Talent Labs Vs. Career Fairs: What’s the Difference?

For over twenty years, organizations have been attending job fairs. These are quite predictable events held in large hotels or conference centers where firms occupy rows and rows of booths. Each booth is an advertisement for the firm. And job seekers come and wander through looking for interesting jobs. Resumes pass between job hunters and providers; some potential candidates slip through because the recruiters are already occupied when the candidate gets there. Lots of good people never even talk to the recruiters because they are afraid or don’t like the looks of the recruiter. These career fairs are really hit-and-miss, low-tech 20th century events. But they are pretty popular. Yesterday, something 21st century started in San Francisco. Fast Company, the publishers of Fast Company magazine, has created an alternative to these job fairs called Talent Labs. These are forums for people to exchange information, to learn about jobs, job markets, and the firms that are in those job markets. If you are a recruiter, you can learn a great deal about what’s driving the talent wars and you can develop a broader perspective on the supply and demand dynamics of this labor market we live in. You will also have an opportunity to interact with job seekers face-to-face and through the “Cyber Caf?.” As a job seeker, you can get a little better understanding of what is driving corporate recruiters and about what they are seeking in candidates. You can learn some advanced interviewing techniques and find out whether or not going solo is something you want to do. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*> Here are three major ways the Talent Labs are different from traditional career fairs:

  1. They are interactive events with lots of information. Leading thinkers in the recruiting space present short seminars and workshops. These events involve the participants and encourage questions and discussion. There are enough concurrent sessions so that none are too large to prevent interaction. Some of the speakers include people like Michael McNeal, Chief Industry Evangelist of PureCarbon, Inc. (formerly Intralect) and previous director of staffing for Cisco Systems. Others include Gary Alpert, Founder of WetFeet.com and Robert Kelley, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. These are high caliber people taking time out of very busy schedules to be part of something quite new.
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  3. They are high tech events. Each has as its centerpiece: a Cyber Cafe where individuals can learn about new products and services, take short on-line courses, and get some personal career counseling. The physical layout is exciting. It brings together into one area technology about such things as being a Change Agent and about branding yourself in the marketplace. There are sessions on going solo and about the talent war in general. The Cyber Caf? also features tools for researching companies and searching for jobs. The high speed Intranet that runs this is unique and offers a tremendous amount of information and interaction for both recruiters and job seekers.
  4. They are entertaining and highly informative. Industry gurus make presentations, and it doesn’t matter whether you are a recruiter or a job seeker, you can find something useful to take home. The idea is to concentrate in one space as much energy and excitement as possible on the war for talent. The networking and social activities almost ensure that seekers and recruiters will meet and find out more about each other than they usually do in the confines of a normal job fair.

I am not trying to advertise these events for Fast Company, but I think it is important to spread the word about innovation in our industry. While I hope these events are successful and grow and spawn competition, what is fundamentally important is that someone is daring to try something radically new and different. Let’s face it: the traditional job fair is worn out and needs to be rethought. This may be the face of the future. The next Talent Lab is in Boston on October 5 and 6. If you live anywhere near it, try to go. If not, I think you can find our more about upcoming Labs by checking out Fast Company’s website. I hope to see you there!

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.


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