When deciding on whether to accept, or even apply for a job, candidates are faced with the challenge of envisioning themselves in that job role.
For potential new employees at BetterCloud that task might get easier, as the company is experimenting with using virtual reality to put prospective clients at their future desks.
BetterCloud, which is based out of New York City, with an office in Atlanta, builds SaaS application management and security tools. Between the two offices, it has about 120 employees.
Hiring in tech is competitive. Founder and CEO David Politis said they started thinking "How do we really get across the day in the life of a person in a specific role in the company?"
Often, potential candidates respond well to the feel of the office, but BetterCloud still is tasked with getting them into the office in the first place.
A virtual advantage
The idea BetterCloud came up with was to produce a short 360 video that would show a prospective employee for a technical support role what it would be like to work there. By using a 360 video, they can get a tour of the office and even sit at a desk. That video can be viewed by candidates in a branded Google Cardboard-esque headset.
Politis said they also thought of finding a way to use 360 for onboarding employees. So, at BetterCloud's company kickoff at the beginning of the year, they shot footage of the event as a way to bring the event to employees who might have joined the company afterward.
"Onboarding is a necessary evil that you have to do, but whether you're the company or the new employee, you just want to get working, but you need some foundational knowledge and I feel like changing the way we deliver that foundational knowledge will make it more engaging and ultimately more effective," Politis said.
To accomplish all this, BetterCloud largely relied on the efforts and skills of Tim Burke, director of IT, and Michael Stone, director of technical support.
Initially, Burke and Stone were interested in Google's Jump rig, announced last year at the I/O conference. The problem with the rig is not easy to get and it costs about $15,000. A friend at Google recommended the Ricoh Theta, a $400, handheld device that shoots 360 video, is compatible with YouTube 360, and requires little post production.
They also decided on a 360Heros GoPro rig, using six GoPro cameras, for better video quality than the Ricoh.
Getting this project off the ground meant a lot of research and a week's worth of trips to consumer electronics store B&H to buy SD cards, GoPros, batteries, tripods, carrying cases, and more, Burke said.
They also had to sort out what software to use, as well as a replicable workflow.
When it came time to film, Burke and Stone learned a few lessons.
Take the kickoff, for example — it was a two-day event meant to get everyone singing from the same hymnal. Politis talked to the staff about the company and the vision going forward. Meanwhile, Burke and Stone were negotiating limited storage and battery life on the GoPro rig.
Every hour they were producing around 100 or 150 GB of video, and that video had to be dumped and backed up, and cleared from the SD cards every single time the cards were filled.
"About every 25 minutes or so, the GoPros would start beeping and Tim would have to go change the batteries," Stone said.
And once you lose one camera, you might as well turn the rest off because you can't stitch it after that, Burke said. That led to the realization that shorter clips are the way to go.
Stitched and ready to show
After the asset acquisition process, they had to figure out distribution.
Burke and Stone talked about making sure that anyone with a smartphone could watch the video. The iOS YouTube app does not yet support 360 video, meaning that BetterCloud had to create an iOS app. And while they briefly toyed with the idea of creating one themselves, they ultimately decided the better option was to seek outside help from a firm called Foundry45 that had relevant experience.
"We delivered the video, the icons, the copy, and user experience, and let the experts do the VR app on mobile," Burke said.
One advantage BetterCloud had going into this project was the technical tendencies of Burke and Stone. Burke has some video production background, and the pair were willing to come in early and work late to get it done. Even so, Burke said there were times when he felt in over his head.
"We lucked out that we had some really compatible skillsets," he said. Burke recommends companies take serious stock of the skills they have and don't have on hand.
Looking back at the process, Burke and Stone emphasize the importance of managing expectations. For example, they initially thought they'd be able to capture whole presentations. The battery life made that near impossible.
In all, Politis said BetterCloud spent about $8,000.
This is a very new effort, and they're still determining how best to track the effectiveness of the videos. For one, Politis said they plan on tracking the conversion rate, if you will, of candidates accepting job offers after seeing the video. Also, BetterCloud has a monthly onboarding class for new employees that includes a survey on effectiveness; they plan to get feedback from that survey as well.
Burke said that conversations they had early on about why they were doing 360 video in the first place was helpful in determining they weren't merely jumping on a trend that had little relevance to their actual business functions.
"This is a project that someone has to manage and learn about the software that's out there and the hardware, and really geek out about it. They have to be excited about it; otherwise, it's hard to do," Politis said.
- Mini-glossary: Virtual reality terms you should knowNPR Music dives into 360 video with Wilco concert (TechRepublic)
- Marxent and Lowe's partner to use VR to help customer visualize home improvements (ZDNet)
- Immersive journalism: What virtual reality means for the future of storytelling and empathy-casting (TechRepublic)
Erin Carson has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.