Recruiters Share Their Top Virtual Recruitment Tips

The USC Career Center hosted our annual Employer Summer Summit on June 25, 2020 to discuss virtual recruiting. Recruiters from AT&T, EY, FTI Consulting, and Microsoft shared tips and best practices when using online platforms to recruit and hire students. Below are some key takeaways from the panel questions and discussion:

Can you explain your virtual recruiting process pre-COVID-19? Which parts were done virtually (for example: pre-screens, interviews, onboarding, training, etc.)? What improvements or changes have you made to this process post-COVID-19?

  • Although many employers have hosted on-campus activities, including interviews, some have been moving toward online pre-screens and interviews even before COVID-19.
  • Now, employers are focusing on virtual onboarding and training, since everyone is currently working remotely.
  • Organizations are building their fall recruitment strategies, which will vary depending on their focal universities’ plans.

How did you attract students to apply to your organization and overcome any hesitations with virtual recruiting?  How was the Career Center involved in your engagement with students?

  • Some panelists presented professional development workshops, such as “Navigating the New Virtual World” and “How to Ace Pre-Recorded Virtual Interviews.”
  • Some panelists hosted information sessions as a way to identify candidates early in the recruiting process.
  • Students should attend diverse industry panels to help discover job opportunities that they have not considered in the past.

Once a student applies to a full-time position or internship role, do you use online assessment tools to help narrow down candidates? How does this affect the results you are seeking?

  • Panelists did not widely use online assessment tools .
  • First-round interviews are a mix between pre-recorded and live video interviews.

What tips/best practices do you share with students to help prepare them for the virtual recruiting process?

  • Key information is emailed to candidates ahead of time explaining the interview process and tips, such as logging on early to test the internet connection, reviewing the background décor, and ensuring that the lighting is appropriate for the interview.
  • Students need to practice answering the following questions:
    • How do you overcome obstacles?
    • Tell me about yourself. (Have a project in mind that relates to the position. It could be something that was done in school or at work.)

Share suggestions for how students can best prepare for these virtual interviews.  Any chronic failures? Answers to avoid or aim for?

  • Practicing for the interview process is helpful. It is best to get in to the habit of looking at the camera when talking rather than looking at the computer screen.
  • Virtual interviews can seem impersonal. Make it personal by talking about things that are unique to you; tell a story, not generic responses.
  • Do not regurgitate their website to the interviewers. They expect that all candidates did their research. Explain what you bring to the table.

Prior to COVID-19, what percentage of the first round interviews were conducted with a live person versus using a pre-recorded method? What are the pros and cons for each interviewing method?

  • The majority of the organizations conducted live, in-person interviews. Each panelist mentioned that personal connections are important, so they have high-touch events to get to know students prior to the interview.
  • Pros of in-person interviews are the interactions and back-and-forth dialogue that recruiters can have with candidates.
  • Recruiters can gauge if a candidate is just going through the motions of interviewing or if they are truly enthusiastic about working at their organization, so recruiters want students to explain what skills and experiences make them the best hire.

Are you able to sort out which candidates are better or stronger from pre-recorded interviews?  Also, which video platforms are best?

  • The pre-recorded platform used by EY is Yello.
  • While the recruiters can gauge which candidates are strong, they are most interested in the fit of the candidate within the organization.

How do you prepare the interviewers for this virtual process? What trainings, if any, are available to help the interviewers feel comfortable with the technology being used?

  • All organizations use a different video platform such as Microsoft Teams, Skype, and WebEx.
  • Since the panelists have been conducting virtual interviews for some time, they work closely with hiring managers from all over the US; therefore, there is minimal training available.

Since the entire hiring process has gone virtual, including final interviews, how do you decipher the key characteristics that you seek in a candidate through virtual interviews?

  • Students need to share real-life situations when asked about problem-solving abilities. The best way to predict how a candidate problem solves is to look at past behavior.
  • The interviewers will go in to more depth with their interview questions to get to know the candidates.
  • Organizations are also looking for agility and the ability to adjust to a virtual space because their entire organization is now virtual. Do not voice what you do not like about working virtually; make the most of the situation.  A summer internship is a summer-long interview.

Does the number of interviewers change when it’s virtual?  Are more people included?

  • The number of interviewers does not change for virtual interviews. The same people participate in virtual and in-person interviews.

Can you share best practices and provide insight on your virtual onboarding process? What are some of the benefits of conducting this step virtually and what challenges have you experienced? How can other employers develop such virtual onboarding processes?

  • One positive to virtual onboarding is that introverts may be more comfortable in a virtual environment.
  • Newly hired employees must be flexible, patient, and remain positive, since employers are still navigating a remote work experience.
  • Employers should have virtual platforms for employees to connect with one another (Mindful Mondays, Lunch on Tuesdays, Wednesday Speaker Series, Thursday Trivia, etc.)
  • Having to work from home forces employers to centralize their processes and make them more streamlined.

What portion of your professional development trainings or opportunities were hosted virtually versus in-person pre-COVID-19? Now that the majority of the workforce is working from home, how are these virtual professional development trainings received by employees, especially your new hires?  How can other employers develop such training programs?

  • Trainings are now all web-based. They are shorter and more interactive.
  • Organizations have shifted their professional development topics to make them more relevant to working from home in a virtual world.

Are cover letters still worth submitting?

  • Yes! Candidates should invest the time and put in their best work because it could be a factor in whether or not they are hired down the line.  All things being equal, cover letters and even thank-you emails can make a difference in whether a student receives an offer.