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Women for Hire's Tory Johnson says she tries to get a good match of job candidates and employers at her company's events. Look who's expected to be at the New York career fair on Tuesday.

Careers for women

Fair day

In this story:

Meeting a need

Fair treatment

Filtering the turnout

RELATED STORIES, SITES Downward pointing arrow

(CNN) -- "There's so much talk about helping women break the glass ceiling. I really think you have to help women at the beginning of their careers to help them succeed down the road."

That's Tory Johnson talking. And the help she's offering women is drawing them today to Chicago's Merchandise Mart. On Tuesday, a similar crowd is expected to gather at the Manhattan Center in New York.

"I'm a great believer in women helping women. And I think a lot of people pay only lip service, unfortunately. It's a personal passion."
Tory Johnson, Women for Hire

These are career fairs organized by Women for Hire. The company was formed last year by Johnson, a former publicist for news magazine shows at ABC and NBC.


Meeting a need

Johnson, 30, says she was talking to several of her brother's female friends at New York University early in 1999. These college seniors, she says, were -- to a woman -- anxious, not excited, about landing a job after college.

"This was coming from really smart people," Johnson says.

Is a career fair specifically for women a good idea?

For sure. Women still earn less than men, the advantage of this fair ... is fair.
Maybe. But I'm wondering if a standard mixed-gender fair isn't just as useful to good candidates.
No way. A career fair for women doesn't reflect the real job marketplace or work force.
View Results

So Johnson quit her network television job and started Women for Hire in July of last year. She decided to organize a career fair for women in New York aimed at college seniors, recent graduates or those with up to five years of work experience.

"I'm a great believer in women helping women," Johnson says. "And I think a lot of people pay only lip service, unfortunately. It's a personal passion."

And a risky one, too. Until recently, Women for Hire consisted of Johnson working from home, cold-calling college recruiters at major companies she sought for her first career fairs. She then enlisted free labor in the form of her husband, mother, aunt and father-in-law to help her plan and execute the first two fairs.

Now she has a staff of seven and an office and she's turning a profit. "It was incredibly risky," says the mother of three. "I had this idea in my mind and I could taste it, feel it. I just wanted to do it, and I took a chance."


Fair treatment

That first one-day job fair was held in October 1999 and drew about 50 employers and 1,400 job candidates, Johnson says. A second fair, also in New York last February, attracted about the same number of companies and 1,600 job seekers.

Both were a success, she says, but don't take her word for it.

"The quality of candidates was unbelievable. They were professional , they were intelligent, they were directed. They weren't flip-flopping from booth to booth. They knew what they wanted to do. They knew what jobs they were looking for."
Natalie McCray-Gleba,

Natalie McCray-Gleba was a job recruiter with FleetBoston Financial Corporation at the time and a weary veteran of job fairs. She attended both of the earlier fairs, and is going to next week's event in New York.

"Tory's staff was unbelievably incredible," she says. "They were just out there willing to help you. We (recruiters) were pinching ourselves and asking, 'Have we died and gone to recruiter heaven?'"

OK, the company recruiters were treated well, but were the job candidates worth meeting?

"The quality of candidates was unbelievable," says McCray-Gleba, now director of staffing for "They were professional , they were intelligent, they were directed. They weren't flip-flopping from booth to booth. They knew what they wanted to do. They knew what jobs they were looking for."

She hired employees and interns at the events.


Filtering the turnout

Women for Hire career fairs are free to employment seekers. The companies there pay a fee. Johnson promises them "a very bright, high-quality candidate pool." How does she know she can deliver that? She screens student clubs and organizations, selecting departments on campuses, professors and alumni associations.


"We target the departments and the clubs where the candidates are from the backgrounds we're interested in attracting," Johnson says. "Unlike a lot of other typical career fairs, our main means of marketing isn't a big, full-page ad in the Sunday paper in the Help Wanted column. We feel as though our clients can do that themselves."

That's smart, says McCray-Gleba of "When they do it in every newspaper, what happens is you get the targeted market, and you also get anybody and everybody off the street."

Johnson casts her marketing net around nearly three-dozen colleges and universities in the region in which she's conducting a fair. This benefits employers and job candidates, she says.

Employers get to meet students from schools their recruiters may not normally visit. "They have a limited amount of time and money and effort they can spend on college recruiting," Johnson says.

"And it's a really good opportunity for the candidates, in the sense that in New York you don't have to go to Columbia or NYU, for example, to be a brilliant person. You can be extremely smart and go to a much smaller school. A lot of the biggest and best companies don't recruit at all those schools. We level the playing field."

"Even though unemployment is low and the economy is strong, it still takes a lot of work to get a great job."
Tory Johnson, Women for Hire

It seems to be working. Johnson says she doesn't know how many women have found work at her career fairs, adding that she's working on developing better ways to measure this.

But in February and March of 2001, Women for Hire fairs are scheduled to be held again in Boston (one was there last week), Chicago and New York, and -- for the first time -- Atlanta; South Florida; Austin, Texas; Washington; San Francisco; and Los Angeles.

Have you been to a career fair? How helpful was it? What do you think of Tory Johnson's Women for Hire program?

"We've also been approached by a few potential partners we're developing some programs with," Johnson says. Those partner-possibilities may create a career fair next summer for more experienced professionals.

"That's an additional area we're going to explore. Even though unemployment is low and the economy is strong, it still takes a lot of work to get a great job."


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