One of the more interesting things we heard at our event HRTX (HRTech Experience) Dallas came from the track on college recruiting.  It was interesting in part because it ostensibly had nothing to do with college recruiting. And it was also about applying a hot new(ish) tech to an area very few are thinking of in relation to that tech.

You already know where we’re going from the headline, so let’s get up in it.

Virtual reality in recruiting: Can it work?

Let’s address the cost elephant in the room first: this won’t work for small businesses and even mid-sized businesses right now. The process is likely too expensive, and they will have other priorities in terms of spending money. Some that really care about their hiring process and culture could try to embrace it, however.

Now we move to the “how.”

It would work like this: offer candidates a virtual reality tour of the organization, including —

  • Different offices
  • Plants/facilities
  • A typical meeting (** assuming your meetings are functional **)
  • A standard day on the job

This is employer branding at its most direct. You are giving candidates a live look into how your organization actually functions and runs on a daily basis. It’s almost a video version of reading Glassdoor reviews. This can be incredibly powerful as a differentiator for your recruiting process. Everyone has the mission-driven language and the kegerator/Foosball reference, right? But not everyone has virtual reality videos showing what it’s really like.

Is anyone doing this so far?

Of course — but again, it tends to be larger organizations right now., owned by Wal-Mart, uses VR heavily in its recruiting:

The initiative, which Jet first rolled out in 2015, involves a full VR experience created by design studio Helios Interactive that allows prospective candidates to get a snapshot feel for the company’s workspace and culture. From sitting in on a meeting with CEO Marc Lore to enjoying the joys of Jet’s happy hour and company band – along with some games (see above) – the immersive video simulates the experience of visiting Jet’s Hoboken office without the airfare.

That last point is an important cost measure, too — who wants to fly hundreds of candidates in every year? While an “IRL” meeting is important, obviously, you can save on travel budget with VR and you are able to have a deeper initial screen to make sure those interviews are of higher value.  

The United States Navy has been utilizing VR at localized events and doubled engagement with new recruits:

General Mills took a different approach in some respects: they realized the allure of cool tech gear like a VR headset would help them stand out at recruiting events, so they created a virtual tour of their Minneapolis HQ (which is available on YouTube, actually) and started bringing headsets to college recruiting events. The response was stellar in terms of attracting more booth attention.

The bigger lesson here

Too often, tech develops in the bigger, revenue-facing departments of a company (Sales, Operations, etc.) and then comes to HR and talent acquisition much later. We should stop that cycle.

If the tech is there and it’s available, recruiting needs to be using it as early as possible.

Because having the best people is the biggest differentiator.

So yes, we want to apply virtual reality to training our in the field workers, and that’s perfectly logical and should be done.

But virtual reality also needs to come to TA, just like automation is (and will more), machine learning is (and will), etc.

HR can’t be on the back side of the tech adoption curve going forward. It needs to be near the middle or front. That’s a path to that “seat at the table.”


Ted Bauer

Originally from New York City, Ted Bauer currently lives in Fort Worth, Texas. He's a writer and editor for RecruitingDaily who focuses on leadership, management, HR, recruiting, marketing, and the future of work. His popular blog, The Context of Things, has a simple premise -- how to improve work. Ted has a Bachelors in Psychology from Georgetown and a Masters in Organizational Development from the University of Minnesota. In addition to various blogging and ghost-writing gigs, he's also worked for brands such as McKesson, PBS, ESPN, and more. You can follow Ted on Twitter @tedbauer2003, connect with him on LinkedIn, or reach him on email at [email protected]