DAHLGREN, Va., –
Stepping into a crowded exhibit hall, exploring various booths and interacting one-on-one with an engaging recruiter seem like a distant memory. In a time when in-person recruitment fairs are simply not an option, organizations broaden their horizons to attract and engage the best and brightest in a strictly virtual event.
Naval recruiters call upon their most valuable tools, techniques and strategies to ensure they are reaching talented, highly qualified individuals. Putting these tools to use, recruiters from technical departments at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) participated in the first Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Warfare Centers-hosted virtual career fair – seeking interns, entry level and experienced scientists and engineers to fill available positions.
When the pandemic disrupted recruiting efforts at NSWCDD, naval recruiters quickly adjusted their approach. Shifting from in-person interactions to adopting virtual platforms and maximizing telecommunication technology, naval recruiters continued serving the hiring needs for the warfare center without breaking stride.
“Our recruiters didn’t blink an eye. They have an hour of training prior to each event to help them get comfortable on the virtual platforms but really the essence of recruiting – the messages that they share and their enthusiasm for Dahlgren – never really wavers at all,” said Lorna Tebrich, NSWCDD Human Resources Division recruitment lead.
She acknowledged the recruiting team’s flexibility and ability to take action quickly in an unpredictable environment. “They were fully ready to respond and make a difference in the platforms that they were using, which really helped keep us moving forward in relatively short order,” explained Tebrich. “I am really impressed by the caliber of recruiters that we have here at Dahlgren and their ability to rise to the occasion.”
The commercial virtual platform used for the career fair Feb. 25 was comprised of interactive live chat and video interviewing capabilities, which provided recruiters and Human Resources representatives several options with which to engage with candidates. Recruiters from NSWCDD acted as moderators during the career fair and represented varying technical disciplines, including cybersecurity, computer science, engineering and technology development.
The candidates pursuing hiring opportunities listed their qualifications, talents and capabilities, in addition to specifying their preferred technical area of expertise in the chatroom’s main forum.
Although the interaction was brief compared to engaging in person, recruiters were able to evaluate the candidate’s interest and qualifications.
Tebrich plans and executes the organization’s recruitment schedule for university outreach, as well as identifies efficient strategies for attracting journey level candidates to Dahlgren.
“I thought the event was a success! Overall, we had approximately 1,900 resumes uploaded into our talent acquisition system, Yello. Almost 600 candidates specifically entered NSWCDD’s booth to chat with recruiters,” said Tebrich.
Kevin Cogley is the NSWCDD branch head for the Laser Weapon System Integration and Weaponization Branch in the Gun and Electric Weapon Systems Department. “Participating in these career fairs is always a positive experience for me. I find myself reinvigorated by the work that I do, when I explain what we do to candidates,” said Cogley.
Cogley acted as a moderator in the entry level chat forum for sciences and engineering positions. “I was excited to see the number of candidates. The intent was to cast a wide net that comes with a large number of candidates from across the educational, cultural, geographical and experiential spectrum,” said Cogley.
As moderators, the recruiters communicated with a high volume of candidates in the four live chatrooms to match Dahlgren work opportunities with educational level, experience and skillsets.
Most chatrooms maintained a steady flow of candidates. “In several of the rooms, we had 35-60 candidates at any given time – quite a number for eight recruiters to manage,” said Tebrich. “The entry-level room actually maxed out at 100 for quite a while.”
Tebrich attributes the virtual career fair’s success to the NSWCDD’s recruiters and hiring managers. “Our team worked hard to speak to everyone and evaluate candidates for employment opportunities. Forty-four on-the-spot offers were extended, and we have several more follow-on interviews scheduled this week,” she said Feb. 26. “I’m so grateful for the dedication, flexibility and charisma of our recruiters.”
The unexpected change in recruiting practices and procedures provided an opportunity to reach more candidates nationwide and increase NSWCDD’s recognition as a leader in warfare systems development and integration.
Through innovative thinking and determination, the NSWCDD recruiting team remains a driving force for the warfare center. “Virtual recruiting has its challenges, but the recruiters have time and again risen to meet the need – finding top-tier talent and showing them what a great team we have in Dahlgren,” said Tebrich.
The switch to virtual recruiting also presented many positive benefits for Dahlgren. “My budget didn’t go very far before. I had to factor in the higher price of registration, shipping costs for materials and travel costs for my recruiters,” said Tebrich. “Recruiters and hiring managers are now able to sign up for events across the country at the same expense as for a local event. This improves the geo- and demographic diversity of candidates for Dahlgren employment.”
According to Tebrich, the strategic recruiting effort divides into three categories.
Outreach efforts primarily consist of participating in university career fairs, attending national and local events and utilizing commercial job sites for resume mining and job announcements. Tebrich has been working to build better name recognition through digital marketing material, video and increased presence on virtual platforms including Handshake, Indeed and LinkedIn. “Our ability to effectively advertise to such a wide candidate pool at such a low cost is a powerful tool for recruiting,” said Tebrich.
Virtual recruiting expanded local university career fair participation to a national scale, resulting in more cost-efficient practices and providing the capability to reach a wider range of candidates. This strategy also enabled recruiters to provide marketing materials and share information about the innovative, diverse workforce and the numerous cutting-edge system developments at Dahlgren.
On the university level, building and establishing relationships with academic institutions strengthen the recruiting efforts. Forming these relationships gives NSWCDD recruiters access to a top candidacy pool before they enter the workforce, creating an advantage to Dahlgren. “If we’re really looking for that cream of the crop, the best and brightest, the way to do that is to establish a presence at universities before that student is even eligible for a job, by talking to their professors, talking to their deans and preparing them to join the Dahlgren workforce through internships,” said Tebrich.