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Recent grads are facing a competitive job market, but experts at FAU say there's hope

The FAU career center is connecting students with employers who are still hiring with a series of virtual job fairs. The next session begins Thursday at 4:30 PM (WPEC)
The FAU career center is connecting students with employers who are still hiring with a series of virtual job fairs. The next session begins Thursday at 4:30 PM (WPEC)
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As the unemployment rate continues to fall in Florida, jobless workers are still facing one of the most competitive job markets in history.

Across the country, recent graduates are finding themselves faced with unique challenges like virtual interviews, and creating applications that stand out in a post-pandemic job market can be tricky.

"Students are very comfortable interfacing on computers and on phones and FaceTime, but they mainly have done that causally and socially," Brian Montalvo, the Senior Director FAU Career Center told CBS12 News. "They have not experienced it much in a professional setting, and that’s been a challenge for them."

Vincent Dinunzio is just one recent grad who is trying to navigate the tricky job-search.

"It feels like we're fighting an uphill battle," Dinunzio told CBS12 News. Basically, it's just really hard to find companies that are hiring.

Dinunzio graduated from FAU in May. He received his MBA and was in the midst of several job interviews when the COVID-19 crisis swept through the country, crippling numerous industries and bringing the interview process to a halt.

"Once the cases spiked obviously companies had to furlough their own employees and implement hiring freezes," Dinunzio said.

In the months that followed, Dinunzio decided to get creative and began selling custom masks online.

"Instead of sitting around and saying 'poor me,' i think we all need to get after it and make something of ourselves," Dinunzio said.

And with motivated students like these entering the workforce, Montalvo says there's reason to be optimistic.

"I'm seeing students more willing to prepare and take these extra steps to use these kinds of systems and reach out for help," he said.

"If you think back, a lot of these students were 10 or 11 years old during the financial crisis. So they lived it vicariously through their parents, and they kind of came in a little bit more career focused," Montalvo told CBS12 News.

Montalvo tells CBS12 News that he's now beginning to see more and more jobs being posted, and it's clear the picture is improving.

"There are jobs out there," Montalvo said.

The state unemployment rate was 10.4% for the month of June, and the picture is continually improving as businesses open back up and end months-long hiring freezes. Now, the team at the FAU career center are trying to connect students with employers who are still hiring with a series of virtual job fairs.

"It's intimate," Montalvo said. "In a typical job fair, you have a couple hundred companies, but here we have three or four who have the platform and can spend more time introducing themselves."

This online platform, Montalvo feels, is drawing bigger student audiences while keeping the conversation intimate. In some cases, a couple hundred students have signed onto the virtual meeting to hear from just a few companies.

On Thursday, companies including online bookkeeping/accounting company "Xendoo" and consulting firm "ALKU" are signed on to speak at the online job fair.

Lil Roberts, the CEO & Founder of Fort Lauderdale based, "Xendoo" says she's been seeing a steady stream of applications from recent grads, and feels that this pandemic offers applicants a unique opportunity to show their interest online.

"They have more time now," Roberts said. "So they can sit down and think about all the ways they can showcase the ways they can stand out."

Roberts recommends that potential new hires utilize short, punchy resumes and try to convey interest on various online platforms.

"We recently hired somebody, and not only did he apply on handshake.... he went on LinkedIn and connected with someone in my organization," Roberts said. "Here's somebody that as soon as he submitted his app, he requested and connected on LinkedIn, and that shows initiative." Roberts said.

Roberts also suggested prepping for interviews with research and getting comfortable in front of the camera -- a technique Brian Montalvo and his team at the career center are trying to teach students now also.

"We want to ensure once they get to that interview process," they're ready, Montalvo said.

The FAU Career Center is now offering critiques to students wishing to perfect the art of the online interview.

The platform, called "Interview Stream" gives students the chance to practice their interviews on the computer and provides feedback on vocal technique/filler, and other critiques.

The recruiting team at "ALKU" has also been seizing the opportunity to interview more candidates digitally in recent months. ALKU says they've seen an influx in applications, and have made several new hires during the pandemic, including Kayla Regan, ALKU's Marketing Coordinator.

Regan says she was able to score the job amidst the crisis by continually showing interest despite the competitive landscape.

"I think just being persistent and following up with your internal recruiter, and constantly showing interest in a role... I was able to get hired when they had an opening." Regan said.

ALKU and Xendoo are both actively hiring.

FAU students and recent grads wishing to connect with recruiters can learn more by registering for Thursday's online job fair.

Other applicants and find out more about job openings at ALKU and Xendoo on their respective websites.

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