Posted December 01, 2016 by

How recent college grads use gamification to stand out in the job search

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Employers are constantly looking for new ways to recruit and assess new talent and hires. The standard method of asking candidates to submit a resume and go through an interview process works for some employers – but not for others.

Because of that employers are now using gamification to recruit and assess recent college grads.

“Today’s employers face the challenge of recruiting and hiring recent college grads and Millennials, the largest generational demographic in the American workforce,” says 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. “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.”

When using “games” as a recruitment tool, employers are looking to assess problem solving, creative and critical thinking skills, says John Reed, senior executive director for Robert Half Technology. Although they are meant to be engaging and somewhat entertaining, recent college grads must treat these games as carefully as one would any actual professional assignment.

Large employers such as Google, Microsoft, Deloitte, PwC, Cisco, Domino’s Pizza, and Marriott International are among the many employers using gamification as part of their recruiting strategies.

“If you’re hoping to gain employment with the organization, you should take all gamification exercises seriously and remember that this is all part of the interview process,” says Reed. “Don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s a professional reflection of you and this is, most times, your first impression with hiring managers and you want to put your best work out there.”

Some colleges and universities are already introducing gamification to its students in hopes of better preparing them for the job search, and for real-life gamification-focused recruitment processes. Kaplan University uses gamification as a way to better prepare students and recent college graduates for the job market. Kaplan University has a main campus in Davenport, Iowa and headquarters in Chicago, and serves 42,000 online and campus-based students.

“Career Development doesn’t just happen, it’s an ongoing process of building skills and abilities and we’re utilizing gamification as a way to reinforce and reward career development with our students,” says Jennifer Lasaster, Vice President of Employer and Career Services at Kaplan University.

Kaplan University students are invited to participate in an internal CareerNetwork that was built with a video game developer and includes badges and quests for students who build and receive critiques on resumes and social media profiles, read field-related and career related articles, practice interviewing, review, and apply for jobs. Students are introduced to Kaplan’s CareerNetwork through classroom interactions and begin to accumulate points and badges throughout their time as a student, and can continue to do so after graduation.

The team at Kaplan has also built a feature for students to compete against each other in a resume showdown that will premier in 2017. In that scenario, Kaplan partners with an employer who shares a job description. Students are then encouraged to submit their resumes for that job. Five resumes are then selected for competition. Personal information is blocked out and the recruiter provides feedback to students on how and why one resume is declared the winner.

“This teaches students the importance of customizing their resume for each job, and that a quality job search is much more valuable than just taking one resume and sending it to various employers,” says Lasaster. “It’s also a great way for employers to receive resumes and feel like they are making a difference by teaching students what they need to do to apply for jobs at their company.”

“We’re using gamification as a way to better prepare our students for the real world,” added Lasaster.

The reality is, whether or not one is involved in a gamification-based recruiting process, recent college grads should still treat the job search like a game, says John-Paul Hatala, Ph.D., Director, Research and Development for SnagPad, a tool that enables career professionals and the job seekers they support to learn about and manage job search activity in a visual and strategic way.

“The most important challenge job seekers face today is conducting a strategic job search,” says Hatala. “In order to win this game, the idea is to think of it as going from step-to-step in the typical hiring cycle. The length of the cycle depends on the type of job/industry.”

For example, if a recent college grad is looking at an entry-level position, the cycle might be eight weeks until interview or job offer, says Hatala. So if a job seeker has applied to a job but hasn’t heard back in four weeks, move on to focus on the next opportunity.

“The more cycles you get involved in, the greater your chances of getting an interview or hired,” says Hatala. “This way you can stay realistic about your chances of a getting a particular job and move on to the next. This will help maintain a level of motivation that is necessary for a job search.”

Many projects that can be used during the gamification process are based on actual business issues or reflect what a new hires responsibilities will entail. Findlay points out two ways recent college grads can use gamification to their advantage in the recruiting process:

  1. Experience a “Real” Work Culture: Do you ever wish you could experience a company’s culture before you even take the time to apply for the position? Many companies are using simulations to allow prospects to live a week in the job. This not only allows the candidate to better understand the role and their job responsibilities, but helps sets realistic expectations about what they could expect in the position. That way if candidates don’t like the experience, they don’t have to apply, saving everyone time.
  2. Is this position for me? New college grads often think they are interested and qualified for one position when in reality, another type of position may be a better fit. Game simulations can be used to introduce candidates to positions that they may not have otherwise considered. This not only shows candidates the wide variety positions that could fit their skill set but gives applicants a realistic preview of what the work really looks.

“Use this opportunity to analyze the kinds of projects you’ll potentially be working on and be honest with yourself about whether or not these are aligned with your goals, strengths and desired career path,” says Reed. “While you should be presenting your best work, you should also evaluate whether or not the work is something you’d enjoy long term.”

While you’re the one being assessed for a role, this is also your chance to get deeper insights into the organization.

“Before you get to the in-person interview, the gamification process will let you choose whether or not you’d like to move forward with the process,” says Reed. “Take the time to get a feel for the culture and organizational goals of the company and use this opportunity to make a sound decision about next steps.”

Game on!

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