Only a game? Gamification in recruitment

Careers Consultant Deborah Fowlis explores a fast-developing trend in graduate recruitment.

Recruitment methods are constantly evolving to become slicker, more interactive and (allegedly!) more enjoyable. One way of achieving this is through gamification, or game based assessment. These assessments incorporate online game elements and can be used alongside, or as an alternative to, traditional methods. This not only makes the recruitment process more effective and time-efficient for employers, it helps eliminate bias, while providing an engaging experience for candidates. Thus, traditional tests (practise some in MyCareerHub here) in verbal, logical and numerical reasoning, or situational judgement and personality tests now often incorporate elements of interactivity, choices, point scoring, badges and performance success.

What are the games actually assessing?

They could be used for one or two traits, or in more complex tests, a wide range of desirable attributes. They might measure:

  • Your memory
  • Teamwork
  • Reaction time
  • How you prioritise
  • How you adapt to different tasks
  • Problem-solving
  • Risk-taking
  • Decision-making

What are the common types of game?

  1. Short tests to assess a particular behaviour. For example, for an investment management role, they might want to assess a candidate’s level of risk-taking, while in medicine, they may want to assess decision-making. The games involved are often quite simple, such as pumping up a balloon (used by PWC in the past) – you want the balloon to be as big as possible but pump too much and it explodes. In the balloon game (Balloon Analogue Risk Test; BART) they are comparing your reward-seeking versus risk-taking behaviour. They may also assess you for a specific practical skill using a game (eg a coding challenge via a mysterious Google Foobar invitation).
  2. Longer tests assessing work/occupational personality and behaviours. These use scenarios in which the candidate deals with a typical business situation. This can be at a simple level such as a basic Situational Judgement Test (SJT) (eg Jaguar Land Rover) or a workplace scenario plus some key facts and you then respond through videos and multiple choice (eg GSK). SJTs, scenarios, and even role play are really just a type of gamification. But they can be made very complex: you could be an avatar walking in the door of the company and several events/crises occur simultaneously or sequentially. They can also be reactive in that your decisions dictate the next level/direction of the assessment (eg Accenture). The Metropolitan Police also use Virtual Reality (VR) in their selection process.

Which companies use Gamification?

As well as those mentioned above, other companies that harness game technology in recruitment include Airbus, Deloitte, P&G, Unilever, Coca Cola, RBS, Siemens and many more. Some threads on forums such as the Student Room mention the games used by specific companies (eg Catching Fireflies for Airbus, Skyrise City for Siemens). Many companies also use gamification in training and onboarding for all staff.

Can I prepare for these tests?

Well, yes and no. It’s unlikely you will come across exact replicas of a specific employer’s test – they tend to keep them well under wraps. They may look like they are available as free phone apps (eg Skyrise City) but you will need a password from your recruiter to be able to play them. AssessmentDay allows you to practise one test free and they also have useful descriptions of some other games. Lastly, there are lots of phone apps freely available in business strategy, construction, shipping, airlines etc. They are not the games that will be used by an employer, but they might be useful for getting you into the right frame of mind.

In addition, it’s good to familiarise yourself with the websites of some of the typical game designers/providers, such as Pymetrics, Arctic Shores, or Revelion. Sadly, they give nothing away when it comes to trying out an actual game, but at least you can get a glimpse of some of the graphics and read about the rationale behind the tests.

Another way to prepare would be to research the company’s values beforehand. For example in GSK, integrity is important – so they may be screening for this in games. Also consider the specific role applied for – if it’s a Health and Safety officer for an oil company they will probably be looking for a cautious mindset, good decision making and attention to detail. However, a sales representative for that very same oil company might be expected to demonstrate tenacity, relationship-building and confidence. So read the company values and the job description avidly – what attributes are they looking for?

And don’t worry if you are not a keen gamer – there is no advantage to having Call of Duty-level expertise here – the games are usually as simple as Angry Birds.

What do I need to do during the tests?

  • Make sure you have a good internet connection beforehand. Often, you only get one chance to complete the assessments. If your internet connection is weak, it may run slowly and affect your score, or worse, you may lose connection mid-way through.
  • Read the instructions. In their haste to get going, some people overlook these. It is important that you are clear on the parameters of the assessment and that you understand the objective – it may not be what you assume!
  • Identify what is being measured: you will get a brief practice before you start the test for real. This lets you understand what is being measured and how. You can then focus on what really matters and how to score well.
  • Don’t get demotivated as you progress through the game. Game-based assessments measure not only your scores but your actual behaviour and interactions with the game. So react positively even if you think that you have performed poorly on the previous task. As well as your actual score, the assessors will be able to see if the poor previous performance affected you. Remain positive, forget about the test that you have just completed, and focus on the next task at hand. This will reflect positively on your report.
  • Use your computer or laptop rather than your phone. This will ensure that the test is clear and easier to use. If you must use your phone, remember to switch off incoming calls and notifications.

Want to read more?  See Targetjobs guide to gamification

Gamification and other testing is just one of the stages you’re likely to encounter when applying for graduate schemes. For an outline of the typical graduate recruitment process as employers are adapting to more comprehensive online delivery post Covid-19 read this post: How has Covid-19 changed recruitment? What can I expect and how can I prepare? 


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