Notes from a Career Fair

“I do better when I’m on my meds.”

Recently a colleague attended a career fair on a local college campus. His company, an established technology firm in town, was ideally looking to hire one or more people in skilled, well-paying positions. He was also there to talk to students who might want to learn more about the field through an internship program. Hundreds of people attended the event, seeking jobs in a diverse range of careers and skill levels.

The experience was enlightening to say the least. It became evident very quickly who was there for a serious job search and who… just didn’t seem to get it. Before a candidate spoke one word, their demeanor and overall professional presentation said almost everything the employer needed to know. Some job seekers were dressed in a manner suitable for cleaning the garage. Others showed more skin than appropriate for any business setting. Then there were candidates whose “creative” dental work served as a distraction. One great suit paired with ridiculous shoes conveyed that the candidate was a fool without saying a word.

Once the candidates started to speak to the company representatives, even more was revealed. Some seemingly qualified prospects mumbled so badly that it was clear they could never handle speaking to clients. Others seemed to shoot themselves in the foot, making statements that basically said “don’t hire me!” What people will say to a perspective employer can be almost amusing, in a strange sort of way. These actual quotes fall into the category of WHAT WERE THEY THINKING????

  • “I do better when I’m on my meds.”
  • “I’m kind of a dummy.”
  • “I don’t know, like, y’know, some, like freelance work, like, y’know.”
  • “So, are you giving away pens or candy or something?”
  • “Oh, yeah, well, I didn’t bring my résumé.”
  • “I was sick this morning and I’m feeling like it’s going to happen again.”

Reality check for job seekers: today’s employers need staff that will represent the company well to customers, regardless of the primary job duties. The idea that Quirky + Talent = Success is only true on television. In real life, talent has to be clean, professional and focused, with the ability to communicate clearly. Only candidates with those attributes were asked to interview.

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