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  • Study Finds Virtual Environment Offers Employers Path to Equity in Hiring for Full-Time Jobs and Internships

    BETHLEHEM, PA—Employers interested in diversifying their workforces should consider strengthening their virtual recruiting efforts as a path to more equitable hiring practices, according to a new study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

    According to results from NACE’s 2021 Student Survey, historically marginalized populations—female, Black, Hispanic, and first-generation college students—found virtual recruiting provided them a better job-search experience than traditional recruiting.

    “The pandemic changed the way employers look for, recruit, and hire new 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.”

    With ever-evolving fluctuations to the job market and as competitive recruiting necessitates companies lean into new avenues to capture top-tier talent, NACE’s survey data proves virtual settings are among best practices to adopt for hiring, making it easier for marginalized groups to extract key information about a job. In fact, female, Black, Hispanic, and first-generation college students indicated they learned more, got a more authentic view of the potential employer, and had better interactions with employer representatives in the virtual world than in in-person encounters. 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.

    “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 historically 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 any 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.”


    About the NACE 2021 Student Survey: 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, the job search, and employment.

    The 2021 survey was conducted 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. In terms of internship participation, NACE analyzed results from approximately 1,500 graduating seniors who provided data around their internship status, gender, race/ethnicity, and first-generation student status.

    The NACE 2021 Student Survey product suite includes:

    • An interactive dashboard that enables users to view data across various parameters, e.g., career readiness, internships, job offers, and job preferences by gender and race/ethnicity;
    • A report providing overall figures, charts, and tables;
    • NACE Brief: Virtual Recruiting, which delves into the data around historically marginalized populations, their experiences, and recommendations for how employers can leverage virtual recruiting in their overall hiring strategy; and
    • NACE Brief: Inequity in Internships, which examines disparity in internships by gender and race/ethnicity and provides guidance to employers about how to ensure their internship programs are inclusive.

    An executive summary for the NACE 2021 Student Survey is available to the public at

    About NACE: Established in 1956, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) is the only professional association in the United States that connects more than 9,800 college career services professionals, more than 3,300 university relations and recruiting professionals, and more than 300 business solution providers that serve this community.

    NACE is the premier source of market research on career readiness and employment of recent college graduates. NACE forecasts hiring and trends in the job market; tracks salaries, recruiting and hiring practices, and student attitudes and outcomes; and identifies best practices and benchmarks.

    NACE offers its members unparalleled research, networking and professional development opportunities, guidance on standards and ethics, and advocacy on key issues. For more information, visit NACE maintains a virtual press room for the media.