Can Lara Croft or Gordon Freeman get you more hires?

The launch last week with much fanfare in the USA (and a lot less elsewhere) of the new Marriott game on Facebook raises an interesting question, perhaps not quite the characters in the title, but can online games get you more hires? Does it inspire new candidates who would not have previously have thought of a career in your sector, does it help self select out those that are thinking of your company or sector or is it just a good PR gimmick?

Including games in your hiring strategy or selection process is not a new thing; many Assessment Centre exercises are games of one sort or another. The first reference to a game as part of the online sourcing or branding exercise I could find was Merrill Lynch (1999) but the real success story was and still is today Americas Army/(2002 to date) which is now on v.26 or so and has spawned a number of offshoots and DLCs. Then the British Army not to be left behind launched the multi award-winning “Start Thinking Soldier” which is one of the best examples of multi platform and channel recruitment marketing using techniques from the video games world.

Yet both of these represent vocations rather than jobs, lifestyle choices rather than competitive options, the decision is do I want a career in the military rather than which of the top 10 military brands do I want to join?  So I can see the real benefit in providing glimpses of life and to an extent providing enough information to help those for whom it’s not their chosen calling qualify out or more importantly enticing those who may not realize what it’s all about to apply and it seems to have worked well for them as the case study  from Skive shows generating more than 500,000 visitors in its first 6 weeks and continuing to go from strength to strength. In fact given the traditionally conservative nature of the public sector what the Army has created and achieved puts most forward thinking corporates to shame.

But in the commercial sector where the choices are often which company rather than sector, driven by money or title rather than vocation does the same approach hold true? There are certainly less good examples of such activity and most of them like L’Oreal’s Brandstorm (more of an online competition) are aimed at the Graduate market. Other companies have tried most notably IBM’s City One and apparently there is a UK Secret Service simulation but I couldn’t find it (so guess that qualifies me out!). All of these are online games with social media links rather than a social game.

With the huge growth in Social Media over the last few years and the accompanying success of companies like Zynga with their social games and mission “connecting the world through games” then surely an equivalent game to target potential recruits is a must and Marriott have stolen a march on everyone? Farmville has 39,566,935 active monthly users – what a database – but do they all want to be farmers, has playing the game made them more likely to become farmers? I can’t answer that question as I am one of the decreasing group of individuals that doesn’t yet play it but I haven’t heard any stories of new land grabs – and I do play Mafia Wars and Zuma Blitz.

Time will tell whether MyMarriottHotel is an inspirational hiring strategy or as I suspect a really good piece of PR that gained them prime time coverage, so hats off the marketeers and recruiters, they have over 50,000 jobs to fill this year and they would have had to pay a fortune pay for the airtime and coverage they received for the launch - a job well done but like anything it now needs to be kept up to date and relevant or it may have the opposite effect longer term.

Why do I think it’s a great piece of PR rather than inspired hiring strategy?  The problem with Facebook gaming in recruitment terms  is that it is very limited in graphics and activities, relying heavily on repetitive actions and most importantly sharing items and challenges with your friends – its social after all. This makes creating something which can provide a true glimpse of what a certain career will be like in the way of “Start thinking Soldier” rather difficult and graphically cartoon like. I gave it a go and whilst the initial feel was good it quickly became rather repetitive and if I am honest boring, there was a lack of variety in tasks and little information provided that might make me want to become a chef so I quickly gave up. Yes, I know that despite a recent visit to Raymond Blanc’s Cookery School my culinary skills and age mean I am almost certainly not in their target audience but I think that it has a long way to go to meet the standards of the online military recruitment games that for me is where it falls down. Despite the advances in technology I don’t yet think that there is a social media platform that provides enough to create a true simulation and virtual reality, I am equally sure there will be one soon and then it may just revolutionise the way we recruit and select?

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