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Survey Reveals Technology Yet to Transform the Hiring Process

Our recent survey of more than 700 full-time employees reveals that talent acquisition and hiring processes may be one of the few frontiers technology has yet to transform.

Business leaders are never short on new challenges to keep them up at night. Tangled webs of regulations, mounting cybersecurity risks, and the constant threat of disruptive competitors poised to swipe market share all probably strike a chord. The irony is that one of the biggest issues weighing on C-suites – even in 2017 – is much more traditional: hiring.

More than two-thirds of HR professionals report recruiting difficulties in today’s talent market, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Multiple factors indicate that the picture could get worse before it gets better, particularly with unemployment at a 10-year low, persistent skills shortages and Baby Boomers rapidly retiring from the workforce.

With employers increasingly using technology to help employees and business partners work more collaboratively and efficiently, West’s Unified Communications Services wanted to understand how digital tools are reshaping the hiring process – both for job-seekers and organizations. Our recent survey of more than 700 full-time employees revealed that talent acquisition may be one of the few frontiers technology has yet to transform.

Here’s a closer look at what we found:

Modern Job Hunting Looks Familiar

When it comes time to launch or change careers, the internet is the universal starting line for almost all job-seekers. Ninety percent of U.S. adults have researched and applied to positions online, according to Pew Research Center. Despite the ubiquity of online job search engines – from Indeed and CareerBuilder to Glassdoor and even LinkedIn – and digital applications, virtual career fairs remain a novelty.

Virtual Career Fairs vs. In-person

Though 59 percent of employees told us they’ve attended in-person career fairs, only 10 percent have ever participated in their online counterpart.

Although virtual career fairs have yet to gain traction, most job candidates feel they’re just as effective as in-person events. Eighty-one percent of professionals who have attended in-person fairs would participate in one again, compared to 73 percent who’ve registered for online fairs. In terms of tangible results, 59 percent of virtual career fair attendees have received interview offers from them – compared to 49 percent of traditional career fair participants.

Interviews Still Hinge on the Handshake

Much like virtual career fairs’ slow climb into the recruiting mainstream, virtual interviews have yet to take a leading role in the hiring process.

Across the board, employees prefer in-person interviews over phone and video interviews. This lack of enthusiasm toward video interviews is likely a matter of exposure, rather than aversion to the technology. For most organizations, audio is still the go-to medium for conferencing and collaboration.

Candidates' Preferred Interview Formats:

79% In-person

17% Phone

4% Video

Less than one-quarter (23 percent) of candidates have had a video interview. That said, those who’ve experienced the video format are more likely to prefer it: 12 percent of respondents who have taken video interviews say it’s their format of choice. Among seasoned video interviewees, only one out of six report ever having a bad video experience, particularly due to connection quality and internet issues.

Video Interviews

Another contributor to why job-seekers prefer traditional interviews? Most haven’t received a formal offer without a physical meeting first. Only about one-third (35 percent) of professionals have secured a new job without having an in-person interview – suggesting that hiring managers and executives value establishing not only a face-to-face rapport (via a screen), but an in-person one.

In-person interviews

Given this trend, we weren’t surprised to find that candidates are eight times more likely to prepare for in-person interviews over video meetings (32 percent v. 4 percent). Until more employers extend applicants the opportunity to have video interviews – as well as job offers from them – professionals’ comfort level and precautions around the technology are unlikely to change.

Top Steps Applicants Take to Prep for Video Interviews:

1. Check background (e.g., make their bed, clean up messes) 92%

2. Wear standard interview attire 88%

3. Eliminate background noise 85%

4. Ensure proper lighting 71%

5. Test video equipment 70%

Virtual Onboarding: Still the Exception, But With Plenty of Potential

After attracting, interviewing and making offers to qualified talent, the final step toward setting up new hires for success is onboarding. Similar to employers’ low dependence on technology during the earlier steps of the hiring cycle, many still default to in-person onboarding practices. 78 percent of professionals report going through strictly in-person onboarding, compared to 18.5 percent who experienced a blend of in-person and virtual processes, and less than 4 percent who participated in completely virtual onboarding.


HR teams’ preference for in-person onboarding could explain why the process is so protracted. Two-thirds (66 percent) of employees say that onboarding takes at least one full workday to complete. In comparison, 52 percent of those who had completely virtual onboarding experiences say the process took one workday or less.

Average Time Needed for New Hire Onboarding

One workday or less (e.g., make their bed, clean up messes) 33%

1 – 5 workdays 40%

More than on workweek 26%

Of the subset of employees who have experienced hybrid onboarding, the majority (73 percent) feel the in-person portions were more helpful than the virtual (27 percent.)

In-person Onboarding

These attitudes may be influenced by a number of factors, including ineffective virtual training curriculum, virtual onboarding exercises that aren’t optimized for mobile devices, and a lack of employer investment in enterprise-grade virtual onboarding solutions.

Devices Used to Complete Virtual Onboarding

1. Desktop 67%

2. Laptop 54%

3. Smartphone 10%

4. Tablet 7%

Our survey revealed a couple additional factors that may contribute to employees’ skepticism toward the technology.

Forty-four percent of professionals who had a hybrid onboarding experience report accessing the virtual components on their own time. If HR teams are not explicitly positioning virtual onboarding as a flexibility perk, new hires could misconstrue these processes as cumbersome homework.

At the same time, only 33 percent of hybrid onboarding veterans told us their virtual processes included collaborative elements, such as breakout sessions. This indicates that employers may simply be shifting previously in-person or manual onboarding tasks into digital formats, without actually transforming these activities to be more engaging, interactive or efficient. 

Pushing Talent Acquisition into the Future

As today’s hiring pressures prove, employers can’t afford to isolate their hiring practices from the tech-driven revolution impacting every other facet of their organizations. The nature of work is changing fast. Sooner rather than later, recruiting and onboarding must adapt too.

Here is what HR leaders need to keep in mind as they build a case for updating their hiring traditions:

  • Virtual career fairs let you cast a wider net: So long as hiring remains an uphill battle, employers will need to diversify their methods for attracting talent. Virtual career fairs give companies the chance to get in front of a wider pool of potential candidates, regardless of location.
  • Time is of the essence: Research from Bersin by Deloitte found that it takes employers almost two months, on average, to fill a vacant position. Limiting your hiring process to in-person interviews extends an already lengthy, costly cycle. Taking advantage of video interviewing technology can not only expedite recruitment, but create a stronger candidate experience.
  • Successful digital onboarding demands careful planning: Virtual onboarding programs that replicate in-person processes through an intranet or web application won’t do HR teams or new hires any favors. When developing virtual onboarding components, hiring leaders must consider how to adapt specific content or workflows for solo, on-screen consumption – including mobile devices, not just laptops.

If what so many executives say is true – that people are their organizations’ most valuable asset – then hiring is the most important transaction a company handles. It’s due time that more organizations invest in the right tools for the job.