At the career fair at He Long stadium on the morning of the 18th of February, there were two paper boxes placed at the south and east exits. It was there for collecting the resumes or forms of web designers. The recruitment venue wasn’t large. If it wasn’t the peak recruitment season, then it would only take two or three minutes to walk through it.
At the time however, you needed at least 5 minutes to walk to the end of it without a hitch. On both sides there were on-site human resource personnel of various kinds of recruiting companies. At each there were two stools and a table, with a poster stuck on the wall behind. More refined ones would place a large advertising board, rent two units and have four or five personnel. One company even brought a sound system over and broadcast their own advertising on a loop. As the poor people approached the booths at the end, there were no longer any posters. There would be solitary people sitting there, who would play with their phones when there were no visitors. There was also one company that just had a poster with “temporary absence, please call XXX for information” written on it with a thick black marker.
The vast majority of companies had a set-up where one person would stand in the aisle while two would sit in the booth. When the person standing saw would inquire, “Are you looking for work? Take a look here,” whereupon they would be pulled inside. Then it would be up to the people sitting to explain the recruitment requirements and the benefits of the jobs. The slogans used to entice each had their own character such as, “Don’t just walk by and miss out, come and take a look,” or “Pretty girl, you are so beautiful, take a look at our work department,” or “New graduates, come take a look and give yourself an opportunity,” and so on. Jobseekers were beckoned to the point of embarrassment, perhaps responding with, “Thanks, I’m just looking. “
The peak season for career fairs is probably the two month period starting from the Lantern Festival. When searching with the keywords “Changsha recruitment” on Baidu, one will see recruitment information for the month. In the week from 14th to the 21st of February alone, Changsha had 166 job fairs, almost an average of 24 per day.
The career fair at He Long stadium is the one with the largest influx of people. Each day the staff there use more than 1000 disposable paper cups, distribute close to 2000 copies of “Recruitment News” and consume several hundred meals (just recruitment personnel alone). The vendors with their carts selling Liangfen (starch jelly) in the public plaza earn more than five to six times what they would on a typical day.
In the bustling intimacy of the jobs fair, food market, supermarket and shopping mall, some get jobs, and some get stacks of fliers.
February 18, 10:00am, heavy snow.
Most of organisations stationed at the event had young human resource personnel rather than those having the appearance of leadership. In front of a company of high technical products, a young human resource personnel said to a jobseeker in a rhythmic way: “Last night, our manager checked today’s weather forecast. It said that there would be a large snowfall coming over specially. He told us that this jobs fair is particularly important. Firstly, since the weather is so vile and cold, it shows that those that still come to find work really do need work. Secondly, it also shows that those people are tough and can endure hardship. Therefore we will reduce our criteria for those that apply for a job today. Come over to understand more about our company. “
The young man sat down. At the time, the manager was explaining things to a young lady.
“What kind of monthly salary are you expecting?”
The young lady hesitated, carefully saying, “2500.”
The manager flung his pen at the table, saying, “If that’s so we can’t continue talking.”
The girl froze, not knowing what she has said wrong. The manager paused for a moment, picked up his pen and continued: “What can you do for 2500? Fill yourself up with food? At the moment 2500 isn’t enough to fill you up, food prices are extremely high. If you say you want to earn 10000 a month then we can continue talking.”
The girl covered her mouth and smiled.
The mangager also smiled: “getting 2500 is very simple in our company. You just need to complete one bill a month. So what does one do with the remaining time? You should have a higher pursuit. Have you been in sales before?”
“I don’t have any sales experience, I’m a little introverted. I would like to apply to be an office staff member.”
That’s okay, you don’t need experience to be in sales. With an introverted personality you can sell things to other introverts. I tell you, if you become an office worker, you’re position will still be the same after five years. It will be embarrassing to attend school reunions. Being in sales is different. Over five years you will have gained capital. You’ll be able to get along well no matter where you go. This post will give all your capabilities a work-out. If you do well, you will be able to sell anything to anyone. The ability to deal with people is an intangible asset, something that money can’t buy. Even if after you are no longer involved in sales, it’s still very useful. What boss today doesn’t understand marketing?”
“I don’t think I have the capability.”
“I tell you, the most important thing isn’t your capability. This comes in second. The most important thing is to be obedient. If I want you to learn something, then you learn it. If I want you to toughen up, then you do it. When recruiting sales personnel, many companies use the ‘grass’ method. They recruit many people, just like grabbing a handful of seeds and scattering them. In the end those that will grow will grow, and those that will die will die. They don’t care. We aren’t the same. We give young people a good training scheme. Also, this department is only comprised of young people, and is very lively.”
In the end, the young lady filled out a form.
February 18 11:00am, at the end of the corridor.
A middle aged couple walked in. They sat down in front of a table at the end of the corridor. There was a recruitment poster of a training company stuck on the wall at the back.
“Hello. May I ask, are you this company?”
“No, we are ageLOC.”
The young man didn’t understand the heavily accented English of the middle aged man. The middle aged woman repeated. The young man still didn’t understand.
“We are a multinational corporation that makes genetic anti-ageing products.” The middle aged man didn’t press a detailed introduction of his own company. Instead he cut straight to the chase.
“Are you willing to work as a temp or as a boss? If you want temporary work, the section over there just has temps. If you want to be a boss, then you should come to me. I came from Beijing to Changsha. If you look me up on Weixin you’ll know. I’ll give you the chance to start a new venture.”
“You don’t have any flyers to help me understand more.”
“You’re a boss then. You’ve come to start a new venture with us. I want to tell you that as long as you genuinely want to help others, we will welcome you. Our project is world leading, and has been for 30 years. We have a presence in over 50 countries, our general headquarters being in Canada.” The man hadn’t yet finished talking when the woman interrupted: “China is just one of them.”
“Yes, China is just one of them,” the man continued. “My hometown is Changde in Henan. The market hasn’t yet been opened up in Henan. I’m going back to my hometown, and need to find partners for this undertaking.”
“Could I be your business partner?” asked another young man who was watching from a circle.
“Even if I don’t have any money?”
“Of course you can. I’ll tell you how to earn money but you must face the challenge with the utmost sincerity.”
“I’m also from Changde,” another young man interjected.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re from. What’s important is that you give yourself a good position. Do you want to work as a temp or as a boss?” After the number of people watching from the circle had become greater, the man began to brush off what was said.
“How can you be a boss without money?”
“I’ll tell you, there are some things that you don’t need money for.”
“If I become your business partner, how much can I earn each month?”
The woman eagerly answered this question: “Don’t ask us this, ask yourself. If you’re a boss you decide yourself if you want 10’000, 100’000 or 200’000.”
“I want a million.”
“Good idea young man,” said the middle aged woman sticking her thumb up. “Let me tell you, our company has the most employees that produce a monthly salary in excess of one million American dollars in the world. That’s American dollars. This exceeds Google and Microsoft. We’re ranked top in the world for this. We’re returning to Henan today. We want to turn the market there into the market in Beijing, or even the foreign market.”
“Are those genetic anti-ageing products of yours reliable? I don’t understand at all this aspect of technology.”
“Young man I’ll tell you, the biotechnology industry will surpass the internet. You only need to remember this. This isn’t something I said, it’s something Bill Gates said. Our products have been world-leading for three decades, and furthermore will become a household name in the next three to five years. I tell you, the biggest industrial chain of the future is biotechnology. If you miss out on this opportunity today, you will regret it for the rest of your life. We have already been on the American Stock Exchange for 18 years. We have over a million employees worldwide. You need to understand this point. You can come to my office tomorrow and talk it over in detail. It’s at the Hongming centre.”
The man began to pour forth: “I tell you, 20 years ago I was the same as you. I found work in Shenzhen with a monthly income of over 10’000. I still thought I was working as a temp. Wealth won’t come to you if you just wait. We will provide a means for you. We won’t recruit, we just came over today to take a look. We need to find a genuine partner.
“I also don’t want to waste your time in finding a job. I’m also very busy. It’s simple. Do you want to work as a temp or start a new venture? If you want to start a new venture, this is a great opportunity……”
The young man that wanted a million started to laugh. He wanted to ask more questions, but he was dragged away by a companion.
After a few metres, his companion said, “I just checked on my phone. Many people on the internet say they are engaged in multilevel marketing.”
“I know, I just saw how they were duping people.”
“There are still a lot of suckers listening with great relish.”
February 19 10:00am, He Long stadium, sunny.
After Yang Peng had given out the 20 resumes that he had prepared, he sunbathed with the classmates he arrived with.
“Fucking career fair. All these jobs, yet I feel there’s nothing to suit me,” Yang Peng complained.
“Even the rice noodle store has come to the career fair to recruit people. Do you still want to look for a decent job here? Any old job is pushed here.”
They idly chatted away. A chess match had started at the plaza, and many people were watching. Yang Peng and his friend had nothing else to do, and so also gathered round.
A man had put down 400 Renminbi. If he won, he would get 600 plus his original stake. If he lost, the money would go to the chess player.
The onlookers started to gesticulate, making the chess player anxious: “Stop talking. You are many, I’m just one, I’m sure to lose.”
The man moved his rook to the back row, and bellowed: “Check!” His rook was then taken by his opponent’s rook. “Check again” The man moved his other rook. He was too excited, thinking that he was going to win. He then immediately moved his cannon to the centre, shouting: “Check! You’re dead!”
“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” the chess player was anxious again. “You can’t make two moves at once. Slow down. First you checked with your rook, which was then taken. Then you moved your other rook, but my rook is blocking yours. How can it be check? It’s my turn to move. Advance my pawn. Checkmate. You lose.” He burst out laughing, “Think about where you went wrong.”
“Cheat!” Yang Peng muttered.
“Hey, hey, I’m an honest person. You say I cheated, how about you be black, and I’ll be white. Same stakes. Do you dare?”
Yang Peng didn’t say anything, observing from the side.
“Yesterday at the train station, I bumped into a few masters. I lost 2000 Renminbi. The day before I won over a 1000, but I still was at a loss. My luck’s good today, I’ve won a little.”
“I’ll play!” Another man crouched down. He took out 1000 Renminbi: “I’ll bet this. If I lose you have to pay 1500.”
“Fine, bet a thousand.”
The man won easily. The chess player slapped his thigh, annoyed: “Oh, this game went on for too long.” He counted the money in his hand and gave it all to the man. Then he smiled: “Haha, I haven’t lost yet. I’m exactly at break even.”
He set up a new game, saying, “In this game white can win in just four good moves. Try to think how to crack it. This time the game won’t last long.”
Yang Peng considered for a moment. He was sure he would win. He discussed the game with his friend. After they had reached a consensus, they decided to play. They each took out 300 Renminbi. The chess player said: “If you win I give you 800. Think it over, then we’ll play.”
Yang Peng miscalculated. Originally, he wanted to use his cannons in a chain. However, his rear cannon was taken by his opponent. The spectators started to gesticulate again: “You should have used your cannon to give check first, and not have used your rook.”
“Hahahaha, I’ve set this game up for nothing again,” the chess player said. “Is there still anyone who wants to crack this game?”
Yang Peng and his classmate thought very carefully. They took out 400 each, the last big bills they had remaining in their wallets which were withdrawn that morning.
“Play slower, don’t rush,” advised the spectators with good intent.
After two consecutive checks, Yang Peng checked again. He thought victory was in his grasp, but didn’t anticipate black’s cleverly hidden cannon giving a counter checkmate to white, giving black the victory.
The chess player burst out laughing again: “Hahahaha, my luck’s really good today. Does anyone still want to give this game a try? If not I’ll change it.”
Yang Peng and his classmate stood up, annoyed.
“Damn it, I got up really early in order to find work. I haven’t found any, and I’ve lost a few hundred.”
“Don’t talk about it, we had bad luck. Don’t play this kind of chess game again. Let’s go and eat.”
“We can’t eat anything, we have no money left. Let’s go and eat some rice noodles.”
February 18, 1:00pm.
Boxed meals are a simple set meals. Two human resource girls from different companies were eating and chatting.
“It’s a cold day and there’s no heating. It’s freezing.”
“You’re not kidding. And the boxed meal is disgusting.”
“How many resumes have you received today?”
“Over ten I think. Over the last few days I’ve received quite a few in total. We need to find over twenty people. I feel that none of them are that ideal so far.”
“It’s best to recruit new graduates. New graduates have great learning ability and no experience, so they don’t have a fixed way of thinking. They need to adapt to a new environment again. After Chinese New Year, five new employees from last year quit……”
She hadn’t finished talking when the other girl finished her boxed meal. She picked up her bag and was about to get up and leave.
“Oh, you’re leaving!”
“Yes, there’s no one here now. I hope you recruit some outstanding talent!”
The two laughed. Before long, the other girl packed her things away and left.
All that remained were a few scattered business and jobseekers. In front of an internet company’s table, the last conversations of the day occurred.
A girl asked: “I studied Chinese, I was wondering if this is suitable for management or not?”
A person from the marketing company replied: “I also studied Chinese. Studying Chinese has many advantages. You have a good understanding of the culture, are good at dealing with people, and strong communication skills. We have an employee called Xiaocheng who’s speciality is related to management. He joined the profession last year, and bought a car this year.”
“I like administrative roles the most, are you not recruiting for them?”
“There are no vacancies left in administration.”
“Ok, can you give me a flyer then? I’ll think it over again, if I have an inclination I’ll be in contact.”
The other person hesitated for a moment, then said, “We have flyers, but I see that you’re very hesitant, so I’m not going to give you one.”
The girl blushed, said, “Thankyou,” and then ran off.
Two men holding holding flyers printed with “Qinghua University Business Administration” in large letters at the Plaza were cracking jokes.
“We’re just like sellers in the street.”
Hahahaha, have a little confidence bro. We’re Qinghua University.”
“Even with a Qinghua University sign hanging up, we still can’t seem to dupe anyone.”
They walked over to a group of girls who were chatting.
“Is there anyone here who wants to do sales?”
Somebody at the side answered: “I’ve already asked them. None of them want to.”
“The Qinghua man” paid no attention, asking one of the girls, “Do you want to do sales? We do Business Administration training at Qinghua University. We make a contribution to privately run businesses. Are you interested? Our agenda doesn’t develop any old people. Only talented people are developed. Come and take a look.”
The girl said apologetically : “I’m not suitable for sales.”
“Have a little courage. We cultivate those with good potential. Nobody is born for a particular job.”
The girl smiled bashfully.
The man also smiled, saying: “Ok, I’ll settle with you. I won’t ask anyone else.”
The girl smiled yet more bashfully, and shaking her hand said: “I really am not suitable for sales.”
“The Qinghua man” pulled back the flyers in his outstretched hand, and said smiling, “It’s a great shame. Such a great talent.”
He went to the other end of the plaza whistling.
Published in issue 309 of the “Morning Post Weekly”, with some revisions.
Text – Reporter Jiang Zijian