University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Talent Acquisition Program

By redesigning a service aimed at assisting applicants to low-skilled jobs, a major hospital network would be able to improve the application experience for people and enjoy stronger applicants that are focused on building their career.


University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is a major hospital and health insurance provider in Western Pennsylvania. Recruiting at UPMC is particularly tricky because, not only are they the largest employers in the state, but they also provide care and/or insurance for the majority of Pittsburgh area residents. A poor experience applying and interviewing for a job can negatively affect the public perception of the organization at large – a balancing act Talent Acquisition has at the forefront of their mind.

Partially in response to this Talent Acquisition established a program, in partnership with community volunteers, to provide a series of courses to help people overcome barriers to employment in service and support positions.

This program, POWRR, provides candidates with an extra advantage when applying to a position because of an inside advocate. It benefits UPMC by incentivizing people in traditionally high-turnover positions to be more invested in their career growth.

However, the program was not as effective as initially imagined and the Talent Acquisition team wanted to improve their results.


Our exploratory research included a competitive analysis, contextual inquiry, expert and user interviews, as well as a survey of entry-level applicants at a variety of companies. These activities allowed us to understand where the program was at currently, how UPMC HR employees might want to see it improve, and common pain points for participants.

We identified several opportunity areas, but decided to focus our ideation on three that would have the most impact to POWRR and which could integrate together to become part of a larger service improvement.

  1. Connect workforce candidates with mentors/current employees to offer guidance and support throughout the application process (and beyond)
  2. Ease difficulty of getting to the interview (both travel to location and within the hospital/building)
  3. Enable and better communicate opportunities for growth within UPMC


Focusing on these key opportunity areas, we developed a series of scenarios around improving the entry-level applicant experience. The concepts focused on three main areas: revamping the curriculum, building a community, and professional development.

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We tested our concepts with both current and former UPMC HR employees, including those working in POWRR and as career coaches for Support and Service (S/S) workers.

Speed Dating

This allowed us to assess what would be feasible and most impactful for both applicants and hiring managers. Each of these concepts focused on a small portion of the overall service. Once we had our feedback, we prioritized based on biggest impact and greatest feasibility/desirability. The concepts we chose to pursue were:

1) Reorganizing the course content to better focus on the theme of each course and create take home materials in a folder that best captured the key points to remember.

2) Updating the teaching materials while integrating many of the lessons we heard from the teachers on how they were using the current materials. We discovered many were skipping over things, spending longer on others, and inserting personal anecdotes based on feedback they had gathered from participants over the years. We wanted to preserve that should another volunteer teacher need to take over.

3) Building a program microsite. A large portion of the participants did not have internet access at home, but the classes were often hosted in places that did, such as the library or YMCA. By having an online presence, this could better connect with resume building on the computer, applying online to positions, and responding to emails from HR representatives. This would also allow participants to see the wide array of locations that courses were being offered at should their current location not be the most convenient.


From our testing, we determined that reworking the curriculum for POWRR classes would have the greatest impact for S/S applicants. As we dug into the way classes were run to assess the strengths and weaknesses, our goal was to find a way to provide more interaction, greater retention of information and better support for students inside the classes and after they’ve been hired.

The result is a series of interactive activities for the community partners to incorporate into lessons, a better alignment across what is being said in class and what is included in the slides shown, more takeaways, and a centralized place to find information about POWRR classes, the lessons learned, and people to contact if a student needs support or guidance.


After the class, the representatives working with the class asked our team to come and present our findings to their colleagues. We were able to voice our findings and recommendations.