Bruce R. Thompson, an Allegheny alumnus from the class of 1986 and Vice Chairman at Bank of America, offered to fund the addition of video interview equipment at Allegheny College. During a visit to the Darden School of Management at the University of Virginia, of which he is also an alumnus and trustee, he was shown their video interview rooms, including all of their state-of-the-art equipment and setups. Shortly thereafter, near the beginning of January 2020, he contacted the Career Education Office and offered the funding needed for the College to have similar rooms.
“(Thompson) had given a gift to the college to completely outfit three rooms in Pelletier to be video interview rooms,” Jim Fitch, Director of Career Education said. “We had no idea that this was coming … He basically gave us a blank check and said, ‘Create the rooms. I will pay whatever it costs.’ ”
Fitch also noted that the retrofitting was to take place in March, shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States prior to the nationwide shutdown. The rooms are now set to be available for students to reserve by the end of the coming week.
The video interview rooms are set up in spaces that were going largely unused in recent years. The rooms include a conference room located in the Gateway, a room previously used for on-campus interviews, and a study space with no windows and brightly colored walls. The first of these has a long table, a projector and screen, a camera and the essentials for video interviews, including audio and visual equipment. This one has been designated as the overflow room, to be used primarily when the other two rooms are occupied. The repurposed on-campus interview room is fitted with all new audio and visual equipment valued at roughly $6,000 and an all-new display. This room also has a camera that moves as it follows sound around the room.
“If there were three students interviewing, the camera will adjust to whoever is speaking,” Fitch said.
The final room, which Fitch called Video Interview Suite No. 1, has been completely refurbished, complete with sound-proofing and new lighting. It has the same high-quality equipment as the previously mentioned room, as well as a side space for students to take breaks in and a mirror, which they hope to be able to put in every room.
“This is the one we will try to steer students toward the most,” Fitch said.
In addition, there will be an armoire in this room where there will be blazers for students to utilize for their interviews.
“We understand that 48-72 hours may not be enough time for students to go home and get interview attire,” Fitch said. “With part of (Thompson’s) gift, we purchased six blazers…We bought three, in three different sizes, that were technically (masculine) appropriate and (feminine) appropriate, so that if a student is in a pinch, if they either cannot afford or do not have access to interview attire, we have it here in Pelletier and they can use it while they are here.”
These blazers will be dry-cleaned regularly for sanitary purposes and will be available to students using any of the interview rooms, although they are being stored in Video Interview Suite No. 1. Additionally, Thompson gave a substantial gift for students to purchase interview attire. This money can be accessed by students by submitting a request for a Gator Success Grant through the Dean of Students Office, for which the application can be found on Allegheny’s website. Given the nature of a Gator Success Grant, this funding is intended for long-term/post-grad, off-site interviews.
Students will be able to reserve rooms for video interviews on the Handshake app, available for both Apple and Android devices.
“If you are on Handshake, and you click ‘Schedule Appointment,’ one of the appointments types that (you will be able to) schedule is ‘Video Interview,’” Fitch said. “Currently, we only have one of the rooms set up. I am in the process of adding the other two rooms.”
Fitch went on to explain that, in the Handshake app, a student can network with major corporations for both internships and potential jobs. On the app, a corporation can send a student a link and give them an average of 24-72 hours to complete the video interview. Most of the interviews are automated, meaning there is not going to be someone asking the interviewee questions live. When a student receives one of these emails, they can then go to a different section of the app and immediately reserve a room in which they can conduct their video interview.
Students are able to reserve their room at any time of day, regardless of whether or not the library is presently open or the Gateway faculty are present in Pelletier. Once a student schedules an appointment, they receive a confirmation email with links to instructional videos on topics such as how to best utilize the video interview rooms and properly clean surfaces before leaving the room.
Fitch said that there will be a grand opening hopefully very soon, although students are already able to reserve the rooms via the Handshake app and start utilizing the rooms today. The rooms are available for student use as first priority, with faculty occasionally being permitted to conduct important lectures and seminars in them.
“The No. 1 priority is that this supports students who are invited to do video interviews,” Fitch said.