The below interview originally appeared on SHRM on March 30, 2018.
New technologies—like augmented and virtual reality—emerged in the gaming industry and have traditionally been considered more for their entertainment value than practical value. However, as these technologies mature, some very practical and productivity-enhancing applications are emerging. Talent acquisition is one area in which these tools show particular promise.
Using 360-degree video allows recruiters to provide immersive job previews to applicants. Virtual, or 360, video is the next leap forward from gamification, said Scott Steinberg, author of the Business Etiquette Bible: Modern and High-Tech Rules, Tips & Training for Working Professionals (Lulu.com, 2018). “In essence, you can try on the shoes of virtually any career role and see how you fare, even in the most complex and demanding of tasks or environments,” he said.
“360 video pushes the boundaries of how recruiters can interact with candidates,” said Stacy Nawrocki, head of demand generation and product marketing with IBM Watson and Cloud Video. “[It] provides unprecedented access into a workplace, giving prospective employees a complete picture of the office layout, company culture and daily operations.”
The content of 360-degree videos can vary: They can offer a “day in the life” perspective about a specific job, interviews with employees and others from the organization, or a bird’s-eye view of company activities such as events and town hall meetings. The management training program at Compass Group North America, a family of food-service and support-services companies serving the hospitality industry, for instance, allows viewers to explore the company’s facilities through a tour narrated by those who are in the program. Viewers see the facilities and learn about the incumbent’s experience in the role. The viewer’s vantage point can be swiveled around for a 360-degree experience.
The ability to provide such realistic job previews arms candidates with better information to make decisions, not only about accepting a job offer, but about applying to or interviewing with the company at all. “This capability is especially impactful for recruiting long-distance candidates, as they can fully understand the opportunity without spending the time and resources to visit the office in person,” Nawrocki said.
Lori Smith is director of talent acquisition at Compass Group. The company has used virtual video for recruitment at trade shows and hiring events, as well as online, to help combat a dip in candidate interest the company observed in 2016.
The idea emerged, said Smith, as part of an annual HR brainstorming session focused on priorities such as attracting, retaining and training employees. The company decided to test the concept of virtual video with early-in-career talent it recruited through on-campus job fairs, specifically to recruit candidates for their manager-in-training (MIT) program.
Smith led a team to create a pilot. The first step, she said, was finding a vendor with enough experience to help lead Compass through the process. After reviewing several options and conducting interviews, Compass decided to work with YouVisit, a company that specializes in producing virtual reality (VR) experiences. Finding the right partner, she said, was a benefit because YouVisit helped produce the most-effective content, hosted the videos—which contain a large amount of data—and analyzed the videos’ effectiveness by tracking user behavior.
The videos can be viewed both online and through VR headsets that Compass takes onsite for job fairs—a step that has helped to boost the number of visitors to the Compass booth, she said. They also give out “fully branded Google Cardboard [VR headsets] with instructions on how to access and view the videos,”. It’s a giveaway that definitely stands out from the typical pen or keychain, she said.
Using analytics that are available as part of the tool, Smith has tracked the rate of acceptance for the MIT program; it’s gone up by about 15 percentage points, she said—from around 30 percent to about 45 percent. She said she’s seeing more engagement from applicants who better understand what a job role is about. “We feel like the quality of our applicants has really changed, and we’re seeing higher acceptance rates based on the candidates we’re targeting,” Smith said.
While younger candidates may seem more inclined to gravitate toward new technology like 360 video, it’s an option that can work with any demographic and, say HR professionals and talent acquisition managers, particularly for the types of roles for which providing a realistic preview has been challenging.
In addition, Smith noted, talent acquisition is just one area of HR management for which virtual reality can be put into play. “You could think of it for onboarding, learning and development—the applications are kind of endless.”