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Playing recruitment games

Job interviews have always been somewhat nerve-wracking affairs. Candidates can be stuck in an obscure room, sweating and wondering whether or not to accept a biscuit. Whilst not all interviews are as forensic as the CV round in the Apprentice, things may be about to get worse. Rather than just an intimidating and possibly hostile panel, they may have to confront a computer-based ‘psychometric’ test as well.

Accountancy company, Deloitte’s latest tool for recruitment is a mobile phone game, named Firefly Freedom, which takes place in a magical world of forests, where players have to catch fireflies, in order to provide light for the winter months.

These digital games represent part of bigger moves to try and make recruitment as fair as possible, which includes companies concealing the details of where applicants went to school and university, to try and prevent any preconceived perceptions and biases.

Other employers who are going to use name-blind applications, include HSBC, the BBC, the NHS and the civil service. The same system is to be taken up by universities by 2017. In his annual Tory conference speech this year, David Cameron told of  the example of “a young black girl who had to change her name to Elizabeth before she got any calls to interviews”.

One journalist who wanted to see how he would get on, tried the Deloitte game, which is meant to test risk appetite, mental agility and persiste. However, before he could even start, he was told; “the game may not run properly on this device”. What message does this send to his potential employers?

On the first level, he had to fire pieces of fruit at a jar, to release the fireflies inside, but one of the 10 bits of fruit smashes the jar, letting the fireflies escape and reducing the score to zero. Its intention is to test whether players quit while they are ahead, or continue to collect as many as possible, risking losing them all.

Other tests measured how quickly he could tap the screen and remember a sequence of colours. The results were then sent to the designers of the test, a company called Arctic Shores and the results read like old school reports, quite generic, like, “tends to be fairly motivated by tangible rewards”, “as quick at learning new things as most people”, “may not display either the truly breakthrough thinking required in high-stakes situations”.

It is not difficult to be sceptical about tests like these, for example, former Co-operative Bank chairman, Paul Flowers, scored very highly in psychometric testing, , but he still had to resign his post after being filmed buying drugs and becoming known as the Crystal Methodist.


Arctic Shores, however, insist it is an incisive test, saying: “Our method exclusively relies on objective data and our games meet the highest psychmetric standards.”

Such tests can probably be quite useful if put together properly; interview situations may place some people at a disadvantage and the the test can be more controlled, where results of everyone can be compared and the tests can be done online, on thousands of people at a tiny cost. But like all games, you could play a few times and get different results each time; “you win some, you lose some”.

Deloitte intends to use Firefly Freedom to recruit 200 apprentices. If this test works, they may use it as part of a recruitment programme that get 1,500 people a year into the business. The aim is to find “high-potential recruits who may not necessarily stand out through a traditional recruitment process”.

Emma Codd, talent managing partner for Deloitte, said: “We need people to join Deloitte from a variety of backgrounds, bringing a range of perspectives and experience. There is compelling evidence that alternative recruitment methods support this objective, helping to identify exceptional talent by providing opportunities for the millennial generation to shine.”

Presumably they’ll still need to be able to add up properly.

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