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Virtual Reality Teaches Veterans to Develop Interview Skills

By: Nancy Ordman

Can practice with a virtual reality (VR) system really hone job interview skills? Military veterans in Los Angeles are answering that question with a big thumbs-up.

VITA4VETS, a cooperative venture between the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, was rolled out in early  2017 at the U.S. Vets center in Los Angeles where virtual humans help veterans learn to be skilled interviewees. The vet faces a computer screen where one of the six interviewer personalities waits. Interviews are taped, and the vet and their case worker review the performance. Practicing with a breadth of interviewers—many who ask particularly tough questions—allows the interviewee to build both a set of tools and the self-confidence to approach job interviews appropriately. Read more about VITA4VETS here.

Are virtual reality practice interviews the next big thing for job seekers? In mid-2016, an article in Venture Beat reported that industry is gearing up to turn potential into reality—and not just virtual reality. The author points to a project, VR Rehearsal, at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) as an early entrant in the VR-aided practice space.  A contemporaneous article touts VR as a good place for executives to practice for big speeches and other public events. An app on Google Play, Google Cardboard, lets owners of Google’s inexpensive cardboard 3D glasses test the concept.

Substantial research has demonstrated that practice in a safe environment is superb training for a variety of pursuits. One example: Athletes, like Michael Phelps, who visualize every aspect of a race or a performance, attribute success to these virtual rehearsals. Medical doctors who rehearsed a procedure virtually performed significantly better when performing the procedure in actual reality. A British team developed Virtual Speech after prepping for a conference talk the old-fashioned way: talking in front of a mirror.

Thus far, 93 percent of VITA4VETS users have landed jobs, an excellent start for a nascent technology. This kind of success, and the success of other VR rehearsal spaces, could make these applications more widely available in the very near future.