Hiring practices to meet todays needs

05 Mar Hiring practices to meet todays needs

One of the greatest challenges in Rural and Remote services has always been staffing our services. This is not a new issue, yet with the continual increase in demands for services in EMS, this has become a very prevalent one. Along with the need for increased numbers of staff we run into the issues surrounding the increased expectations from all involved. Paramedics are now expected to do more than ever before, but at the same time as providers we have to make sure our staff is meeting the needs and demands of the current and future systems.

Yet since I get to write this week’s blog post on the topic I want to focus this article on the topic of hiring trends and what are we looking for in a new Paramedic?

Topics such as how do we convince people from our own communities that Paramedicine is an amazing profession as well as how do we convince people from other parts of the province to leave their homes and travel thousands of kilometers away to take on a new adventure in life have been talked about for years often with the same results.

Yet now that we have been changing our hiring processes and tactics to meet the increased demands, our thoughts are moving to “are doing the right things to get the right staff for our needs and situations”?

Written Application

One of the first issues we tackled when we decided to switch things up a few years ago was the simple resume to application process. When we first started this we pulled in several staff for a week or two at a time to go through the hundred plus resumes simply to find key criteria (did they have an F Class, did they have CPR, etc.…). Yes… less than 200 applications is a small amount for some services but when you consider one person had to go through each application one at a time… it was a lot and quite overwhelming. By moving to a standard application and having the same things on the same page was shocking simple but moreso to the fact that we had never thought of it before.

I remember sitting with our HR Department at the time and discussing spelling, the fact that some applicants wouldn’t even bother filling out the form and would put “see my resume” instead of the information we needed and I wasn’t sure where to stand on the issue of how picky we should be on the little things. Then we discussed what we expected of our Paramedics in their documentation… “See notes”, “forgot to fill that out”, “I’ll get around to it later” were things we saw often and yes… we took a hard stance with our applications. Looking back it definitely was the right move only selecting those who filled out their applications properly right from the start.

Skills Review and Scenarios

Not too long ago we also conducted the traditional “beat the sheet” skills evaluations which we hoped would tell us if someone knew how to think on their toes and run through all the situations that a Paramedic would encounter. We also met with the potential candidate’s one on one as we wanted to look them in the eye and make sure they were the perfect fit for our organizations. We watched them use all the equipment, we did lift and written testing as well… but all the while kept on seeing the same issues arising. We continued to evolve with our hiring, yet at the same time we often were still trying to meet our own style of check boxes.

For our service, our change began when we first moved to the Global Rating Scale (GRS) form of evaluations several as it began showing us that the old style beat the sheet simply was not telling us what we needed to know during interviews or even in remedial situations. Yes it did show us that our Paramedics knew the steps to performing a skill, but it did not show us that they could think about varying reasons, options and adapt in a variety of situations.

Almost anyone can memorize processes but when you are looking for a Paramedic who can think on the go, adapt and look outside of their comfort zones, beat the sheet simply did and does not work for what we needed it to do anymore. For us moving forward this was one of the first and biggest changes that we made to our hiring practice and now we have to start using the information we are getting back to help drive our training forward.


Following along these lines, we wanted to continue ensuring our whole hiring practice had as little bias as possible, that the candidates were at the highest skill level possible but at the same time we wanted to know if our candidates were going to be a good fit for our company. This brought us to our interviews where we traditionally had our candidates meeting face to face in the traditional one on one or one to two style interview year to year.

Thanks to some friends who had ventured down this path recently, this year we decided to try move our hiring process to the next phase by implementing the the Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI’s). By having multiple people involved in the interviews instead of only one or two people, we found it was easier to eliminate biases but at the same time we found such diversity in the interviewing process that we are seeing more issues arise than ever before. The one on one or panel style interviews have been a tradition for most and so hard to let go of… yet again it truly was amazing to see things pop up like the general lack of knowledge in standards and legislation that we expect of all Paramedics, something that we will now be addressing in our onboarding process.

Time will tell if this new method of interviewing will be better for us in determining if a person is the right fit for our company though, but for now it’s already proving its worth by helping us identify issues before our new staff even walk in the door.

With morals and values, the ethical standards and other areas we would love to delve into and hope to get a sense of when we conduct our interviews, we still have to refine and focus our questioning but even moving ahead in this direction has caused us to shake up our traditions and start thinking about what we feel the ideal Paramedic would be (now isn’t that a loaded question in itself?).

What’s next?

With hiring we have found that if we kept doing the same thing over and over again, we got the same results over and over again. Shocking isn’t it?

Yet moving forward, our “profession” is changing at a rapid pace and our future is looking to be a lot different than most are used to, let alone expected when we came into this field. With this, we do have to adapt and have to ensure that those coming in are ready for the changes that is coming to our field and to our communities.

The tough questions will always remain though, what is our ideal candidate moving forward and how do we adapt to asses for that ideal candidate?

We are extremely proud of our staffs who have weathered all the changes throughout the years, yet moving forward we have to do our best to ensure they have the best partners and at the same time have to ensure that as a service our community needs are met as well.

We now know that when we hire a new Paramedic we have to bring most candidates up to date with the latest standards, legislation and even. We will continue to do needs analysis’ each year to ensure our onboarding process is meeting our needs but we also need to work on getting quicker feedback from our current staff on their perceptions of what we can be doing during onboarding. We know that we have to improve the preceptorship system, look at developing a mentorship program and help these new Paramedics grow with us as best possible. Along with this we have to continue to grow our relationships with community and provincial partners so we can continue to be on top of what is occurring across the province if we are to improve the services we are offering in our district.

With all this, we know we are doing better than ever before on our hiring, and that all has to be credited to an amazing team we have. Our Paramedics who are working with our new hires when they make it through the onboarding, our amazing Field Training Officers who take such great pride in helping teach new staff when they walk in the door to the team behind the scenes who do so much to make all the gears work and everything run like clockwork.

Yet… each year, we have to strive to do keep improving.

If you have thoughts or tips on what has worked or what hasn’t for your service, we would love to hear from you as we are continually modifying our hiring plans to meet our needs. Thanks to those who have helped us change things up a bit… it’s truly helping and we’re looking forward to it continuing each and every time.