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Gamification in Recruitment and Assessment: Avoid "Game Over"

August 20, 2018

In our work within the assessment for recruitment space, we are increasingly finding that our clients are asking about how they can apply gamification to the selection stage of recruitment. The interest and desire to incorporate this is particularly prevalent among those working in graduate recruitment, where candidate experience is key and new and innovative approaches are of particular interest. And there is no doubt that candidate experience is not a superficial part of the selection process and is therefore an important consideration.In fact, Virgin Media recently discovered that within one year they had lost 7,500 customers as a result of direct job rejection or poor candidate experience – equating to £4.4m or $5.6m of lost revenue.

How can gamification be applied to assessment?

Gamification in Recruiting and Assessment

Within the assessment space, the concept of “games-based assessment” has recently come to the fore. In this model, “games” are used as an alternative to traditional psychometric tests, to assess given traits.The benefits that are positioned for these kinds of assessments are that assessment is implicit, rather than explicit, in that test takers don’t know what they are being assessed against.Additionally, the immersion and sense of flow created by the game means that test takers are more motivated to complete the assessment, potentially improving the authenticity of their responses (because they are immersed), their views of the selection process, and the accuracy of measurement. Whilst many organizations may be interested in the form of gamification described above, we and some of our clients have expressed concerns about the candidate experience created by such assessments. Indeed, one of the key challenges to games-based assessments is their “face validity” – i.e. how job-relevant they appear to a candidate.Whilst there may be aspects of candidate experience that are enhanced by the use of a game, face validity is likely to be impacted given that the game format necessitates a task or context which is unlikely to be job relevant. Given the challenges above, what alternatives are there? We find that much of the appeal of gamification is not the introduction of a game per se, but application of design standards and some features from gaming, applied to existing assessment formats such as simulations or situational judgement tests.Such applications allow for the benefits of face valid, rigorous assessments combined with the engagement created by games.


In light of the above, in considering whether to introduce gamification into your selection processes, we suggest that the following considerations are helpful:

  1. Understand your business drivers for using gamification in assessment - if you are doing it because you feel you should, and others are, this is not a good starting point!
  2. Ensure that you are clear on what you are measuring within your selection process - and make sure that any assessment is based around this.
  3. Recognize the tension between candidate experience in terms of fun/engagement and perceived job relevance to ensure that you are fully aware of the risks and benefits before you adopt an approach.
  4. Don’t focus on candidate experience over accurate assessment - the core principles of effective assessment design still apply, regardless of the candidate experience.

Avoiding "game over"

In considering the introduction of gamification within your recruitment processes, don’t be led by the inclusion of an assessment (game-based or otherwise) for the sake of it! Ensure that any introduction is based on good assessment practice, primarily measuring relevant skills and qualities required in the roles that it is being used for.Getting to the right people more efficiently with some brand engagement along the way is the ultimate win.

Gamification can be a fantastic way of creating an immersive experience that is realistic and relevant to the context you are assessing for.However, beware of being romanced by style over content. You should always have in mind that games based assessment is about assessment, not just games.Utilizing the basic principles and best practice in assessment design is key to getting the most out of gamification principles across the recruitment process.

Find out more

To learn more about our technology focused assessment solutions, have a look at our range of tools here (UK) or here (US), or please get in touch with one of the team who will be happy to help.

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Philippa Riley Philippa Riley is the Director of Global Assessment Products at PSI Talent Management in the UK.