On the NC State campus Tuesday, hundreds of job seekers got some precious face-time with 22 Triangle area employers who are looking to fill more than 2,000 jobs in technology-focused areas.

Big names, like Allscripts and DeutscheBank Global Technology, sat alongside up-and-comers like Ansible, growing companies like Dude Solutions and Bronto, and newcomers like Avalara. All of the companies were vying for talent ranging from developers to marketers, and everything in between.

“We’re seeing growth, and in fact this year’s Job Fair has a record number of 2000 jobs available in the Triangle,” said Brooks Raiford, president and CEO of the North Carolina Technology Association (NCTA), who, along with CED and WorkInTheTriangle, hosted the event. “One of NCTA’s 3 pillars is to enhance the knowledge workforce, and part of that is connecting employers with the skillsets they need. There is still a desire for traditional job fairs and the personal interaction that they offer.”

The two year old event started in the Triangle, and has added Charlotte as of last year. With job growth on a solid uptick, job fairs remain popular because they’re efficient and effective –meetin people –to- face allows you to their measure, and companies can take advantage of the critical mass of hundreds of people in one room, in just over four hours.

Madhavi Chandra, who is now Development Software Manager at Entrinksik, was behind the desk this year helping to hire a Web Developer for the company. But last year, Chandra was on the other side of the table, resume in-hand. This 30 employee Web-based business intelligence firm was looking to hire a developer then, and they weren’t hiring for the project management role she was looking for. But within a few minutes of approaching the desk, she realized that there was a synergy.

“One of the nice things about job fairs is that you can meet a small company you may not have known, have a conversation, and both recognize a good fit,” said Chandra. “Job fairs work because they give you a chance to meet people who can address a position that needs to be filled, even if the company may not see it as a priority right now. You make a connection, you see the skillset and the personality, and you may see the benefit of adding them to your staff. You can’t make that kind of connection from a piece of paper.”

Sometimes, when there are a lot of jobs to fill, ‘paper’ – whether it’s online or not – is the most efficient way to handle it. But it may not be the most effective. HCL, a global call center, saw the benefit of being at the Tech Out the Triangle Job Fair.

“HCL is hiring,” said Steve Lloyd, Senior Technical Recruiter at HCL. “Even when the economy was at a low point, HCL was adding people. In fact, when I joined two years ago we had 450 people. We now have 1200 employees and will add 1200 more positions in the next year. A number like that is not a challenge for us because this area is, and always will be, a good job market.”

The Recruiting Challenge

In contrast, smaller companies do see that there is a challenge, especially when it comes to high-demand programming skillsets.

Bronto has been in business for 12 years, but its big growth has only been in the past four, according to Melissa Crosby, Corporate Recruiter. She notes that every division of the company has openings right now, and her responsibility, engineering, has 12 roles to fill right away.

“It has been more challenging for us because we have been smaller – but that’s changing,” she said. “We won Best Places to Work for four years in a row, and that helps. We look for passionate people, and those people are seeking us out. Our culture is fun, and, unlike big corporations, you can make an impact on Day One.”

What Workers Want

Having an impact is exactly what many of these job seekers are looking for.

Bryan Dickson is a Web Application Developer who took a job with the government out of college. He’s still there two years later, but is looking for something that offers more growth.

“I’d like to know that there’s the possibility for upward movement and the salary advances that can come with that,” said Dickson. “I’d really like to find something that doesn’t put me in a Cube Farm, and I think there are a lot of those creative companies here today.”

The other side of the coin is the former manager or even executive, many with 10 -20 years of experience. They come to the job fair to stand out, to make an impression that won’t fit on paper.

Torrence Roundtree is a Program Project Manager who was at the Job Fair to look for a position in an organization that needs to understand the health of the projects they’re working on. In addition to two Masters Degrees and more than halfway through his PhD, Roundtree has 35 years of experience in IT, Project Management, and entrepreneurship. But like many pre-millennials, he struggles to find a way to prove his value in a very fast-changing recruiting environment.

“Large corporations seem to understand how to use my experience, where a younger organization might not be ready for the enterprise view,” said Roundtree. “They may be waiting for their portfolio to grow before hiring an expert, yet that often puts them behind the 8 ball. I’m at a job fair to prove that I’m valuable and adaptable.”

Giving Back vs. Balance

Bandwidth was there looking for what Diane Johnston, Business Analyst II, says is a mix of brilliant people who want to give back.

“At Bandwidth, we driven to find the next way to make it easier to communicate,” said Johnston. “We’re hiring at every level, including interns and entry level employees because we believe in promoting from within. We’ve become the sixth largest Telco in the nation, and we do it while assuring work/life balance. Coming to these job fairs lets us know the human side of the resume, and personality is important to our culture.”

Several people in the room were just returning to the job market. For Haoua Ousmanou, this job fair was her first attempt to connect to available positions after raising her family, so offering a competitive position that respects work/life balance may be important to her. “I’m very optimistic about the job market right now,” said the business analyst. “It’s great to see lots of jobs coming to North Carolina and the Triangle.”

Avalara, a Bainbridge Island, Washington tax software company, has only about 75 people here now but say they’re ready to make the Triangle their east coast hub.

“Tax software isn’t boring anymore,” said John Jemsek, Program Manager. “We have a unique and passionate west coast culture, and it’s a fun place to work. The corporation has 750 employees, and we’re planning to get to 400 here in the Triangle.”

With so many jobs to fill, it’s a good thing that this job fair is not a four hour experience. Most of the jobs are listed at TechJobsNC.com, at @WorkTriangleNC and on CED’s website. The twitter campaign can be accessed through #ComeTechOutNC.

This job fair is a strong indicator: the Triangle is a center of opportunity.