Hiring in A Virtual World: How to Successfully Compete for Talent

November 15, 2021 by and

We just attended a Bend Venture Conference event this past week (in Bend, Oregon) that included many angel investors on various panels, as well as several new ventures pitching for those angel investments.

There was a good session on how to hire in a “virtual world” and compete for talent in that landscape presented by a local firm called Specialized Recruiting Group that can assist owners in the recruiting process. We summarized some of the recommendations made and added specific recommendations here for the insurance industry based on our experience.

The Current Situation

Today, there a large shortage of employees. The impact of COVID is a large part of this issue. Also, there is a generational shift. Many baby boomers are retired and the number of people in Generation X (born 1965 to 1979) is relatively small. The next wave of the population Generation Y and Z are filling in where the baby boomers left open. Gen Z is now 25% of the workforce. Gen Z are people born from around 1997 to 2012.

The presenter outlined how there is a growing gap in skills due to generational shifts and the rapid pace of new technology. What skills are the new generations bringing to the workforce? Today, 86% of teens graduate high school, and only around 50% of those will go to college. College graduation rates have climbed from 21% of males and 14% of females in 1980 to 38% of females and 37% of males in 2020.

The banking, finance, and real estate industries are volatile from the rapid implementation of technology. Technology is changing so quickly, and if a student graduated a few years ago and has not been keeping up with technology, then they could already be out of date. Insurance agencies that are not automated are few and far between. Changes to technology and automation impact the older generations since in general they are slower to adopt to new technology.

It Is All About the Employees Now

To get the attention of young workers, companies now need to focus on the individual employee. They want to work for a company that cares about them and their safety, as well as benefits such as the health insurances, profit sharing, or 401(k).

However, it is important to know that it is now all about the money and the benefits. Gen Z wants to work for a company that aligns with their values. In Bend, Oregon, some companies offer “Powder Days,” where you can take the day off to go skiing when the snow is fresh, and that is just okay.

Firm’s Mission Is the Key

The presenter went further to say that Gen Z employees in a start-up have to really believe in the purpose and mission of the company to join. It was said that it is important to find these job hires in the insurance agency business as well.

To be creative and catch Gen Z’s attention, employee prospects need to see the company’s vision, and a lot will be overcome if they can relate to your mission. It was suggested to do a video on the company, and this vision can be posted on the job sites and tell a story that should grab attention.

Those interviewing new employees also need to be prepared with job descriptions and be able to show the employee how they can move up in the organization.

Alternative Work Schedule

Work/life balance is most important to this generation. Offering alternative work schedules works well, and some of our insurance agency clients will be offering three days in the office and two at home, especially for commuters. Some agencies have much of their workforce back in the office, many others don’t, especially where people may have a fear of commuting on mass transit in larger cities.

Regarding virtual interviews and onboarding, there are the two critical things to do regarding hiring young people today: Use virtual recruiting with digital tools, such as job boards, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook. Be creative to catch their attention.

It is important for the company’s interviewer to be able to tell the company’s story well. Standing out from other employers is key. Also, try to make interviewees feel welcomed by doing something different like sending them a Door Dash coffee during the virtual interview. Offering existing employees an incentive to recommend the job to others will also help employers have more choices in candidates.

Despite the burden of the company needing to impress new hires, the candidate should also provide an equal effort to obtain the job. New employees should be asked to show work product samples and even make presentations. Some agencies will have a potential new hire perform some standard work as a test. The time spent screening unqualified candidates will be a significant savings over hiring a bad employee. Also, let multiple people interview the prospect. Consider using skill or personality testing to support the process.

Since many new employees may not come into the office for a while or only a few days a week, the whole process of virtual work and onboarding needs to be planned well to be effective and keep those new hires feeling a part of the firm.

Here are some key steps to effective onboarding: Be overprepared and have a streamlined process. Try to have some face-to-face meetings with the team and colleagues. Make sure new hires know who to connect with for what. Assign a mentor to lean on.

Many agencies adopted having staff work from home due to COVID. We are seeing many going back to having all employees work in the office again, however, a noticeable percentage of agencies will keep some employees remote. The difference is the owner’s philosophy and the personality of the staff. Having remote employees opens-up more possibilities, whereas, having the staff work in one office might be more unifying for the employees. There is no “one way.” We are also seeing most firm’s cut back on travel and hold online meetings with clients.

Many employees that continue to work for companies from home often work across state lines and those regulations need to be followed. It was suggested because of this that companies should consider hiring a PEO or employee leasing company to handle the HR, especially if the firm has employees in other countries. For insurance, there are multiple services that offer virtual employees that work in China, India, and the Philippines.


Hiring and onboarding new employees in a virtual world have never been more difficult, despite the plethora of new tools. The generational shift and the impact of COVID has redefined the landscape for employers.

There are so many companies, in all industries, now struggling to find the “right” employee, and they are already struggling with too few people to properly sell new prospects and service existing customers. Using some of the tips in this article should assist management in standing out from their competitors.