Jaguar Land Rover has teamed up with the Gorillaz to develop an app that challenges players to complete a series of puzzles.

Recruiters turn to games to discover untapped engineering potential

Image credit: Jaguar Land Rover

With the growing demand for innovative young engineering professionals, companies and recruiters are expanding where and how they find potential employees and evaluate their skills – namely via the medium of games.

As innovation constantly changes the engineering sector, companies have recognised that they need to radically rethink how they recruit if they want to find the best talent, some of which isn’t always found through the traditional recruitment process.

“The best solutions are not always found through a worded question,” highlights Alex Heslop, head of electrical engineering at Jaguar Land Rover. “In a field as dynamic, technical and hands-on as engineering, ‘out of the box’ thinking is paramount to coming up with creative and innovative solutions. By using games and puzzles, it allows the opportunity for us as a recruiter to test candidates in engaging yet challenging ways.”

By using games to help them find the next wave of engineering and technology professionals, companies are injecting some fun into the traditional job application process, all while measuring applicants traits in areas such as problem-solving, spatial reasoning and social intelligence.

Jaguar Land Rover, for example, teamed up with the band Gorillaz to develop an app that challenges players to assemble a virtual Jaguar I-PACE Concept car and complete a series of code-breaking puzzles. These test lateral thinking, coding proficiency, cryptography, Git knowledge and problem-solving – attributes the company is looking for in its electronics and software talent.

“The challenges also require the player to have the ability to transfer between devices, source techniques or software online, which means they demonstrate their resourcefulness. We also encourage collaboration on forums – exchanging knowledge and information is equally vital in the challenges and the world of engineering,” says Heslop.

“Testing the brightest minds, we can fast-track applicants through the recruitment process. [Today] there is an increased focus on cyber systems, software systems, graphics performance, and mobile app development, however, the core skills that the app aims to test have always been critical to being an engineer,” he adds.

As well as developing bespoke games, companies are working with specialist developers of game-based assessments and analysis tools in order to uncover untapped talent. For example, Arctic Shores cites clients including the BBC, Siemens and ARM. Its games include verbal reasoning tester Yellow Hook Reed; where players deal with issues like storing fresh food on a ship, and personality assessor SkyRise; which measures 30 different traits. 

Data from Knack’s games; which includes Dashi Dash, where you’re a waiter attempting to keep customers happy, are used by companies such as Daimler, Tata, GE and IBM, and Ipsemet has games where players are tasked with managing a hotel or holding down a summer job.

“Our online games place candidates into a structured work environment where they have to balance time and resource planning with managing relationships whilst also achieving certain tasks. After the one hour game time, a report is produced with 14 metrics including cooperates with others, persuades others, planning behaviour, learning agility, team focus and task accuracy,” says David Falzani, director of Ipsemet.

“These metrics can then be used to rank candidates for an organisation’s behavioural culture and job role requirements to highlight those best suited to the roles, as well as potentially highlighting the individual’s development needs and some interesting questions for further pursuit at interview.”

Engineering employers, especially when looking for graduates, have stated that they particularly value skills that are not necessarily widely regarded as a standard part of the typical degree and engineering training experience. One of the major benefits of using games is that they can measure a much wider range of attributes in new and different ways. Games also allow recruits who may not excel in a classic interview environment to demonstrate their skills in a way better suited to their strengths.

“The classic interview setting, for all its popularity, does not replicate in any meaningful way the roles that people are applying for. Games, by contrast, can give new and interesting insights into an individual’s likelihood of success in a role and can also offer simulations and interactions that allow a candidate to show what they are capable of,” Falzani notes.

“Games are far less likely to put off those candidates who are deterred by traditional assessment processes, thus allowing those candidates to proceed down the selection process. Secondly, by virtue of being a new kind of measurement, games are highly likely to improve diversity helping those who have been zoned out by traditional techniques,” he adds.

By using games, recruiters are reaching a new audience that may have otherwise never considered working in the sector. For example, a study by Arctic Shores highlighted that people from a lower socio-economic group prefer game-based assessments.

“Using game-based assessments sends a different message to groups who might otherwise be put off from applying,” notes Robert Newry, managing director of Arctic Shores.

Knack’s aim, as a not for profit organisation, is to create pathways to education and employment opportunity. Through its games it helps users uncover their strengths and weaknesses, giving them ideas as to the most promising directions for them education and career-wise. On the flipside, it helps organisations and recruiters find players with the attributes they need, creating a bridge between talent and business.

“Think of us as LinkedIn for skills, competencies, education and careers, powered by games behavioural science and data science,” says Guy Halfteck Knack’s founder and ceo.

“We connect people with schools and employers with people and so forth. You might be working on your A levels and thinking what next? Should I go into engineering or economics? Our games are the beginning of your journey to discover where your innate talents and potential lie.

“Knack also enables schools and businesses to find students/employees based on their potential rather than where they’re based, or their credentials,” Halfteck continues. “Employers are using Knack to reach, engage, attract and mobilise people in an open and broad way, cutting across schools, communities, socioeconomics and discovering people they might not otherwise heard about.

“We work a lot in India and South Africa, so a kid from a poor background there could play a game for 10 minutes and learn about their aptitude and skills. They could learn they’d be a fantastic engineer. [Through Knack] a London university could find and admit them on a programme, or an automotive firm could find and connect with them,” he highlights.

Boundaries are being broken and new opportunities created, both for companies to find the best and brightest talent and the gamers who might discover unknown technical traits. This new approach to recruitment gives people a chance to shine in new and exciting ways. And as so many engineering challenges need to be solved by thinking outside the box, perhaps its about time we embraced a recruitment process that does this too.

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