Although job searches and applications have mostly moved online, Emma Lee Hartle, employment specialist at Community College of Allegheny County's North Campus, advises job seekers to get an edge by networking in person with recruiters.
This was the premise behind the community college's Spring Business and IT Job Fair last Thursday, which featured approximately 20 company recruiters from the Pittsburgh area.
Over the past two decades, Ms. Hartle has been helping students to find jobs, and she notes that some significant changes have taken place in her industry in only the past few years.
"There are no more paper applications; applying for a job is all tech-based now," she said. "Everything is done online, and smaller companies are taking resumes by email. In fact, it's quite possible that in the next five to 10 years, the concept of a resume will become passé.
"LinkedIn [a popular career networking website] is where it's at for professionals. You still need a resume, but the expectation on how to do them has also changed. For instance, we used to include a cover letter, but now the resume itself should be tailored to each employer."
That said, Ms. Hartle noted that job fairs are a great way for job seekers to access face-to-face opportunities with potential employers.
"Sixty to 70 percent of all job seekers are still getting positions through networking. All companies require online applications, but it helps tremendously for employers to be able to put a face to your application," she explained.
In his quest for a new career, Kevin Boglitz, 34, of Ross is taking classes at CCAC and pursuing job leads the old-fashioned way: by word of mouth.
"Networking isn't about the number of contacts you have, it's the quality of those contacts," he said, adding that he uses a strategy at job fairs. "You look into the booths of employers that are doing what you want to do, and you ask the recruiters eight to 10 questions about their company and industry. The information you get is valuable, but the underlying value is the fact that you've just made a contact. If you're interested in that company, you follow up with the contact you've made, and it could lead to a job offer someday.
"Seventy-five percent of jobs offered are not posted for just anyone's access," he noted. "They're through personal contacts."
According to Michelle Talbert-Horsey, the campus' director of job placement and career services, a variety of job seekers attended the fair. "We've had a mix of all ages show up for this: current students and alumni, as well as members of the community." Employers like UPMC and Giant Eagle, who hire from a wide range of backgrounds, value job fair opportunities because they make the company accessible to the public.
"We're an equal-opportunity employer, so when it was brought to our attention that some people have trouble gaining access to the Internet, we've decided to work on bringing paper applications back," said Amy Stein said about Giant Eagle. She noted that recruiters will take the time to help new hires who aren't computer savvy fill out the form. "With more than 35,000 employees in the whole corporation, that's a lot of job opportunities."
Other employers, like the National Guard, are looking for a specific type of person to hire, and meeting potential recruits in person is important.
"We prefer interviewing people kneecap to kneecap," said Staff Sgt. David Dzuro of the Pennsylvania National Guard. "Our method of recruiting has not changed that much; we still go out to schools and meet with students, go to job fairs. We're looking for physically qualified people who have a personal drive to succeed.
"Being online is part of it, but not all," he added. "We're doing more with computers, but you still need face time. You have to be willing to work with everyone."
Staffing firms have also evolved, and Ms. Hartle said she thinks the economy plays a role.
"Companies like Addecco, Pancoast and Callos have become a money-saving move for corporations, because they make sure new hires are qualified," she explained.
"Companies are looking for specific skill sets," said Dana Stofik, a manager for The Callos Co., which has been headquartered in Youngstown, Ohio, since 1965. "We've been doing well despite the economic downturn, because we provide an unheard-of level of service, and we still have old-fashioned values. We have remained focused on working for companies, and placement is not guaranteed."
Jill Cueni-Cohen, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org .