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Engaging the Class of 2021: How to Move Campus Recruiting Online

With as many as 83% of in-person hiring events having already been either cancelled, postponed, or updated to a virtual format and most campus career centers planning to offer services either entirely online or in a hybrid model in the fall and nearly half planning to shift their fall career fairs to virtual events, it’s clear that the effects of COVID-19 on recruiting will likely last well into 2021.

That means it’s up to campus recruiting teams—who previously relied on these critical on-campus events to drum up attention—to find new ways to engage students and attract the best talent, without meeting in real life.

Fortunately, from podcasts and contests to virtual career fairs and hackathons, there are plenty of online alternatives that may even be less costly and more effective than on-campus recruiting options.

8 virtual recruiting alternatives to in-person and on-campus recruiting

#1: Virtual Career Fairs

Since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, many employers and campuses have already partnered up to reboot in-person campus career fairs into online ones. Here are some tips for putting these together from the U.S.’s Society for Human Resource Management and National Association of Colleges and Employers:

  • Set up a video conference using platforms like Zoom, giving employers five minutes for a short presentation and 10 minutes for Q&A sessions.
  • Produce a series of video webinars spread over a “Career Week,” with alumni. speakers included. At the end of these virtual fairs, student participants receive contact lists to follow up with any potential employers of interest.
  • Use virtual hiring event platforms that offer chat technology and video conferencing to facilitate interactions between students, recruiters, and hiring managers.
  • Have a way for job seekers to upload their resumes and be screened for potential positions.
  • Use university website platforms directly to create online events using the websites’ content management systems, with each employer becoming its own “event” that students can RSVP for, share their resumes, and connect with employers directly.

#2: Podcasts

Since 2016, the city government in Edmonton, Canada has been leveraging podcasts—which they embed directly in their job listings to supplement their written job descriptions—to help better educate job seekers about the roles (and the exact job requirements) they’re looking to fill. Hiring managers produce short (five-minute) podcasts to shed light on:

  • What success will look like for someone in the role
  • The organization’s overall workplace culture
  • The most appealing parts of the role
  • Their specific leadership style
  • Other details that will help prospective applicants assess whether an opportunity will be a good fit for their experiences and interests

According to LinkedIn, each job posting’s recording is usually downloaded between 150 and 1,000 times, and, as a result, the organization has seen the total number of applicants decrease and quality of applicants increase.

#3: Virtual Job Try-Outs

Since the start of the pandemic, CVS Health has ramped up hiring considerably, ultimately extending offers to and onboarding 60,000 new employees—about six times their normal pace of hiring. In addition to virtual career fairs, the company has also piloted conducting virtual job tryouts that include job-specific assessments in addition to the usual interview process as a way to vet candidate fit for specific roles.

#4: Practice Virtual Interview Sessions

In addition to offering a campus recruiting webinar series for students, accounting and consulting firm BDO is also offering prospective employees the chance to practice video interviewing skills directly with its employees, coaching participants through the process.

#5: Online Quizzes

These days, online assessments don’t have to be boring—in recent years these have been revamped to offer fun ways to engage interested candidates while finding out their top strengths and weaknesses. Creating online quizzes and getting students to fill them out is one way to increase your database of potential talent while also placing your employer culture and brand in front of prospective employees.

#6: Video Contests

Career fairs aren’t the only, or necessarily the best, way to get to know prospective employees.  Vodka brand Absolut’s recruiting team came up with a creative way to get to know students better by launching a video contest for recent graduates to apply to become brand ambassadors—no resume or cover letter required. Instead, students had to submit two-minute YouTube videos explaining why they would be a fit for the 18-month marketing program.

#7: Virtual Hackathons

Rather than waiting for prospective talent to find Deloitte, the employer has proactively sponsored hackathons as a way to recruit for technical skills and cultural fit, particularly because seeing prospective employees think on their feet and respond to feedback in the moment can help speed up the recruiting process.

#8: Social Media

While employers have long had social media as a channel for engaging with early talent, its prominence has grown since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, with recruiters swiftly adapting to the new environment and shifting efforts online. Nearly half (46%) of recruiters say they’ve increased their use of social channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram for recruiting new talent and 58% say they’re using social media more often to promote their employer brands, according to a recent survey of over 200 recruiters from Jobvite. Employers could consider hosting Twitter chats with students, leveraging live video options available with Instagram and LinkedIn to host Q&A sessions, or partnering up with universities and leverage these institutions’ social channels to reach their students.

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With major brands like Accenture publicly supporting our mission, Headstart is already improving the recruitment experience for candidates around the world.

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