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Covid-19 pushes job interviews for college students online

New York

COVID-19 is changing job recruiting at US colleges, as travel bans force some employers to scrap in-person campus interviews for virtual ones and students adjust to new networking norms.

Intel Corp isn't participating in external recruiting events. Amazon.com Inc is shifting some on-site interviews to a virtual format.

Accounting giant PwC is converting in-person office visits to videoconferencing and phone calls for about 1,000 undergraduates with offers to work there, mostly in summer jobs.

"Bringing large volumes of students to offices, requiring them to travel - we didn't feel that was the right thing to do," said Rod Adams, who oversees PwC's recruiting in the US and Mexico.

The novel coronavirus is upending college campuses.

Classes and finals at the University of Washington won't be held in person for the remainder of the quarter, which ends on March 20.

Harvard prohibited all university-related, non-essential domestic air travel, while Cornell is cancelling non-essential events or work-related gatherings of more than 100 people through April 15, excluding on-campus events.

The disruption hits during a busy season for many college career centres, though some schools have finished their main job fairs.

Graduating seniors and younger students are looking for jobs and internships, and colleges typically host corporate visits and help students network with potential employers.

For companies banning trips, "no travel means no travel - you can't go to career events", said Megan Hendricks, executive director of the MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance, an international business school trade group.

"Hopefully for most companies, the switch to a remote model will mean the same number of hires," she said.

For students still meeting face-to-face with recruiters, schools advise avoiding handshaking.

The University of Rochester's career education office suggests politely declining with an explanation rather than an informal fist bump.

"We don't want it to be awkward for the students," said Joe Testani, executive director of the career centre. "They probably feel undue pressure to make a good impression by having a firm handshake."

The school cancelled a trip to New York City for students to visit marketing firms over the spring break, partly because one company said it wasn't allowing outsiders and organisers didn't want to make students travel if they were uncomfortable, he said.

Even before the outbreak, virtual interviews in the initial stages with a company were already on the rise because of their efficiency and convenience, said Katharine Marianacci, associate director and engineering coach at Lehigh University's Center for Career & Professional Development. The trend my accelerate.

Amazon, which is based in Seattle, the epicentre of the US outbreak, is switching some recruiting events to the virtual format to reduce exposure risks, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Alphabet Inc's Google cancelled all in-person interviews at its Washington state offices, according to an internal memo seen by Bloomberg. The interviews will be re-scheduled. BLOOMBERG