HR Lessons From a Senior Recruiter in the Corrections Business

The doctor applied for a job at a correctional facility, saying he was a convicted felon on his application.

Seriously?!

Being able to pass the background check is helpful if you want to work at a Federal Bureau of Prisons location.

Michele Dobos, PHR, senior recruiter at The GEO Group, Inc. sent him a thank you for applying, but no thank you email. Then sure enough, she got a phone call right after that.

Brrrrrrring! And she knew who it was.

This is Doctor So-and-So. I applied and was just wondering…

Dobos told him you have a federal conviction and spent time in a federal corrections facility. You can’t work in a federal corrections facility. She wasn’t rude, but just told him he wouldn’t be able to pass the clearance.

Basically, Dobos is in the corrections business working for a private government contractor in the corrections industry.

GEO owns and operates 106 facilities in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa for various federal and state entities. This includes approximately 85,500 beds and 20,000 employees.

A lot of people don’t know that there are private correctional and detention centers out there. They just assume the government runs everything, but they do outsource some things to manage costs and effectiveness.

Plus, a lot of the state-run facilities are very old and they’re getting run down with a lot of physical problems, so when private contractors can offer newer and more efficient, state-of-the-art facilities, that’s another plus.

How would she say that recruiting has changed in recent years?

During the recession from December 2007 to June 2009, specialists were still hard to find, but in general you could find people. “There were nurses I would talk to who were crying on the phone, I’ve never been unemployed in my life. I can’t find a job,” Dobos recalls.

Then the recovery came and the Affordable Care Act was passed, so everybody began hiring again. But now, she said we’re back to where we were before the recession.

The shortages are back, especially mid level providers, psychiatrists, general practitioners and in some locations, registered nurses. When fewer people go to school for some specialties, you’re going to have shortages down the road.

And not everybody wants to work in corrections, where she says, “You don’t put a correctional facility on beach front property!”

Then the Affordable Care Act changed health care to where it’s run like a business. So more and more practitioners are leaving private practice as they don’t want to deal with the insurance companies and keeping expensive malpractice insurance.

Why work in the corrections industry?

“Doctors who just want to practice medicine and care for people can do that,” Dobos says. They come to work, treat patients and leave. Typically, it’s a Monday through Friday job.

She adds that their doctors and nurses don’t have the pressure of dealing with billable hours, health insurance, ICD9s or carrying their own malpractice insurance.

“Plus, it’s a secured environment, which is a lot safer than going into an ER where somebody can pull a knife or gun on you,” she says. They have processes in place to bring detainees or inmates into the clinic.

There’s security staff there in the “medical” or health services department, which is set up like you’d see in a typical outpatient setting. Picture a waiting room, exam rooms, an office for the doctor to do paperwork and an administrative desk with a clerk sitting there.

Then there are some infirmary beds for when someone just can’t go back to a “housing unit” or cell, but they aren’t sick enough to go to a hospital. And they also have a suicide watch area.

“A correctional facility is like a little city,” Dobos explains. “You have to provide everything.”

How does Dobos get good job candidates?

  • Established relationships with locum tenens agencies that provide good customer service, quality referrals, rates and specialties, including mental health, in different locations, including California
  • Word of mouth referrals

If a healthcare provider doesn’t have a relationship with an agency, she suggests giving a new agency a small job. Then if they deliver, continue the relationship.

And let’s say it comes down to two locum tenens candidates with roughly the same qualifications for the same assignment. How would Dobos describe the candidate who gets the job?

  • Honest, clear, short and simple answers
  • CV matches job experience
  • No restrictions on professional license
  • Likeable personality
  • Can carry on respectful conversations with all kinds of people
  • Professional appearance and behavior
  • Experience in corrections

“The truth is always best. You might not get the job, but it’s always better because we’re going to find out sooner or later,” Dobos summarizes.

Michele-Dobos
Michele Dobos, PHR, senior recruiter at The GEO Group, Inc