The recruitment season is in full swing for college students everywhere. In most years, students would be gearing up for their in-person interviews and the coveted super days, the last interviews before offers are given, and planning the optimal route to get to the interview in the morning.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, no one is planning their in person visits. However, students are still prepping for recruitment. This year’s recruitment cycle is fully online and this includes all networking events, interviews, and coffee chats.
At the Haas School of Business, for example, student recruiting remains as busy as ever according to Karen Lin, the Assistant Director for Business at the Career Center. “To create a high touch experience, the Career Center hosts four business career fairs, with each designated specifically to a career pathway such as accounting, consulting, finance, and marketing. We also resume our mini case competitions and add two trending topics, FinTech, and Women in Business to our networking series portfolio.”
With all these events, students have a lot ahead of them. For many, recruiting is a daunting task. And having it online can only exacerbate the stress and anxiety of not knowing what to expect. Frankly, there are even more questions like these unanswered. How will Career Fairs be run? What should we do to network with companies we are interested in? When everyone is online at the same time, how do I stand out?
Here is the biggest question of all: Are these events even worth it?
I logged on to Zoom at the end of August to attend Haas’ first Career Summit for Fall 2020 to answer these questions. After attending a L.E.K. Consulting workshop and networking mixer, I can confirm that these events are worth it for all Haasies — and business students in general — looking to secure their summer internships and full-time positions.
Here are five things I learned to help you make the most out of Zoom networking events:
1. First Impressions Matter.
The same reason we dress in business formal to networking events before COVID-19 is the same reason men should still put on a tie and women should wear a jacket on Zoom. You don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression. On a Zoom call with hundreds of people, you are just one face among a sea of faces. You can stand out by dressing better than the 5-8 people who are surrounding your box.
At the Career Summit, there were three types of people on call: those with their cameras off, those in casual clothing with their cameras on, and those in blouses and suit jackets. Who do you think was perceived as more attentive and engaging?
I can remember one fellow Hassie popping up on my screen to ask a question. I made a note about this student because he was the only one I saw in a black tie and felt like he came prepared. In fact, most of the students who volunteered to speak and ask questions were the ones who dressed accordingly.
TIP: When you dress formally, you are framing this event as a professional one. This reinforces your brain to be attentive, which can allow you to focus better than if you were wearing sweatpants. It can also give you that extra boost to participate in a 100+ person Zoom call with potential employers. Chances are, you will be more inclined to raise your hand on Zoom and turn your microphone and camera on when you are dressed in business formal.
2. Come Prepared with Questions.
If you are attending a networking event, you probably have some burning questions you want to be answered. For example, maybe you want to understand the interview process and how to prepare for a case interview. These Zoom calls are the best chance for you to get the answer to your questions in real-time. Take advantage of the fact that recruiters are “sitting in front of you”; they are literally waiting to answer your questions.
For the case workshop with L.E.K. Consulting, the four presenters left 20 minutes of time to answer student questions. Not only is this a great opportunity to introduce yourself to those who may take part in the application process, but you can also get the information you need quickly to start preparing your own application and interviews. As an added benefit, if you can ask the right questions you can also leave a great impression with potential decision-makers.
During this workshop, the consultants ran through a case interview for students and provided their thought processes for asking questions for additional information, identifying key points to address, and showing the best way to tackle quantitative mental math questions. For those who have never done a case interview before, seeing a career consultant walk through a case is invaluable. This exercise was even more helpful for those who followed along with the case as it was being presented and asked questions about their own thought processes. There is no better practice for casing or asking questions during an interview than literally doing it.
TIP: Have a pen and paper ready before the Zoom call starts. This way, you can take notes on the presentation and quickly jot down a to-do list. Most firms will display their application timeline and deadlines on the screen, so it’s important to keep this information on hand if you want to work for this company. At the same time, you can write down any questions you have in advance so you don’t have to worry about stuttering or forgetting your question when it is your time to turn on your camera and microphone.
3. Show Your Knowledge About the Firm.
For those who are clear on which firms they want to intern or work for, these events are the perfect chance for you to impress your campus recruiter. Company presenters and recruiters want to incorporate discussion during these sessions because it’s just more interesting. They are here to get to know you just as much as you are trying to get to know them. If you raise your hand on Zoom, they will always call on you to speak.
Take advantage of your brief spotlight to ask an informed question about something specific to that firm. For example, someone talking to a Deloitte panel might ask, “How has Deloitte University enhanced your skills and experience at Deloitte?” This shows way more interest and knowledge of the firm than a general “Tell me about your experience at this company.” And, to top it all off, you’re giving the panelists a chance to share something personal — and people love to talk about themselves.
Recruiters will find you far more memorable when you ask something they have never heard before or make a thought-provoking comment that adds value to the conversation. Your question can sound something like this:
“After learning about pivoting in my branding class, I realized this is something I am interested in working on after I graduate. I would love to hear more about your experiences or this firm’s experiences with clients who dealt with the same issues?”
Even as you are asking questions, you can differentiate yourself as an applicant by giving them information about who you are and what you think.
TIP: Have a list of experiences, classes, and projects you can draw on to formulate your questions. As you ask questions that add value to the conversation which recruiters will appreciate, you also become more memorable to the recruiter.
4. Send a Thank You Email or Follow Up Message.
After you have introduced yourself to your potential employers and asked smart questions during the Zoom session, remember to send a follow-up message thanking them for their time and asking any lingering questions you have. Another idea would be to share an article you read that talks about emerging trends or groundbreaking new research that adds to your conversation. This is the best way to continue the dialogue after the networking event or mixer is over, which further helps you stand out from the crowd. If you send the email promptly after the call and incorporate some identifying features associated with you, you can reinforce who you are and start building a relationship with them. This will go a long way during an application cycle.
Right after I jumped off a networking call, I sent a message asking to connect with each of the panelists on their Linkedin profiles. After reintroducing myself and referencing the call, I established the connection between us to make it clear that this was not a generic message. From there, I asked for their availability to have a coffee chat with me in the coming weeks. Each of the panelists who responded would say, ‘It was great talking to you during the event. I would be happy to speak with you.’ People are more inclined to help people they met than complete strangers. If you can establish some familiarity with the person you want to know, you would increase the chance of actually scheduling a coffee chat.
TIP: Remember to ask for their emails or Linkedin information at the end of the call, so you have a way to contact them later. Send those messages out within 24 hours of the Zoom event so that everything is still fresh in their minds and yours. In being prompt, you show your serious interest in their company.
5. Be Aware of Event Procedure.
Whether it is an info-session for one company or career fair with 50 companies, event organizers will send out a schedule detailing all events they will have and their corresponding zoom link. It is in your best interest to get familiar with the schedule before the event starts because there are usually options for events to choose from and you want to attend the one most relevant for you.
Additionally, you want to RSVP for these events ASAP. Recruiters will offer one-on-one sessions either with themselves or first year analysts and these coffee chats are first come, first serve. This is a great way to have deeper conversations with people who can really help your application along, but you can only have them if you can sign up in time.
TIP: Read all emails and event information before it starts. Feel free to email the event organizers for more information, clarification, and requests to be placed in specific breakout rooms!
I hope these tips can help you go forth and conquer this Fall 2020 recruitment season!
My name is Grace Huang, a rising senior studying Business Administration at the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and a member of the founding class of the Global Management Program. Passionate about traveling, writing, running, and finding the perfect scrambled egg recipe, I want to explore the world at the speed New Yorkers walk.