When TMP Worldwide approached Sodexho about attending its first job fair in Second Life, the food-services giant saw it as a great opportunity but figured the virtual event would appeal mostly to a young, college-age crowd.
The Sodexho team says it ended up being quite impressed by the amount of experience people brought to the job fair.
“We went in with our eyes wide open,” says Arie Ball, Sodexho’s vice president for sourcing and talent acquisition.
“We were thrilled with the number of people who were interested and the quality of candidates. The assumption by many was that it would be college students; we didn’t know how it was going to work,” she says.
In fact, most candidates had five to 15 years’ experience.
“One candidate had 32 years of experience with a food-service background. Most candidates had hospitality backgrounds, though some folks had other backgrounds,” says Anthony Scarpino, Sodexho’s senior director of talent acquisition.
Candidates came from all over the country, “from San Diego to Maryland,” adds Ball.
“Unlike other career fairs, with lots of recruiters involved, we didn’t have to ship things and load them up, or pack and unpack boxes,” she says.
Appealing to Candidates, Corporate Recruiters
TMP advertised the career fair, but Sodexho also did advertising on its end.
“We posted jobs specifically for the job fair, with a full description. We had banner ads on the Internet that we had converted to the job fair. And we also sent two e-blasts with our job-board partners,” says Scarpino.
Sodexho (also a finalist for Best Diversity Program at the 2007 ERE Excellence Awards in San Diego), says it had over 100 candidates who expressed interest, but like any career fair, “you do have some no-shows and some who won’t work out, but we were happy with the number and quantity of the candidates who came through,” says Scarpino.
Sodexho wound up forwarding 14 promising candidates on to local hiring managers. The team also says it met several candidates, including a host of technology candidates, with whom they will arrange a series of follow-up interviews in Second Life.
The food and facilities management services company has more than 120,000 Sodexho employees in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, but “we’re thrilled when we get 14 atany job fair,” Ball adds.
Sodexho food services offerings span 6,000 locations, include on-campus school catering and concessions management to nutrition services and convenience store vending.
Sodexho is also a member of the Sodexho Alliance, founded in 1966 and the leading global provider of food and facilities management with more than 332,000 employees in 80 countries.
Ball says the next round of interviewing with the 14 candidates will be in-person, face-to-face interviews, though not necessarily at headquarters in Maryland. With Second Life being a national job fair, and finding candidates from all over the country, Sodexho will send those candidates to the appropriate local hiring manager for the follow-up interview.
“It’s funny, because we’re in 6,000 locations, so there is no typical Sodexho building. But when you walk in to Sodexho’s Second Life building, you absolutely feel our culture,” she says.
Ball says the design of the building, space, and functionality was top notch.
“It was very well-branded. I would say that about all of the vendors that participated. It was a very well-done physical space,” she says.
Other companies that participated include eBay, HP, Microsoft, T-Mobile, and Verizon.
In addition to the positive response from candidates, Sodexho was also pleasantly surprised by the “great, great response from our recruiters” wanting to participate. In fact, it ended up sending two different recruiters, as well as a rotating senior director, each night.
“Second Life gave us a great, creative opportunity to find innovative, creative people,” adds Scarpino.
The Virtual Interview Process
Second Life has several elements that are appealing, the Sodexho team explains.
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While it’s not a replacement of any part of the recruiting process, the team says it views ventures into innovative places like Second Life as an enhancement to their process.
“It’s very relaxing and convenient for recruiters and candidates, to be able to do this from the comfort of their desk or home, not to mention the logistics requirements of travel. They are comfortable, and they have items around and are prepared,” says Scarpino.
The team says the career fair was well-structured for candidates and recruiters. It didn’t start until 5pm, and everyone was scheduled for interviews between 5pm and 9pm.
As part of the registration process, each candidate provided his or her avatar’s name for an interview. Each candidate received a scheduled interview time, as well as a teleport invitation, which upon acceptance, brought them to the TMP Island welcome center.
The way TMP Island is set up, the Sodexho team explains, each company is located around the island. Each avatar/candidate has the choice of walking along the boardwalk, or “teleporting” to the right office from the TMP welcome center. The teleporting method is achieved by double-clicking on the little cones in the lobby and winding up teleported to the right office (for example, similar to an elevator taking a candidate from the lobby to the 10th floor of any major office building).
Dressing for a Virtual Interview
The team says a good percentage of the candidates who showed up at the fair were not extremely familiar with the 3-D virtual world.
Second Life opened in 2003 and presently counts 6,617,805 people worldwide as members. It’s also an economic hub, with The Marketplace supporting millions of U.S. dollars in monthly transactions. For example, the Second Life “Linden dollar” currency can be converted to U.S. dollars through online currency exchanges.
Upon registering, new members receive a basic avatar appearance. Sodexho says some candidates, probably new Second Life members, just showed up with the basic appearance. But many came dressed conservatively in self-appointed business attire.
Some candidates told Sodexho recruiters they spent five or six hours preparing their avatar, similar to the way a candidate would spend time ironing a suit and grooming for a real-world interview.
In fact, Ball says that when one candidate, a chef, showed up for the Second Life interview, he apologized for his avatar’s casual appearance.
“We [the recruiters’ avatars] were dressed professionally. And he apologized that he wasn’t wearing a formal jacket in his avatar,” says Ball.
Another Sodexho recruiter surprised the team when she showed up for the second day of the career fair in a different outfit.
Ball says the recruiter explained that she wouldn’t wear the same suit two days in a row, so why not change her avatar accordingly?
“Second Life is a fun venue, but it’s also very serious,” says Ball.
“We were interviewing real candidates for real jobs. While it was fun and different, we were very serious and thrilled with the quality of candidates who came through,” she adds.