By Tiffanie Lee, Training and Education Coordinator, PracticeLink
Where can you access a large number of candidates in one room over a period of several hours? Why career fairs, of course! These live events give recruiters and physicians the opportunity to interact face-to-face instead of limiting yourself to reading a CV or a brief initial phone conversation. Essentially, the career fair can be your initial screening, and you’ll know then and there if that candidate may be right for your organization.
For physician recruiters, career fairs present an opportunity to promote their organization, establish the employer brand in the community and check out the competition. However, attending career fairs means time out of the office and travel—both of which can be exhausting and, depending on how many you attend a year, monotonous. It’s important to keep in mind why you are there and what you can do to put your best foot forward and leave a lasting impression (a good one!), not to mention leave the fair with many potential hires!
After hosting and attending 16 fairs in just 18 months, I’ve had the opportunity to get an upfront and personal view of best practices. Here are some tips to help you get the best bang for your buck at physician career fairs:
1. Take advantage of early setup times, and don’t break down early. Be early and be prepared. Don’t get stuck setting up your exhibit at the last minute—candidates are known to start arriving before the fair officially begins. By the same token, don’t be the recruiter who starts breaking down early, even if the crowd has started to thin. Some of your “perfect fits” may not make the event until later in the evening due to their demanding schedules. Being late and leaving early both send a poor message to potential candidates (and to your colleagues and competitors). If you were a candidate and showed up later in the evening, which organizations would you want to learn more about: those who were still exhibiting, or those who left early and left only boxes behind?
2. Make a positive first impression—for yourself and your organization. Remember, first impressions about people (and organizations based on those people representing them) often turn into long-term perceptions. Make yours positive. Be sure to dress professionally and wear your name badge prominently. You’re representing your organization and should mimic the professionalism you’re looking for in candidates.
3. Stand out from the crowd on the show floor. Your booth should be attractive, lively, professional and tidy! The number-one reason to attend live events is to get face-to-face time with potential candidates. Make sure to have all of your literature and promotional materials ready, and have plenty of business cards. Consider providing a giveaway or other attraction (it doesn’t have to be costly) to attract physicians to your booth and keep them there. However, beyond being fun and appealing, make sure your booth is kept tidy. Everyone has to eat and drink during these long events, but do so away from your booth or keep it nicely hidden so as not to diminish your professional appearance (or your availability to chat!).
4. Be approachable, and stand up! Stand, don’t sit, behind your exhibit. Sitting in the chair behind your exhibit doesn’t express a sense of engagement or a welcoming atmosphere. Put your phone down and your laptop away. We all know it’s hard to be on the road and you have other work to be done, but a job fair isn’t the place to do it. While it’s certainly a physician’s job market right now, attending a job fair can still be intimidating to even the most educated, experienced and professional job seeker. Being at full attention ensures they know you’re just as eager to speak to them as they are to you.
5. Know your “60-second sell” or “elevator pitch.” During our PracticeLink Physician Recruiter workshops, we talk a lot about employer branding. One of the challenges given to recruiters is to clearly communicate, in 60 seconds, why their organization is a great place to practice medicine. Can you do this? Once you can, you will have something to say that’s quick but meaningful and can segue into a great conversation.
6. During down time, network with other recruiters! Instead of hunkering down behind your booth with your phone during any traffic lulls, use that time to your advantage. Turn it into a learning opportunity for you by finding out more about industry trends and what your competitors are doing.
7. “Strike while the iron is hot!”
Don’t waste any time following up with potential candidates after the event. No need to keep them guessing; reach out to them before your competitor does! Post event follow-up is so important!
These tips may seem like common sense, but often times even the most fundamental actions can be overlooked. Employers set their expectations high for the candidates they want to hire, so it’s important to remember to set those same expectations for yourself when you are representing your organization. Physician vacancies are costing your organization hundreds and thousands of dollars; attending a career fair or other live event can help fill those vacancies faster. Don’t let your organization’s money and your valuable time go to waste!