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Results from NACE’s 2021 Student Survey show that most first-generation college students found virtual recruiting provided them a better job-search experience than traditional recruiting. This includes 71% of Black and 61% of Hispanic students who indicated they learned more via virtual means, while only 49% of white students reported feeling the same.


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“The pandemic changed the way employers look for, recruit, and hire college graduates for full-time positions and internships,” says Shawn VanDerziel, NACE executive director. “Instead of engaging with students in person through career fairs, on-campus interviews, and other traditional recruiting and hiring activities, they had to shift their efforts to the virtual environment—the new normal for recruiters.”

NACE’s survey data proves virtual settings are among the best practices to adopt for hiring, making it easier for marginalized groups to extract key information about a job.

“Virtual recruiting is a viable tool for employers that want to develop a wider, more diverse pool of candidates,” says VanDerziel. “Employers need to develop a strategy around virtual recruiting that leverages its advantages with marginalized populations. For example, virtual recruiting can help businesses and organizations to more easily connect with candidates at smaller historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), broadening accessibility to diverse talent.”

Virtual recruiting may also be a means for helping employers overcome other obstacles to building a diverse and inclusive workforce, such as addressing the inequities that continue to exist today in paid internships.

“NACE’s research found that women, communities of color, and first-generation students are underrepresented in paid internships—used by many organizations to identify talent for full-time positions,” says VanDerziel.

“For college students, the paid internship is often the entry point to the job market, allowing students who secure them to get ahead in their career path,” he notes. “For marginalized populations who are underrepresented in these opportunities, this means they are not getting the same career start as their counterparts, feeding a cycle of inequity.”

NACE’s study found that, by the time they were graduating, paid interns had received an average of 1.12 job offers compared to 0.85 offers to unpaid interns and 0.64 offers to students who did not take part in an internship. This disparity further emphasizes the critical nature of establishing more equitable recruiting and hiring practices that will help create a more evenly distributed playing field in the professional world for historically marginalized students.

“There are a number of steps employers can take to align their internship programs with their goals for building a diverse, inclusive workforce, including using a virtual recruiting strategy to reach a wider, more diverse pool of candidates for their internships,” says VanDerziel. “Similarly, college career centers can also make greater, explicit efforts to help historically marginalized students obtain paid internships while coaching them in how to navigate the new normal of virtual recruiting.”

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers surveys college students nationwide about their experiences, behaviors, attitudes, and preferences as related to career development, job search, and employment. The 2021 survey was conducted from February 17, 2021, to May 14, 2021, through college career centers that hold membership in NACE. More than 15,000 students at the bachelor’s degree level and above responded. Results regarding virtual recruiting are based on responses from more than 2,800 undergraduates who engaged in virtual recruiting activities and provided their demographic details.


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