Gamification of online job applications


Applying for a graduate job online? Read more to understand how gamification is playing its part.


Gone are the days of sending in a CV and nice hand-written letter. The students out there who have applied for jobs online recently may have noticed something strange, as some employers are using online games as part of their application processes. Now, the word ‘game’ may bring with its certain connotations, but what I mean is that the employers are requesting that applicants engage in activities designed to test a range of abilities whilst also attempting to hold their interest.

If you have ever applied for a job, be it a part time, full time, internship or graduate position, chances are that you will have had to fill out a set of questions. Students tell me that from the point of view of an applicant, this process is extremely tedious and boring. Many applicants will question the relevance to the job that it is linked to.

Many students I know are currently applying for graduate schemes, and it seems that the constant completion of these forms really does have a dramatic effect on their interest in the application. The questions tend to be generic, extensive and irrelevant. They could have the effect of pushing away more good candidates than discovering them, as many overthink this process and put the answer that they think ‘the company wants to hear’.

From a company’s point of view, they need to have a system for rating applicants based on their views and merit as they come in. Many employers probably realise that the existing system is not perfect, but they simply do not have the resources to manually sift through applications to ascertain whether their candidates are suitable to progress to the next stage without some type of character screening process. Something clearly must be done, and that’s where some of the biggest companies in the world are stepping in.


What do the online recruitment tests do?

Here’s the challenge – the tests aren’t shared in advance with the keywords ‘Due to the Terms and Conditions signed when taking these tests, sadly we are unable to show you any screenshots of the tests, as it violates the agreement between the employers and candidates.’

These games have the same aims as the traditional types of questions, to assess the skills of the applicants to determine their suitability for the job that they are applying for. The activities can range from maths, judging the emotions of people in videos, splitting money by how ‘fair’ they think the exchange is and much more – effectively numeracy, English language, negotiation and emotional abilities.

The games can be played on iPhone or Android devices via an application, or using Windows, Mac and Linux using a compatible web browser.

Who uses the online recruitment tests?

The games themselves are not built by the employers, but instead by software engineering firms who specialise in recruitment. Examples of these companies are Pymetrics and the application Debut. As to the employers that are using it, that list keeps on growing. Companies using these systems include Unilever, Tesco and Vodafone. And it seems that Microsoft, Ernst & Young and L’Oréal are also some of the companies who reportedly use this system.

Benefits of the online recruitment tests

The main benefit to the applicant is that this system is fun, to an extent at least. Clicking on things, risking losing the game, the bright colours and such draw the player in and make it an enjoyable experience to play the games, and therefore apply for the jobs. This is all part of Steuer’s original ‘vividness and interactivity’ scale we consider in digital marketing courses.

The games also help the applicant see more of a point in what they are doing, and not trying to second guess what the employer might be thinking, and instead simply be able to put in greater effort to the game.

The instant feedback on many of these games can also benefit the applicant, even if they fail the test. Most games give you a ‘Good-Fair-Poor’ score, presented in a sort of traffic light system, and inform you about the character trait that the game was trying to measure, and how you tackled it. This, then, can give applicants a chance to work on certain skills and could probably benefit later applications.

Drawbacks of the online recruitment tests

Unsurprisingly, this system has its challenges too. Although it manages to be more engaging and entertaining than the existing questions, it just measures isolated skills one by one.

In contrast, the questionnaires paint a picture of a situation in a work environment. They describe a set of events and ask how you would approach the situation. Therefore this attempts to put an applicant in the mindset of work, rather than arbitrarily recording their ability to add up or take risks.

Future development of online recruitment

Screening of applications is unlikely to change soon. Employers will continue use powerful internet tools they have at their disposal. But, the consensus amongst applicants is that they are becoming less interested in filling out online questions. These games, therefore are likely to grow but will become more intricate in their content. They may steer towards recreating a job environment or testing many skills within one game. Gaming will definitely be something to watch when it comes to job applications, and will change the recruitment industry going forward.