Nearly 2,500 college students and recent graduates will get face time with New Jersey's employers — big and small — at Rutgers University today for the state's largest career fair.
According to Richard White, the school's associate director of career services, 185 potential employers in the private and public sector will recruit students and recent graduates for jobs and internships — a 15 percent increase from last May, but still short of the 200 employers on hand in May 2008.
Special agent Timothy McMahon, a recruitment coordinator for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's New Jersey division, said he has attended every Rutgers career day in January and May since 2008, and of all the agency's qualified applicants in New Jersey, Rutgers graduates are represented the most.
"There's just something about Rutgers, with the quality of students they have. I speak to my co-workers all the time about that," McMahon said. "I can tell these students do research on the DEA beforehand and know the right questions to ask. We've hired quite a few Rutgers students over the years from these career fairs."
McMahon said hiring at the agency has been frozen since January 2010, but an open vacancy announcement to fill 250 positions at 200 offices nationwide is expected "literally any day now."
"Employers are paying a sizable fee to come here, and most employers send two to four people for an entire workday," White said. "I think it's safe to say these people are really hiring. The success of the event and the number of employers here says, to me, that this career fair adds value to their recruiting programs. It's a pretty expensive proposition if they're just waving the flag."
White said Rutgers' career services office surveys employers at the event, but does not administer follow-up reports to gauge the full impact, which could take two months.
In January, 2,708 students and graduates attended the career fair — a spike from the 1,825 job seekers who attended in May 2011, White said.
"May is always lighter than January, but we expect between 2,000 and 2,500 job seekers today … based on the sprinkles of better news about the economy and the increasing difficulty they're facing coming out of college into the job market," White said. "Even though we're New Jersey's largest career fair, we're just a small blip on the overall economic radar screen, but we reflect a positive trend line."
White said today's event marks the 50th collegiate career day in the university's history, as it has been held twice a year since 1987 — when the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce and Rutgers University formed a joint venture aiming to get out-of-state college graduates who attended high school in New Jersey back into the state.
The fair is open to the public, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at the Rutgers Student Center on College Avenue, in New Brunswick.