In the eternal search for the perfect recruit, some organisations are branching out beyond social media into the virtual world of Second Life to secure talent. Chris Sheedy takes a tour.
The venue for a recent Linden Lab careers fair was typical in many ways. It contained a large space where several staff members made presentations about their organisation. Outside that conference room a reception desk was available to book some of the smaller rooms for networking purposes or for private meetings. These private rooms were themed in various playful or serious tones, depending on each room's intended use.
A little more out of the ordinary though, was the fact that the fair took place on a private island. And bizarrely, attendees had to teleport themselves to the island. Around 50 people attended the conference; some wore shorts and T-shirts, and a few had wings. Around 15 of the attendees were interviewed for jobs within the company and, a few weeks and several interviews later, five of those were offered full-time roles.
In Second Life, the virtual world owned and managed by San Francisco-based Linden Lab, the careers fair had taken place without anybody having to leave their desks - in the real world, that is. There were no airfares, no bar bills, no accommodation costs and no venue hire costs. But there were presentations, video conferences, web chats, real-time job interviews and voice conversations.
"We're not throwing out the in-person interview," explains Claudia L'Amoreaux, Education Programs Manager at Linden Lab. L'Amoreaux recently visited Australia to present on the topic of virtual recruitment at the Australasian Talent Conference. "We're simply demonstrating that Second Life served an important role in the process. The advantage of Second Life is that we can do several interviews very easily without having to fly people in.
"From the potential employees' standpoint, they say they felt more comfortable than they would have in a conventional interview. They were relaxed, they were at home in their own space and they felt good. Plus, all of the resources are there; if the person being interviewed wants to share something on screen then they can bring it right up."
The brave, new world of Second Life has been utilised by such organisations as Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, IBM, Bain & Company and TMP Worldwide Advertising & Communications. These companies have hosted job fairs and conducted various recruitment drives; some have even built their own virtual islands.
Second Life itself plays host to one million people via their alter egos, known as 'avatars', each month for the purposes of socialising, shopping and attending events. The average user is in their mid-thirties and evenly split between male and female.
Doing business in Second Life
Employment services provider Manpower Inc has begun hosting events within Second Life.
In September last year, for example, the company brought together various thought leaders to discuss the virtual workforce of the future. Speakers were convened around a conference table while members of the public were invited to watch the proceedings, and could share their thoughts via instant messaging. The event was held on an island within Second Life.
"Job searching and career development is permeating social networks around the world as individuals become increasingly responsible for their own career development and display more creativity in how they present themselves to potential employers," says Lincoln Crawley, Managing Director of Manpower Australia and New Zealand.
"We are also seeing the development of new, more flexible models of virtual work, again dictated by individuals who want to be in control, deciding where and when they want to work."