WEST VALLEY CITY — For Ahmad Rasoupour, getting a job interview even in Utah's hot employment market is challenging.
Trained in software engineering and web development, the 30-year-old Iranian immigrant said he finds plenty of positions to apply for online, but getting past the computer algorithm and onto the list of candidates who are awarded an in-person interview has proved difficult.
"Currently, when you apply online, it's so hard to get your resume in front of (real) people," Rasoupour said.
For that reason, among others, he was one of the scores of people in attendance at the annual Utah Diversity Career Fair Tuesday at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center. He said having the chance to meet with prospective employers face to face offered an opportunity to make an impression that can't be replicated online.
"Here at the job fair, you can just come and talk directly to people like the (human resources) manager or recruiter and discuss your interests and what you're looking for," Rasoupour said.
He said the personal interaction makes a lot more sense from the job seeker perspective and can potentially expedite the prospective hiring process.
"This kind of (event) presents a pretty high chance for us to show our qualifications and experience and the skills that we have," Rasoupour said. "It helps a lot."
Salt Lake resident Michelle Cisneros said she was attracted to the event because it targeted connecting employers specifically with a diverse employee audience.
"I'm more interested in the businesses that are willing to be here because it shows me what their future path is and what they're looking for when they hire," she explained. With much of her career experience in human resources and operations, she said this employment fair offered the chance to get connected with companies looking for someone with her talents.
"I'm looking for a company who needs a good manager for their teams," she said. "I feel like I can sell myself better in person than I can sell myself on a piece of paper."
A native Utahn, Cisneros noted that while the Beehive States has become more diverse over the years, she is concerned about the political climate that sometimes portrays people of Hispanic heritage negatively and the potential detriment such rhetoric can have.
"What's going on in the world today, it makes me a little bit nervous," she said. Being at a job event where companies expect to find people of different backgrounds helped alleviate some of those fears, she said.
The one-day career fair featured a variety of firms from numerous industries and was sponsored by defense contractor L3 Technologies. Event co-organizer Victoria Pashley, campus recruiting coordinator for the technology giant, said the company is committed to addressing the perception that Utah is not a very diverse place.
"We found in our business that the more diversity we have in technology, the more successful we are as a company," she said. The purpose of creating such an event was to help companies along the Wasatch Front connect with the increasingly diverse pool of talented people who now make up the state's working population.
She noted that many local companies have made a concerted effort to hire more diverse employees because they know the benefits such a variety of thoughts can have on a company's long-term success.
"It's shown on our bottom line, and the diversity has really helped come up with new ideas and expand our horizons and expand what we can really do in technology," Pashley said.
L3 employs about 3,000 workers in Utah, she said. While that is a significant number of people, she said, there is always room to bring on more qualified, diverse talent.
"We need events like this because companies may know they need diversity, but diversity doesn't have a place to go to get hired," she said.
Creating an environment where companies can 'be intentional' in diversifying their workforce is a positive way to get employers to continue on the path toward equity and diversity, explained James Jackson, Zions Bank vice president and founder of the Utah Black Chamber of Commerce who co-organized the career fair.
"This event gives (companies) the opportunity to be a little more intentional in that they want to hire diverse talent, that they have to be in diverse communities and get introduced to diversity on a large scale," he said.
Established in 2017, he said the event has grown and attracted more employers every year, which gives an indication of the state's growing appetite for diversity in its workforce.
"We know that we're in a good position. Utah, itself, knows it's important to acquire diverse talent as far as companies are concerned," he said. "Now it's time for us to learn how to build upon it even more."