Parker Dewey’s New Report Uncovers College Student Sentiment on Virtual Recruiting; Experiential Learning Opportunities Critical for Early-Career Talent
As another academic year amidst the COVID-19 pandemic kicks off, virtual recruiting tactics continue to be adopted by employers—and college students are widely ambivalent. Parker Dewey conducted its second annual survey of enrolled associates, bachelors, and graduate degree seeking students to understand how they want to be recruited by prospective employers. The results found that students overwhelmingly prefer real work experiences as a way to learn about employers and discover roles they may not have otherwise considered. Further, 16% of college students rated virtual career fairs and online info sessions, the primary tactics utilized by recruiters, as not valuable to their career search.
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The data reveal that both college students and employers receive clear benefits from experiential learning and recruiting via Micro-Internships: paid, project-based experiences. For students, these Micro-Internships are associated with better job placement, lower reneges, and higher retention rates upon accepting a full-time position. Seventy-five percent of students say more experience to build their resume and get their foot in the door with employers is what they most need to secure a job after graduation, and 93% say real work experience—over unpaid experiences, in-class assignments, or project-simulations—is their preferred way to engage with employers.
For employers, Micro-Internship opportunities help attract candidates from all backgrounds in ways that other in-person and virtual recruiting tactics fall short. Eighty percent of students from backgrounds underrepresented in the workforce report paid Micro-Internships are the virtual recruiting activity they are most interested in, and 70% cite uncertainty around what to expect in entry-level roles (including responsibilities, culture, etc.), as the top barrier for their participation in campus recruiting. For diverse career launchers, flexibility, accessibility, and pay continue to be the main criteria necessary to engage them.
“Accessibility is a massive barrier for college students seeking to explore careers, with many opportunities limited based on lack of pay, geographic location, long-term commitments, and extensive experience required just to land an internship,” said Jeffrey Moss, founder and CEO at Parker Dewey. “When employers create more paid, remote, short-term opportunities, they not only encourage career exploration and skill development, they also send a powerful message that they support developing equitable, accessible pathways to professional careers.”
While the survey asked students about various forms of virtual recruiting, most commented on their experiences with virtual career fairs, suggesting that this was one of the most visible tactics during the past 18 months. Students not only rated these events as less important to them overall, many also highlighted these virtual recruiting events were detrimental to their perception of an employer as well, with one respondent sharing, “Virtual recruiting events are not engaging, you hardly get to connect, everyone feels like an AI bot in those. I’ve decided not to engage in any more, and wait for the in-person ones.”
“Having been involved in campus recruiting for decades, this isn’t surprising, but is important for organizations struggling with dwindling career fair attendance this year,” said Tony Denhart, University Relations Director at GE. “Students have always been hungry for real experiences as a way to learn about companies and demonstrate their skills. While the past year made it difficult using traditional methods, acceptance of remote work has created new opportunities.”
Seventy-nine percent of all students surveyed said paid Micro-Internships or paid project-based work provides the hands-on, compensated opportunities to gain experience, better understand an industry, and make connections with employers that are most important to them. In total, only 34% of students reported that they would consider an unpaid internship or unpaid project-based opportunity, while just 32% of students said earning academic credit from work experiences mattered to them. Both data points reinforce the importance of monetary compensation for early-career talent. And while lack of compensation makes unpaid internships, challenges, and similar experiences inaccessible to those students who cannot afford to do free work, even students with more financial flexibility highlight that these programs “are a red flag about how a company values its employees.”
“Micro-Internships offer a creative way to expose more students to experiential learning. Equity is important to me as a career professional and as an individual, so, when I learned about the Parker Dewey program several years ago, I immediately appreciated the value and game changing opportunity it could afford all students,” said Bill Means, Director of Career and Professional Development Center at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. “Micro-Internships allow for students to gain resume-building experience which fits into their busy lives. It also allows low-income students who do not have transportation the ability to participate and compete with this real-world experience. As the Director for Career and Professional Development at FAMU, I am impressed by the number of quality organizations seeking our students. Micro-Internships are yet another way for employers to access our students and endear talent to their organizations.”