Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
Montgomery College recently held its first “on-campus” virtual recruitment visit with an employer. Conducted over Zoom, approximately 20 students attended and had the opportunity to hear the employer present about the jobs it is hiring for and ask the employer questions.
In addition, Roberta Buckberg, collegewide employer services coordinator at Montgomery College, talked about transferrable skills that could be gained from these entry-level positions.
“It was useful to get students speaking with employers and give them practice asking questions in an ‘interview-like’ setting,” Buckberg says.
“We are waiting to see if the employer hires any of the attendees.”
Buckberg says the goals for the virtual “on-campus” recruitment visit via Zoom were essentially the same as they are for an “employer information table” in a high-traffic area on campus during typical times. These include:
- Allowing employers to meet with students informally to promote their opportunities when they are hiring for three or more positions with immediate need;
- Giving students an opportunity to chat informally with employers and to practice interviewing skills by having conversations about the company’s needs and their skills so that they, as job seekers, can find and emphasize the match; and
- Continuing and nurturing relationships between the student employment services office and both employers and students.
“The Zoom meeting actually had some advantages over a typical face-to-face on-campus information table,” Buckberg says.
She explains that since students were all gathered together at one time to talk to the employer representatives:
- The employer reps saved time—The meeting lasted about 45 minutes, while a typical table would be up for two to four hours.
- Students got to hear the questions others asked and the answers they received—Students learned from each other about the employer and its job-search process.
- It drew only students specifically interested in the employer—Tables tend to draw lots of “just curious” visitors.
“I was also able to talk to the students about the strong transferrable skills this opportunity would provide and has provided to between 30 and 40 of our students every year for at least the last three years,” Buckberg says.
“This is a community organization that hires 15 to 20 of our students every year for summer camp and another 20 or so for school-year activities. We have had a long relationship with this employer, which was important because I knew that no matter what the turnout was, they would still appreciate that we had tried this.”
She points out that the Zoom meeting strengthens relationships with employers, even at a time when all involved are separated. It also builds connections with students.
“Many students reached out to find out about this employer before and after the event,” Buckberg notes.
“This sparked conversations about the job search, resume writing, and other issues. We let all of our stakeholders—students, faculty, staff, employers—know and really feel and see that we are still here to help them.”
The offering was not without it its challenges, especially in getting word out to students.
“I am thankful that the college at-large and many specific academic departments have robust social media presences,” Buckberg says.
“To get students to know about it and register, I sent a collegewide email to all faculty and staff asking that they alert their students. During typical times, I send a weekly email to all faculty and staff sharing major employment opportunities, flyers, and upcoming on-campus recruitment events. So, fortunately our faculty and staff are already used to this kind of communication and are strong partners.”
She also sent targeted emails to specific departments to encourage them to share with their students to emphasize the critical experience that this would provide their students in discipline-related work.
Buckberg offers several suggestions for offering a similar virtual event, including:
- Having students pre-register to attend so that you know that you have people planning on coming.
- To start, using an employer you trust and that has hired a lot of your students in the past. “I knew that our relationship wouldn’t suffer if this didn’t go as we hoped and that they would consider it a learning experience and still be eager to collaborate with us,” Buckberg says.
- Enlisting the help of your faculty and staff—and social media—as partners to get the word out. Student life, collegewide, and academic department social media were very effective in marketing this event.
“This was an opportunity to try out and begin to polish effective online recruiting with a long-trusted employer partner,” she explains.
“When I suggested a Zoom session to them, I let them know what challenges we faced in making it work, but they jumped at it, even with knowing that it might draw somewhat fewer attendees than a face-to-face information table in typical times. And it did draw fewer students as 19 attended, whereas typically this employer would see 40 to 50 students during a four-hour on-campus visit.”
Still, Buckberg sees the value in this event format and with pushing out to try new services and delivery methods.
“I think we all need to be willing to try things we wouldn’t necessarily have before because we are going to face periods of being separated in the coming months and years as this gets resolved,” she says.
“Some of these strategies we can continue to use in the future—even when we are back together—to supplement our face-to-face events.”