Gamification in recruitment: changing the game plan

May 11, 2018 Richard Justenhoven

gamification in recruitment

The impact of changing tests into game-based assessments

Gamification has been heralded as the ultimate way to differentiate your hiring process and reduce the drop-out rate amongst candidates. But real success stories are relatively thin on the ground. Part of the problem is that games, game-based assessments and gamified assessments are actually three different things – and only one of them should be used to select candidates.

Interactive games which are undertaken for enjoyment have a role in attracting applicants. They can encourage people to ‘connect’ with an organisation and learn more about the jobs that are available. They can even become viral marketing tools that promote the employer brand.

But a game should not be used to ‘assess’ the players. Games are fun when the stakes are low. However, recruitment is a high-stakes situation for job candidates and when the stakes are raised, any game ceases to be fun. This is a stumbling block for anyone who uses games or game-based assessments in recruitment. If candidates sense that an employer is trying to ‘lower the stakes’ of their application, by using a game, they may presume that they are not being taken seriously – and their perception of that employer’s attractiveness can plummet.

Another issue with game-based assessments is that the results can be misleading.

Adult personality traits and cognitive abilities are relatively stable. If your traits and abilities were assessed today, and again in three months, you’d expect the test results to be similar. However, if you ‘play a game’, you can improve your performance through repetition, as you learn to adjust your behaviour to achieve the goal. It’s difficult to measure stable traits and abilities, with an instrument that has a variable outcome. Your experience in responding to the choices available in the game will skew your results, so any ‘measurement’ achieved through game-based assessment is open to question.

Gamifying proven assessments

If you want to bring gamification into your selection process, the best option is to ‘gamify’ an existing and proven psychometric assessment, such as a logical reasoning test. This can be achieved either by adding a ‘cover story’ to provide context or by revising the ‘look and feel’ of the test. Either way, a gamified assessment is still a psychometric test that will capture job-relevant cognitive ability or personality data; it has simply been customised to incorporate game elements such as levels, badges and rewards.

But is a gamified assessment better or worse than a traditional assessment?

To answer this question, cut-e has undertaken a joint research study with West Coast University of Applied Sciences, in Germany, which specialises in practical research projects relating to personnel management.

The research

Together, we designed a simulated selection process in which candidates apply to a fictional company. We created a careers site and provided job role information. 200 participants in the study – from Finland, Germany, Norway and Sweden – ‘applied’ to the company. We captured initial data about their attitude to games, how motivated they felt about taking assessments and how attractive the organisation appeared to them.

The candidates were split into two groups; one group took traditional assessments and the other undertook gamified assessments. Four weeks later, the groups were reversed, so those who initially took the traditional assessments then took the gamified assessments and vice versa. After each set of tests, the participants were asked to rate their perceptions of the fairness of the tests and of the organisation’s attractiveness.

The results show that:

  • Individuals who like to play games rate an organisation higher when gamified assessments are used.
  • But, those who don’t care about games do not rate the organisation lower.
  • The scores achieved on the traditional tests were no higher or lower than the scores on the gamified tests. In other words, people do not perform better or worse in gamified assessments. This is an important finding because it means that gamified assessments can be used on an equal footing with traditional assessments.

The conclusion here is that if your candidates are likely to enjoy games, then gamified assessments are a good option. And if the assessments are not overly-gamified, anyone who doesn’t like games will not be put off by them. As with coffee and alcohol, a small quantity of gamification can have a positive benefit … but overindulging can be counterproductive.

You can read more about our approach to the gamification of recruitment tools on our website.

This blog post has previously been published on HR News

About the Author

Richard Justenhoven

Richard Justenhoven is the product development director within Aon's Assessment Solutions. A leading organizational psychologist, Richard is an acknowledged expert in the design, implementation and evaluation of online assessments and a sought after speaker about such topics.

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