Students opt for virtual career fairs, job recruitment, as colleges go remote

Handshake, the LinkedIn for college students, is offering a virtual platform that helps students find

Handshake, the LinkedIn for college students, is offering a virtual platform that helps students find and land jobs as the workforce shifts to one that is primarily remote.

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The platform launched as students gear up for the start of the school year in the fall and as the graduation class of 2020 continues to traverse an intangible and isolated job market as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The job market is still a challenging one,” the VP of Higher Education and Student Success at Handshake, Christine Cruzvergara, told FOX Business. “As we all know, there have been a lot of layoffs. There is still high unemployment at the moment. There are certain industries that have taken a huge hit. However, you do see certain industries still hiring pretty rapidly.”

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Following a summer of virtual internships and scant job opportunities, students received news that they will also miss out on attending school in person. Major universities like Harvard and University of California schools like UCLA and UC Berkeley will open with remote classes only, while other schools like Boston University and Stanford University are opting for a mix of online and in-person learning.

Beyond classes being online, students and recent graduates are pressed with losing experiences that are traditionally packaged in with the college experience, including annual career fairs, in-person networking and job recruitment opportunities.

A recent study conducted by Handshake found that over one-third of students who have participated in online recruiting struggled to find the right way to network at these events, and another 35 percent of students are frustrated by the challenges of standing out in a virtual environment.

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“With everything going on in the world, there’s a lot of anxiety around how to navigate the job market as a new-grad,” said Kedron Abbott, of the Troy University class of 2020. “The foreseeable future doesn’t include any on-campus workshops, networking events, or in-person career fairs, and I was unsure of how I would be able to make a lasting impression with employers.”

As a resolve to bridge the virtual gap between students and employers, Handshake’s new initiative will connect students, universities and employers through virtual career fairs, prospective employer meetings and online portfolio-building.

Handshake, which has partnerships with over 1,000 colleges, will host the career fairs through its suite, allowing students to sign up in groups or on an individual basis with employers.

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Handshake’s virtual fairs will aim to capitalize on digital capabilities and eliminate the typical frustrations with job hunting. Rather than spending the entire day in a big gymnasium with swarms of tables and people standing in long lines, only to land 30 seconds in front of an employer, Handshake redesigns the experience to maximize both students’ and employers’ time.

“Handshake’s suite of virtual solutions help eliminate those concerns because now I have the peace of mind I will get the chance to make meaningful connections with employers,” Abbott said. “This totally beats in-person career fairs because now I’ll have the option to build schedules in advance, save time, and also have more opportunities to connect with employers and learn about different job opportunities.”

While a university can invite employers to its virtual fair and open up registration for a student several days or weeks beforehand, students can create their own schedules and sign up for 10-minute-long, one-on one-sessions with the employer.

Employers will also be able to target students with search options that can filter certain skills and coursework fulfillments or by geographic regions in which students express interest.

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The digital landscape for job recruiting is growing at a faster rate in 2020 than any year prior, according to a Handshake survey. Seventy-one percent of employers are rapidly expanding their digital recruiting capabilities, and over 67 percent are looking for support on information sessions, video panels and more.

“One of the biggest needs for students right now is having a good understanding of how the job process will work,” Cruzvergara said. “What is working remotely going to look like? The reality is that there are many companies that are still choosing to be primarily work-from-home or primarily remote.”

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