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Staffing Management: Tapping Into Virtual Talent Realms

Elizabeth Judd  7/1/2007
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Vol. 3 No 3

As if there aren’t enough recruitment venues and job applicants to juggle throughout the day, now recruiters can take their trade to a whole new level -- or would that be realm? -- by tapping into the online talent pools of “avatars” roaming virtual worlds.

Surreal? Yes. Futuristic? No. This is present day, at least for some forward- thinking companies exploring these otherworldly recruitment fronts. Companies have ventured into massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), on which a large number of people interact in growing virtual worlds through animated representations of themselves called avatars.

Buzz about recruiting in MMORPGs such as Second Life, which describes itself as “a 3-D virtual world built and owned entirely by its residents,” is growing as more formal corporate recruiting events are being staged. For example, this summer the recruitment advertising agency TMP Worldwide hosted a three-day job fair in Second Life, which, according to San Francisco-based developer Linden Labs, has as many as 8 million “residents.” And while it’s estimated that only 25,000 to 40,000 users typically are logged on at any time, this kind of volume is hard for serious recruiting functions to brush off.

Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, eBay, Sodexho, T-Mobile and Verizon participated in TMP’s job fair, called Network in World, which had more than 800 registrants.

“TMP is very excited about applying virtual world technology to talent recruitment,” said Louis Vong, vice president of interactive strategy at TMP Worldwide, in a press statement about the event. “Network in World is a program that is sure to evolve, and it is a great way for job seekers and recruiters to interact in a unique, fun and branded online environment. It’s well-suited for companies [that] are known for innovation.”

Not surprisingly, tech positions and techies were most plentiful during TMP’s job fair. But tech jobs weren’t the only positions for aspiring avatars to pursue.

Sodexho, a food and facilities management services company, was hiring for positions ranging from chefs to IT professionals. Arie Ball, vice president of the company’s sourcing and talent acquisition, was pleasantly surprised that so many job seekers had a food service background. On average, she said, candidates had five to 15 years of relevant experience.

Companies recruiting in Second Life are adapting traditional interview techniques to this unorthodox setting. Hewlett-Packard interviewed candidates through instant messaging (the preferred mode of communication in Second Life), while Sodexho’s avatars handed interviewees a card with a phone number. The two avatars then interacted on the computer screen as recruiter and candidate chatted by phone.

Semper International, a recruiting firm for the printing, graphics, web design and video game industries, has been identifying candidates in Second Life for a few months and generally finds several prospects a week there, according to company COO Brian Regan. Regan sometimes meets job seekers at Semper’s “professional office” and sometimes at the company’s beach, where they send instant messages amid seagulls and the sound of crashing waves.

“It’s really great for branding,” said Ball, noting that recruiters wore specially designed Sodexho shirts. The company gave away virtual cars sporting the Sodexho logo.

Elizabeth Judd is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.


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SHRM articles:

Help Wanted:
Virtually All Avatars Welcome To Apply

(Staffing Management)

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Matthew Adam, VP of NAS Recruitment Communications, discusses the issues involved in meeting applicants in virtual game settings.
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