With big names like Lloyds Banking Group, Accenture and the British Army using virtual reality (VR) in their recruitment processes, is VR the way of the future for the wider recruitment sector?
VR can allow recruiters to test and challenge candidates in a range of immersive scenarios and allow potential employees to experience the role and working environment through virtual tours and role play. It can ease the time-cost of scheduling, rearranging and attending face-to-face interviews by ruling out unsuitable candidates before the interview stage and introducing an element of self-selection amongst candidates by allowing them to test whether the job is right for them before applying. VR can also be used as a recruitment tool in and of itself by allowing recruiters to differentiate themselves in a highly competitive market.
Of course the use of VR in the recruitment process has an associated cost. There is the cost to the recruiter in terms of development and, in some instances, to the applicant in accessing the requisite technology. At a time where diversity and inclusion is a key consideration for many employers the cost to candidates could be seen to exclude some applicants. Others argue that a shift in the way that candidates are assessed will promote diversity and inclusion. EY has been able to increase its diversity through the use of mobile games and video simulations, rather than VR. The proportion of EY's successful applicants who went to state school increased from 40% in 2014, before the technology was introduced, to 70% in 2018. Whether this shift was entirely as a consequence of the use of technology in the recruitment process is up for debate.
In the near future, artificial intelligence (AI) may be the technology to have the greater impact on the recruitment sector. Can VR accurately reflect the role and the working environment in order to allow candidates to make a truly informed decision? The technology is relatively new and we are yet to see its many uses. VR is likely to be a useful tool in training existing staff. For example, it has been used to help build empathy by allowing employees to experience what it is like to be in a wheelchair. But perhaps, in time, the use of VR in this context will seem outdated and patronising.
Like AI, VR should be seen as an aide to the existing recruitment process as opposed to an alternative solution. In our view, we are a long way away from being able to rely on interviews between two avatars. In a competitive market VR can be a useful tool to identify candidates, saving valuable time and money, and to allow recruiters to distinguish themselves in the market. However, it is the personalities of the employees that make up the culture of any organisation. If recruiters want to protect this, the human element will no doubt need to remain at the heart of the recruitment process.