6 firms test recruiting via Internet with virtual job fair

On the Job

May 30, 2007|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,Sun Columnist

One job candidate changed clothes in the middle of the interview. Another kept bumping into walls.

These actions would be considered faux pas in real life. But in the 3-D virtual world of Second Life, where Internet users act out parallel lives through pixilated characters known as avatars, interview rules are little bit looser. Avatars communicate via instant message chats.

This month, six companies participated in what was billed as the first virtual job fair in the digital universe. Recruiters say they expected some quirky challenges. And some job candidates gave the computerized effort a try to find work even if they weren't familiar with the technology. (Computer users can log on at SecondLife.com to interact with others in the virtual world.)

"One of the candidates couldn't make it to the interview room. He kept banging on the walls, and some people talked about not being able to find the appropriate clothing," says Kelly McCorkle, Verizon Communications' manager of recruitment, operations and strategies. "They didn't know how to change clothes and came in shirts and shorts.

"Once you get used to it, it's nice to laugh at yourselves and share these experiences," she said.

Besides Verizon, eBay Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Microsoft Corp., Sodexho Inc. and T-Mobile sent recruiters, or rather, their avatars, to the Second Life job fair.

Several companies say they saw Second Life as a new way to connect with and attract potential hires, particularly young people.

Warren Ashton, a Microsoft recruiting manager, says it is "looking at this generation in a slightly different view on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour interaction that they've incorporated into their lifestyles."

Many recruiters say they saw promising job candidates. Julie Lausterer, T-Mobile's senior manager for talent acquisition in retail, says the virtual job fair "hit a broad group of candidates from retail sales to consumer care to marketing."

Sodexho Inc., a hospitality company based in Gaithersburg, for instance, saw more than 100 people during the three-day virtual job fair. The company is forwarding 14 candidates from the fair to the next step in its recruiting process - in the real world, says Arie Ball, Sodexho's vice president of sourcing and talent.

Other companies say they experienced similar results

Several companies also found that Second Life can be used for other purposes. Ball says Sodexho plans to use the virtual world as a meeting place for the company's interns and mentors throughout the country.

Adds McCorkle of Verizon: "As far as using this going forward, we're exploring other opportunities that are possible within this new experiment."

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