Young people today are demanding. They want more tailored content, more truthful insights about companies, and they want it all on their terms, on the channels they’re browsing every day. 

Companies demand more too – more quality, less quantity, more opportunity to spot rough diamonds and greater talent earlier on. Traditional methods alone are not enough to meet these demands. Recruiters will need to evolve in order to achieve their goals and secure the early careers talent needed to feed their pipelines. 

With business confidence picking up and increasing numbers of school leaver and graduate opportunities, the battle for talent will be greater than ever before. It’s a serious business. How, then, can something as light-hearted and simple as games help solve such a big challenge?

If you search for Gamification on Google, the summary quote you will find is: "gamification is exciting because it promises to make the hard stuff in life fun". This is why it lends itself so perfectly to the early careers market – it can make the process of applying for jobs and learning about companies an appealing prospect rather than an arduous task. The benefits don’t stop at an engaged student audience – there are advantages across the entire recruitment process.


This is probably where most of us feel largely familiar with using gamification. It’s a useful hook to get students interested in a company – often by using a competition with scoreboards and prizes. These sorts of games can be used on campus, online or a mixture of both. The latter is what we required for Simmons & Simmons, who wanted a fun yet informative way to portray the ethos of the business and the way they do things a little differently to your average law firm.

As Jenny Daniel, Graduate Recruitment & Development Manager at Simmons & Simmons explains: “As part of our main Milkround campaign, we target a number of universities, but like most companies, we do not have unlimited budgets and resource. For our spring campaign we wanted to increase our brand awareness and reach out to students across all universities, many of whom we may not normally be able to meet face to face. The ‘See Yourself’ game was ideal for us.”

The game encourages students to upload pictures and find themselves in the firm’s unique illustrative cityscapes. The data capture element meant that they could send themselves an avatar of their Simmons & Simmons character and follow up email communications allowed the team to keep in touch with students. The option to play on campus or online meant that nobody was left out.

More recently, companies have also started to introduce gamification on their social channels too - Facebook quizzes, for example, are a good way to engage students with a spare five minutes. AT&T have just launched one of these to help candidates identify their strongest skillset. I was labelled ‘The Organiser’ so I’m convinced the tool is a good judge of character!

Quality over quantity and self selection

“David Cameron pledges £1bn to fund three million apprenticeships”, “Graduate job vacancies predicted to rise by 17%”, “Government launching new apprenticeships in England”. The war for talent is on. Yet despite this, the message we hear from many recruiters is not ‘I need more applications’ but rather ‘I need fewer, better quality applications.’

By tailoring competitions to suit a very niche set of people you can begin to hone the attraction process. This is exactly the tactic we adopted when working with Thales. They recruit from a small, highly sought after pool of the student body – computer scientists and electronics engineers. We worked with their graduates to hatch Project Arduino - Simply put, an Arduino is like Lego on digital steroids. With a little coding knowledge, it can be used to make all sorts of interesting projects, from turning your lights off with your phone to fire-breathing robots. The workshop we created allowed Thales graduates to teach students how to use the device in order for them to go on and make their own projects. They also had to keep a video diary that would be used in the judging process.

The coding requirement for the competition meant that only relevant students would want to apply, allowing more time to be invested in strong potential applicants. Furthermore, Thales were able to spot talent that they could see emerging throughout the process and encourage them to apply. The video diaries created by the students provided free social content that could be posted on YouTube. This was a key part of the project because according to Ipsos, user generated content is 50% more trusted by millennials, so we were keen to ensure peer-to-peer communication.

Self selection needn’t be this targeted though, it can also be used for firms with a broad range of schemes on offer. L’Oreal wanted to incorporate all of their roles into a tool to aid the initial screening of candidates. They knew they wanted to do this on a platform which was comfortable for the younger generation to use and they wanted to reinforce their position as an innovative employer. The solution was an online game called ‘Reveal’. It invited potential applicants to educate themselves about the firm by visiting departments and meeting a range of characters from around the world of L’Oreal. They could then take part in challenges that tested competencies and working style values, all with the aim of ‘launching a product in a highly demanding industry’. If the test results matched L’Oreal’s requirements, they were invited to submit their CV and begin the recruitment process.

This approach really helps candidates identify if they’re the right fit for a firm and reduces the likelihood of scattergun applicants which take up so much of a recruiter’s time. It also helps prepare them for the application process as they have already had some exposure to the firm.

Differentiation at every stage

On average, each graduate submits seven job applications. Taking into account that the top talent will probably clock up several offers, recruiters need to stand out in the application and selection process to be considered. It’s also an opportunity to provide an insight into a company’s culture so they - and the candidate - can decide if they are a good fit.

For Sky, the feeling of being immersed in the brand from the beginning is vital. At their software engineering assessment centres, for example, candidates are asked to control robots around an obstacle course in teams – it’s a memorable experience and is a great way to share the culture at the company. In some cases, they’ve even been able to take this out on campus for students to fast-track their applications for these hard-to-fill roles.

Today, if you’re in the game of recruiting top young talent, you need to be prepared to play. Advances in technology mean the arena is bigger than ever, so the tools are out there. Smart gamification can see everyone be a winner.

Future Talent Strategist

Alex is attuned to the needs and interests of school leavers and graduates. She’s on their wavelength, which makes her the perfect person to craft the strategies that intrigue, inspire and engage these audiences across a range of global clients. Indeed, she has contributed to a swathe of award-winning work for clients across all sectors.