Virtual Job Interviews, Extra Worries

By Deb Perelman  |  Posted 2007-08-27

In May, Microsoft, Sodexho, T-Mobile, Verizon, Hewlett-Packard and eBay participated in an enormous job fair. What, you hadn't heard about it? That's probably because it was on Second Life.

Hosted on the island of TMP Worldwide, a recruitment advertising agency, these six employers created recruitment avatars, or digital representatives of themselves, and conducted live, real-time interviews with job seekers.

Considered "early adopters" in this recruitment approach, the companies said they wanted to take a new and innovative approach to finding new workers. Candidates were driven to a recruitment micro-site built by TMP where they could learn about the companies hiring, request interviews and upload their resume. They were filtered before being offered one-to-ones.

Participating organizations considered it beneficial for them, because it removed the travel, booth-shipping and their associated costs from their recruiting budgets. It also removed geographic restrictions from job-hunters, who came from all over the world.

So, how many people got offers on-the-spot? Well, none, exactly.

"There were no job offers given at this event. It was a first interview that then led to second interviews. In this event, there were quite a few second interviews done by companies like Sodexho, which I think had 16 second interviews out of this event. When you think about it, that's a high percentage. Since all of them were pre-screened, it offered a better chance of quality leads for these employers," Louis Vong, vice president, Interactive Strategy TMP Worldwide told IT Business Edge on Aug. 21.

Vong was quick to admit that recruiters couldn't see body language or how people were talking in these interviews, but that this could be a good thing as, devoid of these details, interviews had the potential to be more objective.

Yet, if you thought that regular job-hunting was fraught with potential missteps, imagine all of the extra things that could go awry in a virtual world. First of all, the initial form of communication is IM in Second Life, which can be unnervingly casual for a job seeker with high stakes.

"Be aware of the IM rules. It's OK to abbreviate, for instance, if the English is easy to understand. Make sure you're not texting in all-caps, since that looks like shouting. These are basic things that you would commonly do when talking to someone via IM," said Vong.

Furthermore, candidates don't just have to be good at navigating around typical interview blunders—tardiness, lacking enthusiasm or not doing their homework—but a whole new set of virtual world-specific bungles, like not knowing how to make their avatars sit down.

"There were instances where a job seeker would run into a wall or they couldn't walk straight, that when you look at it can look quite comical or funny. But that in itself was a surprising benefit to the interviewers. As a job seeker came in to meet with the recruiter avatars and did all this things that were very comical, it helped them loosen up the environment for the interview. It was something that both of them could chuckle about," said Vong.

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