Using gamification in a recruitment strategy

Gamification personalises, humanises and adds fun to the recruitment process and, in doing so, encourages candidates to engage with your organisation. However, its use is often misunderstood
November 2014 | By Sue Weekes


Gamification personalises, humanises and adds fun to the recruitment process and, in doing so, encourages candidates to engage with your organisation. However, its use is often misunderstood

Why you need to explore the use of gamification

Gamification refers to the use of game theory, mechanics and design in non-game situations and environments. The term started to be bandied around in business circles several years ago and the analyst Gartner claims that organisations aggressively adopting gamification have multiple gamified solutions in place to support different business areas. 

Recruitment was quick to latch on to it as a buzzword. However, Matt Jeffery, SAP vice president, global head of sourcing and employment brand, HR talent acquisition, believes gamification is still widely misunderstood. “People rushed in and thought it was about adding a game to the recruitment process, which wasn’t quite right,” he said, describing gamification as one of the most powerful tools in talent acquisition today. 

“What we are really talking about are the dynamics of engagement. A great computer game ingrains itself into the consciousness and subconscious of the player to make them have one more play. We need to take that philosophy and work out how we can apply it in recruitment.”

Embed and engage

Build gamification into a number of candidate touchpoints and exploit its use to inspire engagement with, for example, social media channels and careers sites. “People want to have fun, they want to comment, share, like and rate and want to know what other people are doing,” said Jeffery. “Make sure your content is simple, interactive, stimulating and entertaining and uses the principles of gamification.” Opinion polls, candidate surveys and page ratings can all be used to increase the impact and interaction, while league tables and leaderboards ensure an element of competition.

Lose the gimmicky image 

Gamification had a high level of novelty value when it first appeared. While this helped to get it noticed, Richard Hamilton, marketing director of Guru Careers, said many companies find it hard to maintain long-term engagement after the initial enthusiasm wears away. Recruiters need to ensure it has champions across the organisation. “Outside-the-box ideas need to achieve a strong level of buy-in from people across the company so ensure they understand the benefits first hand,” he explained.

Tell great real-world stories

Games draw the player in and feature characters that the player identifies with. Applying this in a recruitment context means letting employees tell their stories. “It’s an authentic point of view. People then think, ‘I like those people, they are like me and I’d like to join the company’,” said Jeffery, who adds that the mistake some companies make is to “broadcast” what they see as their selling points to potential candidates. “They say ‘look at us, we’re a great place to work’ or ‘look at how great our results are’. But they don’t engage, listen or join the real conversation.”

Build in targets 

Gamification strategies must have targets built into them and the candidate must be encouraged to meet them. Matt Lasky, creative team leader at recruitment marketing and digital branding company 4MAT, believes LinkedIn is the master of this: “When you go onto your LinkedIn profile you have a profile strength bar on it. You’re constantly being encouraged to reach a new goal and improve your profile strength by performing different tasks to provide them with better quality information about you.” 

Look beyond recruitment

Gamification can be applied across the employee lifecycle and HR is recognising how it can be used in areas such as performance management, engagement and development. Share ideas and knowledge with colleagues but also look at more holistic strategies. Lasky explained that progressive corporate HR departments are already thinking about gamification from a strategic point of view, while Hamilton added that there were a number of software companies producing “cool apps” centred on the broader HR environment.

Gamify your referral schemes 

Many recruiters and employers have referral schemes linked to reward but Lasky believes gamification can increase their effectiveness: “I have recently implemented a gamification version of a referral scheme and this works by receiving points every time you refer someone, and if that person gets an interview you get more points.” 

Consider your metrics

Many elements that can be used in gamification are trackable such as likes and shares and leagues and leaderboards but it’s vital to understand what you want to measure. “Is it about creating buzz and brand awareness and driving traffic? But is it also about encouraging people to go through to the career sites and explore opportunities offered by the company?” said Jeffery. “It is important to have clear goals about what you are measuring.”

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