The Gamification of Recruitment

You’re hired…

Over the years I have done my fair share of hiring. Sometimes using external recruiters, sometimes using resources from my own team with help from HR. As a hiring manager with no formal background in the various methods of screening I’ve always asked others about what, if any, methods exist for finding the attitudes and skills one is looking for in a new hire that is better than the crude approaches of interviews (which I think can and are often “gamed” by interviewees)and scanning resumes.

Now, the recruitment process might actually become a game. The Economist reported on new developments in the world of recruiting:

The rules of Happy Hour are deceptively simple. You are a bartender. Your challenge is to tell what sort of drink each of a swelling mob of customers wants by the expressions on their faces. Then you must make and serve each drink and wash each used glass, all within a short period of time. Play this video game well and you might win a tantalising prize: a job in the real world.

Happy Hour, which will be unveiled to the public on May 28th, is one of several video games developed by Knack, a start-up founded by Guy Halfteck, an Israeli entrepreneur. The games include a version of Happy Hour in which sushi replaces booze, Words of Wisdom (a word game) and Balloon Brigade (which involves putting out fires with balloons and water). They are designed to test cognitive skills that employers might want, drawing on some of the latest scientific research. These range from pattern recognition to emotional intelligence, risk appetite and adaptability to changing situations.

A pilot now under way with students at Yale combines the results of games with academic grades. As little as ten minutes of play can yield enough data to predict performance, says Mr Halfteck.

Knack combines three fashionable trends: gaming, the use of massive amounts of data and the application of behavioural insights from science. According to Chris Chabris of the Centre for Collective Intelligence at MIT, a member of the Knack team, games have huge advantages over traditional recruitment tools, such as personality tests, which can easily be outwitted by an astute candidate. Many more things can be tested quickly and performance can’t be faked on Knack’s games, he says. The two biggest challenges, according to Mr Chabris, are ensuring the games are fun to play and convincing recruiters, who typically make no attempt to measure cognitive skills, to pay attention to these new data.

Some firms seem to see the potential. The GameChanger unit of Shell, which seeks out new disruptive technologies for the oil giant, is about to test if Knack can help it identify innovators. Bain & Company, a consultancy, is to run a pilot: it will start by getting current staff to play the games, to see which skills make for a successful consultant. (The ability to charge a lot for stating the obvious is presumably not one of them.) “If someone can materially improve our ability to select the best talent, that is worth a lot to us,” says Mark Howorth, a recruiter at Bain. And if not, at least the process will be fun.