Monday, July 2, 2007

Wall St. Journal: M.B.A. Recruiters Turn to Games

August 8, 2006

Wall St. Journal Career Journal reports that M.B.A. Recruiters are using games in a variety of ways to differentiate themselves with top MBA talent:

Getting a good job often requires a bit of gamesmanship. But for some M.B.A.students, landing a new position is all about playing games. As the battle for top talent intensifies, the games help companies stand out in the crowded campus-recruiting field and spot promising candidates. Through the business-simulation games, they can see students in action, demonstrating creativity, tactical thinking, teamwork and persuasion skills.

L'Oréal, Booz Allen Hamilton, Procter & Gamble, and other companies are encouraging more students to play strategy competitions that just might lead to a job offer.

Some are using videogames and digital business simulations to engage next generation prospects. Others rely on live events to attract candidates. The games, which are typically played at least partly online, change from year to year.

-- Procter & Gamble's Just-in-Case competition, for instance, has focused on its Olay and Swiffer brands and challenged players to identify the next company P&G should acquire.
"Students see these games as more fun and engaging than the usual company information sessions and receptions," says Steve Pollock, president of WetFeet Inc., a recruiting consulting firm in San Francisco.

The games enable companies to reach out to many more campuses than recruiters could ever visit. For example, L'Oréal's e-Strat Challenge marketing game attracted almost 40,000 students from 1,000 schools in 125 countries this year.

In e-Strat, student teams run a virtual cosmetics company and must make dozens of decisions as they manage new brands, Web sites, distribution channels, advertising budgets, and research and development. In the end, finalists travel to L'Oréal's Paris headquarters to defend their business plans before a panel of judges. In addition to a possible job offer, winners receive a trip to the destination of their choice.While companies insist that performing well in their games isn't a prerequisite for employment, students certainly could spoil their chances if they bomb out. Some students and school officials are concerned that the games require too much time and might interfere with class assignments. "But if you're really serious about working for a company," Mr. Pollock says, "there's a feeling that you'd better participate."-- In Merrill Lynch's business simulation videogame, college students participate in virtual client engagements that let them experience what it is like to work in investment banking at Merrill Lynch before meeting with the firm. Merrill recruiting execs want applicants to have an understanding of how the investment banking business works. --Booz Allen's CEO Challenge invites prospects to an event. The consulting firm stages the three-day competition about six times each year, picking just 30 M.B.A. students to play. During the CEO Challenge, student teams slip into the executive roles at an electronics company and react to news that a competitor is rolling out a hot new portable music device six months ahead of schedule.

"It's not a recruiting event per se, but people from the CEO Challenge usually do very well in job interviews," says Daniel Oriesek, head of Booz Allen's European campus recruiting. He estimates the firm hires about 10% of the players.

As more recruiters get into gaming, it will become less distinctive. But for now, companies believe their contests enhance their reputations.

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