Article

The Same Old, Old Same Old?

The State of ABA Recruiting in 2021

AUTHOR: Eric Smith
The Same Old, Old Same Old? The State of ABA Recruiting in 2021

Recruiting and retaining talent in the current economy can seem like a difficult task, especially in the autism care space. Nearly 40 million people are out of work in the country, people are continuing to apply for unemployment benefits and there are talks of additional government support. All of these have impacts on the labor market, but in the data we see, there are more people looking for jobs and fewer open positions than there were pre-COVID for all industries.

So, yes, there are more people looking for jobs, but you’re going to have to be where they’re looking, or you’ll never fill your open positions. A lot of companies are expecting this wave of applicants to hit and to fill all their positions instantly, but the truth is, the wave may never hit your island.

It’s the “Same Old, Same Old”

In the autism care space, smaller independent practices have always been up against organizations that had many more resources – all the right technology, the budgets to spend on job ads, etc. This is not going to change. It is the same old, same old. There may be some things you change about the way you operate day-to-day, but everything else will remain the same.

You’ll need to be visible to the job seekers.

You need to be on all of the job boards, and you’ll need one that allows you to easily text candidates and get them in for an interview. Larger organizations have these things, and they work.

New Year, Same Problem

No matter where you are recruiting or how you’re recruiting, we hear the same problems all the time.

“I can't get enough qualified candidates.”
“I have high staff turnover, what am I doing wrong there?”
“People join our team and their expectations are set wrong.”
“I’m spending late nights reviewing resumes and trying to figure out.”
“All I have is a resume, I don't have anything more sophisticated than that.”

Resumes only tell you so much, and it usually it doesn’t tell you much about the candidate’s qualifications in the autism care space because many times, they haven’t been a BT before. You may be spending insane amounts of money on job boards. And you may know deep down, you have an inconsistent interview process or an inconsistent hiring process. In a desperate state, you kind of throw out all the behavioral questions and you just have candidates come through. In the end, this process bites you.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Let’s talk a little bit about BTs and RBTs. We don’t always recruit for our clients, but we lend a helping hand if they ask. When they ask, we go deep into the trenches – attracting, screening, presenting, getting them in to interview and getting them hired, so we understand what it’s like from your perspective. Here are a few things that we’ve learned:

Tell it like it is

And that's both the good and the bad. First you should be telling your own company's story, your team's story, about what's compelling to work at your place versus any other place where a BT could. You may have a family culture, you may have an innovative culture, we know some ABA companies that pride themselves on that. But it needs to be authentic, and you need to tell your story the exact way it is.

Don’t sugar coat the harder side of the business

Dealing with difficult parents, exhausted parents, or dealing with tantrums, nothing is worse than not managing these expectations as they come in. So, tell these stories during the interview process and make it evident what the role entails.

Get your message across

Messaging your company and your culture everywhere that the candidate can see it makes a difference. This means your career site, job boards and job ads. All of those places are where candidates are determining whether you are their people or not.

Replicate what's working

Know what your top performers look like, where they come from, and get as many of those people as possible. That's going to help with performance and care, but it's also going to help with retention.

The Cloning Process – Top Tier BTs and RBTs

Think a little bit about your best BTs and RBTs.  They generally blend some compassion, some patience, with some real capability. You’ll be able to see it because both the children and parents will engage with them in a way that you can tell is special. Those are the ones that you want to be looking at. When you’re interviewing candidates, you should be looking for attributes, not so much skills. You’re hiring for aptitude and possibilities, rather than someone who’s got all the experience in the world.

We (and many in the industry) use a combination of pre-screening questions and past experience to filter out candidates. Where do your best people come from? If they come from a camp counselor background or they come from a teaching background, then replicate that.

We also use psychometric testing and industrial psychology to understand the basic personality, the likes and dislikes, the work preferences, and the cultural preferences of those BTs and RBTs that perform best. And then screen every candidate against those. The basic personality tests that both your high performers and your candidates take, are then used to match them up.

All of those things will increase your chances of no surprises as they come in. No surprises for you, because you know what you’re getting, and no surprises for the new hire, because their expectations have been set and they’ve gone through a process that makes it clear what you’re looking for.

The Recipe for A Strong Foundation

Do you have a career site that lists your jobs in real time? Can an applicant understand why it’s better to work for you versus the competitors or the other distractions they might have in the labor mark? Can they get a story? Can they see that you are their people? Can a candidate easily apply for a job using a smartphone?

Clicking on an email link to apply for a job is not easy, that’s not how candidates expect to apply for jobs. Around 80% of BTs and RBTs, will actually use their smartphone to apply for a job. So if you’re only looking at how to apply to your own place on your computer then you’re missing part of it, because a bad process can look really ugly on a smartphone and candidates just say, “Forget it, I’m not applying.”

Are you responding to reviews on Glassdoor and Indeed? Do you even know you have a profile page on Glassdoor and Indeed? Do you ever go there? What does it look like? How does it represent your company? Almost all of the people you will bring into your open roles are Gen Z or Millennials – meaning they’re 40 years old or younger. In that age group, they expect to have engaged employers.

Do you have any data at all that tells you that $100 spend on Indeed versus $50 on ZipRecruiter will get you more hires or not? Do you have any data that tells you anything about turnover? Do you have any data that says how quickly you’re engaging candidates once they finish their application? Is it two minutes, two hours, two days or two weeks? If it’s not within hours and it’s weeks, then you’re missing all the good candidates. They’re gone.

Quality Over Quantity

Once you build your foundation, more candidates isn’t always better. This is a hard lesson to learn for some people.

Think about it, you don't want to be looking through all the resumes and interviewing 40 or 400 applicants, you want to easily get it down to four or five candidates for screening and interviewing.

Use tools and technologies that can easily narrow it down for you. Let the technology handle the hard work. That’s what the big boys do.

The Status of Your Competitors
Your competitors are telling their story, they’re visible where they should.

They have a career site and they’re distributing all of their jobs in real time to Indeed, Glassdoor and Google. They sponsor jobs when they need to, and they have that capability.

They have an applicant tracking system.

It gives them an elegant and frictionless applicant process and its easy for them internally.

They have data.

They know where they should and shouldn’t spend money, they know whether their recruiters or their hiring managers are getting it done and moving candidates through, and so this is kind of what you’re up against.

The question is, what will you do about it?
What You Can Do ASAP
Know the person and the traits you’re recruiting for

You may be small enough to where you can do that by getting the hiring managers together and having a working session and creating some questions after that. You may want to do a survey of a broader group or engage some psychometric tests.

Stop over-selling the position

Especially if you’re suffering with turnover. If you’re suffering from turnover, it likely means that there’s a mismatch between what the expectation is of the candidate coming in and what they actually experience.

Invest in your recruiting foundation

Start with a career site & job board distribution and an applicant tracking system. Recruiting in the autism and ABA space is not going to change. It’s a growing field, there’s a great deal of competition for the best talent.

If you’re recruiting for autism and ABA staff in 2021, we are here to help you navigate the unique industry.