Score the best employees with video game applicant screeningWe have come a long way since Pong, the two-dimensional sports game that simulates table tennis that was introduced by Atari 1974. Pong was the new sensation and provided hours of fun for players who controlled their white bouncing ball. Today, video games are much more advanced and sometimes require some additional skills other than moving a paddle up and down. Gaming skills relevant to the workplace include creativity, problem solving, and management skills to name a few. Social simulation network games such as Farmville, Pioneer Trail, and Clash of Clans have become a popular form of entertainment and it should be no surprise that gaming has already and will continue to slip into our workplace.
Gaming is a real time saverThe gamification of the recruiting and hiring process is one of the latest fads making waves in private industry. Many start-up tech companies have begun developing and selling employee selection tests that look, feel, and play like video games. The games range from asking the applicant to play the role of a theme park owner to navigating through a maze. These games are designed to measure characteristics like creativity and problem solving. The benefits of these assessments include attracting a more diverse applicant pool, showcasing innovation, and more fun for applicants in the hiring process. By using these tools, HR can quickly screen out less than qualified applicants from the candidate pool. Then more time can be dedicated to conducting thorough follow-up interviews with the most promising job candidates.
Traditional pre-employment assessments are utilized in the same way to reduce hiring costs by not overburdening supervisors with excessive interviewing. To illustrate the value, consider that the first hurdle in a hiring process should allow twenty to twenty-five percent of all applicants to pass onto the second hurdle. Although this percentage varies based on a number of factors—including labor conditions and the number of openings—it is important to assess an ample amount of potential employees in order to identify and hire the very best to join your organization. Inexpensive, validated assessments help screen a wide range of potential new-hires at the first hurdle, allowing only the most qualified candidates to pass onto the interviewing stage. Don’t miss out on top talent because you think don’t have the time and resources to interview everyone.
Is applicant gaming right for your organization?At the same time, there are several important considerations that the HR practitioner should think about when deciding if and how to move forward with integrating gaming into their hiring procedures. Deciding if it makes sense to integrate gamebased assessments within your hiring process depends on your specific business needs. Do you rely on a younger workforce to fill entry level jobs such as a call center or cashier role? If so, game-based assessments may appeal to applicants, signaling that your organization’s work culture is fun. Could your business receive a productivity boost from having more workers focused on providing innovative solutions to problems? Using game-based assessments to screen new employees may attract greater numbers of these types of employees to your organization. Finally, is your current hiring process boring? Applicants taking a game-based battery may become more immersed in the hiring process due to the engaging nature of the tests which allow them to do their best in the pre-employment screening context because in the process of competitive gaming, applicants forget that they are being tested. All of these outcomes may be important considerations to weigh when deciding if gamifying your recruiting process is worth it.
Perception is realityRegardless of business needs, organizational research has shown that applicants are more likely to view the organization as attractive and accept a job offer when they believe they have been treated fairly. Therefore, prior to using any type of new assessment with actual applicants, be sure that you pilot test it with current employees and solicit their opinions about whether or not the game is related to the job and therefore fair to use in making hiring decisions. After considering if it makes sense to use game-based assessments in your organization, the following considerations deal with how to get the most out of any type of pre-employment screening tool including the traditional interview. Based on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidance, the following tips are provided to help you choose the right game-based assessment tools:
• Accessible and nondiscriminatoryEmployers should administer tests and other selection procedures without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, or disability. Though employers may want to use game-based assessment tools to attract younger job candidates, you should ensure that your assessment is also easily accessible to older adults and those who may have a disability, including veterans.
• Evidence of validationTests must be validated or measure what they are intended to measure in the pre-employment context. In the emerging market of game-based assessments, test quality will vary. As a first step, request to see the vendor’s evidence on the assessment’s validity. If the vendor cannot provide adequate evidence, avoid purchasing these tests. For example, does the vendor show that scores on their game-based tests are related to performance on traditional tests measuring the same attribute?
• Avoid adverse impactAdverse impact occurs when a selection procedure disproportionately screens out a higher percentage of a protected group such as women, than the majority group, such as men. Though adverse impact is not illegal if the test is shown to be job-related, it is preferable to search for tests that are equally valid but demonstrate less adverse impact. In the game-based assessment world, developers can be very creative and may make overly complex assessment scenarios. Also keep in mind that protected classes will be put at a disadvantage when assessments are too complex and unnecessary demands are placed on individuals’ with verbal limitations.
• Matching the game to job requirementsMake sure that job requirements are current and update selection procedures accordingly. Game-based test vendors may be propagating tests assessing creative problem solving or innovative thinking but does your job truly require these attributes at pre-hire? Remember, the decision to use certain assessments must be justified by the requirements of the job.
• Educated administration
Tests and selection procedures should not be used by untrained managers. Managers must know the purpose of the assessment and its limitations, the appropriateness for the specific job, and how to administer and score it. Even though some game-based assessments may look like video games, this does not mean that they should played over and over to get the best possible score. Managers using assessments in this way would reduce the test’s ability to accurately predict job performance as well as cause some applicants to receive preferential treatment over others.
Hopefully, these tips help you in deciding if and how to integrate game-based assessments into your hiring processes. Even if you decide to pass on using game-based assessments, always consider the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidance on how to appropriately utilize any procedures used to make decisions about who to hire. Though ensuring that you project an image of innovation to young applicants and a culture of fun are important, make sure that you are choosing and implementing such tools in accordance with best practices.
Stephen Young, Ph.D. is a research associate at Design Interactive, Inc. He specializes in research and development of technology-based selection and assessment solutions. Clients include Department of Homeland Security, Army Research Lab, and various commercial companies. He has an M.S. and Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Florida Institute of Technology and a B.A. in Psychology and Political Science from University of Connecticut. He teaches graduate courses at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
Jim Gallo, M.S., SPHR, is currently the Associate Director for the Center for Organizational Effectiveness. He has over twenty years of executive leadership experience as a senior executive and management consultant. He has worked both within organizations as a senior executive leading multi-state HR operations as well as an external consultant providing customized solutions to organizations. He is a certified executive coach (ACTP), published author, and SPHR certified. Jim has been teaching HR related courses, including SPHR/PHR certification courses, at the collegiate level for over fifteen years.