Why worry about having a neatly pressed suit and a winning smile for that job interview when you can create an online persona and meet your potential new boss in the virtual world of Second Life? Online job ads used to give companies an edge, but recruiters are now pushing the boundaries even further, setting up in the 3D digital world of Second Life and infiltrating online communities like MySpace and Facebook.
Accenture Australia has begun investigating Second Life, Facebook and MySpace as ways of getting its recruitment message out to graduates after it noticed a decline in students attending careers fairs.
"They're all at home online," says Accenture recruiting lead Miranda Kalinowski.
"In the past six months there has been an absolute surge in this area. For us to ignore it as a tactic to share our brand and share our career opportunities would be negligent."
MySpace is the world's largest social network with around 200 million members, but Facebook has 35 million users and is growing exponentially. Website monitor Hitwise recorded a 273 per cent increase in Australians using Facebook between April and June.
Second Life is an open-ended animated world where users can interact and communicate with each other as well as create virtual buildings, landscapes and objects.
Tapping into these social networks isn't just a way of getting to Generation Y.
Australian IT recruitment firm Sapphire Technologies launched its headquarters in Second Life in June, partly because it was frequented by tech-savvy professionals who were increasingly in short supply in the job market.
"The beauty of Second Life for a recruitment company like ourselves is it also enables individuals from the other side of the world to interact with us," says the company's chief operating officer, Malcolm Dunford, whose persona or avatar, Nusia, has blond hair and bulging muscles.
"It all comes back to doing something that's a little bit different," he says. "Sometimes people feel uncomfortable talking to a potential employer or agency like ourselves. This way you can generate yourself an avatar. You can actually give yourself an image."
Within the first few days of Sapphire setting up in Second Life, close to 400 people had visited its virtual island. Visitors can sit down at a virtual PC in the Sapphire Technologies building and link through to the company website or converse with staff members. They'll even be able to undertake a preliminary interview.
So far most visitors have just been looking around the building, but the company is now considering where in Second Life it can set up billboards to promote its real-world services.
Aluminium manufacturer Alcan Australia has embraced the latest online tools such as blogs, chatrooms and forums, partly because of the difficulty of penetrating university campuses and getting the brand out there.
"We decided to look at tools students were using all the time," says Alcan careers manager Kristle Wedrat. "The Y generation is so online. For them, attending a chat forum or writing a blog is like water off a duck's back."
The company is also looking at how it can attract older candidates through sites such as LinkedIn.com, where members network with former colleagues, clients and partners, and potential new ones.
Traffic to the LinkedIn site has shot up 323 per cent in the past year, according to Hitwise.
"It's all going to go online," Wedrat says. "You're not going to have people logging into careers pages and updating their profiles. They're going to be updating their own profile on MySpace or LinkedIn. If you're serious as an employer and trying to brand to employees, you need to brand in that space as well."
Accenture Australia is mounting a case for a presence in Second Life. Globally the firm is looking at building an assessment and aptitude test within the virtual world.
In the US there is already an Accenture network of more than 12,000 members on Facebook, where the company promotes careers, posts messages and links people to its website. Locally it is looking at how to leverage FaceBook to get its message out.
It also encourages potential recruits to communicate with staff through blogs and has developed podcasts that provide information on its working culture, client case studies, tips on resume writing and effective interviewing so potential recruits can learn about Accenture "in a format they find convenient".
"What we know of Generation Y is they've never lived without technology, they're expecting instant information," Kalinowskisays.
Far from being restrained because their blogging is monitored, potential recruits are not "backward in coming forward".
"In this market each of them have two if not three offers on the table they're comparing ours with, so they are absolutely asking questions that I would never have dreamt of asking."
Australian Financial Review
© Fairfax Business Media
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