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The Realities of Virtual Recruitment

Microchip representing virtual recruitment

Like it or not, cyberspace continues to affect how people occupy (or no longer occupy) real space. We all go to the bank far less than we used to thanks to internet banking, video stores have all but gone the way of the dinosaur thanks to high-speed downloading, and younger generations are perfectly comfortable counting online interactions as actual socializing. So if you no longer need to physically go anywhere to manage your money, see the latest Hollywood blockbuster, or be with your friends, why should conducting a job interview be any different?

Certainly, many HR professionals raise an eyebrow or two at that question. After all, even with video conferencing, online tools cannot replace the nuanced and instinctual elements that comprise the well-rounded evaluation of a potential employee, especially when it comes to corporate cultural fit. And no one’s suggesting it can. Still, in the past few years, “virtual recruitment” (or “online recruitment” or “e-recruitment”) has really taken off. The term essentially encompasses the use of internet-based technologies to attract, assess, and hire new employees. The attraction phase is something most organizations are familiar with as it typically involves advertising job openings on various websites, including social media (which is sometimes called “social recruiting”). The advantages there are obvious (e.g., reaching a wider audience, collecting more applications, etc.), but what about the assessment and hiring phases, which tend to be associated with those vital in-person interactions?

Advantages of virtual recruitment

First, virtual recruitment includes the use of online applications, which are vital to the screening process. The rise of online job boards has also meant the rise of overwhelming amounts of job applications. However, thanks to online application tools, you can incorporate survey-like questions and other criteria that, if answered incorrectly or insufficiently, will automatically exclude unqualified candidates from the rest of your recruitment process.

Second, the fact that you’re now able to attract applicants from practically anywhere means you no longer have to limit your options to local residents. Online tools, such as Skype, now allow you to “meet” qualified candidates no matter where they are. And why not meet with them? After all, if someone from far away applied to your posting, they’re probably willing to move to your destination if they get the job. Although video conferencing isn’t on par with a traditional interview (as noted above and elaborated on below), when in-person interaction just isn’t possible, face-to-face interaction – even if it is over Skype – is still better than settling for a local candidate you have your doubts about.

The virtual career fair

Virtual recruitment isn’t just about online job postings, applications, and Skype interviews, however. There’s also the virtual career fair. Many companies, particularly smaller ones, like being in a virtual career fair because the fees for participating are minimal, and there’s no need to buy a booth, set it up, or have employees out of the office managing it. Also, virtual career fair providers do a lot of preliminary screening for you. Rather than have you collect piles of resumes from random wanderers, a virtual career fair requires applicants to fill out compatibility forms that determine which companies will be of interest to them. If they’re suitable, they’ll be able to check out your organization’s virtual booth, where they can upload their resume, read more about you, and watch videos you’ve provided. Your virtual booth even allows you to communicate with applicants via webcam or instant messaging. And since a virtual career fair is so easy to “attend”, candidates who are already employed, but who may be seeking new opportunities, are more likely to have a look – something they would likely never do for a traditional career fair.

Disadvantages of virtual recruitment

While virtual recruitment has its advantages, it’s important to be aware of its potential hazards and its drawbacks. For instance, there are several legal loopholes you have to make sure you jump through before conducting an online interview. These loopholes include waivers and other disclosure forms that candidates will need to explicitly agree to, so make sure you acquire the proper legal advice and content before interacting with potential employees over the internet. The drawbacks of virtual recruitment stem from the technology itself. Webcams restrict your view of the person you’re talking to, which means you may miss out on important body language cues, and the hardware or software you’re using can either glitch out or give out altogether. Technology has a way of making us complacent to a fault, which Henry David Thoreau cleverly encapsulated in the phrase, “Men have become the tools of their tools”. Any employer can avoid that trap so long as he or she remembers that a comprehensive, reliable recruitment process should always include the human touch whenever possible.

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