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 else, Part 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.
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