Reinventing the New Normal: A Discussion of Recruitment, Higher Ed, and Early Talent

September 13, 2021

The MBA CSEA 2021 Virtual Global Conference featured a panel discussion with business schools and employers on the opportunities and challenges they are seeing in this new world of virtual engagement.

This panel was moderated by LaTanya Johns, Assistant Dean at Simon Business School, University of Rochester, and included:

  • Karen Jackson-Cox, Executive Director of the Career Advancement Center at Smith School of Business, Queen’s University
  • Phil Miller, Assistant Dean of MBA and MS Programs at Carlson Student Management, University of Minnesota
  • Reene Grossman, Senior Manager of Product Partnerships at Indeed

How did things change in the last year?

Phil Miller: Instead of saying things changed last year, I like to say they accelerated. Online courses, virtual career development meetings – these were all already happening, the pandemic just sped up the full transition. We were suddenly online versus intentionally online.

We now have a different perspective on what’s possible. “Normal” looks different now, so we just have to decide what we can do well virtually and what would we prefer to do in-person.

What changes were there in recruitment practices?

Reene Grossman: Companies moved to virtual and remote options last year out of necessity, but I think recruiting will continue to include virtual aspects because companies have seen how well it works. Some other changes included companies having year-round referrals (instead of several hotspots throughout the year) and a fully remote class of interns.

What issues have you seen students face?

Karen Jackson-Cox: We saw mental health issues from isolation, lower engagement at events, students feeling lost and a lack of confidence, and confusion about the current state of the job market. We trained our staff in crisis management and ran programs to support students, including conducting training on virtual job searching, interviewing, and recruiting.

How does the future look with local corporate partners?

Phil Miller: They are all thinking about what hiring will look like. In a focus group of 20 top recruiters, the main concern was not losing out to other firms and wanting to know what other companies were doing. Companies still don’t know their policies on in-person recruiting for the fall.

However, there is a consensus that first round interviews are better virtual, but then subsequent interviews are best in-person when possible.

Virtual has also broadened the scope of employers for small schools. For small schools that recruiters wouldn’t travel to before to recruit, they can now attend virtual recruiting events. Students want a mixture of national and local opportunities, so virtual recruiting has helped expand their options.

How does your team help students prepare for virtual recruiting?

Karen Jackson-Cox: Our Career Accelerator Programs are Master classes on resiliency, working in virtual teams, managing your online presence, and video interviewing. We also hosted Market Talks that focused on what’s happening in the industry currently, where the opportunities are, and how to have agile and flexible career goals. These were very well received by students.

What tools did you use to market recruiting events to students online?

Karen Jackson-Cox: We leveraged social media, hired a student to post on Slack channels and portals, and advertised during the Market Talks.

Phil Miller: We used email blasts, personal outreach, and mentioned them in our 1:1 coaching appointments.

How can companies partner with universities on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) events for sourcing talent?

Reene Grossman: We’ve had more and more employers who use Indeed for recruiting candidates develop DEI goals and work with us to meet them. In fact, Indeed itself has committed to new DEI initiatives in the past year.

Phil Miller: The DEI efforts of employers and the campus need to be in sync. Universities can adapt programming and be in contact with companies to match them up with students.

Karen Jackson-Cox: Create a guide for recruiters, have a DEI-focused fair, target diverse clubs on campus. Make sure your efforts are grounded in equity and access.