Monday, July 30, 2018

What would you want in a local ACS career fair?

ACS Career Fair 
Despite significant updates and modernization efforts, the ACS national meeting career fair continues to see declining employer participation. Additionally, only 10–12% of members typically attend ACS national meetings and would have an opportunity to participate in such career fairs. To meet the needs of more of our members and increase the member-to-employer ratio, ACS jump-started a pilot local career fair tour to meet more members, connect with local employers, and expand the career fair beyond the national meeting. Trial events are being hosted in Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Augusta, Ga. 
These local career fairs will embody features of the national meeting career fair, including career pathway workshops, career consulting, and on-site interviews by participating employers with open positions. In partnership with the local ACS sections, these fairs aim to become a viable resource for those who are looking to start their career, make a career change, or find a new opportunity after a layoff. Through these efforts, CEPA will build stronger relationships with employers to help understand their needs and connect them with ACS members.
What do you think of this idea? I think it's interesting, but still requires employers to get off their collective duffs, get out from behind their computer systems and their online ads, and go and meet with potential employees. I am skeptical that they will, but maybe I'm wrong... (are they getting desperate enough?)  

12 comments:

  1. I am planning on attending the career fair At the national meeting in Boston as a job seeker. This will be my first ACS career fair and I am hoping that it pays bigger dividends than your post suggests.

    I believe the local career fairs are a great idea, but suspect that they will suffer from the same low employer turnout. I propose that the low employer participation is simply due to the ease of acquiring job applicants via the web. With job board services being so prominent in job searching, why would a company pay for someone to attend a job fair?

    With that said, I hope that there is an employer at the national meeting that is looking for a biochemist.

    I look forward to reading other people's thoughts on this topic.

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    1. I always assumed the career fairs were staffed by employees who were attending the conference anyways.

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    2. I would be interested in hearing your feedback on your experience at the Career Fair in Boston as a first time attendee. There are definitely employers that hire biochemists attending.

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  2. One one hand, I'm glad to see the ACS finally listening after years of insisting that there's a "STEM shortage" and all those laid-off chemists must be imagining things. On the other hand, any chemist job ad gets inundated with applicants, so I doubt companies see much need for career fairs.

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  3. I think one of the advantages of career fairs (and campus recruiting) is that you get to meet with people face to face. It helps to get beyond the technical knowledge. You can get a better idea if this is the type of person you can see fitting in at your organization, leading teams, representing the company at conferences, etc. It's great for hiring fresh PhDs. Bringing somebody in for an on-site interview off just a resume and a phone interview is a bit more risky. But, who knows, maybe Skype is used more nowadays.

    Companies might show up more to career fairs if it was free. From what I recall, having a career fair booth at the ACS national meeting costs $1,000-$1,500 (ballparking the numbers), and adding a private interview room is another $1,000-$1,500. Universities also tend to charge companies $300-$500 to attend career fairs. Companies can afford to pay some money, but it just seems like something that should be free.

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    1. Excellent point about new PhD's. I haven't worked for a big company for several years now, and I forgot that new PhD grads usually need to be flown in for interviews. A career fair at an ACS meeting would be a great way to narrow down which ones are worth bringing to an on-site interview, especially when they all have similar-looking paper resumes.

      I doubt a career fair would work as well for other kinds of jobs. I admit I had a mental picture of someone trying to recruit an experienced coatings, pharma, etc chemist and getting nothing but new BS grads and 35-year-old perma-postdocs.

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  4. ACS career fair in Augusta, GA? What local chemical industry is in Augusta? Has anyone seen the department, it's a community college! Why don't they hold the career fair in Atlanta instead? GA Tech, GA State and Emory are all on Atlanta.

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    1. I agree that Augusta doesn't seem like a very big market. There's a chance that they were just aiming to test the idea in a diverse set of locations. Augusta (small market, chemicals), Houston (big market, chemicals), Philadelphia (medium market, pharma), San Francisco (big market, pharma).

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    2. 20 miles from Savannah River National Labs.

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    3. A career fair might make sense for employers in a small market like Augusta. An ad for a chemist job in Atlanta would generate a tsunami of applications, but in a less populated area, there is probably more of a need for employers to work with someone who has transferable skills and needs some training. There are probably also some "overqualified" types who want to live near family in an area that doesn't have much of a chemical industry.

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    4. This career fair is aligned with SERMACS2018 (http://sermacs2018.org/), which accounts for the Augusta vs. Atlanta location choice.

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  5. My 2 cents. I get new LinkedIn requests from people I've never met every week. I know they're only trying to connect with me to ask me for a job. Less than half will have the proper qualifications. Going to a career fair is a real-life version of LinkedIn spamming. Trust me when I say that a phone interview is perfectly effective at giving you an idea of whether someone is a decent fit for your organization.

    I thought after the recession there would be an abundance of high quality candidates. Suffice to say, I still don't feel a need to go to a career fair 10 years later because there's still a dearth of quality candidates who have a modicum of social skill.

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