Gamification and Hiring: Level Up Your Candidate Engagement


Gamification is one of those buzzwords that just won’t buzz off. Like the selfie and having an app for that, gamification is here to stay for the simple reason that people like it and respond to it.

People like to play games and, whether you’re into Tetris, Basketball, or Call of Duty, there has probably been a time when you played (or watched someone play) for much longer than you realized. Playing games is an immersive experience, and considering that the mobile games industry has generated 35 billion this year, gaming popularity only seems to be increasing.

Enter gamification.

Gamification is defined as, “the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g., point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service.”

You’ve probably seen this in action in the marketing sense (it’s hard to find a new movie that comes out without a corresponding video game these days) but the natural knack for games to enthrall their players, combined with the increasing popularity of gaming, has made gamification a powerful tool for driving engagement in the working world.

Gamification in Business

Enterprise level companies like Philips, Adobe and IBM are already using gamification programs like BadgeVille and BunchBall to engage their employees and motivate them to greater heights of skill, satisfaction and productivity.

These programs use gamification elements (rewards, graphical progress representation, competitions, etc. ) in the context of work, and pair with programs like SalesForce to motivate greater engagement in that program.

These programs also offer employees a way to see their progress in real time and to have a clear snapshot of their performance.

Gamification in Recruiting

Using games and elements of games to attract and engage talent isn’t anything new, but today’s tools are offering the best results to date.

Just take the example of global financial consulting firm PWC.

They created a Facebook game that shows students what it’s like to work at their company over a 12 day period. The game asks students to complete tasks based on the real work done by PWC employees, while getting feedback from coaches within the company.

According to Noemi Biro, PWC’s recruitment leader in Budapest, “The game was initially designed to boost employer branding, but today the tool is more focused on improving the selection practices for both the company and prospective hires. It provides insight into the audit and consulting profession in a fun way and builds engagement. It’s also compatible with younger generations’ need for social media, networking, quick information search and developing themselves through the Internet.”

According to Biro, 78% of students surveyed over a four year period said they wanted to work for PWC after playing the game. 92% said they had a more positive view of the firm.

Level up Your Hiring

Clearly, gamification can have a large, positive impact on a company’s recruitment efforts, but you don’t have to create an actual video game to reap the benefits of this trend. Getting greater engagement from candidates, depends on integrating game elements into your recruitment process in a way that feels organic and fun.

The gamification industry is booming (projected to reach 5,500 billion by 2018) and there are a lot of options out there for software services that support gamification for a variety of business management functions. As gamification and game creation technologies improve, we can expect to see widespread adoption of gamification for many different industries.

Whether that sounds like a dream come true or a nightmare, there’s no denying the engaging effect that game elements can have on people. Let’s look at some of the ways that you can use gamifcation to level up your company’s hiring and get more engagement from candidates in the selection process.

Gamification and Candidate Selection

“Is this some sort of game to you?” is not what you want to hear from your candidates.

Applying for a job can already feel like a game that you can’t win, so any game elements introduced into candidate selection need to be developed enough to be a legitimate selection and screening tool.

For this reason, we think it’s best to limit gamification in candidate selection to online tests and rewarding applicants for engaging in the selection process. Game elements can still be used to motivate candidates in the selection process and attract candidate interest, but these elements should not have any baring on your ultimate choice for the job.

That being said, incorporating game elements into the candidate experience can help to drive engagement in the application process and build favor with your brand.

Here are some of the gamification strategies that you can use to level up your hiring:

Online Skill Tests

Online skill tests and quizzes are a great way to screen out under-qualified candidates. As long as you are asking questions that accurately test for skills and competencies, gamification can automate the initial candidate screen and add game elements to the application experience.

The only catch is that your test can’t be too time consuming. Many of your candidates are already employed, and asking someone to take time out of their day to complete a long, complicated test may not generate the interest you’re hoping for.

Keep in mind that 60% of candidates have quit an application process because it “took too long,” so you need to strike a balance between effective and engaging testing. It’s always best to err on the side of effective testing, since the point of your gamification is to bring more talent into your company. Having a higher barrier to entry may mean less candidates, but these candidates have a greater chance of being the highly skilled hire that you’re looking for.

Completing a programming quiz might not sound like a great way to spend your lunch break, but offering rewards for the successful completion of quizzes or applications can be a good way to motivate candidates. Whether they are entered into a raffle or are sent company products for reaching the interview stage, adding reward elements to moving through the application process is a great way do drive candidate engagement in online skill tests and in the application process in general.


If you decide to take a feather out of PWC’s hat and create a game to simulate working for your company, you’d better be sure that this game is engaging and appealing. If the game is boring, buggy or baffling, then you’ve just wasted a good deal of time and money giving people a bad experience with your brand.

As technology improves, creating a game will become less of an investment and more companies will have access to this type of content creation.

If you do have the resources to create an online game, make sure that the purpose of game is clear. If it is a simulation of the work done at your company, then the experience of playing must actually resemble the experience of working or the real work being done.

Consumer expectations for video games are very high. In order for your simulation game to be a candidate magnet (instead of candidate repellent), it must be smooth, engaging and educational.

Here’s what any work simulation game needs to provide to players:

  1. Provides information about your brand and company.
  2. Provides entertainment or value to the user.
  3. Provides a positive experience with your brand.

Just like any other piece of content, a work simulation game needs to catch the attention of your target audience and then it needs to provide them with value. You need to strike a balance between education and entertainment, but you should always err on the professional side when creating a simulation game. The last thing that you want is for candidates to get mixed messages from your game or false impressions about the way that work is done at your company.


Contests are a great way to attract the interest of the best and brightest in your industry. The extent of the contest you can hold will depend on your company’s resources and reach, but, no matter what your company’s size, creating a cool contest is a powerful talent magnet. You may not have the same market share as your competitors, but you can still steal some of the best minds in your industry if your contest inspires them.

Google’s code jam is a perfect example of the power of contests. Each year, Google invites the greatest coding talent from around the world to compete for a $15,000 prize and the honor of being crowned Code Jam World Champion. This gives Google access to talent worldwide and puts them into contact with a range of candidates that they could not otherwise reach. Considering that this year’s winner was an 18 year old from Belarus, it just goes to show the pull that contests can have on the technically minded.

You may not have the brand recognition of the biggest search engine on earth, but you can still attract high quality candidates by creating a contest and promoting it through your company’s social media profiles.

In order to come up with a truly engaging contest, however, it is always best to consult with employees who hold similar positions to the one you’re hiring for. Consulting with employees for their technical know-how will ensure that your contest is engaging to highly skilled candidates, which is essential for this to work.

It is also essential that you have a nice prize to offer the winner of the contest. An exciting contest is one thing, but offering some of your company’s best products, gift cards or tickets to see your city’s baseball team will push a greater number of candidates into competing. Your prize can be as extravagant as your budget will allow, but it should be the content of the contest itself that is your main selling point.

For instance, if you were looking for a web designer with some graphic design skills, you could hold a contest to re-design your company’s logo or web-page and offer a new drawing tablet to the winner. For this contest, both the challenge and the prize are targeted toward the candidate that you want to attract. The contest itself appeals to a candidate who has the confidence to re-design an established brand and the prize appeals to most anyone who does the sort of work that you need done.

If you can create an engaging contest idea, and effectively promote this contest through your social media profiles, you can generate an ever large following of candidates and develop a reputation for ingenuity with the pros in your industry.

Referral Program

Last but not least, gamification can be a huge help with getting better results from your referral program.

The success of any individual referral campaign depends on the level of employee participation, which makes gamification a natural companion for this candidate source. You may already have a referral program in place and you may already reward your employees for referrals that result in hires, but gamification takes your program to the next level.

Adding a theme and the element of competition to your referral campaign is a fun way to engage your employees in providing you with some great referrals.

For example, instead of asking employees for boring old referrals, ask them to participate in the “Race for Referrals,” an intensive, racing-themed candidate sourcing game that rewards players for fast referrals and (of course) referrals that result in hires. Adding rules like “Referrals provided in the first week are worth +1 point” will motivate your employees to connect you with their most skilled contacts as quickly as they can.

By adding prizes and themes to your referral program and encouraging competition between your employees, you can use gamification to drive engagement in your referral program.

Short and Sweet

Gamification can drive candidate and employee engagement, but only if your game elements are well… engaging.

If your game elements aren’t accurately targeting the talent you’re trying to reach, then you aren’t going to get the results that you want. But, as long as your game elements promote competition and offer a rewarding, engaging experience, you can use gamification to your advantage in the hiring process.






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