Virtual Reality Meets Facebook & Recruitment. Huh?

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As we spend more and more of our waking hours (and some of our non-waking hours) in front of glowing rectangular screens, it makes sense that recruitment belongs more and more in the digital space. But what about the virtual space?

Though interest in virtual reality technology has waned since its gaming debut in the 90s, there’s been a recent resurgence in investment and enthusiasm, resulting in much-improved technology. It may even be poised to change the way we communicate. Though the hardware still has a long way to go before becoming ubiquitous, companies and recruiters are already getting more and more creative, delivering pitches to candidates via augmented reality and interactive use of video.

But the biggest announcement in the virtual reality space came from Facebook this week:

Facebook, Oculus, and Virtual Reality
Facebook’s surprise $2 billion purchase of Oculus, a company developing virtual technology that’s “wearable and affordable,” raised more than a few eyebrows. Based in Irvine, California, Oculus gained name recognition after quickly raising $2.5 million through Kickstarter, and then unleashing its “Oculus Rift” gaming headset. Gamers have gushed over the technology, saying alarming things like “I Never Want To Look At Real Life Again.”

But Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has more in store for it than just games. In a recent Facebook post (where else?) he announced, “We’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a courtside seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.”

This, of course, opens up much more sophisticated opportunities for connecting with candidates than the current 2D, glitch-prone Skype sessions you might be hosting. Fortune quoted Oculus CEO Brendan Aribe as saying, “You start to realize how big this could be if you can see someone else, and you can actually look at them and your brain believes they’re right in front of you, not through a screen … You get the goosebumps. You see how big this could be, and how social it is, and the impact it could have on other industries.”

Indeed, many recruiters say that video interviews are no substitute for the real thing, but they may soon be proved wrong.

Facebook’s acquisition may also be intended as a recruitment lifeboat for Facebook itself, who is no doubt feeling the competitive pinch from other tech giants like Google and Twitter. The investment in virtual technology provides a clearer distinction among these companies, something ambitious candidates are sure to notice.

Augmented Reality Recruitment App
ASB Corporate, New Zealand

In contrast with virtual reality, augmented reality provides a “digital overlay onto the real world” with an “element of magic to it,” according to Tech Crunch. (They also reported that the term is more frequently Googled than “virtual reality” — evidence, perhaps, of its popularity).

Recently, New Zealand-based bank ASB partnered with digital agency One Fat Sheep to release an interactive 3D video app that launches as soon as you scan a physical advertisement. But it’s more than just a video of a speech by Executive General Manager Steve Jurkovich, who appears tiny and real as he walks toward the camera. Job seekers can navigate within the video itself. After delivering his pitch that redefining banking in New Zealand will be a “rocket ride,” Jurkovich says: ”So if you want to work with us, tap here.” He motions to a tab that pops up on his right. “If you want to find out what ASB can do for you, tap here.” And he motions to his left. He’s more of a tour guide than a flat, recorded video subject.

The app also contains resume-writing tips, interview tips, and ways for job seekers to communicate interest in a corporate banking role at ASB. Similar to Facebook’s big investment, this augmented reality app shows (rather than tells) candidates that the company already takes technology seriously.

In-Game Recruitment
Government Communications Headquarters (British Intelligence Agency), UK

You’ve heard of gamification — which adds game design elements and mechanics to a non-game context — but what about advertising and recruitment within typical gaming channels, like Xbox Live? According to Marketing Week, Britain’s GCHQ has been experimenting with ”in-game advertising to promote career opportunities” for seven years already. Like other video game marketers, GCHQ has learned that gamers are only receptive to clever ads that integrate well with the action instead of distracting from it. The spy agency has also collected data for possible recruitment purposes; creepily, players are “unaware a skill is being evaluated.”

“If someone has to sit through a five-minute explanation of a game with a small amount of interaction before moving to the next stage, this can highlight good attention and listening skills. If they choose to skip this and get to the next level, it could highlight the opposite,” said a spokesperson for GCHQ, according to Marketing Week.

But the key is that the game already exists on the market, and ads can be integrated just as they are in real life. In fact, studies suggest gamers are quite open to seeing advertisements in contexts where they would actually see them in real life — like a Red Bull ad at an extreme sports event. And if virtual gaming picks up speed again, there’s an even bigger opportunity to engage people (and indeed, test them) through that secondary space. Especially if it’s true that some gamers get so immersed in action, they flinch — revealing how they would actually respond in real life.

Interactive Street Cams
MetaCommunications, Iowa City, Iowa

This creative recruitment technique is actually quite simple: allow prospective job applicants to take the reins on a web cam pointed downtown, and gaze around a bit. After all, they’re not just concerned with the inner world of the company, but the outer world of the community.

As it happens, this software company and accompanying camera reside in my college town of Iowa City, which I loved — and which does get a lot of undeserved flack just for being located in a flat state that produces a lot of corn. I can see how it would be extremely valuable for biased out-of-state candidates to watch how packed the pedestrian mall can get in the summertime, when there are live concerts, and how lively and urban it feels despite its proximity to farmland.

The technology isn’t mind-boggling; right now the camera is “interactive” in that the user can point it in one of three pre-set directions. But the recruitment technique is very modern. Younger candidates are thinking more carefully about the environments they want to live in, gravitating toward “cool” cities instead of just urban centers. And imagine the potential for self-guided virtual tours. Not just office tours, but downtown tours… city tours… where nobody is dictating where to explore but you.

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