Recruiting Gen Z: ‘Like Tinder, but instead of a date you get a job’

We’re a nation glued to our smartphones, according to a 2015 Ofcom report. Sixteen- to 24-year-olds are the biggest user group – 90% of them own one and look at it 387 times each day on average. It’s clear that if recruiters are searching for a young, captive audience from which to source talent, they should be thinking mobile.

And they are. Software companies are seeing growing demand from employers looking for gamified recruitment apps. Whether companies are seeking greater diversity or bubbly shop assistants, there’s much in this new breed of digital tools to attract businesses. But what are the benefits for job hunters?

A new kind of job hunting

Speed and convenience top the list for university students. Umar Hameed, a 21-year-old Manchester Metropolitan student studying computer and network technology, recently downloaded careers app Debut. The app offers both a talent spotting tool (where jobseekers fill out profiles for employers to browse through) and a number of company specific games, which help employers whittle down potential hires according to their scores. Its clients include Vodafone and L’Oreal.

Hameed downloaded Debut in preparation for graduating next year. He says: “It saves a lot of time. This time last year, I was just blanket applying [for sandwich year placements] and I wasn’t getting anything back. I had to keep doing separate, tailored CVs and cover letters.”

Job seekers spend around five minutes filling out Debut’s talent spot profile, including their university and course, skills (such as a second language) and ethnicity. It even drills down to details such as whether they went to a state school and if their parents went to university. This might not sit right with all applicants (after all, most would rather be picked for their achievements rather than for a background that fulfils diversity requirements) but it could give less privileged job hunters some advantage. Recruiters are also increasingly looking for an efficient way to reach students at lesser known universities.

Debut’s founder, Charlie Taylor, 26, worked as a consultant at Ernst Young after university. He says his own experience of job hunting showed him the inefficiency of graduate recruitment methods. “I could see how alien the experience was compared to what students were doing in [the rest of] our lives. We had all these fantastic concepts that were available at the tap of a finger – dating, ordering food, ordering taxis.” Yet there was nothing similar available for recruitment.

The rigmarole of assessment centres, in particular, irked him. “They were asking qualitative interview questions and [assessing the answers] on a quantitative scale.” Debut can help job hunters skip this long-winded process. Some of its games offer internships as a prize, with the top scorers fast-tracked through the application process.

Desperately seeking gamers

Established gaming companies have also been approached by employers to develop recruitment games. Phil Stuart founded his company, Preloaded, 16 years ago. Its focus is the use of gaming in education, but in the last 18 months or so it has been developing a recruitment app for a big fashion retailer. The app allows players to take on the virtual duties of a shop assistant. Adept players will then be encouraged to apply for a job at the company.

Mario Herger is CEO of the Enterprise Gamification Consultancy in California, where he advises businesses how they can use gaming for training, recruitment and to engage customers. He’s seen many different approaches to recruitment games, but the day-in-the-life format is a common one. French bank BNP Paribas invited jobseekers to play a day as a banker, while the French postal service asked potential recruits to test out their suitability as a virtual postman, including adapting to the job’s early mornings.

As well as helping candidates decide whether they are suited to a vocation, recruitment games could help redress an employee gender imbalance in some industries. Herger points out that it’s no longer true that most gamers are men. And the male gamers stereotype is particularly outdated in the realm of mobile gaming.

Herger adds that simple games can also be effective for helping young people find a job that matches their talents – the UK’s intelligence organisation GCHQ, for example, challenged aspiring spies to crack a code.

A new spin on traditional methods

Other successful formats have adapted more traditional hiring practices. Arctic Shores created three gaming apps that incorporate psychometric testing. As the player navigates a spaceship through space, the game collects data on how they respond to different problems. This aims to gauge a candidate’s character and test how well they would fit into an existing team.

UK academics are starting to research this new approach to recruitment. A research project on gamification in human resources, run by Brighton University business school, found that “gamification of recruitment and selection with ‘quests’ and challenges may be an ideal way in which you [recruiters] can identify, appeal to and acquire the talent you are seeking”.

There are also a few companies helping jobseekers to speed up the application process simply by filling in a profile, rather than sending out CVs. Job Today, for example, asks candidates to spend five minutes completing a profile that they can then use to apply for jobs listed on the app. Recruiters are encouraged to respond within 24 hours.

Dein Moore, 25, found work as an event coordinator using Job Today, and later joined the company’s social media and sales team. He discovered the app through an advert on Instagram and says he was happy to share his data and photo on the app as he’s so used to that on social media. “It is a bit like Tinder – you swipe right and instead of getting a date, you get a job.”

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