Why recruiters should be serious about games

Why recruiters should be serious about games

Price Waterhouse Coopers use of GBA

Gamification has emerged as the latest weapon in the war for talent. In the selection stage of the recruitment process, an increasing number of organisations are turning to game-style elements to improve candidate engagement and satisfaction, while still facilitating the collection of fundamental assessment information.

It is useful to make a distinction between gamified assessments and game-based assessments, where the former is predominantly a psychometric instrument that features game-style elements for better engagement, while the latter is a purpose-built game that assesses user behaviour while playing the game.

Gamification positives

Ideally, gamification in candidate selection allows employer and candidate objectives to overlap:

  • Raise candidates’ motivation to complete the assessment and improve the accuracy of results
  • Provide immediate feedback to candidates and improve their satisfaction with the hiring process
  • Convey a modern and attractive employer brand helping to attract top talent
  • Reduce dropout rates helping to control recruitment costs.

However, when clumsily deployed, organisations risk that candidates do not feel taken seriously and exit the hiring process. When candidates find it difficult to detect the fairness and relevance of the game, the game will lack ‘face validity’. In this situation, an organisation can risk reputational damage.

The challenge is to ensure that gamification in recruitment is truly fit-for-purpose and is experienced as such. Whether gamified or not, candidates experience assessments as pressured, high-stakes situations, which can limit the scope for ‘having fun’. It is crucial that the candidates’ time and effort are visibly valued. Thus, the process must be clearly justifiable and allow for an assessment of the key metrics required for the role.

Is it fun and games in gamification?

The stakes in gamified recruitment are high for employers and candidates alike. Whether gamified or not, accuracy in the assessment of a candidate’s fit for a role remains critical.

It is important to consider that small cues within the gaming environment can influence participants’ responses. It may sway an assessment’s validity. In fact, any environment, whether curated or not, will influence our behaviours in some way. With this in mind, behavioural economics, the science of decision-making that blends insights from economics, psychology and neuroscience. This offers helpful insights into the optimisation of game-style elements in recruitment.

Avoid irrelevant game situations

Candidates must understand how the assessment is appropriate for the role.
game situations viewed as irrelevant for the job. It’s important to frame the game with an introductory message. Explaining the game’s relevance, and how it assesses their fit for the role. Also, of course, how the data will be used. Furthermore, candidates generally appreciate immediate feedback to gauge their results and understand their performance during the assessment.

Avoid an introduction containing legalise. This will overwhelm some candidates straight away. Thereby reducing both their game engagement and game performance. Plus a higher dropout rate. Convoluted legal language can also trigger confusion and even unpleasant associations in candidates, tempering an otherwise positive assessment experience. To avoid confusing candidates, or inducing negative associations before the game, consider the positioning and framing of the terms and conditions. If legal language is required, it should be written in plain language.

Game-based assessment

* Consider the impact of polarised choices and choice overload. At various decision points in a GBA, which action to choose given the situation encountered by their avatar. For example, games where candidates can choose between two polarised options only. Candidates may experience difficulty expressing their preferred behaviours and may feel frustrated with the game as a result. Candidates may feel more compelled than otherwise to choose the option that seems more socially acceptable, reflecting a social desirability bias. In a choice between two diametrically opposed actions, the game may thus bias female candidates to select more placating behaviours. Whilst male candidates may opt for aggressive actions.

* Avoid anchoring candidates to an avatar and its personality traits. Some game-based assessments prompt candidates to select or pledge allegiance to an avatar at the start of the game. This reflects a set of personality traits, for example, bold and courageous, or cautious and measured. However, this can create a lasting connection between the candidate and the persona the avatar reflects. The candidate then copies their avatar’s personality traits. Not to act according to his/her own preferences. Consider the possible consequences for the validity of the assessment due to the priming effect of selecting or pledging allegiance to an avatar that reflects certain personality traits. By keeping the avatar a ‘blank canvas’, candidates will have greater freedom and flexibility to choose the options that best reflect their personalities.

Excessive game complexity can reduce game enjoyment, reduce assessment accuracy and increase the dropout rate. Games must therefore strike a difficult balance between allowing sufficient nuance, while minimising biases and choice overload.

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