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Do job fairs work?

A job seeker meets with a recruiter from Macy's during the College of Marin's annual fall job fair on October 26, 2011 in Kentfield, Calif.

Jeremy Hobson: Here in Southern California today, thousands of people
are expected to participate in a jobs fair. It's taking place just east of LA in San Bernardino county, which is a county that's been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn.

Marketplace's Jennifer Collins has a look now at whether jobs fairs like this one are effective at putting people back to work.


Jennifer Collins: A couple dozen officials are taking a tour of an old airport terminal that today will be transformed into a job fair with over a hundred employers in Southern California.

Organizer: One more thing: we ordered orange and black tablecloths this year. So we're going to kind of be festive.

One organizer, Nick DeMartz of San Bernardino County, says he hopes the event will help bring down the area's 12.9 percent unemployment.

Nick DeMartz: It's a great way to bring these employers together in one location and bring 2,000 or 3,000 people in.

But John Challenger, of the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, says they rarely make a match. In a survey of human resources executives:

John Challenger: Job fairs ranked the least effective job search method.

On scale of one to five, they scored 1.6, behind "cold calling employers" or "blindly sending out resumes."

Chris Collins directs the Center for Advanced HR Studies at Cornell University. He says it's tough to stand out against the sea of other candidates.

Chris Collins: When you only have a minute to shake someone's hand and pass them a resume. The standard job fair is not a very good way to make that happen.

Jennifer Collins: It's like speed dating or something.

Chris Collins: It is worse than speed dating because you have even less time.

San Bernardino County's Nick DeMartz says at least it's something.

DeMartz: If I'm the person who's unemployed and I come to this job fair, and even if I was able to now earn $20,000 a year to feed my family, well that single person's earnings is more than the entire cost of this job fair.

The event, by the way, costs around $8,000 -- mostly for chairs, tables and refreshments. Pretty much everything else is donated.

I'm Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

About the author

Jennifer Collins is a reporter for the Marketplace portfolio of programs. She is based in Los Angeles, where she covers media, retail, the entertainment industry and the West Coast.
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