Career fairs are making a comeback




Sarah, a nurse job applicant at a career fair, walked down the aisle, loudly chewing gum as she pushed a stroller with a crying baby. She was wearing carpenter jeans and a tank top.

Sarah said she had a resumé somewhere, if she could find it in the diaper bag. She was making quite an impression — the recruiters were backing away as she approached. Sarah’s an example of a career fair “don’t”.

Live career fairs are thriving again: They’re filled with candidates — stellar ones and some like Sarah. Nursing shortages are making fairs a viable solution for employers aiming to attract and hire nurses who are just starting out or looking for a career change.

Some job candidates are in a position to be picky if they position themselves appropriately and professionally as solutions to organizations’ prime problem: nursing job vacancies.

Today’s career fairs are a little different from those in the past, and job candidates need to adapt. Those prior frenetic events, heavily laced with continuing education sessions and dozens of booths with giveaways and a party atmosphere, have morphed into something more intimate.

Expect scarcer events, fewer booths and recruiters who have time to scrutinize candidates, whereas they might have had only split-second exchanges during previous events. And a good rule of thumb is to be prepared for quick, back-to-back, serious interviews.

Some tips for successful career fair cruising:

1 — Read my Nurse.com career blogs, including the series on interviewing: Part 1: Nurse interview tips for millennials, Gen Xers and everyone elsePart 2: It’s your turn to ask questions and Part 3: The art of informational interviewing.

2 — Thoroughly research the event. Make sure to register and plan your time; it will be limited. If the organization sponsoring the career fair advertises the exhibiting employers beforehand, prioritize the ones you want to visit and their locations. For example, Nurse.com gives access to a list of exhibitors before the event to those who register for its Career Days. And don’t discount single-organization or specialty-focused career fairs or online career events.

3 — Adhere to the hackneyed phrase “dress for success.” Your attire should be conservative and unmemorable. Recruiters have told me that candidates do not want to be remembered negatively for what they wore when meeting or interviewing with recruiters.

4 — Mind your body language. You are onstage as soon as you walk down the aisle, so stand tall and exude confidence.

5 — Cruise the booths by yourself. Leave your kids at home, and don’t travel in a pack with friends. This is only about you.

6 — Come prepared. Have readily accessible, slick, but neat copies of your resumé that you can leave with recruiters, as well as business cards with all of your contact information.

7 — Have a well-rehearsed elevator speech. Be prepared to deliver a one-minute, persuasive speech that markets who you are and why someone would want to hire you.

One final tip is to learn to be likable. If you have time beyond your elevator pitch, work on endearing yourself to the interviewing recruiters, who may not be nurses.

At the end of the day, the job market can be like high school, and people will hire those that they like. Figure out how to be one of those; but meanwhile, smile and start with a good handshake.


Courses related to ‘growing your career’

CE166-60: Networking for Career Advancement
 (1 contact hr)

Networking is one of the most important career-building tools available to any professional, including nurses. So whether a nurse is hunting for a job, seeking a promotion, running for office, starting a business, seeking consultative work, pursuing higher education, entering public service or writing for publication, networking is an effective sales and marketing strategy for building a positive power base to attain long- and short-term career goals. This educational activity will provide guidance on networking for career advancement.

WEB299: Progressing to School Successfully: Is Now the Time for a BSN?
 (1 contact hr)

Technology changes. Healthcare changes. And nursing is changing. Advance forward in your career by progressing to school successfully! With the 2020 goal of 80% of nurses holding a bachelor’s degree, what is the current distribution of degrees within nursing? What information do you need to consider to help you pursue your BSN and to become a part of the 80%? Become informed and motivated with this webinar.

WEB329: Empowering Your Nursing Career
 (1 contact hr)

Do you feel empowered to navigate your career? Are you trying to decide which specialty to pursue, how to begin your professional nursing career, or how to make a change to an existing career? Learn about how you can make your personality characteristics work for you by considering correlated nursing specialties and environments you might enjoy more than others. Learn about leadership and lifestyle choices to create balance and motivation for your nursing calling!


About the author
Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN

Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN 

Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN, is OnCourse Learning's executive vice president and chief clinical executive. He also is founder and CEO of the Forum for Shared Governance (www.SharedGovernance.org). As an editor for Nurse.com/Nursing Spectrum, Hess penned editorials on career topics. As a presenter at professional conferences, Hess often addresses participants on how to find the right job and steps for building a successful career. Join his Facebook followers at Robert G Hess Jr.

2 responses to “Career fairs are making a comeback”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *