Human Capital Management
Gamifying Recruitment

It’s All in the Game

Ronnie Toerien,
HCM Sales Development & Strategy Leader, Africa @RonnieToerien


Games could be a useful tool for organisations looking to fill their skills gap

How do you recruit good people these days?  

 One approach that is gaining traction with a number of businesses is to gamify the recruitment process. 

It’s not a trite question. We’re all well aware of the skills shortages that make recruiting good people difficult. Just this morning, to put some stark reality onto that statement I checked the jobs available at Amazon. Worldwide there are 3,900 vacancies in Amazon Web services, 4,800 in software development.

I don’t know whether all these posts have a perfect fit out there somewhere, but I am increasingly convinced that traditional recruitment methods aren’t the only way for technology companies to find the best match.

To be fair, I’m not saying anything radical. We’ve already seen companies build on traditional methods of recruitment. While the well-worn written job advertisement remains a key recruitment tool, organisations are also branching out and paying more attention to recommendations from co-workers and to the candidates they can reach out via social media.

One approach that is gaining traction with a number of businesses is to gamify the recruitment process.  

It is quite clear that gamification works very well in some areas. In the past few years, millions of us have begun working each day to earn virtual badges in exchange for walking 10,000 steps, so that this is now the new normal. But does gamification for recruitment have the same possibilities it does for wellbeing?

One firm that continues to test this theory is Uber. The company has just launched ‘Code on the Road’, an in-app coding based game that riders can play while on a journey, and which invites them to fill out a job application if they can complete three coding challenges in 60 seconds. The game has only been released in cities with a large tech workforce for now, which is clearly a way for Uber to target its recruitment efforts.

Uber has taken my attention before for similar reasons. Last year it released UberDRIVE, a game in which players could ‘drive’ people round a virtual city, with high scoring ‘drivers’ invited to join Uber for real. I said then that finding new ways to engage talented people was a priority for HR teams, and over the past year the search for skilled workers has only intensified.

Gamification in HR isn’t new. For the past few years, the Knack app has been matching people to opportunities by asking candidates to play games while using algorithms to identify their characteristics based on the decisions they make within a game. According to the Wall Street Journal more than 200 employers currently use Knack.

Does all this mean traditional recruitment is on its last legs? Of course not. However, gamification can certainly add to the process.

HR teams have been aware for a very long time that the person who interviews best might not be the best fit for a role, that CVs are only part of the ‘talent story’, and that traditional methods of publicizing job openings don’t necessarily reach the richest seams of talent. 

It therefore seems sensible that gamification gets some of its early outings as a recruitment tool to fill tech-heavy posts, which is why Uber’s move is so intriguing. There’s no denying the talent deficit in the IT sector, nor that the success of today’s digital companies will hinge on their ability to engage a large pool of technically adept talent as they continue to grow.  

There are certainly other applications as well. As companies like Knack have shown, gamified recruitment has already proven valuable outside the tech sector too. And even if it remains a fringe approach for the time-being, HR decision-markets might be well advised to pay close attention to how recruitment through gaming evolves in the coming years.