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How Games Help Southeast Asian Start-ups Hire and Keep Employees

3 reasons games are becoming popular as a recruitment tool

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BY Adelle Chua - 12 Oct 2016

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Companies have numerous ways of determining whether a candidate for a particular position would turn out to be an acceptable, if not good, employee. They look at the CV to see for the candidate’s educational and professional background. They conduct interviews. They call up references and conduct personality tests.

But psychologist Ron Friedman, quoted in an article at the World Economic Forum website, says that during an interview, employers fall into erroneous assumptions about a candidate based on their looks, their height, and even their voice.

Paul Rivera, CEO of job-matching site Kalibrr, also says a personality test may not that be scientific in itself. “The problem with personality tests is that when you know you are taking a personality test, you tend to answer the questions in such a way to shape what you perceive your personality to be.”

A fun alternative

Technology has enabled the development of other means to help assess a candidate’s fit for a particular position.

Imagine a game like Dashi Dash, where a player assumes the role of waiter reading the facial expressions of customers who walk into a restaurant. The waiter serves the customer a dish based on such moods -- the more customers one is able to serve within a given time period, the higher the score.

Dashi Dash is just one of several games by Knack, a startup founded by Israeli entrepreneur Guy Halfteck in Palo Alto, California. It is meant to draw out a person’s personality, special skills, thinking abilities and cognitive skills.

Other sites such as Pymetrics, set up by Frida Polli, uses brain games to measure things like attention to detail and risk tolerance. Yet another site, Roundpegg, asks users to select values that are most -- and least -- important to them, according to Yuki Noguchi of NPR.

The “gamification” of the recruitment process is a fairly new development in business. Empirical evidence of its effectiveness may have to wait a few years. Still, there are indications it can be a valuable tool as entrepreneurs build stronger, better teams. Here are three reasons why:

1. Games are spontaneous and engaging

Unlike stiff situational questionnaires common to personality tests, games are interactive and engaging. The method appeals to the youngest generation of employees, the millennials. One easily forgets that one is being evaluated.

Other games offered by knack include Words of Wisdom, Balloon Brigade, Meta Maze and Bomba Blitz. This ease fosters spontaneity and makes it difficult for candidates to fake a trait or profile. “We don’t know ourselves as well as we think we do,” Halfteck says.

2. Games are backed by science

Halfteck says Knack’s games are a combination of big data and behavioral science. As one plays, data points are collected and made sense of using algorithms, leading to conclusions about how the player thinks and works.

The Economist says that the games are designed to test cognitive skills that employers might want -- from emotional intelligence, pattern recognition, risk appetite and adaptability to changing situations.

3. Games benefit not just employers but employees, too

Games also tell employees whether the job they are in optimizes their talents and inclinations. “When [employees] are required to function in a way that’s really misaligned with [their] wiring, it becomes exhausting and over time we tend to not want to do it,” says psychologist and Roundpegg founder Natalie Baumgartner.

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