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Workplace Trends: Play For Pay

Pretend you're a bartender. Your challenge is to read the facial expressions of everyone bellying up to the bar so you can prepare drinks in record time and wash dirty glassware even faster. Afterward, you hope you did well enough to get the job. Welcome to the online "gamification" of hiring. I think I need a drink.

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An article in The Economist features companies such as Knack that are creating new, exciting ways to frustrate the hell out of job applicants. Take the "Happy Hour" bartending game I've just described, for example. The Knack team (still a great song) claims online hiring games are better than the traditional personality tests that can be mastered quickly by smart applicants. In a timed online game setting, applicants' cognitive deficits, competency levels, pattern recognition abilities, and risk-taking aptitudes will trickle to the surface and spritz employers with insightful droplets of data.

Shell and Bain & Company are a few larger employers looking at ways to employ (no pun intended) virtual hiring games.

If the astute applicant can master the personality test, however, then why can't applicants master the gamification of hiring? Let's face it: some people rock at playing video games -- it comes very naturally to them -- while other people can't figure out the difference between a joystick and a reset button no matter how many times someone explains it to them. So there can be a skills and abilities gap right off the bat, and the game hasn't even started yet.

Also, does playing an online hiring "game" automatically translate to being a real-life martini master behind an actual bar with real customers? Hmm. The best bartender in a hiring manager's applicant pool might suck at playing video games, while the bartending applicant who rocks at playing video games might suck at real-life bartending. And what about job applicants (particularly older job applicants) who might have had a pocketful of quarters and were headed for the arcade the last time they played video games? Will some job applicants end up clicking the bright-red "age discrimination lawsuit" button and toggling the EEOC? Will applicants play along?

Who knows. I still need to be sold on using video games for hiring purposes (obviously), but one thing is for sure: technology can't solve all of our hiring problems because companies hire human beings who are an imperfect science at best. You think you're hiring Mr. Hyde, but you get Dr. Jekyll. The person who figures out how to make this stop happening will make a gazillion dollars. Now that's something I could drink to.

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