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Gamification in the Talent Acquisition Space

Good hiring is no game, but elements of gamification can be used to improve your talent acquisition and applicant screening. In this program, Jamie Winter, vice president of consulting and hiring and promotion practice leader at APTMetrics, and Ren Nygren, chief consulting officer at APTMetrics, examines how gamification techniques can be used in HR assessments and provide valuable data into cultural fit. They will also explore how games make the candidate experience more engaging and enhance your organization’s recruiting brand. They will also describe potential risks and how to mitigate them, and address concerns about validity and fairness. While viewers received valuable best practices for assessing potential gamification tools and how to avoid pitfalls, we will entice you with a brief recap and invite you to watch the recording on-demand.

Adding Gamification to Your Recruiting & Hiring Process

Winter and Nygren covered five highlights during the webinar, and we’ll cover the main points here.

Objectives of Pre-Employment Assessment 

Consider the aspects of your pre-employment assessments that you currently measure.

Predictive validity is a key outcome of interest. The assessment that you’re using will be a predictor of something of interest to your organization. Using methodology based on the US Department of Labor’s Guide, predictive validity is a key aspect of your pre-employment assessment decisions. There are many methods, some better than others.

Cost and efficiency are another important factor in your assessments. When you’re designing an assessment program, you’ll want to sequence them in order of least to most expensive. In-person and onsite assessments are more expensive; online screening and assessments are less so. We typically see gamified assessments in areas of candidate attraction, realistic job preview and online assessments. In a selection funnel, well-designed selection systems are mapped to the requirements of the job and rely on a variety of assessment methods.

Candidate engagement is imperative to attracting the right candidates for your business’s bottom line. The best and brightest candidates are likely to have many options, and the candidate experience your company offers has a significant impact on both candidates and your current and future customers. The assessment can actually improve your candidate experience and the length of the assessment is not a high concern. Our data show that if candidates are going to drop out of your pre-employment assessment, they’ll do it in the first five or 10 minutes. Candidates want to know what the process is and they want timely response to their questions. Candidates respond favorably to assessments that give them some insight into your company or the role for which they are applying.

Historical Perspective on Pre-Employment Assessments

Assessments are older than you’d think. They actually started a couple thousand years ago with civil service testing in 200 AD. The foundation for modern assessments is from the US Military. Early screening in the armed services process involved psychological screening as well as mental and physical testing. In the 1970s, we saw more of a focus on process, like with the scantron assessments for efficiency scoring. In the 1980s, the employee polygraph allowed for integrity testing. In the last years, there has been more of a focus on efficiency and the process of digital screening, which leads us to the gamification of assessments.

Gamification as a search term starting appearing in 2011-2012, as companies began looking for more efficient ways to screen candidates and address the issue of candidate boredom. “Flow” is the mental state of operation in which the individual is fully engaged with the activity. Test anxiety is lower in groups taking game-based assessments.

Taxonomy of Game-based/Gamified Assessments 

In the last 7-8 years there has been an explosion in game-based assessments. There are four types:

Recruitment games are located outside the recruitment funnel that are typically used for employer branding and candidate attraction. (See Heineken’s “The Interview” for an excellent example.) The pros of these games is that they’re engaging and can be an excellent tool to attract candidates. They can also convey your company brand. The con is that the data is not intended for actually screening candidates. It’s marketing, not high-stakes assessments.

Non-contextualized games function more like assessments and place the applicant in a fantasy based environment that doesn’t look anything like the job they’re applying for. Think “Angry Birds” but for hiring. The pro is that these games can be fun and engaging, but the con is that predictive validity is questionable with these games. They’re also based on shelf content and there’s limited ability to convey your brand.

Game based assessments (trait based games) are built as games to assess candidate traits. These have more promise in terms of screening candidates. What we’re seeing in the market are games that measure cognitive ability and personality. These measures tend to have the most promise in terms of predictive validity. While intended to be fun, they may also have issues with fairness and may have been originally created to measure neurological deficits, so you could put your company at risk with the ADA with these.

Gamified assessments are psychometric assessments that apply game mechanics, like a narrative or storyline that offers flexibility of choice in terms of how they complete the assessments, as well as allowing candidates to offer feedback. They’re engaging, people tend to have less test anxiety, the results are similar to what you’d gather from a conversation. You get a highly predictive assessment and candidates really get immersed in them. These are also valuable for conveying your employer brand. Con? They can be expensive due to the level of customization they offer. (See example below: Viceroy Energy Leadership Identification from Tim Lee-Thorp on Vimeo.

This is the framework you’ll want to use to evaluate possible game-based assessments.

Potential Risks & How to Mitigate Them 

Consider ADA requirements, including accessibility and the type of information you’re using gamified assessments to gather. It is important to fully evaluate any assessment games for compliance to ADA standards. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion in the workplace. Title VII also prohibits employment tests that appear neutral but have the effect of disproportionately excluding a protected class, unless the challenged practice is related to the applied-for job and is consistent with business necessity.

Future Directions

Where is your organization in the use of games for pre-employment assessment? When it comes to what you should focus on for your company’s future game-based assessment programs, these are the key points to use for evaluation:

  • Predictive validity & reliability are key.
  • Fairness & Efficiency trumps fun; mobile is a must.
  • Face validity is critical – no cartoons / avatars.
  • Customize to reinforce your brand.
  • Gamify to address a problem (e.g., boredom or engagement issues).

The advent of technology and AI is certain to change what game-based assessments look like today, opening up new opportunities for measurement. Much research needs to be done around these approaches as they emerge, and we recommend organizations use the above checklist to evaluate new assessment technology. The best assessments will continue to be the ones that are the most valid predictors of a candidate’s potential.

This webinar covered a wide range of gamification strategies and methods focused on effective recruitment and hiring. The key to adding gamification to your recruiting strategies and processes is to start with understanding where the biggest opportunities lie with your existing long term plans and goals.