Who’s Zoom-ing Who? Alumni help students prepare for the future with mock virtual job interviews

In today’s post, I’d like to tell you about something that happened in the business school that exemplifies so much of what Longwood is about, especially
—Our commitment to preparing our students for the future, whatever that may look like
—Our faculty’s innovative thinking and willingness to go the extra mile
—Our network of alums who care about the success of our students and give so generously of their time 

Here’s what happened.

Like most Longwood professors, Patti Carey, lecturer and director of student engagement and special initiatives in the College of Business and Economics, was faced this semester with the challenge of converting her in-person class, Management 391, to an online format. The class focuses on helping students to develop professional skills, including those needed to pull off a stellar job interview.

Mock interviews with volunteer business professionals are a critical component. They’re normally conducted in person on campus—but that wasn’t possible this semester.

So Carey and Nancy Postans, assistant director of Longwood’s McGaughy Professional Development Center, set about converting the interviews for 75 students to a virtual/remote format. The logistics of arranging those interviews with the 16 volunteer interviewers—half of whom were Longwood alums—was not a simple matter, but they got it done.

And, in fact, conducting the interviews using a virtual format was right on trend.

Now, more than ever, companies are relying on videoconferencing technology like Zoom, Google Hangout and Yello—as well as regular phone calls—to screen candidates. Some companies are even skipping in-person interviews altogether in the hiring process and may continue to do so after social-distancing requirements are lifted.

If you’ve never done one, a virtual job interview can be nerve-wracking the first time around, but the students taking Carey’s class this semester will be able to play it cool when they face that situation in the future.

“Some members of Generation Z seem to have an aversion to talking on the phone—it’s called ‘telephonophobia,’” said Carey. “Helping our students feel comfortable and confident in speaking professionally on the phone and being able to sell themselves well during a phone or virtual interview is critical.”

The volunteers, who work in a range of settings from businesses to government agencies to a biopharmaceutical company, each interviewed from three to seven students.

In addition to giving their time to conduct interviews, the Longwood alums who volunteered also took the time to answer my questions about the process.

“In my role I conduct many interviews,” said Jocelyn Blanchard ’99, senior manager for technology training at CarMax. “I’ve seen great people get passed up not because they aren’t qualified but because they couldn’t articulate why they were the best fit for the role. Interviewing is an art and, like many other things in life, the more you practice and get feedback, the better you’ll get.

“Video interviews are like in-person interviews in some ways, but different in others. Teaching students how to get familiar with the nuances of video interviewing is just as important as getting them prepared for in-person interviews,” she added.

Dan Hughes ’13, a senior manager at BGS Consulting in the Washington, D.C., area, interviewed seven students this semester and has helped out as an interviewer for the last five years.

“You could definitely tell it was more nerve-wracking for most of the students this year,” said Hughes, who has helped with the interviews for the last five years. “It’s a little harder for them to read my body language in a video. I also noticed that the students were pausing in their answers, and those gaps in the conversation seemed more prominent than in person.”

Hughes said students became less nervous and more comfortable as the interview progressed, indicating that the experience would help prepare them for interviews when a real job was at stake.

Gillian Coleman ’22, an economics major and a student in the class this year, agrees.

“I think having our interviews like this was extremely valuable. Especially in this day and time, everything is becoming more electronic and less face-to-face.”

“This gave me a way to have that first experience in a way that I knew wasn’t make or break,” Coleman continued. “I was able to really take in the experience instead of being worried that I was making a mistake that would impact my likelihood of getting a job. Overall it was just a great learning experience.”

Coleman was interviewed by Chris Tunstall ’88, assistant vice president for human resources at the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond, who said he was particularly impressed with how she handled her interview. “She clearly demonstrated her strengths in communication skills, work ethic and learning agility,” he said.

Also helping with the interviews this semester were these Longwood alums:
—Frank Bowman ’81, environmental specialist for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
—Tim Davis ’16, senior consultant at A-LIGN, a CPA firm specializing in cybersecurity
—Kimberly Garrett ’86, executive sales specialist at AstraZeneca
—Corrine Louden ’02, deputy inspector general in the Office of the State Inspector General
—Sally Pearson ’86, commissioner of the revenue for King William County

Tunstall, who also has volunteered to interview students for several years, said more and more organizations—including the Federal Reserve—are using virtual interviews in their job-selection processes, an observation that was echoed by several of the alumni volunteers.

“It’s critical for candidates to become familiar with this technology and practice using it.”

“Lancers will be more prepared for the future through this experience,” Tunstall said.

Carey is thinking the same way.

“When we go back to face-to-face classes, I am seriously considering keeping the virtual/phone interview assignment in addition to the face-to-face one,” she said. “I’d love for the students to have both experiences because they are both relevant and skill-building.”

—Sabrina Brown

New leadership team will help prepare campus to re-open safely this fall

As all of us are working through the current challenges of dealing with Covid-19, Longwood leadership is thinking ahead about how to re-open safely for in-person classes and activities this fall.

President Reveley announced yesterday the creation of a Covid-19 Planning Team of university leaders and experts who will look at all aspects of campus life and develop a plan that has the health and safety of your student as the top priority.

“Right now, we remain in the heart of a serious national crisis that is affecting countless families, and has been felt at every college campus,” Reveley said. “But as we push through this phase, like every sector of society, we’re already beginning to think about how to get safely back up and running again. With our setting, structure and experienced leadership, Longwood is well-positioned to find our way back to familiar routines of in-person learning this fall, while taking prudent steps to ensure public health.”

The Covid-19 Planning Team will work closely with community leaders, local health care providers and the Virginia Department of Health as it researches pertinent issues and prepares recommendations. The process will also include surveying parents, students and university stakeholders to garner feedback, questions and concerns.

“They will research and report back to the President’s Council with creative and informed recommendations covering every aspect of campus life—from academics to housing and dining arrangements to health practices around testing and responding if cases emerge,” Reveley said.

The Covid-19 Planning Team includes

  • University Chief of Staff and Vice President Justin Pope
  • Associate Vice President of Wellness Matt McGregor
  • Associate Provost/Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs David Shoenthal
  • Incoming University Police Chief Doug Mooney
  • Associate Vice President for Operations and Services Lori Blackwood (MBA ’17)
  • Moton Museum Executive Director and Centra Southside Community Hospital Board Member Cameron Patterson ’10
  • Assistant Vice President for Communications Matthew McWilliams

“This group will build on the outstanding work of our Incident Command Team, which has helped us navigate our response this spring to the national Covid-19 outbreak, and tap their expertise as well as broader guidance,” said Reveley.

McGregor, who oversees student health, will also represent the Incident Command Team, which he leads. The Incident Command Team includes representatives of Longwood’s offices of Environmental Health and Safety, Emergency Management, Housing, Residential and Commuter Life, and Facilities, as well as the University Health Center.

“In a few months, we’ll live in a world where the virus has subsided but not been eliminated,” Reveley said. “We cannot be exactly sure what that will look like on campus, and public health will be our paramount consideration. But so much is at stake for our students and our community in college life returning. I am confident Longwood will be a leader when it comes to safely navigating this challenge.”

Vice President for Student Affairs Tim Pierson added, “On the other side of this, we’ll all appreciate that much more the opportunity to be together in person on Longwood’s residential campus. Campus may need to feel a little different in some ways next fall, but I’m confident that with the help of this group we can find the right balance, and return to a more familiar Longwood.”

Anyone with questions about Longwood’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak can email questions@longwood.edu.

Longwood’s COVID-19 Response: Information for Parents

Today’s post will bring you up-to-date on actions Longwood has taken most recently in response to the virus. Your student has already received this information, but we realize that they may not have passed it along to you.

Below are excerpts from recent messages that have gone out to students from the president and two of Longwood’s vice presidents about spring semester. Topics covered are
—Grading Policies and Withdrawal Deadline Extension
—Refunds and Student Employment

W. Taylor Reveley IV, President
Excerpt from an April 10 communication to students

I promised last month that the Class of 2020 would walk for in-person graduation… . We’ve been working with government officials and campus and community leaders to identify a date as soon as possible that is also as reliable as can be. We have a date: Commencement for the Class of 2020 will be on the weekend of October 9-10.  As would have been the case this May, the graduate ceremony will be on the Friday evening, October 9, and the undergraduate ceremony will be on the Saturday, October 10, during the day. It will be a full weekend of celebration—with plenty of opportunity over the course of the weekend for you to celebrate and reconnect.

Campus and Farmville are so beautiful in the fall, and earlier dates that we explored so closely continued to have risk of disruption by this crisis. We’ll have more precise details regarding exact times and logistics in the weeks ahead.  (And be assured that by finishing your academic requirements you still officially become a Longwood graduate in May. We’ll explore ways to mark that occasion too, without taking anything away from October.)

Read the full text of President Reveley’s message here.

Grading Options and Withdrawal Extension
Dr. Larissa Smith, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Excerpt from a March 27 communication to students

Alternate Pass/Fail option – Undergraduate students now have the option to choose an alternate Pass/Fail grading scale for any course that had been face-to-face but moved online for the rest of the semester. This is not a decision to rush into, which is why you have until Friday, April 24, to submit your decision to the Registrar’s office. You must consult with your academic advisor about this decision and fill out a form.

The new grading option includes the following grades:

  • PV denotes work at the C- level or better.
  • DV denotes work at any “D” grade level (D+, D, D-).
  • FV (Fail) denotes failing work.

For more detailed information on how to select this option, visit the University COVID-19 FAQs.

Depending on the academic program, these grades can fulfill program requirements. These grades will not be computed in your Spring 2020 semester GPA. Graduate courses and courses that started online at the beginning of this semester are not eligible for the alternate pass/fail grading scale option.

Withdrawal deadline extension – The withdrawal deadline for courses has been extended until Friday, April 24. Please be aware that course withdrawals may affect your financial aid. You should contact the staff in the Financial Aid Office if you have any questions.

These are important decisions that encompass a lot of factors, including your academic major or minor program requirements, and you do not have to make them alone. Reach out to your academic advisor or other faculty and staff for advice. We are here to help you make the most informed choices possible and to help you finish the semester during this unprecedented and stressful time. You and your education are important to us.

Read the full text of Dr. Smith’s message here.

Refunds and Student Employment
Dr. Tim Pierson, Vice President for Student Affairs

Excerpt from a March 25 communication to students
Someday soon enough, we will get to celebrate being back on campus. In the meantime, we want to help with the financial burden families are facing, and provide housing and dining refunds as best we can. We know no solution is perfect, and that individual circumstances vary. But we’ve worked hard to develop a plan that’s 1) clear 2) as fair as possible and 3) we can deliver as soon as possible. That’s important because we know many of you are facing challenges now. The Lancer family is all in this together.

Here is what we are doing:
Student workers will continue to be paid through the customary close of the semester, May 9.  Graduate assistants will also continue to be paid through May 9. We’ll be in touch about how hours will be reported the rest of the semester. We know that this is money you depend on.
Students with a Longwood housing and dining plan will each be paid a refund of $1,000.
Students with a commuter Longwood dining plan for the spring will each be paid a refund of $300.
Please remember, these housing and dining refunds  are being split into two payments to you—one now, and one in July.  The first set of housing and dining refunds has been mailed and should soon be arriving at your home address. If you have questions, please email questions@longwood.edu.

We think this straightforward and equal approach is what’s fairest to our whole community, and will help you and your families as we all work together through this challenging time.

Excerpt from an April 9 communication to students
Bonus dollars. If you are a continuing student, your unused bonus dollars will be rolled over for use in the 2020-21 academic year. If you are graduating, you will receive a refund in July of any remaining bonus dollars.
Parking. If you are a continuing student with a valid parking pass for the Spring 2020 semester, you will have a $50 credit applied to your account in July. If you are graduating and had a valid parking pass for the Spring 2020 semester, your July refund check will increase by $50.

If you have questions, please email questions@longwood.edu.

Read the full text of Dr. Pierson’s messages here:   March 25    April 9

For Additional Information About Longwood’s COVID-19 Response

Other Ways to Receive Parent Pipeline
We hope that all Longwood parents will either subscribe to receive the newsletter via email at https://parentpipeline.longwood.edu/signup/ or join the Facebook group, where all newsletters will be posted, at https://www.facebook.com/groups/LancerParentPipeline/

Parent Pipeline is your most timely way of receiving updates. You can unsubscribe from the email feed or the Facebook group at any time.