It may seem like a decade ago now, but it was only last March that HR professionals had their first meetings about recruiting in the COVID era. Despite the uncertainties, the industry moved quickly so our organizations could stay on track to meet hiring goals, even if they changed monthly.
Marking this anniversary, I have talked extensively to employers and university career center professionals to see what they have learned. The keyword across all of these conversations was “resilience,” as many had to continue to work through new situations and continually evolving working environments due to COVID-19.
I also wanted to know what’s on the minds of the millions of Gen Z job-seeking members in the Handshake community, so we launched a survey earlier this quarter. Of the 1,003 respondents, it was clear that students have developed considerable resilience, as well. While we might have predicted that a generation of digital natives would adapt to virtual everything seamlessly, our survey results show that wasn’t entirely the case.
Things Are Not Always What They Seem
On the positive side, 49% of students said they feel less intimidated meeting with potential employers in virtual environments, and 42% said they are better able to prepare for interviews. In addition, just under half of the students we surveyed believe that virtual recruiting reduces scheduling barriers and enables candidates to progress more quickly through a company’s process.
Nonetheless, many students struggled to adapt to the sudden shift to virtual recruiting processes. More than half of Gen Z respondents said they were challenged to communicate effectively in an online setting (52%)—this includes maintaining connections with the recruiters (53%). Another takeaway from our survey is that 65% of students say that online job searching, interviewing, and working are either difficult or very difficult.
But again, the resilience is apparent: Gen Z still believes that virtual recruiting is part of their job hunting future. With regard to employers, just over 70% of students believe they must adapt further toward virtual recruiting capabilities, or they will struggle to keep up as their competitors develop effective virtual practices.
When asked what employers could do better or differently in 2021, Gen Z almost unanimously said they hope companies continue to refine their virtual recruiting process. According to our survey data, the top three ways employers can make students’ virtual job search/interview easier are by 1) being more specific about what they’re looking for in candidates, 2) explaining the hiring process to candidates, ideally before the first interview, and 3) offering guides and information about how to navigate virtual events and fairs.
That said, what this proved was that while the past year may have been challenging, the key to navigating such a unique time is being flexible and resilient. As we approach graduation season and working remotely for the long term, this will be an essential skill for students through the virtual recruiting process.
Christine Y. Cruzvergara currently serves as the VP of Higher Education and Student Success at Handshake, leading its efforts to deepen partnerships with the higher education community to ensure greater and more equitable student career success.