Australian companies are increasingly using online gaming to select job candidates

Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Xbox & Gears Of War 4

Your skills at gaming could be the key to that next big job.

Online gaming, sometimes denigrated over fears that it will somehow dull the brain and ruin lives, is being increasingly used by companies as a tool to find the best job candidates.

The technique is better at gathering more detailed data, which can be analysed by machine initially, and collected in a way fairer to the candidates than subjective face-to-face interviews.

And millennials reportedly like gamification better than endless and sometimes mind-numbing interviews and form filling of the traditional job application process.

The latest system being introduced to Australia is by Unilever. The company, which gets more than 250,000 graduate applications every year globally, is mixing gaming with video interviews to find the best and brightest graduates.

The program was introduced in Europe last month following a successful launch in parts of Asia and North America. It will be rolled out in Australia and New Zealand in early 2017.

Gamers looking for zombies in Zedtown, a real-life adventure event based on a video game. Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)

Candidates are invited to play a series of games, taking no more than 20 minutes. The way in which applicants play these games gives Unilever an insight into the candidate’s potential and how well they connect with the company’s goals and purpose.

The very best candidates then take part in a video interview. For the final part of the process candidates are invited to a discovery centre where they get to know each other and collaborate virtually.

Living online

“We know that people increasingly live their lives online and our recruitment process must reflect that,” says Leena Nair, Unilever chief HR officer.

Unilever’s initiative using online gaming mechanics may be an excellent move, according to Anthony Mitchell, co-founder and chairman of Bendelta, a strategic leadership firm, Bendelta.

“It might not only position them as innovators but also improve the quality of the recruitment process, for both the company and the candidates. Of course, this will depend on exactly how they go about it,” he told Business Insider.

“Why might it be so positive? Firstly, digital channels will be massively more efficient but more importantly, they will capture all data in a way that is amenable to machine learning.”

The gamification of the process can bring other benefits.

Mitchell says online gaming, at its best, is is very sophisticated and not childish as some might think.

Tapping into motivation

Games such as Candy Crush generate many millions of dollars by tapping into the deepest drivers of motivation.

“They provide users with a sense of autonomy (through meaningful choice), a chance to achieve, a sense of stretch and mastery (as the challenges becomes harder, at just the right difficulty ramp) and a sense of connection (when they bring multiple gamers together),” Mitchell says.

“These are all factors in the creation of what psychologists call self-directed motivation.

“Add to that some juice (through leaderboards, badges and special rewards) and it’s no surprise that some people put more time into games than they do into their day job.”

The key is how well all of this is done. For every Minecraft, there are dozens of poor games online.

Dress as Laura Kroft from the Tomb Raider and Enzio Auditore from Asencion Creed at 2016 New York Comic Con. John Lamparski/Getty Images

Mitchell says some have the wrong difficulty ramp — too easy or too hard — while others simply provide a poor user experience.

“This is a real opportunity — to identify the best candidates more accurately than was ever possible in the analog world, while the candidates have a more enjoyable experience — after all, who doesn’t like games?” he says.

At KPMG Australia, the human resources team is watching developments closely.

“We made changes to our graduate selection process in early 2015 to ensure that our process reflected our brand and the innovative work that was taking place within the business, as well as making it more relevant to millennials,” says Susan Ferrier, national managing partner, people, performance and culture.

Reducing hiring time

The changes, included video interviews and gamification, reduced time to hire to around a month.

“Previously we were finding that only around 27% of graduates who made it to final-round, face-to-face interview were being offered a graduate role,” she says.

“Now we are offering around 70% of candidates that attend a final interview, by making it a smaller pool, populated with more suitable candidates.”

The changes also made the process more engaging and relevant to millennials.

She says gamification uses analytics, big data, predictive psychometrics and is based on an extensive body of research about how behaviour during the game links to actual job performance.

“It gives us more robust data to support better selection decisions,” says Ferrier.

“The video interview allows us to assess personal impact, communications skills and answers to behavioural interview questions. Students are able to film their responses in their own time and on their own terms, rather than expecting them to take time out of their studies for an hour long interview.”

She says the techniques give an excellent measure of each candidate’s future commitment to the firm and what are their drivers.