Instead of lining up at a recruiter booth in his slacks and button-up shirt, surrounded by various other tables and white tents set up on Trousdale Parkway in the early morning, Shreyansh Jhalani logged on to Brazen, an online virtual hiring platform, to attend the Career Center’s virtual career fair from the comfort of his home. With the coronavirus pandemic halting in-person activities last spring, the center transitioned its events to a remote format, holding their first audio- and video-accessible career fair through an online setting this fall that they look to continue in Thursday’s upcoming fair.
Taking place Sept. 16 and 17, students met with employers and representatives from various industries such as Johnson & Johnson, Southern California Edison and Defense Intelligence Agency, during the virtual fair’s allotted five-hour window. The online platform allowed the Career Center to create virtual employer booths, where company representatives were able to customize their booth with videos, job descriptions and links to apply for open positions. The employer booths were also tagged with information such as their industry and employment type and the experience level they were looking to hire, making their booths easily searchable for students.
The Career Center has hosted six virtual career fairs along with their in-person fairs since 2016, to serve global employers, students and alumni. However, past virtual fairs had only allowed for text-based chats, said Erin Jebavy, marketing and events coordinator at the center. A few months after the transition to remote learning, the Career Center began planning for this fall’s virtual career fair to ensure the best experience for students by hosting the event through Brazen.
“This was a huge step forward,” Jebavy said. “It allowed students to make a stronger impression on employers while also making more efficient use of both the students’ and employers’ time.”
In addition to the video and audio elements of this career fair, the quality and quantity of employers were also main drivers for students’ attraction to attend, according to Jebavy. Due to the fair’s online formatting, the event was more affordable and manageable for employers to attend and allowed them to bring along numerous recruiters, which allowed for shorter wait times and a more personal experience for students.
Another factor that Jebavy said contributed to the virtual fair’s efficiency was the ability to wait in up to three lines simultaneously, unlike in-person events.
“I think it’s efficient as a student, because a lot of these times, you have to wait for at least 15-20 minutes before you can actually speak to a recruiter in person and, at the same time, you cannot speak to someone else,” said Jhalani, a senior majoring in business administration and pursuing a progressive degree in finance. “Through the virtual career fair, I believe I’ve got the opportunity to obviously save time and meet more recruiters that were actually coming on campus.”
Having attended past USC and Marshall School of Business-specific career fairs, Jhalani said that there were times he would prioritize networking with multiple recruiters instead of speaking with larger companies he wished to work with because of the long lines. With the virtual career fair, Jhalani said that missing employers was not an issue and he was easily able to navigate through summer internship opportunities and meet many employers, taking advantage of the feature allowing students to wait in multiple at once.
“USC is a target school for a lot of companies, especially in consulting,” Jhalani said. “I wanted to get exposure to different companies that are hiring from USC and the modal world to get the opportunity to network with recruiters, as well as the people who work in these companies to select one company for my summer internship.”
Following the two-day virtual career fair, the Career Center collected feedback via a survey sent to all attendees and to inform them of related upcoming events. Jebavy said they found that many students enjoyed the convenience and ease of the online platform that made it personable to connect with employers.
“It was just super easy and convenient,” said Alyssa Delarosa, a junior majoring in psychology. “I could just chill and talk to chat with employers. That was really, really nice.”
Delarosa attended the event to casually pursue opportunities within the psychology and child care fields. Her first time attending a career fair, she said the online setting allowed for an easy-going experience.
“It’s really nice because there’s a lot of people that fear public speaking and meeting people face to face, or may get intimidated,” Delarosa said. “[The online setting] made it more available to people who had that fear because they could just use the chat feature.”
According to Delarosa, employers had the option to invite students to a zoom call and turn their cameras on or remain in a chat throughout the conversation.
Although survey feedback was altogether positive, the Career Center also received responses on how to improve future virtual events. Director of Employer Relations and Research at the Career Center Jennifer Kim said that one concern prevalent in the student feedback survey was the inability to see wait times. However, the center is currently working with Brazen to address the issue for virtual college fair this Thursday.
Beyond the career fair, Kim said the Career Center hopes to engage with students on a weekly basis. According to Jebavy, the Career Center will focus on hosting Trojan Talks — virtual information sessions that explore an organization or industry — to engage with campus organizations such as the Latinx Business Association and the Black Business Student Association. The Career Center will also focusing on increasing their social media presence through Instagram Live chats takeovers from various companies to continue supporting the student population.
Kim also said she understands students can also be overwhelmed with virtual events but hopes that the center can do their best to support and engage USC students wherever they are located.
“I want to acknowledge and really empathize with our students, I know that it’s tough going to virtual class, and then coming to a virtual fair or a virtual event that the Career Center is hosting,” Kim said. “I recognize that and I wish I could change things. I wish things were different. But in the current circumstances, I just hope that our students know that we’re really doing our best to support them to support their career development.”