Virtual Reality Gives Job Candidates a Vivid Big Picture


You're piloting a 37-foot-long boat on a river deep in enemy territory. Your mission: Extract a Navy SEAL team pinned down by gunfire. Your craft can cruise at over 45 miles per hour, but the noise might alert the enemy to your approach. With 360-degree vision, you notice fellow sailors around you tightening grips on weapons. Night begins to fall. And you have less than 10 minutes to save the day.

It's only a virtual reality (VR) simulation of a Navy mission, but for many who don the special headgear and immerse themselves into the action, the experience is jaw-dropping.

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VR is a technology-assisted environment that simulates the real world or an imaginary one. It can evoke vivid sight and sound—and even taste, smell and touch. There's more to the Navy mission simulation than simply the wow factor, however. It's a way to show potential recruits what it's like to be a part of the service.

Many Navy employees never see battle, of course. The Navy has more than 100 career specialties, many of which involve little danger. But once a potential recruit has felt the special operations boat rock and watched comrades dangle from a nearby helicopter through the VR experience, he or she develops a closer connection with the Navy and its broader mission, said Capt. Dave Bouve, the service's director of marketing and advertising, who is based near Memphis, Tenn.

"My job is to tell the Navy story," Bouve said. "VR is just another tool."

As of early 2017, the Navy had two large vehicles that were driven from college campus to campus to offer the VR exercise. "It's an opportunity to start a conversation" with a potential recruit through a debriefing after the VR experience and through follow-up e-mails, said Bouve.

If you have never experienced VR, he added, "It will probably blow your hair back."

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