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Career Fair Preparation

Meet who you should. Impress who you must. Accomplish what you want.

Job fairs are a great way to find a nursing position.  In one place at one time, you’ll identify potential opportunities, submit your resume for several positions, and meet with recruiters for on-the-spot interviews.  But this wealth of riches is also a double-edged sword.  If you are not prepared, you may not make a best first impression or meet representatives from the organizations that may be a great fit for you.

Getting the most out of a job fair requires preparation before and tenacity during the event.  The following suggestions will help you get ready for a successful job fair.

Why Are Career Fairs Helpful?

Why Are Career Fairs Helpful?

  • There are lots of reasons why job fairs are a great job search tool.   

  • You’ll get information about potential employers and learn about currently open positions.

  • You can gain valuable interview experience. 

  • You’ll receive sound job advice, including suggestions for employers you may not have previously considered.

  • You'll create a network of contacts.  Whether nurse recruiters, RNs, or fellow students, you’ll have the chance to meet people who can help you in your job search.

  • You'll have a chance to talk with a representative rather than mailing or emailing your resum

Before the Fair

Before the Fair

Your preparation before the fair will determine your success.

Know What you Want

That is, you’ve researched opportunities and have identified an area or areas of interest. There are two schools of thought on this. On one side, some nursing recruiters recommend that you not specialize immediately upon graduation. Instead, they encourage new graduates to begin on a general floor such as medical/surgical, where you’ll have a chance to hone your nursing skills and learn about opportunities before you specialize.

On the other hand, others suggest that you identify a specific area of interest, seek opportunities to work in that area during your clinical rotations and create as many chances as possible to develop targeted skills.

Which is best? Well, it depends. If you are certain about a specialty, most would recommend that you go for it, preparing throughout your academic career. Volunteer in the area, join relevant professional associations, and create a network of professionals in the field. Let everyone know that this is your area of interest.

If you are not sure of a specialty or are interested in a generalist nursing position, you should be focused on achieving that goal as well. Evaluate areas of interest, but be open to many possibilities. Become involved in nursing associations, develop strong skills, and think about what you are looking for in an employer.

Create a Benchmark

To help you clarify the type of position you are seeking, write a job description. Use this as a benchmark to evaluate offers that come your way. Include descriptions on the following: 

  • Geographic location
  • Type of institution
  • Care area
  • Benefits-including tuition reimbursement
  • Supervisory style
  • Co-worker values
  • Training opportunities
  • Reputation of employer
  • Commuting distance
  • Others

Prepare a Strategy

Review the list of organizations attending the job fair and prepare a strategy: Identify which employers are of most interest to you and create a priority list. If there is a map of the fair, note the locations of the organizations with which you are most interested. Make a list and target those organizations first. Visit their web sites to learn more about them and available positions. Do a search in local newspapers to learn what’s happening there. See if the organization has a link to its most recent press releases for additional information.

Determine Fair Logistics

What is the starting and ending time? Is there an entrance fee? Where is parking? Is the fair accessible by public transportation? How many employers are attending? How will they be organized at the fair? Alphabetically? Geographically?

Create an Elevator Speech

Create a 30-second to one-minute introductory statement that describes your education, clinical rotations and relevant work experience. Also include the type of position you are seeking, if appropriate. Practice until you are comfortable and it feels natural.

Review. Review. Review.

Re-evaluate your resume-does it accurately describe your skills and accomplishments? Is it relevant for the positions you are seeking? Too specific? Too broad? Consider having a few formats (specific objectives or one without if you are seeking more general positions). Can you briefly provide examples of your experience based on what’s included in your resume?

Practice Interview Questions

You can expect to hear the following. Practice answers until you are comfortable with your responses.

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why are you interested in our organization?
  • Why did you choose nursing for a career?
  • Describe your clinical experiences.
  • What do you like most about nursing?
  • Give me an example of a time in which you handled a difficult situation.
  • What is your philosophy of nursing?
  • When will you be available?
  • In what area of nursing are you interested?

Expect the Unexpected

Don’t expect to have a traditional interview during the career fair, however, you should have a list of questions of your own. What do you need to know? Do not ask about salary and benefits information. You’ll have time for that in a formal interview. Suggested questions:

  • What is your organization’s philosophy regarding healthcare?
  • Can you describe the types of patients on the floor?
  • How many beds are on the unit? What is the average census?
  • What is the nurse-patient ratio?
  • Is the staff composed of new graduates or experienced nurses?
  • On average, how long do nurses work on this floor?
  • What is the orientation program like?
  • What do you expect a person accepting this position to be doing in six months?

Day of the Fair

Day of the Fair

  • Be sure to bring:

    • Several copies of your resume

    • Flat portfolio, pen, note pad

    • Briefcase or a neat, canvas bag to carry information and giveaways

    • Unofficial nursing transcripts

    • Potential list of questions for employers

  • Presentation-if you are coming from your clinicals, your uniform is OK. Be sure to bring the materials described above. If you aren’t coming from your clinicals, try to find out what the dress is. Note that employers are becoming more conservative in their dress and are expecting candidates to do the same.

  • Arrive on time-recruiters lose steam later in the day, try to meet them early in the fair.

  • Register when you arrive and ask for a list of attendees and a map.

What to Say When You Meet With Recuiters

  • Introduce yourself. Be enthusiastic and confident (even if you aren’t feeling that way). Use a firm handshake.
  • Use your introductory statement to describe yourself and note your area of interest.
  • Remember to emphasize your skills and qualifications. Communicate your interest in the organization. Ask relevant questions.
  • Do not ask for career advice from the recruiters-you should already know what you want. Instead, ask specific questions about their organization that will help you clarify your options.
  • Be sensitive of others waiting behind you. Don’t monopolize a recruiter’s time.
  • Don’t ask about salary and benefits.
  • Ask what the next steps are in the recruiting process.
  • Approach recruiters alone, not with a group of friends. You’ll avoid distractions that way.
  • Be confident but not overly assertive. You have skills to share and the recruiter has positions to fill. Look for matches.
  • Wear a nametag, recruiters love them.
  • Smile when introducing yourself.
  • Be enthusiastic.
  • Use a firm handshake.
  • Establish good eye contact.
  • Listen for the tone and volume of your voice. The Career Fair will be loud, be sure to speak up as necessary.
  • Gather business cards and literature-once you step away, jot important notes on the back of the business card.
  • Once you’ve met with all the organizations you’ve targeted, find a place to review your materials. Do you have additional questions?
  • Visit the second tier of organizations that are of interest that are of interest to you.
  • Don’t discount any potential employer. You may be surprised.
  • Remember, consider every encounter at a job fair an interview that begins the second the recruiter makes eye contact with you.
  • If you find out that the recruiter representing the organization in which you are interested is from a different unit or floor, stop by anyway. Ask for the name of the recruiter in your area of interest. Get as much information as you can.
  • If you must wait in line for a chance to talk with a recruiter, listen to those interviewing before you to learn more. Gather company literature and read it before speaking to the recruiter.

After the Fair

After the Fair

  • Evaluate the organizations you learned about. How does each match up with your career goals? Create a chart to help you organize this information.
  • Send thank you letters to the recruiters you met at the organizations you wish to pursue.
  • Critique how well you did. What worked well? What might you change? What might you work on to improve future interviews?
  • Follow-up to learn the status of your application. Find out when decisions are being made. Ask if more information is needed.