So you’re thinking of exhibiting at a medical, nursing or healthcare job fair or maybe you’ve already signed up to one. Perhaps you’ve given up on them altogether.
Having spent almost twenty years in the recruitment event industry, I’ve met employers who swear by job fairs and others that won’t touch them, which got me thinking – why do job fairs work for some employers and not for others?
In my opinion, having realistic expectations alongside structured interviewing of candidates on the day together with advance planning is what separates success and failure when it comes to job fairs.
Exhibiting at a job fair is just another form of recruitment advertising and an opportunity for you to build your talent pool directly, which in turns feeds your recruitment pipeline. But what return on investment would you expect from print, radio or online recruitment advertising and how does this compare to exhibiting at a job fair compare?
If the cost of exhibiting at a job fair is £3,500 and there’s an additional £1,500 for travel and marketing materials, then how many nurses for example, do you need to recruit to cover £5,000?
Then consider the potential efficiencies in terms of time-to-hire from meeting a candidate, interviewing and offering them a job all on the same day, not to mention reducing your agency nurse bill by hiring a permanent nurse sooner.
I believe having a realistic benchmark is essential.
One NHS customer recently told me that they expected to hire a minimum of 8 nurses from attending a job fair – any nursing job fair, ours, the RCN, Nursing Times etc., and that this was the basis for their decision to agreeing to sign up.
I asked the same customer how much they expected to spend in total on exhibiting at a job fair and the response was £4,500 and no more than £5,000.
But is recruiting 8 nurses for what amounts to £625 per hire a realistic target given that the same employer also told me that they pay £3,800 per nurse using a UK recruitment agency and £10,500 per nurse “landed” from the Philippines?
We all know nurses in particular are in short supply and have the world at their feet when it comes to job opportunities. For example, how many nurses apply for your jobs online through NHS Jobs and never respond to your request for interview or how many agree to an interview either in person or by Skype and then fail to show?
The answer is too many.
However, what’s surprising is the number of employers that don’t hold interviews at job fairs and opt to collect candidate’s details to follow up later. Obviously there needs to be suitable candidates for interview at the job fair, but assuming there is, then the opportunity is lost to maximise your return on investment.
Employers that are successful in running their own recruitment open days also tend to be successful at job fairs because they understand that for a limited period of time they have a captive audience of potential candidates.
Like most things in life, we only get out what we put in and the same applies to exhibiting at a job fair. Branding, staffing and timekeeping are three areas I believe most employers can improve on.
When it comes to branding or messaging, I’m a personal fan of the Ronseal slogan, “It does exactly what is says on the tin”. If you’re recruiting for nurses or doctors or whatever, make sure it’s obvious to anyone looking at your exhibition stand.
If you’re exhibiting in another country such as Ireland, Australia or the UAE, don’t assume that the potential candidates will know exactly where you are located or how to get there. For example, if you’re located less than an hour from London, say it, but also say if it’s by train, car etc. Another little suggestion is to put together a sample of local accommodation including an indication of rental prices.
When it comes to staffing your exhibition stand, how many is enough?
At our job fairs we provide lunch for all our exhibitors and we regularly receive requests for 12 lunches from customers on a 3m x 3m stand. Not only does this drive up the cost of exhibiting if there is travel involved, it can be very intimidating for a candidate thinking of approaching the stand.
The optimum is 2-3 staff members per stand and ideally someone from HR/Recruitment with two from the clinical side.
Finally, nothing looks worse for your employer brand if you arrive late for the opening of the job fair or you leave before it ends as to candidates it can look like you didn’t bother to attend.
Understandably flight times and train timetables don’t always work in your favour and leaving an hour earlier can make the difference in getting home at a reasonable hour, but consider splitting your team to cover the setup and break down.
Stephen McLarnon is the Chief Executive of HealthSectorJobs, a Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and a Judge of the Healthcare People Management Association (HPMA) Annual Excellence in HR Awards.