For the last seven years, we have rented out the AMWAY Center in Orlando, Florida to hold the largest diversity job fair and career expo in the state of Florida. The event this year really proved once again that “live” career fairs provide a tremendous opportunity to meet people, and get a gut feeling about a person before digging into their experience. Meeting the candidate in person allows you to go a little bit beyond the resume or LinkedIn profile.
I think insurance companies need to attend more “LIVE” career events in their cities. Meeting real people who may not read exactly like your job description (especially sales, administration and customer service types) will certainly expand your candidate pool. The feedback after the job fair from employers was fantastic because the face-to-face meetings they had with job seekers in a short period of time really gave companies hope that great people do exist that may not have the perfect resume.
Here are a few observations I had from this year’s job fair:
1. There are not as many job seekers as in previous years. When we first started these job fairs six years ago, we had over 1,500 people standing in line to get into the Amway Center. This year, we had an initial line of approximately 500 people.
2. More employers. Yes, employers are coming out of the office and attending career fairs. This is due to the fact that good talent is getting scarce. To recruit great employees, live career fairs really give employers a chance to check out the entire person, not just words on a resume. Technology is great, but being able to interact with a future employee is priceless.
3. Older job seekers. Just an observation, but it seemed like around 35-40% of job seekers were over the age of forty. I know many displaced from the great recession have yet to find the same level of employment they were accustomed to. They also are more “old school” and appreciate the opportunity to talk to a person and not a keyboard.
4. The biggest challenge facing job seekers during their job search is not hearing a peep from employers when they apply to a job. I speak to this topic specifically and 95% of the people attending couldn’t raise their hands fast enough when asked if they felt like employers were leaving them hanging. It was a true hot button. I know, employers will tell many of these job seekers that they don’t understand why they applied in the first place (not close to being qualified) and that is why they are not worthy of a response. But, in reality, I hope employers would at least send “Dear John” emails or letters to anyone in this category.
5. Job seekers are officially confused about their resumes. What confused job seekers the most is how to effectively implement keywords in the resume to get them noticed by employers. Unfortunately, too many bad resume writers and friends and family are telling them what to do and it is wrong. We have a great need to educate serious job seekers and let them know that the resume needs a professional writer so they can give themselves the best (and real chance) of getting noticed.
If you are going to attend a career fair in your city, just make sure it is a real career fair. Too many companies are going from city to city with things like diversity and veterans’ job fairs and they are no more than a room with very few job seekers attending. Make sure to ask the career fair organizers their marketing plan for the event, the types of companies attending (no Pampered Chefs, MLM’s or schools) and expected job seeker attendance. As the economy gets better, career fairs will start coming out of the woodwork but many will be a complete waste of your time.