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Trends & Insights

How Mastercard, Howard University and the University of Delaware champion virtual recruiting

Virtual recruiting has emerged as the key to unlocking access and equity

Today’s digitally native students are building professional relationships through new channels. According to research from Handshake Network Trends, nearly 7 in 10 students believe they can make a professional connection without meeting in person.

In a recent Handshake webinar, the University of Delaware, Howard University, and Mastercard discuss best practices for facilitating student-employer relationships.

The benefits of virtual: access and equity

When Mastercard pivoted to a completely virtual recruitment strategy, for the first time they were able to expand beyond the core schools they had traditionally recruited from.

“Virtual connections allow us to access students that we wouldn’t have reached otherwise,” said Angela Perkins, Talent Acquisition Manager at Mastercard. “It’s doing the same for students, giving them visibility to employers that were likely not on their radar.”

For colleges and universities, going virtual has enabled greater access to new ways to connect students and employers.

“Virtual has changed the way we engage with employers,” said Nathan Elton, Director of the Career Center at the University of Delaware. Whereas before his team focused on employers that could travel to campus, now they target other companies that students have a strong interest in, and ones that have demonstrated commitments to DEI.

Research from Handshake Network Trends show that for students of color, women, and people with disabilities, virtual career events help level the playing field.

“In conversations we’ve had with students, we found trends consistent with what we’ve seen from Handshake,” said Melissa Knight, Interim Director of the Center for Career and Professional Success at Howard University. “Students find virtual less intimidating, it makes them feel less anxious.” Her first generation students, many of whom have never attended a career fair or networking event, say that they feel more comfortable in virtual settings.

Virtual (and hybrid) is here to stay

“Virtual will still be a part of our future regardless of where things go in the pandemic,” said Nathan. His team has experimented with various virtual formats, from multi-school fairs to smaller industry nights. The team is now piloting a job shadowing program that offers both in-person and virtual options for students and alumni.

Melissa agreed: “Career services need to include virtual in the services they provide.” Her team is preparing to launch a virtual externship program for freshmen and sophomores. Meanwhile, they’ve seen more students sign up for virtual appointments and events on Handshake—Howard University’s 2021 virtual career fair saw over 1,700 student attendees, a jump from their 2020 virtual fairs.

Mastercard, too, aims to have a primarily virtual strategy. “The challenge now is how do we differentiate?” said Angela. “As students are overwhelmed by virtual outreach, we need to be innovative to stand out.”

Angela cited Mastercard’s mentorship program as a success story for building authentic connections through virtual means. Over 75 students participated in the program last year, a 690% increase from the previous in-person version. Other successful touch points include virtual career fairs on Handshake, virtual info chats, virtual mock interviews, and virtual skills workshops.

“Students still want authentic engagement even if it is online,” said Angela.

Level the playing field for your students