Posted by: Peter Quirk | April 10, 2008

Recruiting for diversity in virtual worlds

I think most people approaching the Second Life® virtual world for the first time bring with them some preconceived ideas about the types of people they’re going to meet there. Some imagine that everyone is young, others that they are gamers. My college-age kids assume that everyone there is a loser because they don’t know anyone who participates. If you read the popular press you might think that everyone is consuming stuff or making out with impossibly good-looking avatars who turn out to be cross-dressers.

The truth is that the population is very mixed and changing, and growing steadily. You can read the economic and basic demographics at the Second Life economic statistics site. In the demographics for March 2008 you’ll see that the two age groups 25-34 and 35-44 accounted for 59.2% of the avatars and 63% of the hours spent. The young band of 18-24 accounted for only 23.3% of the avatars and 15.7% of the hours in-world. The good news for recruiters is that most of the people you want to hire are in these three bands and they represent over 3/4 of the current population by avatar or hours in-world.

More interesting from a marketing or recruiting view is the personality profile of the users. In a recent blog on the Business Communicators of Second Life, Mary Ellen Gordon of Market Truths discussed both the media usage and the personality profiles of users. Her analysis clusters the personality types into Team Players, Entrepreneurs, Competitors, Connectors, Chameleons and Apprehensives.

The Team Player segment is split equally by gender on a worldwide basis, but in the US, there are more women than men. High household incomes are disproportionately represented in this group, as is the tendency to have used handheld devices for non-voice applications like messaging or watching TV. These people are sociable and mixed RL & SL easily. They like to solve problems collaboratively. These people might be a source of hires for project management, HR, marketing, and PR.

The Entrepreneurs like to solve problems, but more for the challenge than the pleasure of working in groups. That’s not to suggest that they are not social – on the contrary, they like to connect, and they blog the most and spend the most time talking on cell phones. They are quite competitive, and may present differently in different contexts. They have the lowest household income, but that may be explained by their lower age in general. The people in this segment might be a farm team for your sales division.

The Competitors are much more interested in winning than the Entrepreneurs, and spend less time on blogs, IM, mobile phones, shopping sites on the web, etc. Compared with the US SL population, they tend to be younger and there a higher proportion of males. Their incomes are higher on average than the US general population. Some of these people might be your next high potential sales representatives.

The Connectors are those who love to meet new people within the safety of the virtual world. They like to express themselves in SL, but they are also the least extroverted. They value the connections they have developed in SL. This desire to connect carries over to blogging. They love to consume information in the form of streaming video or audio, podcasts and print. Some of them has disabilities in RL which they can transcend in SL, or are home-bound and find SL a great way to connect and express themselves. Some of these people might be ideal hires for community managers of your customer-facing social networks.

I’ll leave you to read the rest of the Mary Ellen’s article and maybe you’ll purchase the report. I’d be interested in your take on how the personalities match roles. I am no expert in this area, but I do see this diversity all over the Second Life virtual world.

From a recruiting point of view, Second Life can mask gender, age, race, disabilities, beauty, spoken language skills and sexual orientation in the initial interview, but only if you use the text chat and filter those characteristics from the résumés passed to the recruiters. Before we did our first recruiting fair I searched for candidate comments on TMP’s first recruiting fair, and was struck by the number of Asians commenting on Microsoft’s first and only foray into this space. I surmised that they felt that Second Life might present a more level playing field with respect to spoken language skills, at least for the first interview.

This idea of Second Life as a level playing field was supported by the story that one of recruiters told me after one of our events. He was interviewing an avatar who presented as a glamorous young woman in a dress. During the interview, the avatar confided that the person behind it was a 40-something, balding male who had been passed over for other interviews because of his age. He had also noticed that there seemed to be a preference for women in his industry.

Have you interviewed in Second Life? Share your thoughts!

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