To Job Fair or Not to Job Fair?

Harold Achimon, Clinical Recruiter with Wilson N. Jones Medical Center in Sherman, TX wrote: “I attend a few job fairs each year if they are local, however, I feel I should be on the road more. What’s your take?”

There are so many and such a variety of job fairs in healthcare, it is difficult to pick the ones you should attend and others you should pass up. But bottom line—attend the job fair if it results in cost-effective hires. Nothing should trump that question.

Personally I don’t like any job fairs with the exception of ones held by an individual hospital or system—and generally those should be for entry-level employees only as opposed to professionals who can ostensibly get a job just about any where at any time.

Let’s look at the good and bad of each types of job fair:

1) Local—these fairs are the best of the others if you are really sold on job fairs. These local fairs would be ones you would participate in along with other healthcare facilities. The people who attend are in your area so they are aware of your system and there is little or no relocation costs. Make sure the attendance results in hires and a dazzling list of e-mail addresses so you can follow up with some relationship marketing once the excitement of the moment passes.

2) National—of course it is always nice to “be out there”, but being out there on a national level should be reserved for those very large teaching and research facilities with a reasonably sized recruiting staff. These specialized and large facilities offer positions which may mean a promotion or a very specialized position. Since Harold hires for a 241-bed community-based facility serving North Texas and Southern Oklahoma, he probably couldn’t justify the cost of attending a national fair.

3) Trade Journal/Newspaper Sponsored—these fairs appear to be good but I have found that so many people turn out who are not even remotely qualified, that little real recruiting occurs. They are also generally expensive so be careful you are really getting valuable candidates or at least valuable information so you can follow up.

4) College/University—if the schools are compatible with your facility and you are open to making new graduate hires, then by all means attend. You should have a few local schools where you know the faculty and advisors and they should be the ones on your list. Most facilities have as many recent nursing grads they can take at one time so focus your attention on other graduating disciplines such as physical therapy, imaging and respiratory.

5) Virtual—more and more often we are seeing job fairs that are virtual. Second Life often holds job fairs on line and they have been very successful with hires for high-tech companies. Healthcare isn’t quite there, where candidates develop their own avatars and interview with other avatars, but soon you’ll never have to leave your office and let your avatars do the talking.

Here are the questions I always ask when thinking about recommending or attending a job fair in healthcare:

1) Will attending the job fair result in hires?

2) Will the number of hires made justify the costs? National cost-per-hire for entry-level runs about $469 a hire so if you are attending a fair that costs $3,500 you should make at least 8 entry-level hires. If you hire only one RN for the $3,500 you are winning since the cost-per-hire for an RN is around $6,889.

3) What is the sponsoring group doing to drive in potential hires? There should be enough publicity to ensure a good turn out and there are formulas you can apply based on what candidate drivers the sponsor is using to support the event.

4) Can you justify the time out of the office?

5) Will I see quality prospects at the job fair or will they be the ones who can’t get a job?

6) Will I look desperate if I attend one more job fair?

Holding a successful job fair on your own is not as easy as it seems and it is vital you cover your bases so you make the hires. Here are just a few things to consider:

1) Where to hold it? The facility or at a hotel? St. Louis Children’s Hospital once held a job fair that was so successful they couldn’t get the ambulances through the traffic and the cafeteria ran out of food to sell. Having the fair at the facility is always good if you can handle the volume, otherwise make it a real event at an off-site location.

2) What will be your candidate drivers? Remember to e-mail the people who have already applied to your facility and who were reasonably qualified. Remember direct mail. You can get lists for certain zip codes and household income. Newspaper should be included in the mix, but radio tends to deliver only about 2% of the attendees and radio is expensive.

3) When do you hold it? Unfortunately for recruiters Sunday afternoon is the best time. This is a family day so provide on-site child care while the applicants are being interviewed.

4) Who should be involved? Normally the recruitment staff can’t handle the volume so you’ll need to have the hiring managers on site to do immediate interviews and conditional hires based on license verification and reference checks. Also if testing or on-line applications are a must, then you must have the computers on hand.

The only thing really to question is will I make enough hires to justify the costs and will they be good, quality hires? You wouldn’t place a $12,000 display ad in the New York Times for a single open Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) position because you should be able to hire them for, or under, the national average of $469. Consequently figure your outcome in hires verses the cost of the event.

If you have a question related to healthcare recruiting you’d like me to answer on a future blog, send me an email at askgreta@tmp.com

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Thomas Delorme
Written by Thomas Delorme

VP, Digital Products & Strategy

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