8 reasons why recruiters should be careful when using gamification to screen candidates

8 reasons why recruiters should be careful when using gamification to screen candidates

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Gamification brings elements like rewards, points, rankings and techniques such as storytelling, into recruiting methodology for potential candidates. It is being used increasingly by companies in all its facets as it facilitates faster candidate-screening, teaches key values and processes, educates them on job content, tools and technologies and lastly, it challenges candidates on specific skill sets such as attention, timemanagement and creativity.


Here are 3 common types of gaming-based recruiting techniques:

  • Simulations: real-life situations are reproduced, an example of this technique is what PWC launched in 2016. However not only is this the most expensive category but also, one that is rarely used at a corporate level.
  • Game-based scenarios: these are most frequently used by restaurant chains to teach staff how to make sandwiches. Domino’s for instance, launched a mobile app that instructed people how to make a pizza, although the true intention behind the app was to find new staff and recruit for its restaurants
  • Application of gaming mechanics and the aesthetics: this is a widely used method since it is cheaper than the other two. Aesthetics are defined in gaming as the desirable emotional responses (e.g. submission, discoveries) that arise in players when he/she interacts with the game. Mechanics are decision-related to the objectives, rules, settings and interaction types of the game. Axa Group through a tool called Knack, has implemented gamification into the recruiting process to identify candidates strengths, abilities and personality traits.

Some major weaknesses of these techniques exist and should not be underestimated by recruiters.

  1. Opportunistic behaviours

Candidates may be proposed with two types of tasks: logical-cognitive or preferential (i.e. the candidates is questioned what kind of behaviour he/she prefers under given circumstances). When candidates are asked for a preference, there is a risk that their choice is tainted due to social desirability biases that influence how the candidate perceives looking through the eyes of someone else. There are specific techniques used to identify the existence of a bias like: candidates response speed (the faster the greater the chance of sincerity) or trick questions (although their effectiveness is limited). 

2.  Candidates choices in games may differ from those in real life

It was proved that people adopt a gaming logic instead of an “everyday logic”. While playing a game, the player can perform the same tasks he/she can also do in real-life but not vice-versa (this happens because in reality, motivation is higher). If identification was perfect, his/her behaviours would be identical to those in real life. Recruiters should thus consider that games’ behaviours don’t return a comprehensive portrayal of candidates.

3. Candidates may nurture negative sentiments towards the company

Candidates who performed badly in point-based recruiting games can develop negative sentiments (e.g. perceived injustice) towards the brand itself: a candidate with a negative recruiting experience can directly take this out on the company brand reputation.

Individuals emotional responses depend on their personality. Possible reactions can manifest as the following:

  • Candidates may be demotivated
  • Candidates may become angry
  • Candidates may feel challenged
  • Candidates may nurture a sense of vengeance

4. Gaming-based techniques not effective when hiring people with certain personality traits

People who are apprehensive, extremely emotional, unhealthily pedantic or those who lack a competitive-streak, have been deemed as persons whose performance is easier to negatively affect.

5. Games can hinder recruiters attempts to increase diversity

Another intrinsic risk of using game-based techniques is the lack of candidates diversity. Games intended to recruit different roles should be strategically different so that the risk of hiring candidates with homogenous characteristics is not incurred. Furthermore it’s extremely expensive for companies to develop game-based recruiting games and equally hard to measure benefits compared to traditional gaming techniques.


6. Motivation is hard to be measured

There are five big personality traits (i.e. openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) that are relatively simple to measure. Motivation for a specific role or for personal growth, are traditionally harder to evaluate as it directly depends on a situation. It’s extremely difficult to measure motivation tied to the role and to personal growth. Following this logic, only motivational-tendencies can be measure in tests, not motivation itself.

7. Some traits simply cannot be measured

Gamification techniques don’t allow certain soft skills to be measured such as: empathy, emotional intelligence and negotiation capabilities.

Online dating sites for instance, regularly overemphasize attributes that are measurable and sortable (like height and income) at the expense of other inexpressible ones that might be more useful or relevant.

8. Gaming-based techniques not effective if used to hire different generations than Millennials

Gaming techniques in recruiting are more effective if used to hire Millennials compared to other generations since they are used alongside constant computer interaction. Older generations are more familiar with evaluations taking place during a conversation therefore, standardised gaming evaluation procedures can deprive them from the possibility of getting into the game!


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