The professional job search is a deeply personal journey. For MBA job-seekers, direct engagement with potential employers is essential: they want you to know who they are, and they want to know who you are.

Live, face-to-face encounters remain the gold standard for effective engagement. But for many organizations, maintaining a real presence on campus may not be a realistic possibility. Some organizations may be too physically remote to visit; others simply cannot spread themselves thin across multiple campus locations. And emerging start-ups face a Catch-22: according to Molly DeCastro, HBS Recruiting Relations Manager, “Many of our students want these kind of companies, but if they don’t recognize your name, they may not give you their full attention.”

Fortunately, there are alternative ways to connect. “Don’t feel pressure to come to campus,” says Cathy Hutchinson, Director, Digital Strategy, HBS Career & Professional Development office. “There are so many things you can do to reach students without sending a team to us.”

DeCastro and Hutchinson, with further input from Lauren Santimauro, Campus Recruiting Manager at A.T. Kearney, offer the following suggestions to recruiters who need to create a meaningful presence for MBA candidates – without necessarily being physically present.

Use CPD’s online resources

Start with the obvious: post your positions in the Career & Professional Development recruiting platform (listings are free), and review the online database of MBA resumes.

Reach out to student clubs

Not surprisingly, HBS MBAs assume a great deal of responsibility for their own outreach. You can meet them in the middle by building relationships with the HBS clubs relevant to your industry. Many clubs host annual conferences and other events your representatives may attend or your company can sponsor. When you cannot come to clubs at HBS, you may be able to find ways to bring them to you. Example: “The Tech Club makes a trek to the Bay Area every year,” says DeCastro. “Companies can participate, perhaps by hosting a session in their office.” Communicate with the clubs to see who may be coming to your region within an upcoming trek.

Leverage alumni and interns

In a people-centric process, it just makes sense to leverage the relationships you’ve already established. “Use the resources you have to build connections,” says DeCastro. If you have HBS alumni in your organization, encourage them to update their HBS profiles; MBA students can and will search the alumni database to make contact with alumni within companies that interest them. Similarly, your summer interns can serve as your informal on-campus ambassadors spreading the word about your business: who you are and what it’s like to work with you.

Bring CPD to you

CPD staffers travel far and frequently to meet with alumni and reinforce relationships with recruiters. “We can come to you,” says Hutchinson. “Through these visits, CPD has the opportunity to learn more about your business – knowledge we can share with our students and alumni.”

Apply virtual tools – but be smart about them

In a digital age, job candidates expect digital conveniences as a natural part of the recruiting process. Online webinars offer a substitute for live presentations, and digital communications applications, such as Skype, Zoom, or WebEx, can facilitate virtual one-on-one conversations.

While most of these tools are familiar, their effective application demands some thought. “You want to come off as well-organized,” notes DeCastro. “The application you choose cannot be complicated or confusing to your staff or students. Pick a platform everyone can feel genuinely comfortable with – students thrive when the virtual experience is easy to access.”

A.T. Kearney, says Santimauro, has made a significant investment in Yello, an event-based candidate management tool that offers webinars and video chat capabilities. “It’s been a great way to be more efficient with our consultants’ time,” she says. In the 2016 – 2017 recruiting season, Kearney hosted ~400 live events; with Yello, these have dropped in the 2017 – 2018 season to just 165, even as Kearney has virtually communicated with a greater number of candidates.

“Yello allows us to reach a wider and more diverse audience,” she adds, noting that the virtual platform helps them create a presence among a greater number of business schools and under-graduate programs. “It’s just so scalable: we can move up or down without making additional investments.”

Connections remain crucial

Although a physical presence is no longer absolutely required to engage MBA candidates, a personal touch remains essential for success. “One-to-one connections, however you make them, are key,” says Hutchinson.

DeCastro concurs. “Use the resources you have – alumni, interns, online platforms – to make the connections you need. Your proactive investments in making direct connections will create the greatest benefit.”