Pink-slip party attracts over 600 unemployed techs

Steven Lan was pleased when he arrived in Canada from China two months ago and found this country using the same technology recruiting techniques as companies in his home.

“I just want to look for a job as a network administrator where I can apply my talent,” he said.

That’s what he was doing Monday evening at Toronto’s first Hire Top Talent Pink Slip party. He and more than 600 other unemployed technology workers gathered at a downtown Toronto bar to pass resumes, exchange job leads and network with IT company executives, all in hopes of getting back into an industry that shut most of them out in the last year.

“People are chatting and they are sharing job leads and that’s good for the end goal, obviously, which is getting everyone back to work,” said Toby Shannon, Hire Top Talent co-founder. He added that it wasn’t just big companies recruiting at the event organized by the Ottawa-based company.

“The big guys, the Nortels of the world are here, but there are also any number of sundry companies from here in Toronto,” he said. “We had to close the database to incoming candidates as of last Thursday because the turnout was so big.”

Shannon estimated that about 20 per cent of those at the event were ex-Nortel workers, not unlike Hire Top Talent’s other founder and president, Kirsten Watson.

Watson said she never would have started the business had it not been for Nortel, where she was the senior manager for channel marketing at the company until she received her pink slip last January.

“I was completely shocked,” she said.

She and others in similar situations were looking for a way to market themselves to the community when they decided to start Hire Top Talent. “There wasn’t an existing one that made a lot of sense and certainly not one that was going to get us into new jobs really quickly,” she said.

Word of the site soon spread all over North America and despite having found full-time work already, Watson decided on another career change.

“It had to go one way or the other,” she said. “So the three of us quit our jobs and about 90 days ago started pursuing this as a full-time business.”

Despite Hire Top Talent’s youth, the company has already seen the outcome from its first pink-slip party in Ottawa. Ninety-five per cent of those who participated in the first event had new jobs within 30 days and 86 per cent of that group attributed it directly to the Web site and reverse career fair.

Grant Savoie, one of four recruiters from Greenbelt, Md.-based, OAO Technologies said Hire Top Talent’s reverse career fairs are among the best that he has attended.

“This is the second career fair of theirs we have attended,” he said. “You end up talking to super candidates here.”

Savoie said the norm at career fairs is a population of about 90 per cent new graduates, adding he has to hire for most of his positions from the other 10 per cent. At the pink-slip parties, he said, the numbers are almost in reverse.

“We have about 250 people in Toronto now and we are looking to hire another 200,” he said. “We talked to 250 great people last night alone.”

That’s good news for many in the technology sector who have been battered by the string of heavy layoffs over the last year. Just last week, fibre-optics giant JDS Uniphase Corp. shed 7,000 employees to cut costs and this year Nortel has been forced to lay off 30,000 employees.

Fred Rose, district technical manager for Synopsys, Inc. headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., said he hoped to meet some hardware designers for his Toronto office and had already collected five resumes in a half an hour.

“This is the first time I have been to a job fair, but I am working with recruiters who have been to many,” he said. “So far it’s a lot of fun.”

In the early stages of the Hire Top Talent Web site and the reverse career fairs, the company president said her clientele had a real “gen-x vibe.”

“We came to realize that it doesn’t have anything to do with age – it has to do with the industry,” she said. “The pace that people work in high-tech is 100 miles an hour from the minute you get to work until you leave at ten o’clock that night, so the people you have here are used to going at that speed and for that reason, most of them are ready to charge full-force into finding their next job.”

More information on Hire Top Talent Inc. can be found at its Web site, OAO Technologies Inc. and Synopsys Inc. are on the Web at and