Beautiful mixed race doctor greets a nurse during job interview. The women are shaking hands.
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Senior living operators looking to fill director-level positions should focus on a candidate’s cultural fit within a community rather than focusing on experience, according to one senior living marketing consultant.

In a white paper analyzing its senior living recruiting services, Bild & Co. reviewed more than 35 recruiting case studies from 2022 and 2023 across 11 states for regional, executive and sales directors.

On average, Bild reported, more than 100 applicants apply for a regional position, 40 for a sales position and 35 for an executive director position. After screening, an average of 10 candidates are interviewed for a position, which is filled within approximately two months, according to the senior living marketing consulting company.

Although Bild found that new sales executive hires have a retention rate of 80% past the first 90 days on the job, CEO Jennifer Saxman told McKnight’s Senior Living that she was “disheartened” to see that after nine months, that retention figure drops to 40%.

The industry accepts that turnover as the norm, Saxman said, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The problem, she added, is that senior living companies always are looking for someone better than the last candidate, when they should be focusing on quality candidates who can bring fresh perspectives.

“Job experience is important, but we’re lifelong trainers,” Saxman said. “I would rather bring in someone with the personality and who can contribute to our culture.”

The senior living industry, she said, likes to talk about culture, but she challenged companies to “put your money where your mouth is.” She relayed her own story, as a 22-year-old college graduate that someone “took a chance on.” She was hired at a continuing care retirement community and said she excelled in her position after receiving training and encouragement.

“Where are more of those people? If you want the right culture or to bring youth into our space, look at recent college graduates,” Saxman said, adding that spending time on someone from outside the industry who is “hungry and wants to grow” can help companies build successful teams.

In its talent assessment, Bild found that 29% of candidates who ranked the highest in recruitment had a high sincerity factor and high empathy for others’ needs. And 22% overall had a high drive for economic gain, which helped provide motivation during long projects and assignments.

The highest ranked traits among senior living executive-level candidates included their ability to be interactive and gregarious with people, as well as patient, passive and complacent. Other common traits successful candidates had included being deliberate, agreeable, independent and balanced.

“A lot of our clients do not realize how important and how much influence the right executive director has on the sales individual’s success,” Saxman said, adding that community leaders must be good at more than managing the budget and the operational side of a community.

“That’s a dynamic role. The executive director has to be the one keeping their finger on the pulse of what’s going on at the sales side,” she said.