

In fact, staff recruitment and retention is a top concern for nearly 80% of senior living executives.

That’s why it’s so important to put your best foot forward when hiring for CNA roles. It’s no longer enough to simply have a well-written job ad with a few creative perks.

Looking to add a CNA (or a few) to your team? Here’s how to make sure your role stands out so you attract the top talent.

Work on your reputation

Making sure you have a reputable presence in your local community is a great way to attract top talent. Even if you’re not hiring right now, building up a positive reputation today will help you when you are looking to expand your team.

If you have a prominent, positive position in the community, CNAs will look to you as a leader and be more inclined to want to become a part of that. It also provides recognition for their resume for future career development and opportunities. Prestige attracts top candidates.

Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool, too. As you become more plugged into the community, more people will talk about you, and you’ll have a bigger network to tap into to spread the word about any open job reqs.

“We’ve not had a huge issue with sourcing; we do really well with getting quality staff,” Monica Bonderer, staff development coordinator at a skilled nursing facility in rural Missouri told Monster. “We’re in a small rural community and everybody knows about us.”

Become a sponsor at local events or tap into local universities, community colleges, and vocational and technical schools. You can source a ton of enthusiastic recent grads who are eager to get some on-the-job experience.

Write a strong job posting

Even in the case of word-of-mouth, you’re likely going to need to write some sort of job ad. This is different from the job description: It should be less detailed and paint a positive, yet accurate, picture of the role. (Hence the word “ad” — remember, you’re trying to attract applicants.)

One idea is to focus on the rewards of the role. The Intelligence Group found that 64% of Millennials want to make the world a better place, and your CNA role could be one way to do that.

Check out this comprehensive article on how to write a job ad your for CNA opening >

Invite applicants to your facility

Some things can’t be conveyed in writing, or even pictures. For your top applicants, you’ll want to invite them to visit your facility so they can get an in-person feel for the place — and you can prove what a great place it is to work.

“It can be an isolating job, you have to make [applicants] feel like they work for someone somewhere,” says Laura Tunberg, owner of Visiting Angels Reseda. “Have them pop by. We do events for our caregivers like potlucks where they bring their favorite dish, movie nights, and baseball games, and we do continuing education in the office.”

“You have to make [applicants] feel like they work for someone somewhere.” –Laura Tunberg, owner, Visiting Angels Reseda

This instills a sense of community and inclusivity, as well as demonstrates your commitment to employee development and satisfaction.

Wage

Offer the most attractive wage that your budget will realistically allow. Not sure what qualifies as “attractive”? Use averages as a starting point.

PayScale estimates an average hourly wage of $12.19 ($27k annually), while Glassdoor also comes in at $27k. and ZipRecruiter has a page dedicated to breaking down average CNA salaries by state.

“Pay is №1,” says Tunberg. “We have higher minimum wage in our area which makes it harder, but you still have to offer more.” CNAs apply to several jobs in a single day — and they often use pay as the first deciding factor. Even a $0.50/hour difference can take a job out of consideration.

And if you can’t offer a higher wage in the beginning, implement a plan that will help CNAs earn more over time. “We do that through our 5-star caregiver program,” she says. “CNAs achieve benchmarks that make them eligible for a raise.”

Remember that you’re also competing with CNAs wanting to go private. “They can make as much as 50% more,” says Tunberg. To combat this, you can also consider sign-on and regular bonuses.

Benefits and perks

Beyond wage, potential employees also need to know about your benefits package and any unique perks of the job. “Offering benefits is huge,” Tunberg says. “We offer paid time off, health insurance, and continuing education. We believe that helps us in the recruiting department.”

In addition to health, insurance, and retirement benefits, look at unique perks you can offer CNAs. Some ideas:

  • Free public transportation passes
  • Discounts and free passes to local attractions
  • Flexible schedule
  • On-site/free childcare
  • Friendly workplace competitions
  • Rewards system
  • Employee appreciation events
  • Team-building activities
  • Tuition contributions and scholarships
  • Discounted or free shoes/scrubs/eyewear/etc.
  • Extra health benefits like mental health and physical therapy

Focus on a supportive environment

You could argue that this is an added perk to the job, but you really want to focus on fostering a supportive environment. “Remember, this is a career, and you have to treat it as such,” says Tunberg. “Offer caregivers room for advancement. If you don’t offer anything to your caregivers, you’re doing yourself a disservice. These are very special people and you have to treat them as such.”

CNAs face a lot of tough challenges and don’t always receive the recognition they deserve. “CNAs are some of the most underpaid, underappreciated, and overworked people,” says former CNA Mary Munez. “You can literally take any other job for the same amount of money without having to comply with crazy state and federal laws, dealing with unhappy patients, micromanaging directors, and families. Not to mention, you’re basically the custodian for people’s bodily functions.”

So what does “being supportive” look like? Munez has some ideas:

  • “Provide more training and mental health breaks or give them a professional they can speak with. CNAs go through a lot.”
  • “Provide staff with as many physical support options as possible — we have to transfer 500 lb. patients, manage bodily fluids, and are constantly around communicable diseases.”
  • “Let the CNAs have some say in projects and activities for the facility and the residents.”
  • Offer job security for people who stay with the company for a certain amount of time with good behavior and attendance. Then offer some sort of guaranteed increase if they continue quality service.”

Tunberg recommends focusing on how your facility is different than others, citing specific processes and steps you take to support your staff. “We have a very thorough orientation where we talk about dos and don’ts of the job,” she says. “Our caregivers will never go to a house before meeting a client first. We match the caregiver’s skill level with the client needs.”

Sealing the deal

It’s important to give candidates updates every step of the way. This will make them feel more in the loop, as well as give them the impression that you’re a proactive and clear communicator — important traits for an employer to have.

80% of applicants would be discouraged to consider other openings at a company that didn’t give them updates on their application status. This is a problem especially when high turnover means you frequently need to revisit your candidate pool. If you notify them, they’ll be 3.5 times more likely to re-apply for future roles.

Be ready to negotiate at this step, too. It’s not unrealistic to think that your top CNA candidate has also applied to and interviewed for multiple other opportunities. If they make a reasonable request, be prepared to acquiesce.

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