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Virtual, In-person, or Hybrid: Which Interview Method is Best for Your Company?

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual recruiting has sought to overtake — if not entirely replace — in-person interviews. As companies begin to call employees back to in-office working environments, it begs the question: Will the virtual interview model stick? 

According to a 2020 Gartner survey, a staggering 86% of companies were conducting interviews virtually. In 2021 (long after companies initially expected to be back in the office), a single platform saw 2.3 million on-demand interviews take place in the first six months of the year.  

But what do candidates themselves prefer: in-person interviews or virtual? Would they be content interviewing through a screen, or would they prefer to visit corporate headquarters, shaking hands, and getting face-to-face time with their future colleagues?

At Abode, we believe the answer is both. In the past two years, we witnessed college students embrace a virtual world (and thrive within it), showing that virtual interviews are here to stay. At the same time, we believe nothing can replace an in-person interview. When it comes to networking and actually getting to know your peers and superiors, visiting corporate headquarters will be preferable to speaking through a screen.

Therefore, most university recruiting teams are adopting a hybrid model when searching for their next early-career cohort. Below, we dive into the benefits of both in-person and virtual interviews, helping you decide which framework is best for your company.

In-person Interviews: Why Nothing Replaces Face-to-Face Networking

Over the past two years, Gen Z candidates have studied, interviewed, and completed internships within a virtual environment. Going forward, many early-career candidates hope to continue to work remotely, at least part of the time.

And yet, a growing number of candidates crave that face-to-face interaction. 

In fact, a recent survey by Citrix shows that Gen Z is actually fairly evenly split on their preferences for in-person versus remote work, with just 51% of those polled stating they want to work virtually all or most of the time. And while just 10% want to be in the office full-time, the vast majority (68%) acknowledge that social interaction is crucial in a business context — something that’s not always possible from a virtual environment.

In other words, while early-career candidates enjoy the freedom a virtual environment brings, they’re not alien to the fact that the best networking opportunities happen in person. In fact, a study by the Workforce Institute shows that 75% of early-career candidates prefer to get feedback in-person, compared to digital methods (email, phone, or video conferencing). In addition, a study by Microsoft shows that digitally-native candidates are struggling to create “meaningful connections” at their company. Without face-to-face interactions such as hallway conversations, small talks, coffee breaks, and other chance encounters, these recent graduates feel they are missing networking opportunities within a virtual working environment.

So, what does this mean for your interview process? 

If you want early-career candidates to establish a meaningful connection during the interview process, you better be prepared to offer in-person opportunities. A corporate headquarter visit allows potential hires to get a close look at company culture and their future working environment. Plus, it allows for face-to-face interactions with future colleagues and sporadic encounters that weren’t formally arranged in an interview. 

It won’t be feasible, safe, or cost-effective to bring every student in your talent community to your corporate headquarters. Instead, share these face-to-face opportunities for those who make it to the final rounds of interviews. Or, see if you can arrange a coffee meeting between a few candidate finalists and their potential manager. 

Virtual Interviews: Why Some Interviews Are Best Held Digitally 

While many early-career candidates crave that face-to-face time with their hiring manager, virtual recruiting isn’t going away anytime soon. 

A virtual interview process is attractive because it spares time, money, and resources for employers while fitting within candidates’ already-packed schedules. At Abode, we’ve had many conversations with companies who stated that they aren’t seeing the in-person attendance rates to justify hosting the event. Therefore, virtual recruiting events are the preferred choice (plus, they require far less time to plan and need a fraction of the budget to take shape).

In addition, virtual interviews offer something that most Gen Z candidates value greatly: flexibility. According to a recent study, roughly 50% of virtual interviews are taking place outside of typical work hours. While students balance classes, exams, internships, and extra curriculars, they’re looking for companies who are willing to work around their hectic schedules. Therefore, an on-demand interview that takes place in the evening might be preferable to scheduling face-to-face time between classes. Plus, virtual interviews can be done from any location, without having to worry about travel costs or commutes. 

So, What Do Interviewees Want? Introducing the Hybrid Model 

Both in-person and hybrid interviews offer their own advantages and drawbacks. At Abode, we witness candidates expect the same solution to interviews as they’re demanding from full-time employment: a hybrid model. 

A hybrid interview process will contain both in-person and virtual components. That way, your team is spared time, money, and resources, while gaining face-to-face time with prime candidates. As you implement a hybrid model, consider the following:

  • The candidate funnel: As stated earlier, it’s often unrealistic to offer in-person events to your entire talent community. Therefore, save face-to-face interactions for those who are most likely to get the role (i.e. interview finalists), while offering virtual events to your broader pool. 
  • Peer networking: Many times, candidates want to hear about an internship or entry-level role from someone who has recently been through it. See if you can encourage last year’s intern cohort to grab a coffee or attend an event with this year’s recruits. 
  • Cross departments: You might find that hosting in-person events works well when recruiting for some roles, while virtual interviews spike retention rates in others. Be sure to collect data on retention rates across department lines (psst! Your Abode platform can help with this!) to see which journey is most likely to convert.
  • Managerial relationships: Studies have shown that Gen Z candidates seek mentorship from their employers, wanting to form close relationships with their direct supervisors. Therefore, spare in-person meetings for those between an interviewee and their future manager, helping both parties gauge whether it will be a good fit. 

Both In-person and Virtual Recruiting Methods Are Here to Stay

The COVID-19 pandemic saw an exponential rise in virtual interviews. Even as many companies begin calling employees back to an in-office working environment, digital interviews remain.

However, while virtual interviews help spare your team’s time, money, and resources, it can leave candidates feeling disconnected from your company. Research has shown that today’s early-career candidates crave face-to-face interactions, particularly during the interview process.

Therefore, your company will most likely find success implementing a hybrid model. However, you’ll need to collect data points for both virtual and in-person interviews to see which aspects lead to an increase in candidate retention. Fortunately, the Abode platform helps you develop custom journeys for your entire talent community, giving you valuable data on top talent. To see how Abode can help you decrease candidate turnover, schedule a demo with us!

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