Many employers are interested in how gamification can differentiate their hiring process and reduce the dropout rate among candidates. But recruiters should understand 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 that are undertaken for enjoyment have a role in attracting applicants. They can encourage people to “connect” with an organization 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, but recruitment is a high-stakes situation for job candidates, and when the stakes are raised any game ceases to be fun. Some employers have experienced a negative backlash in the media for using games and games-based assessments as part of their job selection. There’s a perception that these are “frivolous” tools that are unsuited to the serious task of assessing individuals. Also, if candidates sense that an organization is trying to “lower the stakes” of their application by using a game, they may presume that they’re 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 behavior 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.
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 customized 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 the West Coast University of Applied Sciences, in Germany, which specializes in practical research projects relating to personnel management.
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. Two hundred 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 organization 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 organization’s attractiveness.
The results show that individuals who said they like to play games rated the organization higher when gamified assessments were used. But, importantly, those who said they don’t care about games did not rate the organization lower. Also, the scores achieved on the traditional tests were no higher or lower than the scores on the gamified tests. In other words, participants did 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.
With the launch of new gamified suites of ability tests, greater choice is now available when it comes to selecting your candidates. Depending on your industry sector and the likely preferences of your applicants, you can choose either traditional or gamified assessments — and you can be confident that both are equally effective.
You may find that candidates in certain sectors — such as the media, advertising and IT — prefer a gamified approach. But gamified assessments are not a silver bullet. Like mobile assessments, they’re simply another option that some organizations will want to use (and others won’t). It all depends on the candidates you want to attract.
Whichever assessment option you choose, it’s important to look beyond the hype. Ensure your preferred assessments are grounded in scientifically validated psychometric rigor and that they’ll provide meaningful, job-relevant insights that will help you make fair and objective selection decisions.