Pretty Soon, You Might Be Playing Video Games At Job Interviews

It's no secret that the job market's in a bit of a slump right now. No one can find work, and even those organizations that are hiring seem almost paranoid about finding new employees, making them jump through more hoops than a circus animal. For example, one might have to endure months of interviews, personality tests, technical tests, and odd, obscure questonnaires. 

Companies have become more cautious than ever about whom they hire. According to a Glassdoor analysis, the hiring/job-interview process has nearly doubled since 2009 to 23 days, with employers all across the board seeking to become more cost effective. In most cases, that includes being far more stringent about who they hire - an unfortunate reality for many job seekers. 

Unfortunately, this interview process itself takes both time and resources; in many cases, it also tends tor be rather horrendously inefficient. Some companies have managed to take a bit of the weight off by using work-force analytics software, but such tools are anything but perfect, and there's always a chance of a promising candidate slipping through the cracks. 

In short, the hiring process for most organizations needs an overhaul.

"There is a huge amount of money to be made in matching people to their careers better and improving the allocation of trillions of dollars of capital," explains Erik Brynjolfsson to the New York Times. Brynjolfsson is an economist at MIT and an advisory at Knack, a start-up established with the intent of using video games as a screening device to detemine how creative, cautious, capable, or easily distracted potential job applicants are,

The company's Wasabi Waiter game, for exampe, casts the player as a server at a sushi restaurant and tasks them with figuring out what dishes to recommend to customers. 

It may sound like something of an oddball idea, but it isn't. Knack has already employed its services at a number of medical employers along with organizations such as Shell; it's part of a growing crop of startups looking to revolutionize personnel management (and cash in on the honeypot that everyone's sure awaits) Other companies in the industry include ConnectCubed, Good.Co, Evolv, and Orphesy Sciences. The idea that we can determine a candidate's suitability for a position with a few simple tests is a seductive one, for sure; but it's also somewhat problematic. 

For one, there's the question of whether or not these tools actually accomplish what they purport. Does Wasabi Waiter really measure a candidate's ability to think creatively and logically on their feet, or is it just a fancy video game dressed up in buzzwords and fake analytics? Similarly, is personnel management really something that can be condensed down to a few lines of code? Are humans really so simple to sum up? And even if they are, how can we be certain we're measuring the right details?

What's more, there's something to be said for in-person interviews. A candidate could look perfect on paper - they could pass a digital test with flying colors - yet when they finally show up to meet their employer face-to-face, they might well be one of the least suitable employees out there. After all, the human analytics industry isn't (yet) capable of measuring such things as empathy, relatability, or charisma. A perfect hire who doesn't know how to work with others is effectively useless.

Further, while there's no doubt that administering personnel tests remotely via video game might attract more candidates (including those who might never be considered otherwise), it's also got the potential to isolate a large swathe of the hiring pool. People from my generation - Millenials, as we're called - will probably be totally fine with it, but what about older individuals who might not necessarily be familiar with the technology? They might well balk at the very concept, questioning what, if anything, a video game has to do with their suitability as a candidate.

I don't think being awesome at Skyrim will ever net you a job, though.I don't think being awesome at Skyrim will ever net you a job, though.

Still, the development of assessment titles like Wasabi Waiter is an interesting innovation, and if it truly kicks off - if it's truly proven that such a process can replace an in-person interview session - it could well inspire a revolution in human resources. The development of better, cheaper, and more accessible assessment algorithms would not only expand the hiring pool for most organizations, it would open up opportunities for many men and women who might otherwise never make it; people all across the country could find themselves hired simply because they played a video game. In a time when over ten million Americans are unable to find work, that's an attractive prospect indeed. 

It's no secret that the job market's in a slump right now, but we may have just found the first step to pulling through in the most unusual of places. In the future, video games might not just be a leisure activity. They could well become a vital part of the hiring process. Weird, right?