The Gamification of Hiring (And What It Means for You)

Who doesn’t love gamification, right? Make something that’s usually a slog seem fun instead — what could be better? Gamification has been applied to a whole range of different use cases because it turns out people really like playing games. Shockingly, people even like playing games more than they like doing serious stuff such as studying or working out.

Gamification has helped precisely bazillions of people do things like learn a new language (Duolingo) or hit their fitness goals (RunKeeper). The concept has become so widespread that you probably don’t even notice it a lot of the time, which is kind of the point. It can be found in all aspects of our lives, from dating (or hooking up, depending on who you ask) with Tinder to keeping track of your personal finances with Mint.

So it’s no surprise that gamification has also infiltrated one of the most necessary but often soul-sucking parts of adult life: finding a job.

Uber recently hit the headlines thanks to ‘Code on the Road’ — a coding game that was popping up on the screens of selected Uber users. The game is made up of a series of coding challenges which, if beaten, leads to a message suggesting the idea of working for Uber and a way to get more information.

Uber aren’t the first to recognise this, though. Google have also used coding challenges for hiring in the past. Last year, a coding challenge was activated when a person searched for certain relevant terms. Before that, in 2004, an unbranded billboard with a mathematical problem led to a website with further challenges and, finally, an invitation to the hiring process.

Challenges like these are a good way to pre-screen candidates for techie roles. Rather than sifting through a wad of CVs and then having to figure out competence, these challenges make sure that only candidates with the necessary skills come under consideration.

The fact that the challenges can be automated to launch when certain conditions are met means that it doesn’t add to the workload of recruiters, adding to the tool’s value.

Tech companies aren’t the only (or even the first) ones to gamify recruitment, though. One of the most straightforward examples of gamification in recruitment comes from the U.S. Army. In 2002, the army released a first-person shooter game called America’s Army. The game wasn’t just thrown together, either. More than $5 million was spent on developing the game over three years.

America’s Army matches the excitement of other shooters such as Counterstrike and adds realistic details as an extra selling point. This authenticity was well-received by both critics and players (A Gamespot editor said that “Nothing beats going in and seeing what the Army really does”). The game was deemed a success as a recruitment tool and went on to spawn three sequels. The most up-to-date edition, America’s Army: Proving Grounds, was released in 2013.

While army recruitment offers an obvious opportunity for gamification, less obvious is a postal service. Nevertheless, Formaposte, the French postal service, also created a game to boost recruitment and employee retention. The result? Facteur Academy (in French, shockingly), a game which lets you find out what it’s like to be a newly hired postman or -woman. Players encountered situations like getting up early and the ethics of post delivery. Although arguably less thrilling than shooting bad guys, the game apparently did the trick. New hires leaving their Formaposte jobs dropped from 25% to 8%.

Other notable examples of computer games used as recruitment tools are the chance to run a Siemens factory or a Marriot hotel. What these games have in common is that they give players a taste of what working for those organisations might be like, and if they enjoy it in a game, they might enjoy it in real life.

When it comes to gamification, actual games are pretty obvious examples, but also worth noting are the various innovation/entrepreneur competitions out there, such as L’Oreal’s Brandstorm. Often hosted in conjunction with universities, these fun challenges allow companies to identify top talent and build a recruitment pool. To be fair to L’Oreal, the epic music on the Brandstorm trailer video makes it feel like you’ll be saving the world rather than brainstorming a new cosmetic product.

The trend towards gamification in recruitment doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere either; one report suggested that the gamification industry will be worth $11 billion by 2020 (it was worth $1.65 billion in 2015).

What does gamification mean for job seekers?

With gamification, job seekers never know when a situation could turn into an impromptu (gamified) interview. Rather than looking for a list of vacant positions and applying with a CV and cover letter, candidates will have to jump through different hoops. If gamification is done right, it should also be fun.

That may seem like extra work, but it also helps to ensure that there is a good fit between job seeker, company and role — which will be good for candidates in the long run.

What does gamification mean for employers?

Gamification offers three main benefits for employers, depending it how it is used. Firstly, examples like that of Uber and Google show how it can be used to test candidates’ skills, i.e. as a pre-screening method. These methods give a useful indicator of candidates’ strength and likely job performance — much more so than a simple CV ever could.

It can also be used to educate candidates. Cases like Formaposte give potential employees a better understanding of what would be expected of them. In a sense, this is another pre-screening method as it removes candidates who would otherwise have come in with false expectations and likely later dropped out of the process.

Lastly, creating a game or challenge serves as a way to advertise the company, highlighting it as innovative and as a desirable place to work. Gamification can attract candidates and help companies to build a recruitment pool — even including people that weren’t actively job seeking but were attracted by the fun, novel challenge they heard about.

This post originally appeared on the StartupCVs blog, where you can find more tips and advice on startup jobs and recruiting.

About the Author:

Tom Ireland


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