Biomeds with superior communication skills and solid work experience are in demand.

 Recruitment for the field of biomedical engineering is a bit different than for many other industries because of biomed’s specialized niche. Technicians and engineers must fulfill a variety of other needs in addition to their main specialty of repairing and performing preventive maintenance (PM) on medical equipment. Biomeds must be able to communicate with customers and peers, write well, and get along with a variety of personalities.

Recruitment Procedures Vary
Obviously, different firms and companies have different recruitment procedures. Some biomed departments outsource their services to providers such as Masterplan, TriMedx, or ARAMARK while others choose to hire their own employees to staff their department.

Masterplan Inc, Chatsworth, Calif, is a third-party provider in technology management and medical equipment maintenance and management with 1,400 customers nationwide. TriMedx, Indianapolis, is a collaborative service provider that offers medical equipment repair, PM, technical skill development, and technology management services to health care facilities. ARAMARK Healthcare Management Services provides a clinical equipment maintenance program to more than 500 hospitals across the country and employs more than 1,100 biomedical technicians, clinical and imaging engineers and experts.

Most third-party providers recruit heavily through technical schools and programs. This practice is more common now than in years past due to the increasing number of biomedical and clinical engineering degree programs.

“The biomed programs that require internships for a degree are the ones we prefer because we know that the students have had hands-on experience,” says Jenifer Brown, director of recruitment, clinical engineering and imaging, ARAMARK Healthcare Management Services-Clinical Technology Services, Charlotte, NC.

Eloisa Abarques, director of human resources for Masterplan says that she hires biomed trainees from technical schools, such as DeVry Institute of Technology or ITT, but Masterplan has its own training facility in Tennessee for recruits. It is not unusual for some of Masterplan’s recruits to be trained on the job by experienced employees.

Masterplan posts available job openings online at Monster’s and Yahoo’s job Web sites among others, and in trade magazines. Abarques notes that despite all the advertising online and in print, most of their responses come from referrals and by word of mouth.

TriMedx also uses industry publications, annual symposiums, and the online Biomed Listserv to recruit qualified applicants. “Because this industry is a niche market, you can’t look at mainly one or two resources,” Brown says. “You have to use every resource to find candidates—not just colleges and the military. Leave no stone unturned.”

Word of mouth is a tried-and-true job recruiting resource, and Patrick Lynch, CBET, MBA, CCE, director of biomedical engineering at Northside Hospital in Atlanta depends on it. “The majority of our new hires are from word of mouth,” he says. “This works well because they already know someone in the department to help them integrate, and this helps them become a solid team. For example, we have three employees who worked together in the Navy. Their teamwork goes way back, and because of this, they are a tremendous asset to us.”

Glenn Scales, assistant director, Department of Clinical Engineering, Duke University Health System, Durham, NC, advertises job openings in the North Carolina Biomedical Association’s Web site and newsletter. The Web site is accessed by biomeds nationwide who are searching for job openings, and the newsletter also enjoys a national circulation. Both are popular resources for job seekers in the biomed field, and both list jobs available nationwide.

Experience Usually Trumps Education
“Education provides a good foundation, but experience is the most important factor because it provides some insight into candidates’ core abilities. This may be difficult to uncover by education alone. It is the unique opportunities and circumstances that develop individuals’ skills for growth in the industry,” says Angela M. Acrey, human resources director for TriMedx.

Nonetheless, TriMedx prefers an associate’s degree and industry certification for most technician positions. For most management level positions, a bachelor’s degree in clinical or biomedical engineering is preferred, but may require a master’s in clinical engineering.

Lynch agrees that considering a candidate’s past work experience is often the key to hiring a good employee. “Experience is the most important. We don’t have fixed minimum criteria for education,” he says. “We don’t require a degree.” One reason for not requiring a degree is that Lynch has up to $175,000 per year available for additional training for the 18 members of his biomed staff. This training is provided over and above the training provided by manufacturers when new equipment is purchased. Lynch never has had to deny his employees additional training, and he even pushes it.

ARAMARK’s Clinical Technology Services does not require new hires to have the CBET degree, according to Brown. ARAMARK views certification as an asset, not a requirement. Brown prefers but does not require technicians to have at least an associate’s degree and management personnel to have a bachelor’s degree or related experience.

“We hire lots of military for biomed and imaging,” she says. “They have military and technical training, but not a degree. We’ll hire them because their military training and experience is great.”

Scales agrees that education, although important, is sometimes secondary to a demonstrated ability to fulfill the position’s requirements.

“It depends somewhat on the needs of the position—entry level or specialized, such as the cath lab,” he says.

“In interviewing, education and experience are important, but I’m looking to hire a person, not credentials. I can

train good people, those who have a good worth ethic, a good attitude, and the ability to communicate well with their peers. You have to recruit for the technical needs—for specialized positions, I want to recruit someone with experience.”

The Best of the Rest
Everyone who is responsible for hiring personnel has a particular method of determining the best candidates for the job and weeding out job applicants. “The best candidates are determined by their core abilities, which are defined by TriMedx as knowledge, integrity, presentation, communication, and flexibility,” Acrey says. “Knowledge is having the know-how to perform the essential functions of the job. Integrity is inspiring trust through personal leadership. Presentation is having the ability to look and act appropriately while performing all functions of the job. Communication is having the ability to speak in a nonthreatening way at every level of an organization. The final factor is flexibility, which is a candidate’s willingness to travel and/or relocate as needed for a position.”

Lynch has his own three basic criteria for determining the candidates he should interview. He looks for job seekers who have 1) a sound basic education in the fundamentals of electricity; 2) a good work ethic; and 3) the ability to get along well with coworkers and customers.

Brown examines many factors when considering a job applicant.

“I really scrutinize the resumé and look for things like position, longevity, and employment gaps. Does their job objective match their experience? Most important, [I consider] whether they are entry level or experienced and [assess] their customer service skills. Because we are a multi-vendor provider, we have to see a customer-service-oriented personality through proven experience in customer service.”

Call-Back Candidates
Once the best candidates have survived the first cut, the applications are scrutinized further, and the next round of interviews begins. Many recruiters look for one single, most important attribute when determining the best candidate for the job. That one characteristic or strength varies according to the needs of the recruiter and the requirements of the job.

Scales seeks out solid communication skills. “Our staff has to understand how to interact with a customer who’s unhappy with the service and has to be able to write reports,” Scales says. “There’s no predicting how our staff will need to interact with others on the job. Also, JCAHO accreditation surveyors now talk to technical staff.”

Abarques looks for customer service experience when hiring someone and notes how job candidates handle accounts with customers, how they interact with customers, and what kind of problem-solving skills they possess.

For Acrey, although it depends on the position and the client’s specific needs, technical proficiency or good communication skills are most important.

In some instances, communication skills can determine ultimate job success or failure. Lynch recalls former employees who could not get along with many of the people they encountered daily in their biomed position.

“Every single person I’ve had to terminate was [let go] because of [poor] interpersonal relationships, not because of lack of technical skills. I literally have had employees that I had to move to every department in the hospital until they ‘burned all their bridges’ and there was no place to go but out the door,” Lynch says.

In the specialized niche of biomed there is no standard technique to finding the best employees, and what works for one business or hospital will not work for another. But paying special attention to candidates’ interpersonal skills in addition to their technical skills and past work experience can help ease the process.

Advice to Job Seekers
Whether looking for that elusive first job or making a mid-career switch, the job application process can rattle the nerves. Angela M. Acrey, director of human resources for TriMedx advises anyone seeking a job in the biomedical engineering field, whether a first-time job searcher or someone looking for career advancement opportunities, to first determine what they want from the position they are applying for. She recommends job seekers find a mentor to help them get the most out of their profession.

 Face interviews with confidence by planning ahead, experts advise.

“Individuals’ perspectives impact their attitude, outlook toward education, and their ability to maintain the five core abilities to be successful in the industry: knowledge, integrity, presentation, communication, and flexibility,” she explains.

Classes on technical resumé writing and interviewing skills are available as individual seminars or at many biomedical conferences. These courses can be very helpful to someone who is beginning a job search in this niche field, according to Jenifer Brown, director of recruitment, clinical engineering and imaging, ARAMARK Healthcare Management Services-Clinical Technology Services, Charlotte, NC, who teaches such a class.

“In an interview, candidates may answer the question but don’t back it up,” Brown says. “The candidate needs to go into the interview as if he’s giving a sales presentation. Research a company, have examples to give that have been rehearsed ahead of time. One example is to provide a situation or conflict and tell how it was resolved and how you made a difference by saving money or time.”

Glenn Scales, assistant director, Department of Clinical Engineering, Duke University Health System, Durham, NC, also emphasizes the importance of showing up prepared to an interview.

“Come to the job interview prepared for anything that might come your way,” he says. “Show up on time. Dress well. First impressions really do matter. I can’t say how many times people have shown up for an interview poorly dressed. I don’t expect them to wear a suit, but they should dress well.”

Those just getting out of school with little or no work experience should try to sell themselves to a potential employer by focusing on their integrity and work ethic. Any experience, additional training, or specialized certification should be mentioned to the interviewer, along with academic achievements.

For those with work training and experience, “it’s more important what they’ve actually achieved with previous employers and [what] their reasons [were] for leaving,” says Eloisa Abarques, director of human resources for Masterplan Inc, Chatsworth, Calif.

Above all, job candidates should be themselves during an interview, says Patrick Lynch, CBET, MBA, CCE, director of biomedical engineering at Northside Hospital in Atlanta.

“If you try to put on a false persona or embellish your abilities or minimize differences in other jobs, they will come to light,” Lynch says. “Some people send me a resumé for every job opening I have, and they never come back to ask why they weren’t hired or what their shortcomings are. I won’t [volunteer that information], but if they asked me, I would tell them. Wanting to know shortcomings and working to improve them improve a person’s stature in my eyes.” —LG

Laura Gater is a contributing writer for 24×7.