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Why Portland Employers Go to Job Fairs (And You Should Too)

Posted on by Tiana Tozer

Why Portland Employers Go to Job Fairs
“None of the employers took resumes,” is the biggest complaint I hear from job seekers after they have attended a job fair. Followed by, “Why did I waste my time?”

The employment landscape has changed. The resume alone is no longer the primary tool for finding employment. Now it’s about relationships and the application process.

What Portland Employers Say

NW Natural, a large employer in downtown Portland, receives anywhere from 100 to 1,000 online applications for a single job opening. Oregon Health & Science University, the largest employer in Portland, processes 30,000 online applications a quarter, and approximately 120,000 a year. “That is a conservative estimate,” says Riikka Salonen, OHSU’s manager of workforce equity and inclusion and OHSU Healthcare Human Resources.

Zane White, senior recruiter for NW Natural, agrees with Salonen that online applications ensure a fair and consistent process. In addition, it keeps the process transparent and helps employers comply with equal opportunity employment laws.

Why You Should Attend Job Fairs

So why attend job fairs if employers are only accepting applications online? A job fair is an opportunity to do 20 to 30 informational interviews in a day. It is a way to see the face of a company and find out what types of jobs different companies have available. It is also an opportunity to ask questions about positions, get information on the application process, receive feedback on your resume and learn how to make your application stand out and appeal to a particular company.

“It’s a chance to get a preview of an applicant. If I meet a really great candidate at a job fair I’m saying to myself, I have to remember ‘Pat’,” says White.

How to Make the Most of a Job Fair

How can you make the most of a job fair? Salonen and White both say, “Be prepared.”

Research the companies who will be attending and the positions they have available. Identify which ones you are qualified for or interested in. “Job seekers need to be specific about what type of job they are looking for,” says Salonen. “The more clear a candidate can be about what they are looking for, the more we can help.”

The advice I provide to my clients who are attending job fairs is to go online, research the companies, apply for the positions you are interested in and qualified for and follow up at the job fair. It is also an opportunity to explore industries and careers. You can find out a lot more about a company by talking to someone who works there than you can online. You will also find out about jobs that you never even knew existed.

What do you never want to do at a job fair? “The worst impression is when somebody walks up to your booth and asks, ‘Do you have any jobs?’” says Salonen.

For more tips on job fairs read, “How to Make the Most of a Job Fair,” by Robin Reshwan.

How have you been successful at a job fair?

Tiana Tozer
Tiana Tozer is a public speaker and author. Her short stories, essays and articles have been published in The Wittenburg Door, the Idaho Statesman and Sports n’ Spokes. A former Paralympic medalist and humanitarian aid worker in Iraq and Sudan, she now lives in Portland, Oregon where she is working on her memoir.
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  • I haven’t found anything transparent about the online hiring process, at least from an applicant’s point of view. It feels more like using a storm drain as a wishing well. There’s no feedback; no accountability. Job fairs are probably great for the outgoing type, but as an introvert I would rather walk over hot coals than endure one of those gauntlets. Is there no other option?

  • Tiana Tozer

    Dear Peter, The online application process assures
    equal footing for all applicants, it also makes it difficult to stand out,
    which is why job seekers need to do more than just submit online applications.
    In both the NWNatural and OHSU systems you can track your application online
    and check the status. Transparency refers to the process. You’ve probably heard
    people say that finding a job takes more work than actually having a job. So I
    always look at a job search like a job. As with any job there are going to be
    things that we don’t like to do. I myself hate cold-calling, (I would rather
    walk over hot coals) but in order to grow the program I manage it has been a
    significant part of my job for the last two years.

    Some seventy percent of people find their jobs
    through networking and it is an extremely important part of the process these
    days. If you don’t enjoy job fairs you can always network on your own. Tell
    everyone you know what type of job you’re looking for, do one-on-one
    informational interviews. If it’s the crowds you object to, the job fair I run
    is less crowded in the afternoons. I always do my cold-calling in the morning
    and at the beginning of the week employing the method of getting things I don’t
    like to do over with so I can move onto the things I enjoy. I’m not suggesting
    that you ignore your introversion, but finding ways to play to our strengths is
    crucial. It is our observation that networking is a key deficiency of the job hunting
    process. We need to recognize networking, whether one-on-one and at job fairs,
    as a necessary.

    Please feel free to
    contact me if you would like to practice your informational interviewing skills.

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