Virtuoso – using a game to test candidates for a role


I recently recruited a new intern for my business. I had a few strong candidates based on their CVs and how they interviewed but was struggling to decide which one to choose. So I asked them to play a game that would be psychometrically testing them at the same time.

The idea behind this is that you get so into the game that you can’t ‘game’ the test and you end up with more accurate results about the candidates. Throughout the game you are being tested on how you handle obstacles, setbacks, how you innovate and more. It is pretty tricky and only about 20% of players can complete the second level of the game within the 20 minute time limit. Also, not only do you get results about the candidate, but if you’ve taken the test yourself or get existing staff to take the test then the system will also come back and tell you who is the best match with the rest of the team with the aim of helping you build a high performance team.

Of my candidates only one managed to complete and win the game. I can tell you that I didn’t win the game when I played it. The second best candidate’s results were that he was a good all-rounder but only a 20% match for joining my team. The best candidate was a 40% match and looking at his scores he got 10 out of 10s in a couple of areas where I had low scores, so he got hired to fill in gaps where I’m weak. Three months into the internship and it looks like the game has helped me make an inspired choice.

I’m going to show you the first level of this game below. It is called Virtuoso from a company called GraviTalent who’ve been working with IBM on this project.

I find it a very interesting game design as it has been well designed to work across cultures. It has no written tests, almost no text and no culture-dependent context required. Did I mention that the second level of the game is much harder than this first one.

This first level is also a good example of on-boarding. They realised early in the video games industry that there generally wouldn’t be someone standing next to you ready to train you on how to use the game. So the game itself has to train you up and get you comfortable with using the system. How it does this is called onboarding. Through highlighting key options to press, explaining the reasons behind these choices, limiting the number of options and indeed by limiting the pace they can achieve this. With a modern game in the first level you should only have one or two concepts to learn. Then in the next level they add another concept and then in the next they speed it up. Before you know it, after a couple of hours you’re handling 30-40 different bits of data and the game is moving incredibly fast and guess what, you’re enjoying it. I’m guessing that doesn’t happen in your work systems too often?

You can try out a free 8 minute version of the game here:

About the author 

Pete Baikins

Pete Baikins is an international authority on gamification, a lifelong gamer, successful entrepreneur and a lecturer. As CEO of Gamification+ Ltd he mentors and trains companies world-wide on the use of gamification to solve business challenges. Gamification+ won the Board of Trade Award from the UK's Department of International Trade in January 2019.

Pete is co-host of the health gamification podcast Health Points and is also Chair of Gamification Europe, the annual conference for Gamification practitioners.

Pete is an Honorary Ambassador for GamFed (International Gamification Confederation), having previously been the Chair from 2014 to February 2019, whose aim is to spread best practices within and support the gamification industry.

After 15 years as a Lecturer on gamification and entrepreneurship at the University of Brighton he now guest lectures on Gamification at King’s College London and at ESCP Europe at post-graduate and under-graduate levels.

Over the past 20 years Pete has built and sold two businesses. One was in security software and the more recent one was a telecoms and internet connectivity business. He is also an Ambassador for Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce in the UK.

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