The graduate job hunter's guide to gamification

You could be asked to play an online game as part of the graduate recruitment process. Find out what to expect from our guide to gamification.

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Recruiters want to know how you handle certain situations to see whether you possess the qualities necessary to carry out the role they're trying to fill.

Gamification, or games-based assessment, involves using games-based tools to assess candidates for different competencies and personality traits. Over the last few years, a number of employers have adopted gamification in their recruitment processes. It's being used in a range of sectors such as engineering, law, IT and transport to name a few.

Unfortunately, this doesn't mean you'll be able to Pac-Man yourself straight into a graduate job. Games-based assessments are largely used in the early stages of the application process (usually instead of but sometimes alongside traditional psychometric testing) to gather data on the personality traits of candidates. You'll still be asked to complete other exercises later in the process, such as interviews and assessment centres.

Employers using gamification

Games-based assessment is being used in a number of sectors. It has been used by law firms such as Taylor Wessing, in IT and technology by Vodafone, in construction by Arcadis, in engineering by Shell, Siemens and Thales, in consumer goods by Unilever, and in transport and logistics by Network Rail.

Gamification can also be used before you even decide whether to apply to an employer. Deutsche Bank developed an interactive game that is designed to give interested students a feel for the culture of the organisation and whether they'd be a good fit to work there. Prospective candidates make their way through different scenarios they might encounter as graduate hires. They are then given feedback and a ranking.

Tips on how to handle games-based assessments

1. You don't need to be a pro gamer

If you're not a keen gamer and you're worried that it might put you at a disadvantage, fear not. We spoke with Robert Newry, managing director and co-founder of games-based psychometric test provider Arctic Shores, to talk about some of the games they produce.

'The games don't require any skill to complete. We've tried to make them as easy to play as rock, paper, scissors in terms of the level of ability needed to complete the challenges. Usually when people think of video games they think of the sophisticated console games, such as Call of Duty, which require practice and dexterity, but we aim for the simplicity of Candy Crush and Angry Birds to make sure everyone has an equal chance of performing well and that we are measuring personality, not skill.'

2. Take it seriously

Gamification may be an enjoyable and more relaxing way to undergo psychometric testing, but it's important that you don't treat it like a casual game of Temple Run on the bus. It's part of the assessment process for a very real job, so focus on what you're doing. Most importantly, these games are designed to assess you and only you. Don't let friends, siblings or anyone else play them in your place. They're as much about you ensuring that the employer you're applying to is a good fit for you as they are about the employer making sure you have the right skills for the job.

3. Play somewhere quiet

These games generally take around 25–30 minutes to complete, so make sure to play somewhere quiet with no distractions. They're designed to gauge who you are as a person and can assess up to 50 personality traits, so it's important that you provide as accurate a set of data as possible. It's no good trying to demonstrate your decisiveness if you're too engrossed in your favourite TV show in the background.

4. Read the instructions

As with any stage of the recruitment process, be sure to read the instructions carefully. Employers want your instinctive reactions to the scenarios you're presented with in these games and, because of that, it is highly unlikely that you'll get a second chance to play. You might even be assessed on your ability to follow complex instructions, so make sure you understand the rules before you start playing.

5. Graduate recruiters want you to be yourself

The recruiters want to know how you handle certain situations to see whether you possess the qualities necessary to carry out the role they're trying to fill. If you're second-guessing yourself and trying to demonstrate what you think they want to see, and not what you're actually like, your results will show your hesitation. You're not going to be told which traits are being assessed so be honest with yourself and tackle the scenarios as you would in any other situation.

6. No two games are the same

The games used by employers have either been designed specifically for that employer or have been adapted to assess particular traits important to them. So if a game looks similar to another you've played, perhaps for another job or just a game for entertainment purposes, treat it as a new experience and play it honestly, as what might have been assessed previously might not be assessed now.

7. Points don't always mean prizes

As with any game, there's usually a reward element to these assessments. This is a key component to gamification, whether it's being used in recruitment, brand awareness or task management; it's there to add to the enjoyment factor and make you feel more at ease with the tests being done. It is not the case that a high score equals a job. For example, if you're applying for a job that values caution over risk and you're taking risks to obtain more points, you'll get a high score, but it won't demonstrate that you possess the traits the employer is looking for.

Gamification: playing fair?

Sarah Harte, graduate talent manager at Taylor Wessing, explains that games can be used to provide additional information about applicants and can potentially make the whole process fairer. 'Historically, our graduate recruitment assessment process has been purely based on application form screening before the final round assessment centre stage, which allows students to demonstrate their motivation and connection to the firm. The idea is not to replace other methods of assessment, but rather to increase the amount of objective data in the process, at a time when other approaches such as "blind" recruitment are being used as a means to differentiate between candidates. By using game-based assessments there is the potential to reduce adverse impact in the selection process due to the fact that game-based assessments do not focus on experience or background.'

An alternative to gamification: job simulators and immersive assessments

Games-based assessments are still fairly new to recruitment, but they've already been joined by an alternative: job simulators and immersive assessments. These are used as part of a strengths-based recruitment process, which has been widely adopted by finance employers including Barclays, Deloitte and HSBC.

You'll usually be presented with a video of work-based scenarios and asked questions about how you'd respond. The idea is to focus less on your past performance and more on your future potential, what you are good at and how you prefer to work.

A twist on gamification: the virtual reality exercise

Virtual reality exercises at assessment centres have been explored by a select handful of employers, including Lloyds Banking Group and Police Now. A virtual reality exercise is similar to a situational judgement test and uses virtual reality technology to create an immersive and interactive environment in which graduates experience simulated scenarios and attempt to solve problems or complete challenges.

While more employers may consider this type of exercise in future, virtual reality headsets are not yet in widespread use in graduate recruitment. For the few early experimenters, virtual reality exercises look to be on pause for now while assessment centres are held online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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