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Richard Justenhoven

cut-e Group

Product Director

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What distinguishes good gamification from bad?


There’s an ongoing debate in the recruitment industry about the relative merits of gamified assessments versus game-based assessments. Which comes out as the winner?

Impartial recruiters may be perplexed and amused to see the providers of these resources locking horns over this. Actually, this pantomime wrangling is merely a sideshow. The real issue that should be under the spotlight is what attributes of gamification actually make assessment effective.

Fundamentally, a gamified assessment is a proven psychometric assessment that has been enhanced with ‘game-style’ elements, to make it more engaging for candidates. A game-based assessment is a purpose-built game which psychometrically assesses candidates by the way they play the game.

Both of these resources are trying to satisfy candidates and recruiters: candidates want an engaging assessment experience that will hold their attention, while recruiters want a rigorous, objective and evidence-based tool that will help them identify individuals in their applicant pool who match the requirements of the role.

If you’re considering a gamified or game-based assessment, the first question to ask is: what are its underpinning psychometric properties?

Arguably, the real distinction between gamified assessments and game-based assessments is the starting point. A gamified assessment is an ‘assessment’ that’s primarily designed to satisfy recruiters; it meets their needs but it has then been built to appeal to candidates. A game-based assessment is a ‘game’ that is primarily designed to satisfy candidates; it meets their needs but it has been built to provide insights to recruiters.

Of course, any selection tool has to appeal to both audiences. Ultimately, it’s a question of whether you want something that meets the recruiter’s criteria first and can then be adapted to meet the candidate’s criteria as much as possible – or the other way around.

Two key questions

If you’re considering a gamified or game-based assessment, the first question to ask is: what are its underpinning psychometric properties? Look for genuine proof that the tool will actually predict performance in the role and measure what it claims to assess.

Detailed, validated evidence will be critical here. Once you’re satisfied that the tool will meet your recruitment needs, the second question is: how appealing will this really be for candidates?

A new research study sheds light on what is – and isn’t – engaging when it comes to gamification. At cut-e, we asked 540 international millennial job applicants for their perceptions of this. We were interested in what aspects of gamification can and should be included to enhance the assessment experience.

Knowing which elements of gamification are engaging – and which are not – gives you an important advantage.

The participants universally agreed that game-style elements were engaging and that they helped to hold their attention. However, the study highlighted that when assessments are ‘too gamey’, candidates perceive them as unprofessional.

Certain game-style elements were very positively perceived. For example, the participants liked completing designated challenges that would unlock different levels and enable them to progress. They liked receiving immediate feedback and the fact that the assessments were interactive and challenging.

However, one aspect that was clearly a concern for the participants was the design and visual appeal of the tool. Anything that was identified too strongly as a game was deemed to be inappropriate and unprofessional.

The participants didn’t like sound effects, such as button-click sounds or background music, nor did they like ‘dissolves’ or other fancy transitions from one section to another. They showed a clear preference for an assessment that enables them to ‘feel’ that they are being taken seriously as a candidate.

Don’t overdo the gamification

The conclusion here is that gamification elements can increase the assessment experience for millennials … up to a point. But beyond a certain threshold, the benefits tail off. If there is too much gamification – or if you include the wrong kind of gamification – candidates start to tune out.

This lesson has been learned in other areas of business, for example when creating PowerPoint presentations. Budding presenters soon discover that they should avoid the cheesy elements that will annoy or distract their audience.

The same principle applies when choosing an assessment. Knowing which elements of gamification are engaging – and which are not – gives you an important advantage. It helps to ensure that your assessments will not only satisfy your recruitment needs, but also fully meet the needs of your candidates too.

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Richard Justenhoven

Product Director

Read more from Richard Justenhoven