2 words….Job Fairs

Those 2 words can elicit a number of responses from recruiting professionals.  Some recruiters enjoy the opportunity to get out of the office, maybe reconnect with former co-workers and get a decent lunch in a hotel ballroom.  If they meet a candidate or two who could potentially fill one of their requisitions, it could be the perfect recruiting day.  Other recruiters panic at the prospect of standing for hours, giving the same company/recruiting pitch a few hundred times and shaking countless sweaty hands.

Whether you dread or enjoy job fairs, you may not be attending the next one unless you work for a large government contracting firm.  With many cleared job fairs in the  Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD metro areas costing $5,000 or more just to register, the expense of exhibiting is a major consideration.  Increasingly, exhibitors are a Who’s Who of large government contractors.

Lockheed Martin?  Check

Raytheon? Check

L-3?  SAIC?  Northrop Grumman?  – Chances are good they will all be at the next job fair event.

What about the smaller and mid-size firms that are growing like mad and can offer a new employee a different experience?  Are they going to be there? Odds are they won’t.

Recruiting Associates has a wonderful government contracting client that is in a high growth mode.  They have roughly 75 employees, show up on the Best Places to Work lists, offer excellent benefits and have a great company culture.  In short, they are awesome.  But you’re not going to see them at the next job fair that swings through town.  Why?  $5k to them means a whole lot more than to a billion dollar+ government contracting behemoth.

So where does that leave us?  Maybe the job fair industry should take a look at diversifying their offerings and consider presenting lower cost events.  Instead of having events at the Hyatt, perhaps a Holiday Inn Express would do.  Let’s pass on the buffet lunch and champagne being poured to exhibitors at the end of the job fair (yes, that does happen).  Maybe a bunch of 2 liter bottles of Pepsi and some pizza in the back would suffice.

If I were an active job seeker, I would prefer to have the chance to meet under the radar companies as opposed to waiting in line for 30 minutes to drop my resume (where it will be one of thousands) to a random recruiter from one of the “Big Boys”.  Nobody is telling those job seekers they would have been better off staying at home and researching companies in their backyard.  Instead, they end up spending hours waiting in lines to add their resume to the stack.  Lower priced job fairs could open up an entirely new market to exhibitors and job seekers alike.

What do you think?  Is the status quo working or is it time to shake things up a bit?

Tim Gummer is a Principal and occasional blogger at Recruiting Associates.  Give us a call or drop us a note using the contact form at the bottom of the page.  Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.