I got my job through Second Life

Looking for work? Your best bet may be an interview in virtual reality. Fortune's Katie Benner explores the cutting edge of corporate recruitment.

By Katie Benner, Fortune reporter

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- There's been plenty of hubbub about Second Life and the limitless possibilities offered in a virtual reality where a banker can become a virtual filmmaker, a housewife can be a virtual business tycoon and 46-year-old man can be a virtual 23-year-old vixen. The focus has been on people making real money in an online virtual world, but for those who have heard of eBay (Charts), the idea that everyday people can make money on the Internet isn't so revolutionary.

What Second Life brings to the party that few platforms or games before it have is a chance to blend the boundaries between reality and virtual reality, a possibility that has helped boost the number of registered accounts to 2.6 million. Walking around the virtual landscape, my travels included the fanciful (flying), the more stolidly real (political debate) and something in between (a questionable trip to an island called "Amsterdam").

Photo Gallery launchSee more photos

And just as the way we surf the web changed, the way that corporate America does business has changed in this middle space. Case in point: the most radical dotcom 2.0 recruitment wave is happening in virtual reality thanks to Second Life. Instead of posting a resume on Monster.com that will hopefully net a flesh-and-blood job interview, your avatar can be interviewed and hired all within Second Life, often for jobs possible only in virtual reality.

"People who have been in SL since its inception might not be professional content developers, but they have become experts," says Brandon Berger, senior strategist at OgilvyInteractive's Digital Innovation unit. Hence, Ogilvy has hired a lot of people directly from Second Life to execute projects for the big name clients who have worked to be in Second Life.

The same goes for Electric Sheep Company, a 27-person operation that brought Starwood (Charts), Reuters, musician Ben Folds and Nissan Motors (Charts) to SL. The core team was plucked from Second Life, not from a pool of PR applicants or professional computer programmers, says Gif Constable, head of business development. "We hired people we had never met in the real world because we'd spent a year looking at the work they produced within Second Life, and the way that they approached the community," says Constable. "To a certain extent we knew each other... We knew that in Second Life, they were the best."

"This is like the first dotcom boom, when the forward-looking companies were all building websites because they understood that people would someday shop and pay bills and interact online. Someday we'll shop in virtual bookstores...We'll all have avatars," says Berger.

Enter the gamers and self-made expert builders who pave the way in a world that, while intriguing, is not easy to navigate. Avatars are also pitching agencies for work, says Joseph Jaffe, founder of Crayon, which he describes as a mash-up of consulting, PR, education and advisory services. The company, which has done virtual work for Coca-Cola (Charts), also hired from within Second Life. Jaffe estimates that about 20 avatars have come knocking on his door, and that nothing pleases him more.

"We are a small community. Someone sent a resume and wanted to meet in SL to discuss job prospects," Jaffe says. "When we met, I realized that we had met before in Second Life when the senior editor of the Harvard Business Review gave a talk on marketing in Second Life." As more of real life pushes into Second Life, corporations and even individuals will tap long-time denizens and gamers for their skills, and Berger says more work is coming. "We will start to see the need for maintenance, including virtual shopkeepers who need to man the virtual store."

If the pontificators are correct, we may all need virtual suits for job interviews.

Your questions for author Jim Collins: What would you like to ask the best-selling author of "Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't"? Collins, an avid rock climber, runs a management laboratory in Boulder, Colo. The best questions will be posed to Collins in an upcoming interview and may appear in a future Fortune story.


Second Life to go open source

No, Second Life is not overhyped Top of page