The Third Wave of Digital Recruiting Tools

The pandemic made virtual recruiting a necessity. New technologies could transform it (almost) completely.
Even as in-person recruiting efforts resume, international offices should continue thinking about how emerging digital tools can expand the reach of existing recruitment efforts. Illustration: Shutterstock
Mark Toner

During the pandemic, most institutions pivoted international student recruitment activities online out of necessity—virtual events, virtual college fairs, and virtual counseling, to name a few. Too often, though, these virtual tools “come off as a shadow of the real thing,” says Clark Egnor, EdD, coordinator of international programs for the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. 

Student behaviors and expectations began shifting even before the pandemic, and a host of old and new international education providers were expanding the scope of the services they were offering online. 

“The transition to digital acceleration has been building for some time, but the pandemic really accelerated it,” Pieter Funnekotter, CEO of United Kingdom Education Advisory Service (UKEAS), a UK-focused provider of counseling and application support, said during a summer webinar on emerging technologies. 

Some of these next-generation tools are being built by entrepreneurs who are themselves alumni of international education experiences. Others are longtime industry veterans; at least one ran a higher education institution before expanding into recruitment services. The education technology (EdTech) companies are as international as the students they serve, with headquarters in the Americas, Europe, and Oceania and offices in many other countries. 

In many cases, artificial intelligence and machine learning are being layered on top of service models that have existed for years or decades. The companies are attracting EdTech investors, and one company (at minimum) is considered a “unicorn”—a term for a startup that ultimately could be worth a billion dollars or more. Some developers say

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