Advice for Employers and Recruiters

How employers are using gamification to recruit recent college grads

Matt Krumrie AvatarMatt Krumrie
November 29, 2016

The movie the Internship used gamification to recruit new team members

The movie the Internship used gamification to recruit and hire new team members.

Google. Microsoft. Deloitte. PwC. Cisco. Domino’s Pizza. Marriott International.

Those are just some of the employers using gamification in recruiting. What is gamification?

According to, Gamification is the concept which uses game theory, mechanics and game designs to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals. According to this Society of Human Resources Management article, “Recruiting experts say gamification can stir people’s interest in job openings, project an innovative image of an employer, and deliver accurate previews of applicants’ future job performance.”

John Findlay, co-founder of Launchfire, a digital engagement shop that turns boring content and mandatory training materials into a fun, easy-to-digest, game-based learning experience, agrees. Recent college grads are a tech-focused generation and the use of mobile, video, virtual reality and gamification go a long way in recruiting and assessing recent college grads and entry-level job seekers, he says.

“Today’s employers face the challenge of recruiting and hiring recent college grads and Millennials, the largest generational demographic in the American workforce,” said Findlay. “Many companies are finding that using game-based learning and gamification, which integrate points, badges, competition and role-playing, can be used to effectively attract and assess candidates.”

Gamification in recruiting came on fast and furious, said David Kirk Chief Revenue Officer of CloudApps, a behavioral motivation and predictive data analysis consultancy and solutions provider.

“It was all the rage, especially in the IT industry, where technical skills change fast and traditional resumes don’t always tell the depth of job seekers skills,” says Kirk.

Gamification is commonly used in IT. Want to recruit a top coder? Run a competition to find them, says Kirk.  But it’s also being used in many other industries, like hospitality. Marriott International created a recruiting game to attract Millennials called My Marriott Hotel. This game was delivered through Facebook, and according to the SHRM, allows candidates to experience what it’s like to manage a hotel restaurant kitchen before moving on to other areas of hotel operations. Players create their own virtual restaurant, where they buy equipment and ingredients on a budget, hire and train employees, and serve guests. Participants earn points for happy customers and lose points for poor service. They also are rewarded when their operation turns a profit. 

What are some additional examples of how companies can use gamification to recruit recent college graduates? Findlay elaborates below:

Winner Gets the Job: Everyone loves a little competition. Host a competition between candidates where the winner gets the job. Let’s say, for example, a company is hiring a software developer and looking to test candidates on how they would research, design, program, and test a new utility software. “Give them the problem and through a series of simulations, candidates answer questions, go through mock situations and use empirical probability to make decisions,” says Findlay. The graphics replicate real-life situations in the company’s environment. The candidates with the highest level of success are the top candidates to consider for the position.

Scenario-Based Learning: Scenario-based recruiting is a trend Findlay expects to see grow in the future. Companies use real-life work scenarios to help a candidate experience what it’s like in a role, giving the employer a glimpse of the value – and personality – they bring to the position/company. Do they have the skills and do they fit the company culture? This is also an opportunity for the candidate to determine if the employer/job is a right fit.

Problem-Solving: Many organizations are using virtual scenarios to test how candidates would handle specific problems or difficult situations. For example, a professional services firm could see how a candidate responds to missing a tax deadline, or the hospitality industry could see how a candidate reacts to a food recall.

Virtual Stores: Many organizations are creating virtual stores. For example, if you are a retail organization and hiring store managers, ask the candidate to prove their skills by buying products on a budget, managing inventory, hiring and training employees, and serving guests. Participants earn points for selling merchandise and managing it correctly, and keeping customers happy. Participants lose points for poor service or missing opportunities. They also are rewarded when their store turns a profit. “This lets employers test how effective candidates would be at the job before they hire them,” says Findlay.

Referrals: Because word-of-mouth is so important to recent college graduates, many companies are creating employee referral programs. These programs use gaming tools within an intranet or employee online platform that give employees badges, points or other rewards for successful referrals.

Employers – and recruiters – who use gamification are most successful when they focus on the journey – and not just the final results.

“Focus on their behaviors that delivered the result, not just the result,” says Kirk. “For example, in a coding competition, don’t just measure if the code works. Look at how it was built, stress test it, scale it. Focus the approach on roles where you have competitive staff. During the interview process make the competitive aspect transparent to them. Let them know what today’s high score is and how far off they are from achieving it.”

Gamification is unique, and still an innovative way to recruit recent college grads. To maximize potential, employers need to be clear about the role gamification plays in the recruiting and hiring process.

“The use of gamification goes beyond just the recruitment process and can get into the day-to-day running of the business,” says Kirk. “It’s a journey, not a destination.”

Want more information on how employers are using gamification in recruiting, and tips and insight on other hot recruiting topics?  Follow us on TwitterLinkedInFacebook, and YouTube.

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