Try Second Life Beyond the IT Department

A number of organizations are recruiting in Second Life. They are realizing significant branding benefits by recruiting in a virtual world. The real question is, How successful at recruiting employees? The challenge becomes more acute for those attempting to find talent outside of the IT world.

A common theme that I usually hear when I discuss recruiting in Second Life is “Second Life is great for technical organizations recruiting young IT talent like Java programmers, but it really would not address our needs.”

There are many reasons why non-technical organizations can benefit from recruiting in SL. Most organizations would agree categorically across industries that there is a growing demand for a technically proficient employee base outside of the IT department, especially as more baby boomers head off for retirement and web 2.0 applications proliferate in the enterprise. There is a compelling benefit to having access to a geographically diverse pool of candidates during these tumultuous economic times, when fuel costs are exceedingly difficult to manage as well as travel budgets. Value is also realized by branding and screening in a virtual world that is typically the domain of leading organizations.

There are also numerous arguments that can be put forth as to why non-technical organizations will not be successful recruiting in SL. There is limited information on either technical or non-technical employees who have actually been hired through an interview conducted in SL. There should be more information readily available if this was a frequent occurrence. Virtual job fairs and islands of employment are not well-known, and I’m sure many job seekers have no interest in engaging in a virtual world. Even if a non-technical person did find a job fair and decide to participate, there is the challenge of operating within SL. It takes time to become adept at controlling your avatar and getting the right appearance for an interview.

What type of employees if any are being hired in SL?

Polly Pearson, vice president of employment brand and strategy engagement at EMC, discusses a recent experience EMC had with career fairs in Second Life. EMC generated two hires for its effort. One hire was a developer with an accomplished IT skill set and the other a financial controller who had experience with large, global organizations. An article by ThinkBalm mentions the Accenture Career Island in SL paid for itself after five or six events, which I am guessing focused on recent college graduates.

The foodservice firm Sodexho is probably one of the last organizations one would expect to be recruiting at job fairs in for IT talent. MSNBC published an article on “How your fantasy life can get you a real job.” The article follows the journey of Ray Giordano, a job candidate rather new to SL, as he prepares to participate in a Sodexho job fair at the suggestion of a Sodexho recruiter. This is a caveat to others that it might be worth the investment to learn the basics of SL in case you also end up in this situation. The job candidate’s efforts in learning the nuances of SL eventually paid off and led to a job as a chef in the senior services division of Sodexho.

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The Vancouver Sun wrote about the efforts of the Vancouver Police recruiting talent in SL. Inspector Kevin McQuiggin, in charge of the department’s tech crimes division, notes almost every major crime has a technical aspect to it. “Any new media that comes out, any new form of communication, crime is going to migrate there. As we move into the future, we’re going to need people who understand technology — that are conversant with it, that understand the impact of it, and understand how to use it,” McQuiggin says. Given the prevalence of identity theft and various cybercrimes that continue to challenge police departments not often equipped for the technical challenges, McQuiggin has an excellent point. I have yet to see any hard data on how many hires this effort has generated.

Toronto law firm Davis LLP is also open to recruiting in SL. The SL office was opened by the law firm’s Video Game Law & Interactive Entertainment Group. “The virtual world of Second Life gives us the opportunity to interact with our current and potential clients in a unique way,” says Dani “Lemon Darcy” Lemon at Davis LLP. “We also aim to generate business leads and attract job candidates for our bricks-and mortar business through Second Life.” SL may prove to be an ideal location for finding attorneys adept at defending the misappropriation of the intellectual property of others in the virtual realm. Still, given the specifics of practicing law in a specific locale, I would guess this is a very difficult area to recruit talent in.

The potential of recruiting talent in SL is vast but there is not a large amount of information suggesting this has been highly successful yet. The growing demand for technical talent may eventually lead others to leverage SL for connecting with talent as the generational shift in the workforce accelerates. SL may one day become a leading recruiting tool, but I think many would agree the verdict is still out.

David D'Angelo, J.D., SPHR, has worked in human resources for seven years, primarily in HRIS as an analyst. He is a member of the International Association for Human Resources Information Management. His blog “Recruiting in Second Life” blog can be read on the ERE blog network and was referenced by Governing online in its September 2008 article “The Reality of Virtual Reality” which appeared in The Managing Technology Letter.

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