College career fairs look like an awkward high school dance: Students circle around company booths, unsure whether to stop and drop off a resume. Companies blindly court juniors and seniors to their floorspace, hoping that they’ll be the right fit for internships and full-time positions.
Rather than rely on this decades-old ritual, students are increasingly using college clubs to connect with employers. On-campus groups like the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) or Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) offer recruiters an opportunity to diversify their talent pool and target hiring efforts.
One company is making a business out of helping student associations and companies connect beyond the walls of tri-folds and stacks of resumes at career fairs. Boston-based Door of Clubs is a platform that student club members and recruiters use to find out about each other.
“College clubs are the greatest sources of the next generation of talent,” says Door of Clubs co-founder and CEO Pranam Lipinski. “They’re full of unfiltered hope, ambition and curiosity.”
A New Student-Company Matchmaker
To use the platform, college club leaders set up a free Door of Clubs account and invite their members to create profiles with their information, such as major and GPA. An individual’s page is similar to a LinkedIn account, except the student’s name is anonymous to employers who browse the site.
Companies pay Door of Clubs a monthly subscription fee of anywhere between $200 and $1,000, depending on their size and needs, to search for and contact candidates. If a student hears from a company through the platform, then he or she can choose to share contact information and find out more about potential opportunities.
At San Jose State University, Isadora McCullough learned about Door of Clubs in her work founding the school’s Alpha Omega Epsilon colony, a social and professional sorority for women in engineering and technical sciences. McCullough,a junior studying chemical engineering and president of the sorority, transferred to SJSU last year. She founded the club because, “as a female, it was hard to find another another female in the same major,” she says. “We want to make sure that women and any minority on the scene get out there and get opportunities.”
Last month Alpha Omega Epsilon worked with Door of Clubs to host a hackathon for women at SJSU. More than 100 women participated in the coding challenge, and Door of Clubs brought technology companies, including Asana and Symantec, to talk about career opportunities during breaks. McCullough says many students brought their resumes to the event and some have applied for internships.
“I’m a female, I’m a minority, and I don’t know how to approach my dream company,” McCullough says. For her and other members of Alpha Omega Epsilon, having Door of Clubs connect them with companies has been empowering. “It’s a helpful boost to your ego,” she says.
Tapping Into Support Systems
Companies have been connecting with student clubs since long before such technology came along. But Lipinski, who cofounded Door of Clubs in 2015, claims the platform “democratizes access” between students and companies. If recruiters reach out to a club president via email, it can take days to hear back—if they get a response at all—and then they have to rely on the club’s leaders to share opportunities with the rest of its members. Door of Clubs also removes some geographic barriers, Lipinski says. “We allow companies that aren’t spending money to travel to certain schools for career fairs to cut in line to get to this talent. It expands the diverse talent pool instantly.”
Door of Clubs currently has 1,500 clubs—representing 50,000 students from 250 college campuses—on its platform. Hundreds of companies, including Disney, Amazon and Bank of America, have signed up to use it. Door of Clubs has raised $500,000 in seed funding and is backed by iRobot’s HR chief Russ Campanello.
To get more students to use its services, Door of Clubs gives clubs money once they reach certain membership goals, which vary based on their school and size. Clubs can raise between $50 and $1,000 on the platform.
At the University of Georgia, Kosi Uzodinma signed up the club he founded in 2015, Minorities in Tech, with Door of Clubs this semester. So far the group has used the platform mainly to raise money for events and to invite speakers to come to its meetings, Uzodinma says. A few students have had interviews with a real estate agency looking for computer science majors.
Uzodinma, a senior studying computer science at UGA, started the group because he felt that most minority engineering clubs lacked resources for CS students. “I didn’t know there were that many minorities pursuing tech until I started the club,” he says, adding that the group has become a support system. “I wanted to create an environment where they felt like they can get help. If you feel like you have a place to go to get help it helps you stick with it and graduate.”
Clubs offer more than job leads. For many students, having a social network improves their odds of success. Research from Janice McCabe, an associate professor of sociology at Dartmouth College, shows how students whose friends provide academic motivation and support tend to graduate.
Even for colleges with established clubs and industry ties, there’s still room to improve efforts around recruiting diverse students. The University of Washington chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) includes 450 members, and its proximity to Seattle makes for natural connections with tech companies. But Amanda Levenson, a junior studying chemical engineering at UW and vice president of professional development for SWE, says companies often miss out on opportunities to work with future potential hires.
Recruiters stick with traditional career fairs, and show up at info sessions with formal, impersonal presentation, Levenson says. “They should transition from traditional info sessions with PowerPoints, to more informal sessions with people from different departments to just sit and talk to people.”
Whether companies and students connect in-person or through technology platforms, there’s opportunity to have more personal conversations around professional development.
Google is one employer that took a different approach with Levenson and her peers. Recruiters held a workshop about imposter syndrome, a known barrier to professional development for women and minorities, for UW’s SWE members.
“We’re trying to create more small-scale networking events,” Levenson says. “They’re more human and relatable.”