An article by Hal Hodson writing in the New Scientist:
Last week a company called Starfighter was launched. Its aim is to create games you can only master if you have a talent for programming, although those with a natural aptitude can learn as they play. If you do well in a game the firm knows you are ripe for hiring.
Starfighter’s games will have a story. “You’ ll pretend you’re a spy for the day, for example,” says Patrick McKenzie, Starfighter’s CEO and co-founder. “The story might be to break into tech that’s securing state secrets, but it’s the same tech you’d use to secure a bank in the real world.”
The assumption is that the players who are best at breaking into the software in the game will also be the best at securing it in the real world. Starfighter works with top players to place them in jobs fitting the skills they have demonstrated, if they want them.
The post announcing Starfighter is unequivocal: “Becoming a top Starfighter player is a direct path to receiving lucrative job offers from the best tech companies in the world, because you’ll have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that you can do the work these companies need done.”
Starfighter’s games will be totally free, and while they won’t have fancy graphics, they will be engaging to play just for fun. Starfighter isn’t ready to talk about exactly which skills their games will test, but its founders have already built a game called Microcorruption. It imagines a scenario in which players must break into locked warehouses all over the world, each one stuffed with cash. A smartphone app controls each warehouse lock, and the players have to break in without knowing the code. Of 12224 players, just 182 passed the hardest level. The firm will get in touch with these elite players and help place them with one of their clients, who pay Starfighter a fee.
Recruiting new blood through games lets companies search for talented individuals based on more relevant criteria than which college they went to, or what their grades are. But using games has another benefit: it can prevent discrimination.
The benefits of this screening have proved worthwhile in a completely different arena – auditions for professional orchestras. In the 1970s and 1980s, orchestras began to put candidates behind a screen during auditions. Until then just 5 per cent of the players in the top five US orchestras were women. Today, that number is 25 per cent.
Meanwhile Knack, a company based in Palo Alto, California, is developing smartphone games that build up profiles of gamers as they play, measuring things like leadership ability, problem-solving and planning. Those profiles can then be matched with employers looking for similar traits.
“We try to give job recommendations in the same way as Netflix recommends films,” says Guy Halfteck, Knack’s founder and CEO. The White House has turned to Knack for Barack Obama’s TechHire initiative. The idea is to use Knack’s system to help minorities, women and veterans land technology jobs which might normally be closed to them.
Halfteck says Knack has patents that cover inserting its technology into other games, too. This opens up the possibility that gamers who demonstrate high competence in Halo or League of Legends could be recruited right out of their favourite game.
Patrick Gormley of New York based management consultancy Capco, says his firm is about to start pulling recruits out of Knack’s pool of gamers. The firm got its own top-performing project managers to play the games, building profiles that they can then compare with all the players in Knack’s system. When the system finds matches, it will send a text telling players they’ve been matched with a job at Capco, and asking if they want to apply. “If you’re getting a ping you should be very excited,” says Halfteck. “It means you’re prequalified. You are steps ahead of everyone else. You already have potential for success.”
Hodson, H. (2015) Well Played, You’re Hired. New Scientist. 21 March 2015, pp.27.