SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The full parking lot at the Missouri Job Center on East Sunshine said it all as around 300 people attended a job fair where 40 companies were looking for applicants in a wide range of fields from health care to banking to corperate jobs.
In a world where much of job searching these days comes on-line, this fair was a bit old-school where attendees could spin a Wheel of Fortune-type wheel for a gift and get plenty of free candy and apples. But most importantly, it was a chance to meet potential employers face-to-face.
"Here I'm an actual person with a name and a face," said job seeker Ryan Alexander of Springfield. "I'm able to look into the eyes of the person from the company."
"We are trying to employ an entire staff," said general manager Lori Sweazey, who is looking to hire 20 employees for a new extended-stay hotel in Springfield called Home 2 Suites by Hilton. And she too prefers the job fair's non-computerized approach.
"It's different than handing someone a piece of paper or e-mailing them," she said. "I get to meet them, I get to see their smile, I get to feel their personality. So having this event here has been huge."
Not that computer skills aren't important to getting a job these days.
"Technology is part of every job," said event organizer Dennis Wiggins.
But employers also emphasize it's showing up on-time and doing what's expected that makes a big difference.
"They can train for a lot of those hard skills," Wiggins said. "But the work ethic is the biggest challenge for employers in every industry."
It's also imnportant that job applicants make a good first impresseion. Which is why the center also offers a career closet where business clothes donated by T.J. Maxx are available to the general public to wear when they go out on interviews.
"It makes a huge difference in whether or not they can get the job," explained Kelly Fender, a state supervisor. "And so we're that resource. We want them to get the job. That's our job. It's to make sure they can present well and go in with their best foot forward."
The Missouri Job Center is a federally-funded agency that serves seven counties. The business clothes are available for free but applicants must meet with a job center employee to prove that they're using the clothes to go on an interview.