How Gamification in Recruitment is Changing the Hiring Game

Male hiring manager looking at a brick wall that says gamification and has icons of a game controller, computer, light bulb, and trophy.

Gamification in recruitment is a modern concept, but it is nothing new. 

All the way back in 1908, the Boy Scouts began gamifying skills like first aid and carpentry by rewarding scouts with merit badges. In the 1960s, multi-colored stamp books swept the nation as retail chains gamified grocery shopping.

Though the idea has been around for centuries (or longer), the gamification of business operations is picking up steam in an exciting way, and nowhere are the implications more promising than in the recruiting field.

We’ll explore the pros and cons of gamification in recruiting and explain some ways to incorporate it into your hiring process to engage candidates better and improve the quality of your hires. 

What is Gamification?

In a business setting, gamification refers to incorporating game elements, such as competition and achievement, into non-gaming processes like marketing, hiring, or talent management. This method is not merely about adding a touch of entertainment. At its heart, gamification aims to foster engagement, a crucial factor in everything from customer loyalty to employee retention and can serve as a pivotal business strategy.

This concept of instilling game elements into business operations gained traction around 2009, notably with the advent of Foursquare. This platform introduced gaming components into local search behavior, sparking excitement among users as they vied for titles like “mayor” of their favored locales. Since then, gamification has found applications across diverse fields. From employee training to revolutionizing how companies evaluate candidates, manage job applications, and drive the selection process.

Gamification has been a tool to introduce healthy competition among job seekers, motivate people in a training environment, and facilitate a smoother job application experience.

What are the Benefits of Gamification in Recruitment?

1. Assess candidates

Interviews are the richest source of information a hiring manager has when assessing a candidate. Still, they have one fatal flaw: most of what the candidate says in an interview has been rehearsed beforehand. While that is often just the nature of interviews, it also completely neglects to assess how a candidate acts and reacts in the moment, which is a major determining factor of job success. Gamification can instantly gauge how candidates would react in situations they’d likely face in their new role.

Rolls Royce took advantage of this capability by gamifying a situational judgment test. Via a simulated inbox, the company assessed how its interns and apprentices would manage the incoming message load of a fictitious manager. The result was a robust picture of the individual’s social, organizational, and decision-making skills.

2. Gamification can screen for specific skills

Any good hiring manager or recruiter knows that candidates aren’t the best assessors of their own skills. Underqualified candidates may overestimate their aptitude in certain areas, while completely qualified candidates may struggle to communicate their skills in a 30-second answer to an interview question. Gamification addresses both of these problems by allowing candidates to demonstrate their skills actively.

UK business services provider KPMG used gamification to attract and screen new college graduates for internships. Candidates were tasked with racing a virtual hot air balloon worldwide, stopping along the way to “refuel” by completing relevant challenges. The candidate who completed the journey in the shortest amount of time successfully won the internship.

Companies seeking to hire can use similar gamification channels to test a candidate’s skills, from hard skills like programming or data entry to soft skills like communication.

3. Reduce hiring bias

One of the biggest selling points of artificial intelligence in staffing and recruiting is its ability to remove human bias—intentional or unintentional—that can creep into the hiring process. But, believe it or not, AI can develop its own biases. In one fascinating example, Amazon documented how its AI recruiting tool had developed a bias against female applicants, assigning lower scores to candidates whose resume used the word ‘women’s,’ as in ‘women’s college’ or ‘women’s chess club.’

Recruitment games have an exciting amount of potential to take some of the onus for removing bias off of humans and artificial intelligence. Hacker Rank demonstrated this with its platform for taking a neutral assessment of a candidate’s coding skills.

As Hacker Rank CEO Vivek Ravisankar explained, recruiting in the coding world is particularly susceptible to machine learning bias because many of the best candidates didn’t go to college and haven’t worked for big-name companies—something AI tools often “learn” to look for. So, Ravisankar and his team built a gamification platform through which companies can evaluate applicants’ coding skills with assessments, challenges, hackathons, and more. This results in a truly blind assessment of a candidate’s coding capabilities, apart from what’s on their resume or what they look like.

4. Improve the candidate experience

A positive candidate experience correlates with better quality talent, more seamless onboarding, and a strong employer brand, all of which are good for business.

Gamification can enhance this in several important ways. It creates an all-important engagement between a candidate and a company lacking in your standard website ‘careers’ page experience. It can also help a candidate learn more about the company and the role during the application process, which is valuable in helping them make an informed decision about joining your organization.

The key to creating a great candidate experience (and not one that’s viewed as overly juvenile) is to know your market and tap into your company culture. Suppose you aim to reach upper-level financial professionals who will succeed in a buttoned-up corporate culture. A quiz might be a better gamification option than the hot air balloon ride simulation we mentioned earlier. Conversely, suppose you’re looking for creatives who will thrive in a quirky, progressive environment. In that case, a Farmville-style assessment game might be the differentiating factor you need to put your company on its shortlist.

Example of success

Accounting and consulting firm PwC introduced gamification to engage job applicants more fully (the average candidate spent 10 minutes or less on the company’s website). They devised a game called Multipoly that placed prospective candidates on teams and presented them with scenarios similar to those they’d face on the job.

After introducing the game, candidates spent as much as 90 minutes on the platform. The firm reported that its candidate pool grew by 190%, and users reporting interest in learning more about working at PwC increased by 78%.

Candidates, for their part, seem to enjoy—or at least not be deterred by—gamification in the recruiting process. Assessment solution provider AON cites one applicant feedback study that asked candidates to compare a new gamified assessment with a previous, non-gamified version. 91% reported that it gave the same or better impression of the company, while 94% said it was the same or better at engaging them.

5. More engaging onboarding and training process

New hire onboarding doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being a thrilling event. This is particularly unfortunate since an employee’s first few days on the job are so crucial for delivering a positive new hire experience.

Gamification can help organizations make the onboarding process more engaging, providing memorable and enjoyable interactions that also communicate important new hire details. 

The same goes for training. Research has shown that people learn more when they’re involved in active learning (like taking part in an activity) versus passive learning (like viewing a PowerPoint or listening to a lecture). Gamification can provide the active component of training that helps employees retain and internalize more of the material. 

Cons of Using Gamification in Your Hiring Process

  • Requires More Hands-On Time: Gamification isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it solution. It takes time to get right, especially in the early stages when changes may need to be completed on the fly. It also requires an ongoing commitment to activities like analyzing results and monitoring for new biases algorithms.  
  • Branding Mismatches: It offers many benefits, but it’s not a fit for every brand or every stage of growth. Some situations, for example, may call for a more hands-on approach with a heavy emphasis on personal interactions. If you choose to deploy gamification in recruitment, you must first consider how it works with other components of your employer brand. If you fail to do so, it can cause confusion and even distrust among prospective candidates. 
  • Accessibility Challenges: Some types of gamification aren’t accessible to all candidates, like those who are hearing or visually impaired or have difficulty processing information presented in a certain format.
  • Technical Difficulties: Like any digital application, it is susceptible to technical difficulties. Nothing will turn a candidate away faster than a recruitment interaction that’s billed as ‘fun!’ and ‘engaging!’ that fails to work as expected. 

How to Implement Gamification in Your Recruitment Process

1. Choose the right games for your objective

Just as different recruiting channels can help you reach different types of candidates, different games are best suited to certain results. Here are a few examples of different games and what they can help you assess:

  • Quizzes – subject matter knowledge
  • Challenges – technical aptitude, creativity 
  • Puzzles – problem-solving skills
  • Races – speed, efficiency  
  • Maze – problem-solving, critical thinking
  • Avatar-based – situational behavior (i.e., dealing with a difficult customer)
  • Team-based – communication, the ability to interact with others 

2. Choose reliable games

When used correctly in recruitment, gamification can significantly enhance candidate engagement and deliver deeper insights into their skills, abilities, and behavioral traits. However, the success of this strategy largely hinges on the choice of games used. Here’s a guide to help you choose the right ones:

  • Research-Backed: As you pointed out, robust research should ideally underpin any game you choose to incorporate. It ensures the accuracy and validity of the results and interpretations derived from the game.
  • Reputable Vendors: Partnering with a reliable vendor cannot be stressed enough. These vendors should have a track record of success and be able to provide case studies or testimonials that showcase the efficacy of their games in the recruitment process.
  • Relevance to Role: Not all games will be suitable for every role. Choose games that are relevant to the job in question. For instance, a game measuring numerical agility might be more pertinent for a financial analyst role than for a graphic designer.
  • Engaging & Immersive Experience: The game should captivate the candidates, ensuring they remain engaged throughout the process. An immersive experience will also ensure more accurate results as candidates will likely put in their best efforts.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: While investing in reliable games is essential, it’s equally crucial to ensure that they are cost-effective. Analyze the return on investment by weighing the costs against the benefits received in terms of improved recruitment outcomes.

3. Keep it simple

Gamification’s primary goal in recruitment is to heighten engagement and enhance the assessment process, not introduce unnecessary complexities. Candidates should immediately understand a game’s objective and mechanics. Any confusion might deter potential hires and give a misguided impression of the organization’s operations. It’s essential to center the games around evaluating core competencies, ensuring precision without needless distractions. Furthermore, a straightforward game design minimizes technical issues and fosters a smoother user experience. Ultimately, simplicity in gamified recruitment ensures a seamless, efficient, and genuinely engaging process for candidates.

4. Be transparent

Incorporating gamification into recruitment offers a fresh approach to evaluating potential hires. Yet, it’s essential that candidates don’t feel they’re merely partaking in a frivolous activity. Transparency is paramount. Clearly conveying the purpose behind these games builds trust and ensures candidates engage more earnestly. By explaining the game’s objectives and the skills being assessed, you respect the candidate’s investment of time and effort.

Furthermore, this candid approach not only allays any potential apprehensions but also strengthens your reputation in the job market. While gamified processes intrigue, their purpose should never be obscured; clarity amplifies their effectiveness and enriches the recruitment experience.

5. Evolve continuously

While innovative and engaging, gamification in recruitment isn’t a static strategy. As with any tool or process in the dynamic talent acquisition landscape, it demands continuous evolution.

The benefits of gamification can only be sustained when there’s a commitment to regular assessment and refinement. Regularly measuring outcomes is not just about keeping track of successful hires but also about understanding the nuances of candidate engagement, the effectiveness of skill assessment, and the overall candidate experience.

By paying attention to feedback, both from hired candidates and those who didn’t make the cut, you gather invaluable insights. These insights can spotlight aspects of the games that might be outdated, too complex, or not adequately aligned with the job roles.

Moreover, as technology progresses and newer game mechanics become available, there’s an opportunity to integrate these advancements to ensure your recruitment games remain state-of-the-art. This consistent evolution ensures that you’re attracting top talent and providing them with an experience that resonates with current trends and preferences.

Do Games Really Work in Recruitment?

Absolutely! Games have proven to be quite effective in the recruitment process, introducing a dynamic approach that benefits both employers and candidates alike. Gamification in recruitment, or “Recruitainment,” offers a unique blend of assessment and engagement, providing insights into a candidate’s skills, personality, and decision-making process in a more interactive manner. It facilitates a deeper understanding of candidates beyond their resumes, allowing recruiters to identify those who are not only qualified but also culturally aligned with the company’s values and goals.

Using games also enhances the candidate experience, making the process enjoyable and engaging rather than stressful and tedious. Games designed for recruitment purposes are structured to be objective and unbiased, reducing the likelihood of unconscious bias affecting hiring decisions. Additionally, it enables candidates to demonstrate their abilities and potential in real-world scenarios, which traditional recruitment methods might not accurately capture. With these advantages, gamification in recruitment is not just a fleeting trend but a transformative approach that’s reshaping talent acquisition practices for the better.

How to Set Goals for Gamification in Recruiting

While gamification in recruiting has many merits, the concept isn’t without its potential pitfalls. To employ recruitment games that are actually effective and not just a novelty, begin by setting goals.

What are you hoping to achieve by adding gamification to your recruiting strategy? Is it more eyes on your careers page (check out the MyMarriottHotel case study for a great success story in this area)? A wider pool of applicants? To weed out unqualified candidates? Once you’ve established your goals, it will be much easier to identify what kind of gamification suits your purpose.

As with any new recruitment tool, tracking your progress consistently and analyzing the results regularly is paramount. Set key performance indicators that you’ll use to assess the effectiveness of your recruitment games. Some of these might include:

  • Your overall number of applicants
  • Time spent on your website, repeat visits to career page
  • Percentage of candidates that pass the screening phase
  • Percentage of candidates offered an interview
  • Offer rate, offer acceptance rate

Additionally, compare these metrics to those of your other recruiting channels to get an idea of how this fits into your overall hiring picture and how it stacks up against other means of attracting, qualifying, and hiring candidates.

Fine-Tune Your Recruiting Process With 4 Corner Resources

From recruitainment ideas to cutting-edge recruiting technology, 4 Corner Resources has the strategies you need to develop the most effective hiring funnel in your field. By combining our proprietary sourcing tools with our deep talent network from coast to coast, we’ll give you access to the top candidates your industry has to offer.

We attract, screen, and place candidates for various positions, from technology to customer service and beyond. Our staffing solutions include direct hire staffing, contract hiring, temporary recruiting, and payrolling services to streamline your onboarding process.

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What are the different gamification elements for talent acquisition?

Gamification elements include scoring systems to rank candidates, achievement badges for completed challenges, leaderboards to foster healthy competition, task-based challenges that simulate job responsibilities, and narrative-driven assessments that mimic real-life workplace scenarios. These components aim to engage, evaluate, and motivate job applicants in a dynamic and interactive manner.

What are some gamification tools you can use when hiring?

Some gamification tools used in hiring include platforms like Pymetrics, which uses neuroscience-based games to match candidates’ emotional and cognitive abilities with company profiles. CodinGame is where tech candidates demonstrate their coding skills through game challenges. These tools provide an interactive way to evaluate potential hires beyond traditional resumes and interviews.

How does gamification differ from traditional recruitment methods?

Gamification in recruitment introduces game-like elements and challenges to assess candidates’ skills and cultural fit, making the process more interactive and engaging. In contrast, traditional recruitment methods rely on standard practices like resume screening, interviews, and reference checks, often lacking the same level of candidate engagement and dynamic skill assessment.

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn