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Unfortunately, Career Fairs Best Serve Everyone But the Intended Jobless

(Ed’s Note:  Remember that this article was written 12 years ago. Real truth has a way of standing the test of time.)

Copyright © 2006 Ed Bagley

Reading my Sunday newspaper recently reminded me of how Career Fairs do little to substantially increase local employment. It seems that no one is willing to say this, and a lot fewer are even willing to believe it, but I know it to be all but a fact.

After spending 20+ years in the news business, and another 32+ years as a personal marketing specialist helping potential hires by writing upscale resumes, I can relate my experience with authority.

You might think that after helping 6,000+ clients get on with moving on and moving up in their careers that I could produce at least one client who has benefited from attending a Career Fair. I can not. This is why I caution any client who gets all excited and goosey about attending Career Fairs. I do not want their disappointment to affect my marketing plan to help them achieve their goals.

In revealing this apparent incongruity for the first time publicly, it is important to note that I am in the high end of the resume writing business. Virtually 97% of my 6,000+ clients during my 32-plus-year career are executives, professionals and managers earning between $60,000 and $500,000 annually who are already in management, want to be in management, or in sales and/or marketing.

Career fairs are all about first jobs and entry-level career jobs that do not pay all that well, so they do little for folks who have already been in the marketplace, enjoyed some success, and want to keep moving up the corporate ladder, or any other ladder of their choice.

This makes a lot of sense when you examine who is involved in putting on Career Fairs, and what they expect to get for their investment. I am not talking about the potential hires, or anyone looking for a job, or a better opportunity.

I am talking about businesses and organizations, large facility managers, and big advertising media, usually the dominant daily newspaper in the community. Nothing meets their profit needs, their publicity needs, and their public service needs like Career Fairs. It has become almost a rite of passage for these special interest groups in our society.

Let us start with businesses and organizations. Should you stroll down to a Career Fair in your community, and talk to a business representative at a snappy booth display, you will quickly pick up on the fact that the well dressed person is not the person you were expecting.

You knew going there that if Microsoft was a participant Bill Gates would probably not be there, but you secretly hoped he would. Later you came to realize that the person a major corporation sends to represent them at these Career Fairs is usually the most expendable person available.

This is why they smile a lot, take your resume (sometimes they do not), and tell you very little about what the company is really doing. Major companies that are cooking the books (using unacceptable accounting practices to inflate revenue and profits in order to increase stock prices so executives suck money out faster), and in worse shape than they want their stockholders and the public to know, would be at a Career Fair putting on their best face.

Just being at a Career Fair is good business for businesses and organizations because it gives the impression that those involved are key players in building the community, increasing employment, and acting like a good corporate citizen.

If you think large facility managers do not like Career Fairs you would be sadly mistaken. The same managers who hosted last week’s rock concert du jour are more than happy to move the rockers out and the new vendors in.

Facility managers do not give the space away as a public service, and they do take care of the “job” exhibitors. Whether any potential candidate attending the Career Fair ultimately gets hired is none of their business.

Newspapers and related media (usually radio which needs public service announcements to stay licensed) love Career Fairs. The Internet has been gaining the advertising and profits that newspapers have been losing. Newspapers have been forced to create web sites and compete on the Internet whether they want to or not.

Career Fairs give newspapers extra ads and profit regardless of the economy. Newspapers generally run a special section advertising the Career Fair as it gives paying advertisers and the event itself more exposure and prominence. Newspapers also feel a need to serve the community that supports them, whether people get hired at these Career Fairs or not.

You are seeing more and more and more Career Fairs (or Job Fairs) because it is good business for three very big special interest groups who may be more like a three-legged stood than a helping hand. You could hold Career Fairs for the unemployed every other week in Flint, Michigan and it still would not affect their depressed economy; I suspect that the same is true in many other communities across the country.

When your government tells you employment is on the rise, public officials are counting on the fact that when an unemployed person’s compensation benefits run out, they drop off of the rolls and remain unaccounted for even though they are still unemployed.

The salient point here is this: It is likely that when people benefit from these Career Fairs it is more by accident than design; the unemployed in our economy are the true story worth telling.

Online Hiring Threatens to Do Away With Traditional Hard Copy Resumes – Is It Really True? (Part 1 of a 4-Part Series)

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

The presentation of this story in my Wednesday daily newspaper is dramatic.

A smaller headline in color above the main headline says “Digital Job Searches Gain Ground”.

The main headline says “Straight to the Waste Basket” and shows a picture up top of a resume folded like a paper airplane headed presumably for a wastebasket (if you are wondering, wastebasket is one word, not two).

Is it really true? Well, I guess that depends on who you are talking to and what advice you choose to believe.

The story—and I use the word story rather than article because I believe most of the story is make believe—makes some observations and assumptions that are without substance in fact.

“Instead of reading your resume,” says Daine Stafford of The Kansas City Star, “an employer might ask you to fill out an online form or take an online test that measures how well you fit the job, based on responses from successful workers.”

That is an observation and at least the first part of it is correct, that more and more employers are asking for an email version of a resume rather than the traditional hard copy (printed) version we have used in recent decades.

Stafford says “Google, for example, uses a screening program to measure applicants’ attitudes, behaviors, personality and biographical details. Answers are scrunched in a formula that creates a score, indicating how well the candidate is likely to fare on the job.”

Fair enough, Google probably does so if Stafford says so.

I have often wondered what a screening question like “Which would you rather be: 1) a monkey, 2) a bear, 3) a tiger, or 4) a kangaroo?” actually tells human resources about a person’s personality that they could not better find out by interviewing them.

If you get the impression that interviewers are personnel types who are lazy in the hiring process, you might be right. Anything to get them to the point where they have nothing to do but push paper around, and look important and arrogant in the process (like I have mine, screw you).

Stafford continues: “It’s all electronic,” said Michael Doyle, a 60-year-old job seeker from Prairie Village, Kan. (sic), who recently landed a job through personal contacts. In nine months, Doyle said, he’s spoken to exactly two interviewers as a result of online postings.”

My guess is that Doyle may have submitted an email version of his resume to dozens, if not hundreds, of online destinations.

I could have told Doyle that probably 60% of all hiring is contacts, knowing people in the workplace or knowing people who know people in the workplace. Yes, it helps to have qualifications, but it helps more to have qualifications and know someone who wants to help you.

Reading about Doyle’s experience might lead me to conclude that online posting is not the best method to proceed here given the results. No wonder hiring is so screwed up.

From this and another example, Stafford then draws the conclusion that the applicants “discovered that resumes have gone digital.”

She goes on to say “In some cases, resumes have disappeared from the hiring process completely. Some employers don’t even want them in digitized format. They prefer customized online forms, tailor-made to cull the applicant field.”

Again, anything to make it easier on personnel types, we certainly would not want to put them out for even a minute of their precious time.

From the input of experiences of two applicants this conclusion comes bursting forth as implied truth that a new paradigm has taken place in the America business of hiring.