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An unconventional way to recruit

Students from Universitas Indonesia won the undergaduate challenge. Could they be future L'Oreal employees?
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Global Office

(CNN) -- Job fairs, newspaper advertisements, resumes and a formal sit-down interview are all part of the formula that most corporations use to recruit new executives.

But in an increasingly competitive job market, where thousands of people can apply for a single opening, it is hard to pick the right candidate.

Now, one unorthodox recruiting model is helping cosmetics maker L'Oreal find the people most suited to run its corporation.

Instead of going to a handful of top business schools to find young hopefuls, it has turned its executive search into a competition.

For four years the global beauty brand, at a cost of $6 million, has run the e-Strat Challenge -- an online business simulation.

The competition pits students from around the world against each other, in a bid to manage the most successful virtual beauty company.

The winners get a weeklong trip to anywhere in the world and L'Oreal gets to spot potential recruits by analyzing how teams handle the marketing, finance and development of its brands.

Last year the process yielded 70 new employees.

This year more than 30,000 students from over 110 countries logged-on and it is now one of the world's largest business planning contests.

What makes the competition unique is the large pool of applicants that it attracts.

"The game allows us to reach a much wider audience to find people who would not normally come to us," Jean Claude Le Grand, director of L'Oreal recruitment, told CNN.

"We work with 115 campuses worldwide, but e-Strat lets us reach people in universities that are perhaps less well known."

This year MBA students from China's Fudan University made third place in the competition and in the undergraduate section, prizes were given to students from Indonesia and Turkey.

The company liked the simulation so much that it now uses it as a training program to instruct new recruits on facets of the L'Oreal business.

"You have to evolve a strategy as the environment changes," says Geoff Kingsley, human resources manager at L'Oreal.

"You have to make rapid is a very real dose of what it is like to manage in the real world."

Groups of three students spend one day a week for six weeks running the company. They are exposed to different scenarios that a general manager running a fast-paced business would be involved in.

Software then assesses the market reaction to the decisions teams make and creates a share price index ranking the participants.

Those that keep their virtual shareholders happiest go through to the next round in Paris, which involves writing a business plan to showcase abilities for strategy and written expression.

Teams also have to present and defend their plan before senior company executives and outside officials.

"It is a very complex game and a very condensed game," says Alex Metzler, a finalist from Singapore. "I found it very realistic because you really see the impact of what you do."

-- CNN's Paula Sailes contributed to this report

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