Welcome to a world where working life is one big game

Dr. Paul Barrett, Chief Research Officer at Cognadev discusses the use of gamification in recruitment.

Gamification of recruitment has endured as one of the big HR news themes, thanks to a steady rise in the number of new platforms, each offering highly playable, game based psychological assessments.


Engaging millenials and Gen-Z

Research has shown that these games, which typically use scenario based encounters to measure personality attributes and cognitive abilities at a simple level, can be very effective at initially screening individuals. They therefore tick a number of important boxes for recruiters. For instance they are naturally very appealing to a millennial/generation Z audience who love games, and are very effective at enabling an organisation to widen its recruitment pool and thereby improve diversity at all levels.

This is because pretty much everyone has a smartphone and shortlisting candidates based on their game scores is automatically much more inclusive than, for instance, attending milk-rounds at Russell Group universities.  In fact, one could even argue that these games do actually place the people who perhaps haven’t had the same levels of parental restrictions over how much time they spent gaming as teens and students – people that maybe didn’t have the breadth of educational and developmental opportunities in their youth as those in the Russell Group set – at a slight advantage.


Showing talents which could be missed

By demonstrating their natural personality inclinations and intellectual capabilities, these recruitment games may be opening doors that would otherwise have been off limits for some candidates. The Internet remains the great equaliser at so many levels.

Game based candidate short-listing and selection clearly tick a lot of operational efficiency boxes for recruiters and HR managers.  Automating the selection filtering process reduces administrative costs and the current reliance on self-report questionnaires to vet candidates, which are costly and can be manipulated or learned to score highly on relatively easily. Using a games platform also makes things much easier for candidates, giving them more scope to apply for a wider range of positions in less time, because their completed test scores can be shared among different recruiters and organisations.


Hidden Benefits

There are also some other very specific benefits that are less widely publicised. For instance, if candidates are required to actually register with a test provider who holds their scores and makes them available to multiple employers, this will mean each individual effectively builds up their ‘career capability and employability passport’ over time. As they develop and mature as individuals, so does their portfolio of game scores, which indicates their skills, competencies and all round desirability as an employee.  Potentially, as these tests become more sophisticated, the scope to hold candidate data on more detailed assessments means these games could also evolve in complexity and may be used to identify cognitive preferences and capabilities too.


Perfect for entry level recruitment

Since the games available today are really best suited to screening and assessing for entry level positions – graduate roles and jobs without a high degree of autonomy – this is a perfect fit for the vast majority of roles being recruited for. As the workplace becomes increasingly automated, recruiters primarily want to identify candidates with the characteristics required for the bulk of positions today. These people are likeable and have good social skills, they are relatively compliant and obedient, have high levels of integrity and accountability, plus of course the basic intellectual ability needed for the role – which is lower that you would think. The tests featured within these games are more than adequate to suit this purpose.


Fragmentation within psychometrics

Commercially, the transition to game based selection will inevitably lead to fragmentation within the psychometric test market. I can foresee publishers focusing on developing solutions to either assess high volumes of entry level candidates quickly and efficiently, or design complex psychological tests. The latter group will need to accurately identify cognitive capabilities, current functioning and learning potential, as well as working stylistic preferences and thinking processes, which are essential when recruiting for more strategic, high autonomy roles. Interestingly, the employment market is following a very similar pattern, with ever increasing numbers of low level and low autonomy positions, many of which are now being filled by the so-called ‘gig economy’ workers and far fewer strategic, highly autonomous roles.



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