Career Fair Attendance High Amidst Weak Job Market

Suit buttoned and tie tied snugly, a USF student steps up to hand his resume to recruiters from the Fairmont Hotels chain. Students were dressed to impress and took more initiative with recruiters than at last year’s career fair, observed Career Services Center Assistant Director Alex Hochman. (Melissa Stihl|Foghorn)

A record number of students and recent graduates turned up for USF’s 21st annual career and internship fair last Friday. The weakening economy appears to have prompted students to start looking earlier and harder for jobs amidst a weak college recruiting season, where schools from Harvard to Notre Dame are seeing a drastic decline in on-campus recruiting and online job postings.

Six hundred and eighty-five students attended USF’s career fair, according to a tally kept by Alex Hochman the assistant director of the Career Services Center. Hochman said he was impressed with the turnout and also with the number of companies recruiting at the event. While the absence of major financial services companies like Charles Schwab, which attended in past years, was noticeable, there were still 73 companies who reserved spaces at the event, down from 93 last year, but still an impressive number given the state of the economy, said Hochman.

Companies not only pay up to $350 for a table at the career fair, but also spend considerable money on marketing materials and employees who work the table at the all day event. It’s a good sign that companies are still willing to spend so much money recruiting college students, it says that getting new people in the door is important to their business, even in a recession, said Hochman.

Recent graduates are often far cheaper to hire than experienced employees, so in weak economic times students often have a better shot at getting in with a company than a mid-career job seeker. “Surprisingly, it can be easier to sell yourself as a 23-year- old college graduate with internship experience than a 26-year-old who has been laid off for a year,” he said.

Many students at the fair were looking for whatever opportunities they could get instead of holding out for their dream job or expecting lavish perks and generous time off, as Generation Y job seekers have been known to demand in more robust hiring climates.

Senior Dalia Al-Mahmood, who last week told the Foghorn of her long and frustrating job search that has yet to yield an offer, was at the fair working hard to put her best foot forward. “[The fair] was more promising than I was expecting, especially for non-profits which is one area I am interested in, ” she said. “I had an interview today with one of the companies I met there and they want me back for a second one.”

For students looking for financial analyst or investment management jobs, there was not a lot at the fair. Mawar Sianipar, a graduate student in the MS Financial Analysis program said she was disappointed with the offerings. “I remember when I was an undergraduate at UVA, it seemed like anybody could get a job in investment banking ,” she said. “Their GPAs weren’t even that good.” Today that industry is hemorrhaging jobs and doing little if any college recruiting, even at the most elite schools. Goldman Sachs was at Stanford University’s career fair earlier this year, but only as a “courtesy;” they were not collecting resumes or conducting interviews.

However, the public sector made a strong showing with recruiters from nearly a dozen government agencies including the Peace Corps, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, California Public Utilities Commission, The U.S. Border Patrol and several branches of the armed services, among others. While these recruiters received less attention from students than many of the private companies, there are plenty of students who see working for the government as an opportunity for job security. Hochman said that in past years the majority of students met with recruiters from financial firms and then promptly exited the fair. However this year, “Finance was busy early, but then students spent time speaking with recruiters in other areas,” he said. “[Students] are adapting to the economy, they are working many other angles.”

Another bright spot for USF job-hunters is in accounting, despite the fact that none of the big firms attended the career fair. And while the field has reduced the number of new graduates it is looking to hire, there are still opportunities, especially with the largest firms – KPMG, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young – known as the “Big Four.” Michelle “My” Nguyen, a junior finance and hospitality double major and ASUSF vice president of business administration spent the past week wining and dining with the firms, and received offers from three of the Big Four companies for a summer internship. She said she plans to go with Deloitte. Before getting an offer, Nguyen said she was worried about finding a good position. “I didn’t want to do another unpaid internship,” she said, referring to her job in hospitality last summer.

3 thoughts on “Career Fair Attendance High Amidst Weak Job Market

  1. “Recent graduates are often far cheaper to hire than experienced employees, so in weak economic times students often have a better shot at getting in with a company than a mid-career job seeker”… or the older job seekers simply must lower their requirements.

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