HR Tech Number of the Day: virtual college recruiting

Fourteen percentage points separate Black college students (58%) and white college students (44%) who prefer virtual career fairs over in-person events.

Who wins with virtual recruiting?

That was the question posed by a recent study from early-career community Handshake. The answer? Both employers and candidates, particularly those from diverse backgrounds.

The survey, conducted in May, examined perceptions of the virtual recruiting of college students, with responses from 2,400 students, nearly 500 employers and 500 higher education professionals. The findings highlighted how prevalent the shift to virtual has become–97% of educational institutions and 93% of employers said their student career fairs this fall will be virtual or hybrid–and where it’s making the most impact.

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For instance, 55% of women surveyed prefer virtual interviews compared to 41% of men. Black or African American students were most likely (58%) to favor virtual interviews, followed by Latinx, Asian and multiracial students; just 44% of white students preferred this method.

Diverse students were more likely to say virtual career fairs allowed them to be more “noticed” by employers, as in-person events have a tendency to be “hijacked” by the most extroverted, aggressive candidates–a view shared by 57% of Black students and 38% of white students. Non-white students were also much more likely to apply to a position after attending a virtual career fair, compared to an in-person event, citing better connections with employers.

What it means to HR leaders

As COVID forced widespread remote work, many organizations adapted their recruiting strategies to virtual settings, including for early-career professionals. Now, as employers strategize for the post-COVID workplace, they’re considering to what extent virtual will play a role in recruiting.

Christine Cruzvergara

Christine Cruzvergara, chief education strategy officer at Handshake, notes that the majority of college students across demographics in their survey prefer virtual recruiting. The potential that virtual recruiting has for diversifying the talent pipeline, Cruzvergara adds, offers an important signal for employers.

“Our research suggests that a more diverse range of candidates–women, Black, Latinx and neurodiverse students–were more likely to apply to jobs that incorporated a virtual element,” she says. “The lesson for companies who are prioritizing diversity in their hiring practices is this: Do not rush to return to in-person recruiting once the pandemic has subsided.”


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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at