College recruiting is a priority at most medium- to large-size employers; it’s where eager, intelligent workers are most easily found in a period of low unemployment. But many smaller companies and recruiting agencies shy away from this market. Upon probing, you usually learn the reason is time and money: they can’t justify the hassle and cost of sending recruiters to campuses, and then they don’t want to pay to fly in lower-level candidates for first-round interviews who may not measure up to what’s implied on the resume or the recruiter’s brief encounter during a busy career fair. Well, those excuses don’t hold as much water in the Internet age. Welcome to the 21st century–and some good news! Quantum leaps in videoconferencing technology over the last few months, teamed with faster Internet connections, now allow you to have virtual interviews with candidates at almost any campus for a total investment of around $200. And with career fairs scheduled starting in October at some campuses, this is a good time to start getting a share of what you’ve been missing. What You Need First, we assume your computer has about 10 MB of free space, uses Windows 95 or newer (most but not all of the configurations below work with Apple-compatible computers), and has a microphone and sound card. (Some low-end sound cards may not work well. Visit Meeting by Wire, and click the “Other – including sound cards” link for typical reasons and remedies on that. The two major things you’ll need are videocall software and a webcam. Videocall Software (Expected Cost: $0-$60) Most manufacturers conform to the industry standard for web videoconferencing, called H.323. The most popular client software in this category is:
- Microsoft’s NetMeeting
- White Pine’s CU-SeeMe, the pioneer in this category
- Intel’s ProShare (a.k.a. VideoPhone), which comes bundled with all Intel webcams (see below)
Other promising vendors among the many in this space are:
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For a list of more alternative vendors in this space, visit http://myhome.hananet.net/~soonjp/vidconf.html. Most have a free trial download, but you typically pay $40-$60 for a permanent version. As long as your software is fully H.323 compatible, your videocall should work regardless of what H.323-compatible hardware/software combination is used by the other(s) on your call. A Webcam (Expected Cost: $100-$150) That’s what they call those little cameras that usually mount atop your monitor and show your smiling face to the other participant(s) in your videoconference call. C-Net’s rankings of the top 5 webcams at should be useful. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*> While some webcams are priced under $100, if you want your movements seen by the other call participant(s), then you need a cam that has a video capture card built into it. Most all of the cams priced over $100, such as the Intel Pro PC camera, do. Other tradeoffs are how fast the video images refresh (measured in frames per second) vs. image quality (640×480 is the lowest maximum pixel resolution you should accept). Factors such as the Internet connection between you and the other(s) on the videocall impact quality, so faster Internet access via an Ethernet T1 network connection at work, or a cable modem or DSL line at home, can help. However, dialup modem users can still do videocalls. Note that most webcams connect through your computer’s USB port. The cams that connect through the parallel port are cheaper, but then you’d have to disconnect your printer every time you wanted to use it, since you can’t daisy-chain them. If your computer lacks a USB port, you may instead get a PCI card installed in your computer, and buy a cam that connects to a PCI slot, as PCI cams tend to run video faster than USB cams. How To Use For College Recruiting Ok, now that you’re setup technically, here’s how the video interviewing process works with most colleges: You sign up like any employer that would be participating in the live campus career fair, i.e., you send the school all information about your company and your openings, which are made available to interested students. Students who want to interview with you express their interest to the campus career center and they forward those students’ resumes to you. You review the resumes and tell the school which of the students you’d like to interview, and they coordinate the interview time slots during their career fair days. Here’s where you diverge, however. Instead of booking plane tickets and hotel rooms for each of your staff who handle college recruiting and figuring out how much company marketing paraphernalia will fit in an overhead compartment, you can sit in front of your computer at the appointed times, and the school will sit the student in front of a similarly-equipped computer simultaneously. (Colleges typically get the software and hardware donated free by the manufacturers who realize this is profitable in the long-term to build usage among future purchase decision-makers.) Then go ahead with a voice-and-video interview that, depending on the connection, should be adequate. Realize that most videocall software displays each call participant at a maximum of one-quarter of screen size; you won’t have access to control buttons or the image quality will tend to degrade if you go larger. If you plan to have multiple interviewers on the videocall, this may impact quality, so test that in advance. You may want to share a computer on your end. The six main features of H.323 videocall client software (application sharing, text chat, audio, white boarding, file sharing, and video) are probably overkill, but for some situations (e.g., with more technical candidates and multiple interviewers) you’ll be glad you have them. Make sure to note your desire to do video interviews up front: some schools still lack the capability entirely, while at others it’s not yet the norm and the career fair coordinator may need greater-than-usual lead time to insure you’re handled properly. If the school you want lacks the setup, point them to CU-SeeMe, Intel or Microsoft in particular. All three will donate what’s needed to accredited institutions that meet certain criteria. An increasing number of schools now charge for participation in any form at career fairs. If so, you may want to start with free college career fairs first, and then you’ll have ammunition to justify spending a little to get involved with key campuses next year. I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture. While much better than it ever was, videocall technology still has a way to go. If you already do live recruiting on campuses during career fair weeks, don’t give it up. If you were to actually visit a campus and staff an exhibitor table, many students will wander by during open interview slots and start talking to you, and may well end up among your newest hires. Employers only doing virtual interviewing never enjoy this benefit or get as much exposure in a career fair as companies participating with a physical presence. But if you’ve been completely ignoring campuses with sharp candidates up to now, this can be an important first step to improve your college recruiting efforts.