4 Reasons to Adopt Virtual Recruiting Today

If I told you two years ago that you would hire graduates from the class of 2020 without meeting them in person and without them ever setting foot in your office, you would have been rightfully incredulous. But this scenario doesn’t sound nearly as far-fetched today.

In 2017, before the coronavirus reached our shores, full-time remote workers accounted for 5.2 percent of the labor force according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But in the past four months, practically every worker who can operate virtually has done so and, according to Gallup, 70 percent of Americans polled say they’re currently working remotely. 

On the recruitment front, COVID-19 has accelerated the shift from in-person to digital recruiting faster than ever, encouraging employers to undertake in a few months what may have previously taken years to accomplish: adopting an entirely virtual, always-on recruiting strategy. Just this past spring, Handshake saw virtual events increase by 237 percent and virtual interviews by 2,500 percent on our platform compared to the same period the year prior.

Here are four reasons why companies across industries now depend on virtual recruitment models, and why you should build your virtual capabilities to get a leg up as quickly as possible:


1. Trade up on low-yield tactics like career fairs.

On-campus college career fairs and offsite recruiting tactics won’t be available to most companies until the second quarter of 2021 at the earliest. And even when they are available, on-campus visits and career fairs are often expensive, difficult to scale, and inefficient. More and more employers are realizing that in order to attract the best talent and diversify their workforce they need to invest in virtual recruitment platforms.

Under Armour, for example, capitalized on the many benefits of virtual recruitment while furthering its mission to “make things better” by increasing the number of schools where they recruit by 40 times—from a handful of schools near its Baltimore headquarters to almost 500 nationwide.

Talent leaders at the company emphasize that when working with a traditional recruiting model, they are limited to students who are already interested in their brand and are unable to seek out students with backgrounds who better fit the brand’s talent needs.


2. Beat your competitors.

While the majority of companies were caught flat-footed when the pandemic halted traditional recruiting this year, nearly every firm has made strides toward the virtual world. Move fast and you can establish your competitive advantage by building your virtual recruitment function from the ground up.

This means more effectively competing with companies with more established brands and those that may be located in more attractive locations for candidates. A recent Handshake poll of 397 employers reveals that 52 percent are planning to adopt an entirely virtual strategy this fall, with another 46 percent saying their strategy will be mostly virtual or a blend of virtual and on-campus events. Don’t get left behind. Those employers who do not make strategic investments in virtual recruitment will lose the best and brightest young talent to competitors.


3. Achieve your diversity and inclusion goals faster.

Many companies struggle to recruit an adequate number of diverse candidates both at the entry level and more experienced positions. Seasoned HR professionals cite pipeline issues as a key challenge, claiming that it usually takes years to make a meaningful change to their current diversity and inclusion statistics.

But with a smart virtual talent strategy, you can easily and efficiently reach a critical mass of candidates from underrepresented backgrounds through personalized outreach and a dynamic employer brand that speaks to each unique individual, enabling you to build a truly inclusive workforce.

For example, a leading biotech company made the pivot from in-person to virtual a few years ago. Through partnering with Handshake, the company’s HR team reached 90 times more qualified students year over year, attracting 446 percent more Latine candidates, 435 percent more Black candidates, and 358 percent more Asian candidates from 2017 to 2019.

By moving away from a neighboring or alumni school network and reaching top talent at schools from around the country, the company recalibrated its early talent recruiting initiatives to generate a 97 percent application rate from its new, geographically-limitless target schools.


4. Expand your available talent pool. By a lot. 

Companies often have talent-pool constraints based on a variety of factors including geography, resources and brand awareness.

But if you have the right recruiting processes and are committed to adopting virtual engagement tactics, you can greatly increase the volume and quality of candidates without adding in-person campus visits to your portfolio of investments. Using a broader virtual recruiting approach, Box, for example, expanded its list of recruiting colleges from six to 629, enriching its qualified pipeline by thousands of students, and received 84 percent of new applications from early talent outside of California (and five times more applications than its talent competitors).

We still don’t have a lot of visibility as to how the novel coronavirus will play out in terms of getting businesses back to the physical office, but most experts predict lasting change due to the acceleration of all virtual work trends in the past five months. Global Workplace Analytics now forecasts that 25 percent to 30 percent of employees will work permanently from home by the end of 2021. Whether or not the actual figure is 10 points higher or lower, there is no doubt virtual work and virtual recruitment are here to stay.

Garrett Lord is the co-founder and CEO of Handshake, the leading career community for college students in the U.S. 

  • Originally published August 19, 2020, updated September 12, 2022