October 22, 2010
Job seekers can find advantages at career fairs geared toward diverse groups
Special to NWjobs
Richard Velazquez doesn’t just organize diversity job fairs at Microsoft — he has first-hand knowledge how such a fair can propel a career.
“Most of my major jobs [I got] were through diversity job fairs,” says Velazquez, now a senior product planning manager at Microsoft. His first position there was one of five job offers he received at one diversity job fair.
Velazquez is now helping other job seekers follow in his footsteps through his role as president of the Seattle chapter of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, a group that has been hosting semiannual diversity recruiting events at Microsoft since 2008.
As more people become aware of the benefits of diversity job fairs, attendance at the Microsoft event has skyrocketed from 30-40 at the first event to more than 600 this past April.
Nov. 11: Microsoft Professional Development, Networking and Recruiting event, 6-9 p.m., Microsoft Studios West Campus, The Commons Mixer, 15255 N.E. 40th St., Rooms 2003-2007, Redmond. nshmba.org/seattle
Nov. 16: Jobtini recruitment event (ages 21 and older), 5:30-8 p.m., Spitfire, 2219 Fourth Ave., Seattle. colorsnwcareers.com
Jan. 19: Diversity Employment Day Career Fair, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Seattle Center Northwest Rooms. citycareerfair.com
“The key benefit is the ability to speak with the recruiter face to face,” Velazquez says of diversity job fairs, “especially in today’s job market, where you submit a résumé online and you have absolutely no idea where it’s going to go.”
ColorsNW CEO Robert Jeffrey says the company’s Northwest-based diversity career site, colorsnwcareers.com, hosts recruitment events periodically to give job seekers of color face time with recruiters from several companies. There are usually about a dozen employers and fewer than 300 job seekers at each “Jobtini.”
“We call it a boutique job fair,” Jeffrey says. “It’s smaller, it’s more intimate. This gives you more one-on-one chances with the recruiters, and they will remember you much more than [if they had met] 5,000 people.”
As the working world becomes increasingly global, employers and staff members benefit from diversity in the workplace, says Kevin Tam, president of the Seattle chapter of Ascend, a Pan-Asian leadership group that hosts a Diversity Career Expo every September.
“When you bring those different perspectives, I think it challenges people more in your organization to keep an open mind,” Tam says.
Ascend encourages professional development for its members and brings that emphasis to its Diversity Career Expo. That and other diversity job fairs often feature speakers who address topics unique to diverse employees and job seekers, such as language barriers or cultural differences that can put candidates at a disadvantage.
Such events can help job seekers narrow their search by pointing out which companies acknowledge the importance of diversity.
“It shows that you’re looking for an applicant pool that is broad instead of just looking at the same source,” says Douglas Leek, who got his current job as assistant director of admissions and financial aid at the Lakeside School through colorsnwcareers.com.
He adds that a diversity job fair only gets people in the door. “You’ve got to bring something else to the table,” Leek says, explaining that companies aren’t just trying to fill a diversity quota, they’re looking for ideal candidates.
Locally, the pool of diverse workers is deep. In 2009, 14.7 percent of King County’s population was Asian-Pacific Islander, 8.1 percent Hispanic, 6.5 percent black and 1 percent American Indian, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Beyond racial diversity, 10.7 percent were 65 or older and 15.4 percent foreign-born.
“Diversity isn’t just about racial diversity,” Velazquez says. “Diversity in experience, diversity in ages — we’ll take diversity in all its shapes and forms.”
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