Playing Games With Candidates Might Help You Hire

atari“Turn off that Atari and get to bed!” My mom would yell up at me as I sat in my room, staring blankly at the TV screen. Like most kids do, I’d stomp my feet in protest, struggling to pull myself away from whatever video game I was immersed in … complaining under my breath. And she’d yell up to me “Life isn’t all fun and games!”

Turns out she was wrong. Sort of.

I like the idea of using technology and gaming as a way to learn more about personality. It just feels a little creepy. 

Gamification has been a hot topic for many years. And it has permeated everything we do. Whether it’s losing weight, competing for a better Klout scoregetting a job at Google, or having your Starbucks card stamped to get a free cup of coffee on the tenth visit, gamification techniques help tap into our primordial instincts for competition and achievement, and motivate us by making mundane tasks fun and exciting.

Games With a Purpose

We’ve all seen the annoying commercials from Lumosity, a self-described as “personal trainer for your brain,” claiming to improve your mental prowess through games that use “the science of neuroplasticity.” America’s Army, originally designed as a filtering tool to reduce the numbers of recruits who would drop out during basic training, was considered revolutionary when it first hit the market. It was one of the most visible examples of leveraging a game for candidate filtering and recruitment.

Tools like SkillSurvey’s Pre-Hire 360 has some social game-like elements that can help employers filter candidates after that initial interview by using psychometric testing and validation on the candidates’ references and matching that to the employer’s desired personality and business attributes. And it’s pretty cool.

Interviewing: Ain’t No Kids Game Anymore

What about before or during the interview? We all know that recruiters sometimes like to play games during the interview, but be careful: the next time you’re interviewing, you may be playing a game and not even know it.

That’s thanks to lawyer-turned-game developer named Guy Haftek and his brainchild, Knack.it. Games from Knack.it use behavorial science to help people analyze themselves, and could be used to help employers to analyze job prospects.

“You are how you play,” says Haftek, in an interview with Gamifcation Corp, a resource for gamification news and resources. By learning how you play, how you react, how you compete, and how you deal with failure, potential employers can get unique insight. And by measuring emotional intelligence, it could help an employer learn how well a prospective employee might fare in today’s workforce. In one game, called Wasabi, you’re a hibachi-style restaurant worker, pressured to serve sushi to customers based on facial expressions. All the while, the app is collecting data on you — how you play, how you react, and how well you can read people’s faces.

We’ve all been subjected to the old and antiquated Myers Briggs tests. (I’m an ESTJ). With the rise of Angry Bird and Farmville, games are a contemporary and stimulating way to get tested, without the boredom of checking off little boxes, or paginating through hundreds of questions on a web ite.

But, could gaming truly become an interesting way to help us more effectively pre-screen candidates? My vote is maybe.

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How Much Is Too Much?

Can you imagine visiting a career site (like mine, Beyond.com) and as you’re applying to a job, the employer forces you play a game to assess your emotional intelligence? By relying too heavily on personality testing, psychometric reference checking, and skill tests, could we be weeding out great talent just because technology told us that they’re not the right person? Are we using technology to insulate ourselves against bad hiring decisions?

This raises a whole host of questions. Could requiring applicants to play a game in order to get hired be considered discriminatory? And for older professionals who didn’t grow up in the “video game generation,” or those with limited dexterity or exposure to games, does this put them at a disadvantage?

What about those of us who sweat and squirm when we know we have to take a test? Could knowing that my chance of getting a job is based on how well I perform on a game skew my numbers? Maybe.

Recruiters: Keep In Touch With Your Human Side

Gaming’s a slippery slope. First, you’re testing job prospects using games and tracking data on them to determine how they’re a personality fit. Next, you’re using tools like the Hitachi Business Microscope to track the every move of your employees — from who they talk to, and for how long, to how many times they used the bathroom. All in the name of “increased productivity.”

OK, so maybe taking skill testing and turning it into a game could work. For example, if I’m interviewing for a Java job, I wouldn’t be adverse to playing a little Tetris game that drops Java terms from the sky and I have to sort and stack them or something like that. But trying to discover who I am or whether I’m socially well adjusted by serving sushi based on facial impressions might be taking it a little too far.

And feels a bit invasive and creepy.

Hiring isn’t a game, and using games to further reduce the human factor when making a hiring decision leaves out a recruiter’s biggest asset: their intuition. Rather than putting your candidates in front of a game, just talk to them … you’ll probably get more insight on who they are than any game could ever provide!

Joe Stubblebine is vice president of alliances & Outreach at Beyond.com. He manages strategic alliance efforts for the company, strengthening partnerships with talent management and acquisition companies, including ATSs, job advertisement distributors, CRMs, and RPOs. He also provides support on various marketing and outreach initiatives for the company, and assists in various high-level recruitment & website traffic sales initiatives.

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