Recruitment: Virtual Vacancies
As recruitment marketing matures online, companies are experimenting with their employer brands. Can a Second Life careers fair yield first-class candidates?
For some, Second Life offers a virtual world of opportunity and exchange; for others, it is merely a glorified chatroom where middle-aged male truck drivers, pretending they are female teenagers, search for questionable online company. Now, it seems, Second Life and similar social networking sites could be the gateway to a glittering career.
Recruitment ads have always featured heavily online, but over the past couple of years the discipline has matured, taking it beyond simple online job postings. Some employers are using the internet to evolve their staff searches and save time and money in the process. In the first half of 2007, online recruitment advertising spend in the UK reached an all-time high of pounds 142m, according to a study by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Some brands are using web 2.0 technology to attract tomorrow's talent. Recruitment consultancy TMP Worldwide staged what it hailed as the first virtual careers fair in Second Life across three days last October (see case study). Global accountancy firm KPMG, Royal Bank of Scotland and directories provider Yell all took part in the experiment, using the virtual world for the 'event' as well as a first-round interview location to connect with job-seekers via their avatars.
Paul Coffey, client services director of new media agency twentysix London, believes that the internet can be an invaluable way for employers to create a brand experience for potential employees. However, he is critical of the Second Life endeavour. 'To set something like that up is expensive and the experience is poor and clunky,' he says. 'All it shows is that these brands are desperately trying to look hip.'
TMP deputy managing director Phil Owers, who was behind the initiative, insists that it was neither a gimmick nor publicity stunt. 'We wanted to see if it's something that could become part of the recruitment process in future. We're not saying it's the new way forward to do interviews,' he says.
Whether the Second Life experiment is a step too far or not, Coffey stresses that the benefit of web 2.0 technology to brands lies in the opportunity it provides to 'lift the lid' off corporations, as illustrated by Microsoft's use of video blogs made by staff working in its offices. 'It was really effective in saying to people 'We aren't the evil empire, we actually do lots of cool stuff here.' It is a much more effective way to sell a career or lifestyle and is also much cheaper and easier to do online than face-to-face,' he adds.
Twentysix London handles recruitment marketing for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. The armed services' websites now feature real-life video diaries made by recruits, live web chats, picture galleries and an online training tool with video presentations by the chief physical training instructor to help applicants prepare mentally and physically for the selection process. All the content can also be downloaded onto personal video and audio players.
'We try to expose potential recruits to real people so they can interact with them in a rich way,' says Coffey. 'They are great at selling the service and lifestyle - much better than an HR person. They can pass on things that aren't necessarily in a prospectus, such as whether they were nervous about going into Afghanistan.'
One way in which the Royal Navy initiated conversation between its target pool of applicants and existing officers was through the creation of a profile of officer Brendan Spoors on teen-focused social networking site Bebo. 'This was our most effective traffic generator. He had hundreds of comments every day about his career. You can really focus on who you want to talk to,' adds Coffey.
Iwan Williams, marketing director for both the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, says that detailed research was conducted before going ahead with this campaign. …