Student organizations and companies took to the internet for fall recruitment, with events highlighting unique challenges as well as opportunities for adaptation.
Clubs host Activities Fair, auditions virtually
The Virtual Student Activities Fair, hosted on CampusGroups from Sept. 17 to Sept. 18, featured nearly 300 student organizations, almost 2,000 officers and over 20,000 visits from over 2,000 visitors. Students could visit organizations based on categories, access links posted by student groups and engage with organization leaders through live Zoom sessions and chat features.
“It’s a lot more organized, cost effective and easier to navigate than the in-person event,” Alexandra Moreno, program coordinator for the Office of Student Engagement, wrote in a statement to The Daily. “We received feedback from students saying the virtual event was more impactful because students receive information upfront and can then make informed decisions about joining orgs.”
The flexibility and efficiency of a virtual setting were compelling features for several frosh.
“The easy thing about everything being virtual is that you literally have to click on a Zoom link,” Brian Wu ’24 said. “You don’t have to take into account the time you spent commuting. That definitely increased the number of clubs I wanted to do.”
For some, social media played a greater role in their involvement with organizations than the activities fair.
“A lot of the reasons that I was able to learn a lot about mock trial was through their Instagram, and that account promoted the activities fair,” Amira Dehmani ’24 said. However, she said compared to in-person, virtual conversations were “very quick” and there was a relative lack of interpersonal interaction when “signing up for a mailing list and moving on.”
Beyond the virtual activities fair, student organizations have been hosting tryouts, auditions and interviews for the past three weeks, adapting traditional in-person methods to the online realm.
As a new Stanford Mock Trial team member, Dehmani explained the intricate try out process, which included breakout rooms with an executive board member who provided individual critiques and practices, as well as Zoom calls with other students trying out. She noted the potential benefits of a virtual setting on her confidence and performance.
“In a normal setting, it might be a little more nerve-wracking when there’s physical people there,” she said. “I think I did a little better than I would have in person because I had a safety net of virtual space.”
Dehmani acknowledged that, given the nature of mock trial, which is “meant to be in a courtroom talking to physical people,” an in-person tryout would better represent her performance and memorization ability. Nevertheless, she added that virtual tryouts could be used in the future for students who cannot attend an in-person tryout or are studying abroad.
As the marketing manager for Mixed Company, Stanford’s oldest all-gender a cappella group, Katelyn Osuna ’23 shared the successful transition to this year’s shared application portal and virtual setting.
One of the major changes to the callback stage was “hearing how [students trying out] blend with the group,” an aspect Osuna highlighted as “one of the most meaningful parts” of her own audition last year. In order to avoid lag or loss in sound quality when singing in a group setting, members “recorded the voice parts that you’d normally be singing with, and then they played that track while [the students trying out] sang it,” she said.
“For some of the girls, once they got into their higher register, it definitely got a bit harder, and Zoom cuts out once you get past a certain volume,” Osuna said.
The process of officially being welcomed to clubs has also taken a virtual twist. As a replacement for rollouts and the traditional team breakfast, Mixed Company compiled a welcome video sent through a cryptic link, raised funds to allow new members to purchase a treat and featured new members on its Instagram page.
Career fairs and forums
In addition to recruiting for student organizations at Stanford, career-related events have been in full swing this past month. Bridging Education, Ambition, and Meaningful Work hosted its annual career fair from Sept. 22 to 24, and the Computer Forum hosted the Stanford Computer Forum Fall 2020 Career Fair on Sept. 30.
Both events made use of Handshake and Talentspace, platforms which enabled students to interact with employers in live booths and in an individual format, read company details and attend information sessions. While acknowledging that they can be “somewhat confusing at first,” Wu supported the use of the platforms, which he has used for internships outside of these career events.
“The applications are also simple and easy — if you have your resume uploaded through the portal already, the process does not take more than a few minutes.”
Nevertheless, Langston Nashold ’23 said that “it’s harder to talk about your experiences when you don’t have a physical copy of your resume to point to.”
“Companies seemed to be on very different pages when it came to collecting resumes, some having custom resume drop websites and others just relying on Handshake,” he wrote.
Regarding on-campus interviews, he highlighted the importance of effective verbal communication skills, as “it takes a little bit of getting used to editing a shared textpad instead of writing on a whiteboard, but it is not hugely different.”
Despite these challenges, virtual career events can present a unique opportunity for students to engage with companies in an accessible individual format.
“We had extremely engaging conversations about our mutual interests in computer-aided perception and how this emerging technology can be harnessed for modern applications,” wrote Wu, regarding his one-on-one session with a university recruiter during the Computer Forum.
Nashold, who attended the Fall Career Fair and virtual information sessions for some companies, wrote that he thought the career fair was the most useful, “because of the large amount of companies I was able to talk to.”
Wu also conveyed a desire for more frosh-friendly internship opportunities and representation of companies that recruit underclassmen.
“Only four of the companies that I highlighted included frosh as part of the class years that they recruit from,” Wu wrote.
Associate Dean of Career Education Jennifer Rowland wrote to The Daily that the “Career Fair team published a list in the virtual career fair platform announcement section indicating employers who were open to hiring frosh” and she encouraged students to “search the employer list in Handshake for that information.”
Rowland also offered details regarding virtual opportunities specifically for frosh seeking career education. The “Start Here” program “provides students with the inside scoop on how to create a resume, build connections like a pro, and find opportunities.” Bridges, a part of the Stanford Alumni Mentoring platform, serves as a “project marketplace fueled by our community of alumni who are offering short-term, projects that students can do virtually.”
“Projects can serve as meaningful avenues for frosh to identify opportunities of interest, develop skills and gain guidance from alumni mentors in how to succeed,” she added.