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One Year Into a Pandemic, Students Sound Off About Virtual Recruiting

Handshake data shows what students have learned to love about the virtual job search — and what they’d prefer to change.

Almost a full year after university campuses closed and students nationwide began navigating their higher education and early career journeys fully online, a lot has changed in the interest of safety. The process of transitioning so many aspects of life from in-person to behind screens hasn’t been easy: according to our latest Handshake student survey, while students recognize the necessity of the virtual job hunt, more than half of students have concerns about their ability to make connections and communicate effectively online.. But amid these challenges, ingenuity and growth have flourished. Not only have college students learned to prioritize what’s truly important to them, like their mental health, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also how to conduct career exploration safely and effectively using digital recruiting tools like virtual career fairs

If you’re one of the many students or recent grads who has participated in the job search during this time, you’ve likely felt some of the same pain points as your peers. Read on for the results of our latest student survey — along with pointers for making the virtual interview and career fair process easier. 

The virtual job search has its benefits

The pivot to fully virtual recruitment might have been an unexpected curveball for students, but there are bright sides. When asked what they like about the virtual job search process, almost half of students reported feeling less intimidated when meeting with potential employers. More than half of respondents who feel this profound sense of relief are women; connecting face-to-face in a calm, virtual setting appears preferable for this cohort over trying to self-advocate and make a memorable impact over the dull roar of traditional gymnasium career fairs. Some of the other top reasons why students like virtual recruiting events are that these types of events reduce scheduling barriers, and participants feel they’re able to better prepare for interviews.

Communication and connection are common challenges

On the other hand, when asked what they don’t like about the virtual job search process, 52% of students reported finding it challenging to communicate effectively in online settings and that they worry about not making a genuine connection with recruiters during virtual events. If this sounds familiar to you, check out these resources: 

For communicating effectively during virtual events and interviews:

For connecting with employers:

Employers who don’t go virtual will be left behind

Students who’ve worked hard to transition to virtual job searching wonder why there are some companies that haven’t reciprocated. When asked their opinion about employers that have not adopted virtual fairs, virtual events, and virtual recruitment tools, many students believe this failure to adapt will have a negative impact on their recruiting efforts. Here were their top answers:  

  • 41.2% said that these employers will eventually have to adopt virtual recruitment tools 
  • 19.4% believe slow-to-evolve employers are going to fall behind 
  • 11.8% simply say that it will be harder for the employers to connect with them and their peers

All in all, that’s more than 70% of students who believe that employers will either be forced to adapt, or will struggle to keep up as their competitors adopt superior recruiting practices in a virtual world. 

Companies could make the process easier 

In addition to adopting virtual recruiting tools to adapt to the evolving COVID-19 landscape, students feel that employers could do more to make their virtual recruiting process better. According to our survey data, the top three ways employers can make students’ virtual job search/interview easier is by:

  1. Being specific about what they’re looking for in candidates 
  2. Detailing out the process ahead of time
  3. Offering guides on how to navigate virtual events and fairs 

Virtual interview prep is essential 

After they’ve selected confidence-boosting virtual career fair outfits and fueled their job searches with favorite snacks and drinks, students find a few key preparation rituals key to their success at virtual recruiting events. More than two-thirds of students (69.1%) research the companies they’re meeting before a virtual job interview. Nearly half of students (46.7%) participate in mock interviews to work through their nerves and practice answers to common questions. Finally, more than 40% of students utilize meditation and deep breathing to manage stress and calm their jittery nerves before hopping on their interview call. 

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels