The Online Recruitment: Agent Toolkit, Challenges, and Gaps to Fill report surveyed some 775 individuals involved in the agency business from 20 countries in June 2020 to determine how companies had shifted to recruiting online and reflect agents’ success.

“Agents are highly satisfied with their online recruitment efforts”

It also forecasts how international student recruitment will change in a post-Covid environment.

“Agency businesses have been deeply, deeply impacted [by the pandemic],” Sanjay Laul, MSM CEO  and founder told The PIE News. “[But] agents are highly satisfied with their online recruitment efforts.”

Over 60% (486 answers) of the 775 survey respondents suggested that current online recruitment efforts were either highly or somewhat successful. Only 33 responses indicated they had been unsuccessful and two said their efforts had been highly unsuccessful.

The key challenges highlighted in the survey included access to technology and internet, a lack of a central platform to process applications efficiently and manage their businesses, and access to marketing materials.

“Document verification, that’s a big challenge,” Laul highlighted. Institutions – particularly in Australia and the UK – “put the onus on the agents that the documents are properly verified”.

“That’s a big gap that the agents are facing. I think that needs to be solved in some way for online recruiting. There’s not a single repository where one can verify the documents, whether it’s high school diplomas and transcripts that are so different from country to country and within the country also,” he added.

Laul further noted that many higher education providers rely on well-trained in-house staff that evaluate credentials  “based on what is submitted to them”.

“While agents are open to processing applications exclusively online, there may be errors ensuing from the use of an inefficient portal,” the report details.

There have been instances where agents have resorted to paper-based application processing, which it suggests, can be prevented by using a tech recruitment platform that automates agent tasks and streamlines application processing with a “high level of accuracy and security”.

Inadequate online marketing materials and limited university partnership led the way for institution-related challenges, with 36.5% and 35.5% of respondents respectively suggesting they were issues.

A previous MSM survey found that some 84% of agents reported income losses as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and for this reason, agents have been swift to switch to online recruitment, Laul continued.

Although the biggest responding group came from India and Indian subcontinental countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, responses did not differ greatly across geographical regions.

“When it comes to the agents, we see that the difficulties have been almost the same [across regions],” Laul told The PIE.

However, agencies have been limited in the switch to online depending on the size of their businesses, with those firms wielding more financial power and human resources finding it easier to pivot to online recruitment, he continued, noting that responses from some of large agencies are very different from the smaller agencies.

Laul said he remains “very positive” for the sector’s future. Pre-covid MSM employed 200 staff, and the company has now crossed the 300 mark and is continuing to hire new staff.

Respondents also shared his positivity, with 63.4% indicating they were “highly optimistic” about their recruitment for the next 12 months.

However, concerns remain around student entry restrictions, financial difficulties and movement to online learning remain.

The optimism stems from a continued desire for students to migrate, Laul suggested.

“Some of the countries – lets talk of of India or India subcontinent and even Latin America – the students go to study not just for the international experience or education experience, immigration is at the top of their minds.

“I don’t see that the mobility is going to be impacted and I see that mobility is going to continue to increase for the next 20 years.”

Countries that are open to immigration to help bolster their economy – Canada, Australia and New Zealand – will continue to see international students increases, Laul suggested.

Additionally, with 15 partners in the US, MSM is already reporting a “high level of optimism”, and the report suggests that the country “can expect to be the beneficiary of pent-up demand built during the pandemic”.

“I see that mobility is going to continue to increase for the next 20 years”

Even though the new government has not taken the office, we have already started seeing the different results. We are seeing the study permits – F-1 visa issuance already for our institutions.”

He is also confident in MSM’s global marketing office model, where the company supports institution partners with dedicated teams that represent specific institutions.

In 2020, MSM launched its Unify platform that it says addresses transparency and communication issues associated with the use of sub-agents, in addition to helping agents to efficiently manage their businesses.

“It wasn’t their preference to get into online student recruiting. They were forced,” Laul said.

“Even before Covid online recruitment was increasing. But Covid has given a big jump to online recruitment… Overall, post-Covid, I definitely see that face to face interactions will be back and the number of students being recruited will increase.”

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