Using Games to Assess Future Employees

Last year our company (small software venture) underwent some changes and we needed to hire more people. How does one go about that? We had hired people before, but people we knew. This time there weren’t any apparent candidates we could cherrypick from. So, we put out a notice and waited for people to answer.

As a small company and with little reach for our notice, we didn’t get many applications, but some. We chose two to be interviewed. How does one assess people based on an interview? After all, we’re a small company and can’t really afford any dead weight.

My proposal was to test them through games.

So, we played Pandemic with them. If you are not familiar with the game, its a cooperative game, where you are basically saving the world from a bunch of simultaneous outbreaks all across the world. There is no winner. You either save the world together, or watch the world go down together. The diseases spread randomly, and each player has a role, so each game is different and each player clearly has a role.

What makes this particular game a good choice, is that even people who have not played before, will be able to play on a pretty level field, because they will not have the impediment that usually comes from not being familiar with rules, because the other players have no interest in not sharing them freely.

Actually, that’s a great benefit to us, as the interviewers. If the person being interviewed asks about the rules freely, its good for us. We want our employees to ask rather than try to figure everything out for themselves. Not everyone has to go through the same missteps we have. In time, we want them to be able to answer when we ask.

And that’s not all. We want people to participate in their work. They should offer their ideas and be able to discuss stuff freely. We want these people to be able to be part of the team (if such banal expressions are allowed).

We ended up hiring both candidates, because we were pretty starved for coders. However, of those two, the one who participated, who was forward thinking, planned ahead, talked things through, and so forth, is still working for us. The one who was pretty quiet throughout, didn’t offer much to the team, and all in all wasn’t really participating, didn’t make it through his probationary period.

There might be many executives out there who would think this approach is sort of silly and not appropriate. They are wrong, but I don’t mind. Let us take the cream. You take the ones who dress properly, have managed to use the right kind of paper on their resumés, and don’t have ethnic sounding names (all common basis for employing people according to research).

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