I’m Just Here For The Swag…..
It has been my experience, that job fairs are not exactly vast, well stocked pools from which to fish for potential new associates. I’m sure there are many HR professionals out there who will disagree with me, who enjoy attending these events and consider them a viable resource for recruiting qualified candidates, but I don’t know any of those folks.
I suspect they are among the lucky elite who are not limited to attending only those events that do not require an entry fee to participate. Their gatherings are probably also called “conferences” or “career networking events” and not “fairs…” Trust me, it’s an important distinction.
These conferences are typically sponsored by a group affiliated with a specific industry or college and held in the grand ballroom of a convention center….where I imagine there are ample electrical outlets, restrooms and ice cold drinking water for all in attendance.
So that employers get the most recruiting bang for their buck, conference hosts have often promoted the event to a targeted group of job seekers with the desirable qualifications, skills and motivation to fit the needs of the attending hiring managers…..AND they’ve done a lot of the preliminary work to prepare candidates to meet with prospective employers; reviewing resumes, conducting mock interviews….suggesting that flip-flops are not an appropriate shoe choice….
But in my case, due to certain requirements mandated by certain governing bodies in exchange for having certain privileges, (all on the up and up, even though it probably doesn’t sound like it), I must attend a “reasonable” number of job/career fairs sponsored by unemployment and related non-profit agencies….typically held in the meeting space of an Elk’s lodge or the basement of a public library….
In all my years as an HR professional, I’ve never hired anyone I met at any of these events.
I don’t blame the hosts though. I have never met a career coach from any of the non-profit groups whose events I’ve attended who wasn’t well meaning, compassionate and committed to their cause. Not easy to do with minimal resources, a shoe-string budget and an enormous caseload of job seekers with varying degrees of motivation. I always just assume they sent all the really good hires to the classier event across town….that’s what I would do….
What’s left then, are all those “job seekers” who seem to have come primarily to collect as many trinkets and random knickknacks from recruiting tables as can be crammed into the complimentary, reusable shopping bags picked up on their way through the door.
It’s like the swag bags at the Oscars….if the Oscars had all the glitz and glamour of a yard sale….where everything is free….pens that double as a stylus or pointer….bouncy balls that light up in a rainbow of colors when they hit the floor….shoe horns, drink cozies, magnets, bumper stickers, highlighters, tiny notepads and much, much more are all up for grabs.
Occasionally, an employer tries to buck the system and show’s up with nothing but a table cloth and a few printed job descriptions and it’s as if they are recruiting Ebola victims….eventually, people will stop by to feign interest, but their darting glances about the room and their body language…poised to bolt at the first sign the recruiter across the room might run out of stress balls in the shape of a tiny car…. are the signs they have stopped only because they are hoping the recruiter is simply hiding the treasure….and if it’s hidden…oh, what must it be….
At some events, job fair coordinators reward job seekers for visiting a set number of tables by giving them a raffle ticket to a main prize, like a Blue-Ray player or a flat screen TV. I always think a gift card for a business casual interview outfit or transportation fare for a day of interviewing would be a better choice given the overall theme of the day….but it was likely the possibility of scoring a fifty-dollar Blue Ray player that lured the majority in to begin with.
I assume these tactics are the event coordinators way of forcing people to utilize the job fair for it’s intended purpose. The employer’s role in the scheme is to add a stamp to a job seekers “passport card” or provide them with a signed piece of colored paper with our company logo in exchange for a raffle ticket toward the end of the day.
Employers are always asked not to just stamp away as people file through, but to “encourage those who approach to spend time discussing opportunities and the interested persons skills and qualifications”….and in the beginning, I played along.
If someone came to my table and said, “Can I get a stamp?
I would say, “Sure, after we’ve spoken about the career opportunities available to you at my company.”
Overtime though, I grew weary of the charade….I mean, let’s face it, I wasn’t about to legitimately offer career opportunities to someone who approached my table with a cigarette tucked behind one ear and wearing a grayish, white tank top anyway….and so now, I reluctantly sigh, offer my best, disapproving stare, stamp and go back to surveying the crowd for hopeful potentials….
Well, I think….there’s that lady over there with what appears to be a tattoo of the sign of Pisces on her neck….or it’s a foot, maybe….I don’t know, too far away to tell….I don’t really care either way, I don’t have an issue with tattoo’s, times have changed, but those snowflake fleece pajama pants are tough to get past….
Ok, wait a minute… that guy looks like a maybe from behind….nice hair cut, pressed “skinny” pants with a tucked in, (BONUS!), dress shirt AND a belt…now if I could just make eye contact….WHOA! Never mind, that is way too much hardware on one face…is his forehead pierced?
Grey sweatsuit guy….maybe….with the right coaching about interview etiquette, there’s a chance I could turn him around….if he wasn’t wearing a weeks worth of meals on the front of the shirt and what could either be a skid mark or a chocolate stain on the back of his pants….either way, if he didn’t think it was worthwhile to at least show up in a clean sweatsuit, how much hope is there, really….
There’s the girl over there wearing leggings and a tiny shirt….since I’m not looking for someone to smuggle camel toe into the country today, I’ll pass….
Here we go! I think as a woman approaches my booth…clean pants, collared shirt, brushed hair….a folder with what might be resumes tucked inside….
I offer her my most inviting smile and a warm “Hello! How are you today!?”
“Can I get a stamp?” She asks….”And one of those…”