When Raghu Patel applied for a position in sales at an insurance firm in Mumbai, he was nervous. ‘I was worried about the interview because I stutter when I’m anxious, sometimes, and it doesn’t create a good first impression,’ says the 23-year-old. Little did he think that the application process might actually be fun. ‘First, I had to answer a few basic questions on the phone. The next step involved playing a game, where I scored points based on my answers,’ says Patel, who is still hoping he made the cut. A lot was riding on the job for the young man, who is the oldest of three siblings but, at least for the duration of the game, he says, ‘I was not stressed at all. There was a leaderboard, so all of us who had applied for the job knew we were competing, but that just made it more exciting.’
Callify, a Goregaon-based company that provides artificial intelligence solutions to address talent recruitment challenges, has been facilitating processes like these since 2018. Chetan Indap, founder, Callify, shares that the company’s services extend from pre-screening right through recruitment to retirement. They use AI, NLP or natural language processing, and automated phone interactions to match clients’ requirements.
It’s a trend that has been heating up in the West for over a decade. Organisations like IBM and Marriott Hotels had introduced gaming into their recruitment processes as far back as 2013, or so. But video games are now being used by a larger variety of industries to test, train and engage recruits. In part, this is because when career fairs turned virtual, during the pandemic, the value of the contactless approach was amplified.
How to win a job
Asset management organisations and wealth advisories have now started testing candidates with games that involve stock-picking contests, for instance. In Shell Oil’s new assessment games for new graduate positions, on the other hand, candidates are ranked on their ability to memorise numbers and letters in sequence, match shapes to images displayed for a few seconds, and solve picture puzzles. Candidates are also required to answer simple questions about themselves along the lines of personality quizzes in pop culture magazines.
Aside from making the recruitment process less intimidating, as Raghu Patel found, these games, which sometimes incorporate creative elements like game show themes and formats, make processes like testing and training far more immersive and engaging. In India, QuoDeck Technologies, founded by former bankers, Kamalika Bhattacharya and her husband Arijit Lahiri, is among the companies leading the charge in this space. Bhattacharya and Lahiri turned their passion for gaming into a business in 2017, pivoting from developing award-winning board games to developing a SaaS platform for gamified mobile-based learning – and their clients already include Britannia, Unilever, Axis Bank and Flipkart, to name a few. Although most Indian companies are yet to understand that games are more than just a means to engage customers and build brand loyalty (through rewards), QuoDeck’s clientele does include a few who turned to them to develop custom gamified content modules for HR processes – games that provide insight about recruits right from pre-screening and induction to employee training.
‘A dedicated project manager is assigned to each case,’ says Harshada Gaonkar, a copywriter at QuoDeck. ‘Our company develops hyper-casual games – easy-to-play games have minimalistic interfaces – along the lines of games like Temple Run and Candy Crush,’ she adds. ‘Recruits are tested and trained through games like Balloon Burst and Corporate Ladder, which are customised to suit client requirements,’ says Gaonkar. ‘For example, if you want to hire a writer and want to check the grammar or vocabulary proficiency of applicants, a game will be designed to achieve this. Candidates can check how they’re faring in comparison to others on a leaderboard, so the games also encourage healthy competition,’ she says.
While the experience improves employee experience from their very first interactions with the company, for companies investing in games, the benefits go beyond candidate/employee engagement. In her testimonial for American company Knack, Mahafrid Billimoria, who is now VP, talent management and employee engagement, for the Tata Group-owned The Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL), says, ‘It’s [Knack’s] gamified neuroscience technology has ably boosted our hiring process by helping us gauge the hidden leadership potential of candidates. It has been instrumental in identifying young, high potential talent poised to become the future leaders of the Tata Group.’
Knack, which has developed for the likes of Coca Cola, Max Mara, L’oreal, and India’s National Skill Development Corporation, among a long list of clients, has – for 12 years now – been combining games, science, and machine-intelligent data analytics to transform the way in which companies attract, engage and train talent. In Wasabi Waiter, one of the first games the company developed, players must match the mood of patrons at a sushi restaurant with a dish. They must also empty dishes into a sink, and quickly attend to new customers – and they must do it all within a time limit. Using special algorithms, data collected through the process helps rank players on things like empathy and critical thinking.
Leadsquared, which provides end-to-end sales, marketing, and onboarding automation solutions, is all geared up to introduce game-based training modules in the next few weeks, says Abhilash Krishnan, senior product trainer at the Bengaluru-headquartered software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform. ‘After HR induction, we conduct an introduction call where we welcome new recruits and ask them questions that allow us to understand the type of training to be delivered. We have a comprehensive learning management system that begins with training sessions with subject matter experts and includes even revisions.’ Krishnan says the company is geared to introduce gamification at certain levels of this process – ‘to make learning fun.’ Leadsquared is, for example, mulling the idea of a ‘fastest finger first’ game ‘to boost engagement, while at the same time, to understand if there are concerns or areas where recruits need more information,’ says Krishnan.
Games like these are catching on with more Indian companies coming around to understanding what international organisations like Deloitte did a few years ago: that games can go a long way to help HR departments to make not just testing, but also training, a lot more meaningful. At Deloitte, a L&D analysis, in 2017, had revealed that while spending to onboard new analysts to the Human Capital practice was high (relative to other career levels), feedback on the experience did not demonstrate an increase in the programme’s value. Based on this, the team designed a more cost-effective, engaging way to deliver three full days of in-classroom content. One of these tools was the “Chosen Analyst” game. The game allowed players to save the world from zombies, and along the way, also learn skills like MS Excel — at their own pace.
In India, the games currently in use – especially for training purposes – are more basic in their design. However, with the power of the tool gaining appreciation steadily, it’s just a matter of time until AI changes the recruitment game altogether.