Undergraduate Blog

Job Recruiting in the Middle of a Pandemic

Get advice from Sterling on securing an internship or full-time job offer during a time when most activities have moved online.

Sterling recently went through the recruiting process and participated in virtual on-Grounds interviewing. After graduating from UVA, he’ll be joining Accenture Federal Services in D.C. as a Technology Analyst.

While McIntire is renowned for its rigorous educational experience, another quintessential part of the experience takes place outside of the classroom: job recruiting. Every year, hundreds of students in the Comm School dedicate a significant amount of their non-academic time towards securing an internship or full-time job offer. Although each industry has its own recruiting timeline, the bulk of it typically occurs every year during the fall semester. McIntire hosts an annual career fair in October called Commerce Career Day. Here, representatives from some of the world’s most prestigious companies come to Grounds to engage with students. Many of these employers also host specific events for students that take place in the form of coffee chats, information sessions, and networking events.

Most, if not all, of these events have since been moved online due to the ongoing global pandemic. As you can imagine, this has certainly made the job search process look a lot different this year when compared to prior years. With this in mind, below I’ll go over some of my personal experiences and advice around navigating the new reality in terms of networking, applying, and interviewing for jobs.

One of the best ways I’ve been able to successfully network in our newly remote world is through using LinkedIn. For those unfamiliar, LinkedIn is a social networking platform targeted towards professionals in the business world. Through using it as a tool, I’ve been able to connect with many McIntire alumni eager to help with career exploration and answer questions pertaining to the organizations they work for and what their “day in the life” typically looks like. When it comes to networking, the sooner you get started with it during your time at UVA, the better. So regardless of whether you’re a first-year or fourth-year, I recommend all pre-professional students create a LinkedIn profile.

The vast majority of opportunities I identified and had the opportunity to interview for were found using Handshake, a job board specifically tailored to college students. All students at UVA have access to Handshake. While typically the platform is used to apply for positions, schedule first-round interviews, and sign up for employer events on Grounds, this year, Handshake served as the medium for most University-wide career events. I personally found this to be an exceptional experience, as I was able to schedule one-on-one sessions with representatives from multiple employers, which provided valuable networking. Another benefit of it being fully online is the fact that recruiters are able to review your resume while speaking to you, which makes the conversations flow even more naturally.

To put yourself in the best position when applying for opportunities, I recommend perfecting your resume, cover letter, and “elevator pitch.” McIntire students have access to resources that provide in-depth guidance on these topics, and they can be found in the new MyMcIntire portal. Non-McIntire students can find similar resources on UVA’s career center page. Lastly, all UVA students have access to a service called VMock, which is an online service that uses advanced algorithms to help you revise your resume to perfection. I personally found this tool to be instrumental in helping me create a flawless resume!

Perhaps one of the biggest differences students now face when interviewing for opportunities is the fact that it’s now conducted entirely online. On-Grounds recruiting (OGR) interviews now typically take place using a video conferencing service like Zoom – which at this point, I think we’re all experts at using! The best way to prepare for these interviews is similar to how you would prepare for in-person interviews – that is, ensuring you practice your behavioral, case, or technical interviewing skills well in advance of the interview date(s) so that when the time comes, you’re sharp and ready to crush it. Standardized advice for virtual interviewing is as follows:

  • Log in to your interview room 10-15 minutes prior to the scheduled time if possible. This ensures you have plenty of time to do camera, microphone, and lighting checks!
  • Ensure you’re in a quiet, distraction-free environment. Being at home, sometimes this can seem like an uphill battle. For instance, one time, my dog snuck into my room and jumped on my bed – which was right behind me on camera! Luckily, it turned out both my interviewers were dog-friendly, but it’s always a good practice to try and find a space to interview in where you have complete privacy – even from your pets!
  • Dress exactly as you would for an in-person job interview. Yes, this almost always means a full suit and tie. No, this never means pajama bottoms or sweat pants. As tempting as it is to be in attire that’s more comfortable, the idiom “dress for success” exists for a reason!
  • Use a virtual background when applicable. This reduces background distractions for your interviewers and can appear more professional. Ensure your lighting is good enough for this, however, because if it’s not, then it can become slightly glitchy!
  • Always send a thank-you note to your interviewer(s) afterwards. This should be done via email within 24 hours of completing the interview.

If there was only one final piece of advice I could give, it would be to have CONFIDENCE. It’s certainly a lot easier said than done, but gaining and projecting confidence during the recruiting process will make a tremendous difference in the final outcome. Although in my own experience this has been something I’ve gained as time has progressed, a simple trick to gain a quick boost before your interview is to perform a “power pose.” This video goes greater in depth as to what the benefits of this are. In the end, I attribute gaining confidence as a key contributor to how I landed my dream job offer despite facing the challenges that come with recruiting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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