Finding a connection online, the struggle of current career events

Up to 2019 career events took place in big rooms with loads of people, but the COVID-19 Pandemic threw a spanner in the works. Photograph: Stijn Burmanje.

Tomorrow, Tip Ketelaar will attend the National Econometricians Day, called LED 2021. He will roll out of his bed, put on a suit and flop into his chair. He explains that normally, this is a massive event in which participants work on cases, drink and eat together and have a party. Now all events have to be hosted in virtual worlds.

“A brief summary of what LED 2021 will look like. It appears that students prefer four short videos to one long one” says the secretary and marketing officer Tom Korenwinder. Movie: Tom Korenwinder.

The coronavirus forces career events to be held online. Representatives of the companies, as well as students and job seekers are currently sitting at home; yet, meet each other on an online platform.

However, finding a connection appears to be harder through a screen. A conversation via a video call requires more focus than talking face-to-face. The associate professor at Insead Gianpiero Petriglieri, who explores sustainable learning and development in the workplace, explained why to BBC reporter Manyu Jiang. He noted that people need to work harder in a video call to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, body language, the tone and the pitch of voice.

“You need to have your story ready, even more than previously” says Ketelaar. “My whole body shows my motivation.” Now the recruiters will only see the top part of it.

For companies, it also appears to be more difficult to resonate with the students and job seekers online. At the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic companies often replied to acquisition questions with  “no” or “maybe later”, as Isabelle Brakenhoff experienced, organiser of career events for the rowing club Nereus. However, companies are searching for alternatives now and react more enthusiastic.

“There is an extra challenge online to get people’s attention and to keep it” explains Brakenhoff. The companies presentations were shortened to half an hour and interactivity was promoted: “Kahoot, personal stories, a quiz, you name it.”

Especially for small businesses, the informal drinks might be important. The ambience of their company can persuade job seekers away from big companies, says Tip Ketelaar. Tomorrow, that part is covered. He received a goodie bag with among other things, drinks and snacks to consume together with the recruiters in breakout rooms of Zoom.

Ketelaar also sees opportunities in these online events: ”During a party there is the chance that you drink to much and make a fool of yourself. Maybe a drink online will be safer.”

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