Sterling Barbour, who launched his pest management career 29 years ago after a casual stop at a job fair, notes that such events can be a help or a hindrance to applicants, depending on how the participating companies interact with their prospects.
Since 2011, the organization he co-founded — Veterans Advocacy Group of America (VAGA) — has sponsored the Economic Summit Job Fair specifically for veterans. But Barbour stresses there’s a caveat: “You have to have available positions at your company.”
It may sound like common sense, he adds, but “to be honest, many job fairs have become agonizing to veterans. Some companies are starting to show up only for branding purposes, so all they can say to people desperate for jobs is ‘well, thanks for stopping by the booth.’ Attendees walk away with nothing.”
When organizing the Economic Summit, Barbour says, “We wanted to have something real for veterans, so we set up interviewing rooms on-site. If you as a company see someone you like, who might have potential, you can set up a meeting and go to the room to interview the job candidate on the spot.”
With every company involved actively seeking workers, Barbour says, it’s a competitive advantage to interview good prospects ASAP. It also gives attendees the confidence to know they made some headway with their job searches — and perhaps even walk out of the venues as new employees.
That said, Barbour cautions, companies shouldn’t hire for the sake of hiring — even if they feel it’s a patriotic duty to hire a military veteran. “You need the best fit for your company,” he says. “With these events, we hope to offer enough qualified candidates in the pool so that among them, there are going to be at least a few prospects who can be the right hire.”
Read more: Hiring, training veterans for a career in pest control
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