A year ago, I was standing in the MizzouRec Complex in Columbia, MO, a HUGE building filled with employer tables barely a foot apart. Hundreds of students milled about. Hands were shaken, paper resumes passed out. 

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I attended the same career fair while sitting at home connecting with candidates virtually via video.

It’s been one year since COVID swept across the globe and changed traditional university recruiting. Recently I sat down with Keyot’s recruiting team to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the next. Our conversation led to four powerful insights for job candidates.

#1: Embrace a new normal

Initially, we expected extremely high attendance at virtual career fairs. Students wouldn’t have to travel, could sign-up in advance, and even wear pajama pants (though not recommended)! Surprisingly, we experienced lower volume. The reasoning behind this is still being researched, but our guess is Zoom fatigue or finding other avenues to connect.  

One year in as we’ve gained more confidence and experience with virtual career fairs, we’ve realized our conversations are just as effective and personable as in-person. While we miss meeting face-to-face, we’ve found a way to embrace this new normal and know successful candidates are doing the same.  

#2: Uncover hidden benefits

The main benefit? Spending less time physically traveling and more time on personal interactions. Seriously, there’s great convenience in being at home, knowing who you’re meeting with, and easily sharing a resume digitally. There’s little delay or waiting time as follow-up often begins instantly.

In less time than ever before, we have greater access to students across the country with a wider range of backgrounds and experiences. The same can be said for candidates who now have greater access to companies and opportunities through virtual career fairs. You can’t beat that!

#3: Find the right environment

While it may be your first virtual career fair, it’s probably not your first virtual event. After attending classes, organizational meetings, and more virtually – career fairs are just an addition to the list. However, students are truly feeling the “Zoom fatigue.” 

One challenge many face is finding the right environment– neutral background, quiet area, good lighting, and strong Internet connection. While finding an ideal setting can be a bit frustrating, it’s worth the effort. Putting yourself in the best light physically and mentally will undoubtably pay off.

#4: Harness the power of tech

It’s amazing how quickly career fair platforms (Handshake, CareerFair Plus, and Simplicity) were conceptualized and built. Going through the product life cycle in a few short months, not the typical years.

The platforms have collected feedback and even added new features. For instance, some have students pre-schedule 10-minute time slots, while others create a real-time “line” like an in-person fair. Each of our team members have a favorite platform but unanimously agree video-based fairs beat text chat ones any day.

College students have been adventurous to try new things. Interacting with employers online should be no exception. Check out some of the latest ways to connect:

  1. Directly connect with company ambassadors or recruiters through Handshake.com 
  2. See jobs posted nationwide through platforms like Handshake and Simplicity
  3. Attend employer-sponsored events conducted virtually, learning even more about the company
  4. Connect directly with recruiters on LinkedIn through connection requests and messaging
  5. Set up Zoom calls with mentors and alumni to learn more about their jobs and ask for advice

What’s next for university recruiting?

While we can’t say what will happen with certainty, none of us want to go back to in-person career fairs exclusively. Even though we miss in-person campus interaction, employers and universities recognize and embrace the pluses of a virtual model.

We foresee a hybrid approach as the new norm. Employers will host events virtually while attending some in-person university activities like networking events. It’s taken much collaboration, feedback, and communication to make the changes of the past year not only work but succeed. We will only see that innovation and partnership continue.

How have you navigated job searching this past year? We’d love to hear about it. Comment below with your stories!

February 2020
February 2021

February 2020 vs 2021

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