Work & performance

November 14 2017

How computer games are revolutionising recruitment

By Australian Psychological Society

Swapping traditional psychometric tests for game-based assessments has the potential to provide more accurate measures of cognitive ability – and increase the fun factor. 

Traditional psychometric tests that employers use to assess your suitability for a job haven’t changed much in the past 50 years – until now. Multiple-choice tests of old that distinguish right from wrong and not much else are being replaced by a new generation of game-based assessments – computer games – that are a lot less stressful for candidates and much more accurate for employers. It might sound like a little too much fun for the workplace, but psychologists say that’s exactly why gamification is the future of recruitment.

From print to digital

Instead of completing a question-and-answer-based psychometric test as part of the interview process, a growing number of companies have gone digital, requiring prospective employees to play computer games that measure mental agility and speed, attention, spatial aptitude, verbal knowledge and numerical processing ability. Among those companies  reported to have adopted this approach are Deloitte, Uber and Unilever.

“We recognised that traditional paper-based assessments hadn’t changed very much over the years even though we’re seeing so much improvement, innovation and change in technology,” says Revelian’s head of psychology, Jason Blaik MAPS.

Revelian, a consultancy which was a finalist in the Workplace Excellence Awards, has developed two game-based assessment tools that it says are revolutionising the way businesses hire new employees. In Theme Park Hero, which takes 10 minutes to complete, each candidate takes on the role of park manager and is charged with responsibilities like planning and constructing a new water park attraction, calculating the values of various token combinations and fixing a broken rollercoaster.

“Research shows that cognitive ability is a very well-established trait that has strong predictive power in job performance, so we developed games that would tap into a variety of cognitive abilities.”

In Cognify, candidates solve puzzle-based problems under time pressure. These include assembling Tetris-like grids, finding spelling and grammatical errors, and identifying numbers that add up to a target figure.

Less stress and greater accuracy

Blaik says game-based assessment tools like Cognify and Theme Park Hero have the potential to provide more accurate measures of cognitive ability than traditional tools because they’re less stressful to complete and provide a richer insight into candidates’ strengths and abilities.

“People are almost in flow, so rather than tapping into someone’s cognitive ability plus levels of anxiety or stress because they’re doing a test, they’re playing a game and that feeling of anxiety and stress is lessened, so you’re getting greater focus and less noise in assessing underlying traits,” he says.

Surveys by Revelian reveal that 70 per cent of candidates prefer game-based tests to other employment assessments, mostly because the experience is fun, engaging and less stressful as an ordinary test.

“What’s more, in a traditional measure of cognitive ability, employers only receive a limited amount of information, such as whether an answer was correct or incorrect,” says Blaik.

“With Theme Park Hero, for example, we’re capturing more than 10,000 specific data points from each candidate in 10 minutes. A lot of that data is probably not relevant, but there’s also a lot that is, and we’re using that to assess an individual’s level of cognitive ability.”

Everyone can play

Because games measure cognitive aptitude, they can be useful across virtually all industries and positions. Blaik says Cognify is especially popular among accounting, finance, engineering, IT, marketing and manufacturing firms.

And the best part is,everyone from experienced gamers to luddites can play on equal terms.

“The games we’ve developed are very easy to play,” Blaik says. “All you need is a mouse and to be comfortable with the mouse to play the games – there are no game consoles. We’ve also built sophisticated tutorials that you can practice an unlimited number of times before you begin the games.”

Unsurprisingly, Blaik says the shift from print to digital is set to continue. This year, more of Revelian’s clients chose game-based assessments over traditional measures of cognitive ability for the first time in the company’s history. Everyone from large consulting firms to small companies that prefer candidates play the games at home is switching to game-based recruitment.

In the future, Blaik says the company hopes to build games that measure a greater range of psychological constructs like personality and emotional intelligence. “These games are really only in their infancy – we’re scratching the surface of what they can do,” he says.