Posted by: Peter Quirk | April 8, 2008

Learnings from our first experiment in the virtual world

In my previous post I described our first recruiting fair in the Second Life® virtual world, where TMP Worldwide ably assisted us. I’ll try to give you sense of what it was like, and what we learned:

  • you need a helping hand the first time, and you can learn a lot from the experts
  • our recruiters, while hardly technical, were perfectly capable of dealing with Second Life with an hour or two of group training, backed up with some technical support by phone
  • candidates were also capable of grappling with the interface, but we had less control over their hardware and sometimes ran into problems with unsupported graphics chips
  • you have to be prepared for anyone to drop in – unscheduled candidates, the press, the competition, your own employees who want to help, the Lindens, and random “lookenpeepers”
  • the intensity of your conversations is very similar to what you’ve experienced at trade shows if the traffic is high. You will feel exhausted at the end of it and yet the team will want to celebrate
  • an amazing team bond develops while you’re working this way; the team shares stories and secrets that those who were not part of the event will never appreciate
  • behaviors will emerge that you never expected
  • you will discover that there are employees with a wealth of experience in Second Life who emerge from the shadows now that the activity is respectable

Our team of recruiters was drawn from all over the USA, from both corporate facilities and home-based employees. For a variety of reasons, which I’ll discuss in a future posting, we all worked from our home locations. The TMP-managed fair ran for three days, and was held at different times each day to accommodate candidates in different time zones. Each session was four hours long. We tried to run four concurrent 30-minute interviews so that we could accommodate requests from candidates for specific timeslots. Bear in mind this was a recruiting fair, so some candidates were interviewing with multiple companies. While we designed for four concurrent interviews, we typically had two running, with two or more candidates talking to greeters in the lobby and watching the EMC video.

In addition to our event coordinator we always had at least two greeters and one or two senior managers or VPs to talk to the press. Much of the press contact was unscheduled. There was a lot of private chat (IM) traffic going on between our coordinator and the recruiters, and between anyone with a technical problem and tech support (mainly me). There was also email – late resumes, updated rosters, etc. At the beginning of each session the coordinator sometimes had to deal with TXT messages and phone calls from recruiters who were having trouble getting home in time. The coordinator also served as the communications hub with TMP’s team, who were handling the candidates when they teleported onto TMP island. As each candidate arrived on TMP Island, messages went to our coordinator to make sure that we were expecting the candidate. A TMP guide escorted them to the location of the interview and also gave them last minutes tips on how to navigate or adjust their appearance.

The coordinator role was a critical one and we had a superstar named Eileen. I have never seen anyone deal with so many concurrent communications with such ease. I think she has the genes of an air traffic controller.

The team has fun after the candidates have left
The team relaxing after the event with silly hats, butterfly wings and a bicyle

Emergent behaviors abound in virtual worlds and social networks alike. Those that I remember most clearly occurred at the end of the event when we had time to let our hair down. Some unknown hanger-on who just enjoyed what we were doing started handing out funny hats and dance moves. In no time the place was rocking as recruiters, employees, TMP staff and unknown others cavorted in the lobby of our building. The party moved out onto the boardwalk, where the TMP account team introduced us to a “hoverboard”, which one or two people managed to ride. This led one of the recruiters to try sitting on one of the seagulls flying around our building. Whoosh! Off he went, flying around the property. Another recruiter discovered she could ride one of the fish in the waters surrounding the building. In no time, there were multiple people riding the fish.

The evening finished with a visit to Kona Island where Suzy Spaatz (in RL a member of our EMEA marketing team) introduced us to her triathlon gym and the dance floor. The floor was setup with about eight “pose balls” which controlled our avatars and brought out our inner cool. We were all laughing uncontrollably at the sight of us, dancing to a driving beat in a very uncharacteristic way, while in reality we were working from home, some with children or spouses looking on in amazement.

Have you had a similar experience with your work team? Tell me about it!

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Responses

  1. […] an interview with Eugene Gorelik who was hired in one of the recruiting fairs I wrote about (here, here and here).  As you can read from Eugene’s comments, the simple act of reaching out to […]


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