Grove City College’s nationally ranked Career Services Office (CSO) is gearing up for its 22nd Annual Career Fair on Wednesday, Sept. 23, in a world that is a whole lot different from a year ago.
The Career Fair is the CSO’s largest and signature recruiting event of the year, when hundreds of recruiters – many of them alumni – from businesses, non-profits, graduate and law schools, seminaries and government agencies connect with students looking for jobs, internships and graduate school options. The historic magnitude and quality of the Career Fair is one of the reasons that the office is ranked 8th in the nation by The Princeton Review.
This year, as CSO staff began surveying their employer partners at the beginning of summer and benchmarking best practices to ensure the safety of students and recruiters during the coronavirus pandemic, they determined that a virtual career fair would be the optimal choice.
“The Career Services Office strives to continually identify the needs of its stakeholders and to quickly pivot to provide opportunities that best meet those needs.” Mandy Sposato ’00, director of Career Services, said. “At the end of the day, whether virtual or in person, our hope is to connect employers who are hiring with students who are looking for opportunities, and that is our goal with this year’s fair.”
The Career Fair is typically defined by personal connections, firm handshakes, eye-catching marketing materials and booth displays, in-person networking and the like, which makes moving to an online fair a big paradigm change. The challenge this year is to effectively establish those same personal connections through a virtual medium.
The CSO is using Handshake’s online career platform to facilitate the fair and in order to maintain the personalized experience of networking, students and employers will have the opportunity to connect through video-based group and 1:1 sessions.
An online fair brings some perks, one being that students will be able to skip the lines and crowds that are typically associated with job fairs. Virtual events can also be efficient, economical, more convenient and, currently, safer for recruiters. Another advantage is that companies that do not have either the means or time to travel can join in, opening up more possibilities for students. Samaritan’s Purse is one example of an organization that will be participating for the first time now that geography isn’t an obstacle.
“Due to the many benefits online recruiting offers, many companies will likely implement some form of virtual recruiting in their long-term operations, so it is important for students to understand best practices for succeeding in the world of virtual recruitment,” Sposato said.
In preparation for the event, the CSO offered “How to Work a Virtual Career Fair” workshops to help students feel confident in their virtual etiquette and utilizing Handshake’s new virtual fair platform. In addition, the CSO is using Big Interview software, which allows students to practice online interviews. They can also make an appointment to review their resumes with a CSO career counselor and receive feedback. For the day of the fair, the CSO is designating locations on campus that will be available for students to use for their scheduled sessions with recruiters (a nice option for those that do not want to stay in their dorm rooms).
In a typical year, the Career Fair draws approximately 150 employers and graduate schools to the event. This year, even with moving to a virtual fair, around 100 employers and graduate schools remained committed to participating in this year’s event to connect with highly desirable Grove City College students.