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VR in recruiting, hiring: Current adoption, future potential

Virtual reality has the potential to help employers with aspects of hiring and recruiting like skills evaluations. Learn how the technology could improve the candidate experience.

While integrating virtual reality into the recruiting process is still in its early stages, VR's ability to shed light on a job's day-to-day experience is already benefiting some recruiters, and it may become an integral portion of hiring in the future.

As companies struggle to attract new talent, some are turning to virtual reality (VR) for help in recruiting. Recruiting teams can use the technology to assess job seekers, improve the candidate experience and give job seekers a glimpse of their company's employee experience.

"The use of augmented and virtual reality is just beginning to be used in recruiting, and I think once employers realize the value that these types of technologies bring, you're going to see them explode in the workforce," said Patricia Graves, an HR knowledge advisor with the Society for Human Resource Management, a professional association located in Alexandria, Va.

How VR may improve the candidate experience

Forty-nine percent of candidates said they had rejected a job offer because of a bad recruiting experience, according to a 2019 Future of Recruiting survey by PwC. In addition, 65% of candidates said they'd be more likely to think about accepting a job offer if they first experienced the role through technology.

"Virtual focus groups with other candidates and virtual meetings with their potential team are other ways to digitally assess, excite and learn from candidates," according to the PwC survey.

The use of augmented and virtual reality is just beginning to be used in recruiting, and I think once employers realize the value that these types of technologies bring, you're going to see them explode in the workforce.
Patricia GravesHR knowledge advisor, Society for Human Resource Management

4 potential VR in recruiting use cases

Recruiters can use VR to potentially improve the recruiting process in several ways, according to experts. Here are some of those ways.

1.      Workplace culture preview

VR can offer candidates a glimpse into the company's offices and its work environment, particularly if those candidates are interviewing remotely or otherwise unable to receive the full in-person experience.

"It's giving candidates more of an immersive feel for what the company is going to be like," Graves said.

2.      Poise assessment

Recruiters who feel they don't gain a full picture of a job candidate during a video interview may find VR can fill that gap.

Virtual reality platforms provide an advantage over video conferencing for candidate interviews because they give the interviewer a better sense of the candidate's presentation skills and overall presence, said Samantha G. Wolfe, adjunct professor of media, culture and communication at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University.

3.      Skills evaluation

Virtual reality platforms could benefit recruiters during practical skills assessments as well.

Virtual reality can help determine if candidates possess the necessary job skills, said Daniel Eckert, managing director for Emerging Technology at PwC, a professional services network based in London. A utility company could use VR to determine whether a candidate can work on high-voltage overhead transmission lines. A recruiter could use it to test a candidate's skills in a virtual data center without risking any real-world equipment if the candidate makes a mistake.

"It's a really safe way to identify if someone can do the work," Eckert said.

4.      Soft skills

Recruiters can also use VR to gain insight into a job candidate's soft skills.

PwC has been using VR for training purposes, bringing together new hires -- mostly recent college graduates -- to network and work together to solve problems, Eckert said. He anticipates that in the future, companies will use VR in a similar way for recruiting, evaluating job candidates on their soft skills, collaborative abilities and other aptitudes.

Real-life example of using VR for recruiting

The Army is currently using VR to give interested individuals a virtual glimpse into service.

One program, delivered through Oculus Rift headsets, replicates a medical arena so users can see the work they'd carry out as an Army doctor, nurse or medic. Another program, delivered through goggles and full-motion chairs, simulates a helicopter mission to put out forest fires. Others simulate a parachute jump and firing weapons as part of the Army Marksmanship Unit.

"We couldn't offer those in any other way outside a virtual reality experience," said Col. Stephen Battle, U.S. Army marketing and engagement brigade commander.

A visitor to the Army Marketing and Engagement Brigade gets acquainted with virtual reality tech in one of the unit's display vehicles.
A visitor to the Army Marketing and Engagement Brigade gets acquainted with virtual reality tech in one of the unit's display vehicles.

Military studies determined that using technologies such as VR can help the Army engage better with its target demographic, Battle said. Those demographic's members -- 17- to 24-year-old digital natives -- want more than print ads or phone commercials can provide.

"[VR] is a much more powerful personal experience that we have found resonates with and is sought after by our target demographic," Battle said.

In addition, VR experiences are better than static media at conveying Army values, such as the importance of teamwork, he said.

Future VR recruiting use

At this point, companies and their HR departments are using virtual reality and augmented reality primarily for training and collaborating, rather than recruiting and hiring, but that may change as platforms become more pervasive and demonstrate return on investment, Eckert and Graves said.

One reason using virtual reality for recruiting now is difficult is that not a lot of candidates have VR headsets. But that may change.

When more candidates own VR headsets, both recruiters and candidates will find it easier to integrate the technology into the job search process, Wolfe said.

Some research indicates that is likely to happen.

About 14.19 million AR/VR devices will ship in 2022, up from 9.86 million in 2021 and 5.01 million in 2020, according to TrendForce, a market intelligence firm. TrendForce also predicted strong growth, projecting that 18.81 million will ship in 2023, a 32% year-over-year increase from 2022.

HR and recruiting teams may want to keep an eye on the market and look for ways they can use VR in hiring and recruiting.

"There is going to be a lot more possibilities [for recruiting] when the technology becomes more ubiquitous," Wolfe said.

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