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  • Best Practices for Supporting Students Remotely

    March 23, 2020 | By NACE Staff

    Best Practices
    A university and relations recruiter works remotely to support a student during the coronavirus epidemic.

    TAGS: best practices, internships, operations, spotlight, coronavirus

    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

    During these times, it is important for those in URR to lean forward and provide support to their organization’s interns and candidates, explains Chelsea C. Williams.

    “Students are very nervous about classes and graduation and what opportunities will be available for them going forward,” says Williams, founder and CEO of College Code, a talent development and retention consultancy for diverse populations.

    “They want to know how to navigate this current environment. We need to be more intentional in teaching students about why career readiness skills are important and how they show up. With the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, for example, problem-solving and being resourceful are necessary for students to move forward.”

    Williams says students want employers to know is how challenging it is to go through their spring semester away from school, where the support and feeling of community may be limited. They are also concerned about the availability of resources to help them during this time.

    Many students are returning home to situations that are less than optimal, Williams adds. They may be homeless or have very low social-economic status, with home environments that are not conducive for learning, studying, or even taking phone calls. Some have no room to do their work or no internet service.

    “Students want employers to understand how much weight is on their shoulders at this time and how much they need employers to coach and help them in this uncharted environment,” she says.

    “Whether or not they get the exploratory conversation, the interview, or the job, they are trying to leverage their networks and resources, but they need help.”

    Williams says that some of the groups of students that are going to be the most challenged are:

    • First-generation students;
    • LGBTQA students who may be out on campus, but are not out to their families;
    • Asian students, due to the aggressive behavior and the biases that are permeating right now; and
    • Those with mental health issues who rely on the support available on campus.

    “I think telling students where you stand—even if you are not firm—is better than saying nothing at all to students,” Williams notes.

    “Say we’re taking things on a weekly basis or continue to check our website or look out for email newsletters with updates on our process. Share resources or videos so students can continue to learn more about your culture and the professional development resources you offer to staff and candidates.

    “This is not the time to go ghost. Highlight to prospective candidates, amid all that’s going on, that this is how we are taking care of our employees. I think a forward-thinking company would be communicating to show their brand and their culture during this time.”

    She suggests that organizations use resources and support they already have in place to help students “where they are.”

    “Proactive campus recruiting professionals are telling students, ‘We cannot imagine what this experience has been like for you, but we are here for you. Here are some of the ways we are able to support you at this time,’” Williams says.

    For example, Williams spoke to a company that is giving its interns access to the organization’s employee assistance program (EAP).

    “This is a valuable offering because, where there might have been mental health resources on campus, access may be limited for students who need them,” she points out.

    “Offer your interns a subscription to an app through which they can do mindful meditation through their phone or tablet to help ease the stress of this situation. Give interns access to recruiters by holding ‘office hours’ to answer their questions. Hold a webinar for them. If your organization is not communicative during this time, interns may question whether it is a place they want to work.”

    Williams has drafted several best practices to support recruiters and hiring managers during this pandemic:

    • Embrace flexibility—Be considerate and flexible given the current undergraduate climate. The vast majority of students have left campus and have returned home. Many are returning to less than optimal living situations. This is a reality we cannot ignore. Be flexible where necessary, including making any reasonable accommodations. Avoid making assumptions and generalizations.
    • Have fluid communication channels—Ensure candidates know who they should reach out to with questions and concerns. Make this information readily available on all communication outlets. Foster an approachable culture from the outset.
    • Beware of biases and blind spots—With an uptick in virtual interviews, it is more important than ever for interviewers to be mindful of biases and blind spots that may elevate under times of pressure and amongst new communication channels. Ensure all interviewers are mindful of the vast challenges students face amid COVID-19. Consider hosting a webinar with hiring managers to ensure they are prepared to engage students with warmth and understanding. 
    • Create a stress-free recruitment experience—Ensure that virtual interview information is clear. This includes clearly showcasing interview platforms (i.e. Skype or Zoom), interviewer names, interview format, and more. Also, be prepared to discuss candidate next steps post-interview. With the current level of anxiety and uncertainty globally, providing students with a clear timeline will be pivotal.
    • Nurture the candidate pipeline—If an offer is made post-interview, stay close to candidates by maintaining fluid communication and “buddy” connections, and making introductions to employee resource groups, business resource groups, and wellness resources. If possible, consider offering resources like your EAP as it is likely students who had access to mental health resources will have limited access amid COVID-19.

    “This can be an overwhelming situation, especially for students whose professional futures are being impacted,” Williams says.

    “We need to have empathy, be available, and provide support like we never have before.”