Hiring in Today’s O&P Environment

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By Jena Baxter
Jena Baxter

I have been a recruiter for 14 years with the last four spent working solely with O&P private practices, manufacturers, and distributors. Recruiting in general is like riding a roller coaster with the up and down market fluctuations also affecting hiring and employment. But O&P recruiting and hiring patterns during the last quarter of 2012 through this point in 2013 have been particularly difficult to predict due to external pressures on businesses including the uncertainties associated with a presidential election, Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) audits, and healthcare reimbursement. It began with an abnormal decrease in hiring for the last quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013; several of our firm's clients put hiring freezes in place. Once the dust had settled and companies were ready to hire, however, we saw an exponential increase in accepted job offers of 42 percent from the first to second quarter of 2013. We had more O&P professionals get job offers in the second quarter of this year than we've had quarterly in the last four years.

While it's encouraging to see the hiring trend we saw in the second quarter, economics still play a factor in the methods O&P businesses are using in their hiring processes. Employers and recruiters alike can place classified ads, network, and build referral sources to find candidates with the specific backgrounds, certifications, and licensures they require for the positions for which they are hiring. Unlike some other professions, in my experience, searches through general job board postings often do not yield candidates with the specialized credentials and experience in demand for O&P positions. It's much more advantageous and cost effective to direct your advertising toward the targeted audience of industry periodicals, websites, and events.

In a market that is often candidate driven, which includes non-local candidates and those contemplating more than one position, potential employers need to have an interview game plan. Your game plan should start with developing your hiring strategy and continue through the onboarding process. We have seen an increase in conducting initial interviews via Skype or videoconferencing for out-of-town interviewees. This is a cost-effective tool that gives the employer and employee a chance to "meet" one another without paying for a costly plane ticket. Videoconferencing gives both parties a chance to see the other person's body language and facial expressions. A few important videoconference interview tips include testing out the microphone before getting on the call, making sure the other person is listed in your contacts so you can answer the call, and having a clean space without distractions. Videoconferencing is not a substitute for an in-person interview. It is important to make the most of your investment in a face-to-face interview especially if you bring in a candidate from out of town. An easy and free way to make a great impression with a candidate is to send him or her a simple e-mail containing an interview itinerary. It should include all parties involved in the interview process, job titles, agenda, addresses, travel itinerary, and any required documentation. This gives him or her an opportunity to mentally prepare for the interview and develop effective questions targeted toward specific individuals with whom he or she will be meeting. It is important to remember that both parties are interviewing one another. It is just as essential for interviewers to seem prepared and organized as it is an interviewee.

We have seen a change in the O&P industry, including educational requirements, technology, compliance, and reimbursement. The one thing I have found that hasn't changed is why people are drawn to this profession: They genuinely care about making a difference in people's lives.

Jena Baxter is a senior account manager specializing in recruiting for the O&P profession at The Newell Group, headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina. Baxter received her bachelor's degree in human resource management and marketing from the University of South Carolina, Columbia.