By Bas Van De Haterd 

I recently came across a few start-ups that casually mentioned they were using scientifically validated game-based assessments as their pre-selection instead of traditional CV’s. Something I’ve been advocating for, for many years. Science has shown us time and time again that a resume has no predictive value for future success. And not because of the reason most recruiters think, it’s not because of candidates that lie, it’s because a degree or experience measured in years doesn’t have predictive value. A resume will tell you what someone has done and for how long, while the two things that matter is how well this person has done the job, or under what circumstances.

So, when I recently met a founder of Raccoon Serious Games, a start-up with 24 employees, I asked him how he got to the point where he wasn’t using CV’s anymore as a primary tool of selection. He answered ‘at the start of Raccoon, hires were selected based on a CV and unstructured interview. We’ve ended up hiring some people who didn’t live up to our expectations, which for a small start-up and can be quite painful. We decided: never again, we need to improve!

First change of the process

The first thing Raccoon did was build a simulation. They took a real-world problem they recently solved and simplified it so it could be done in two hours. This simulation differs per job. A developer would get a programming case and a designer would get a briefing and a design case. This is a process that’s pretty time consuming for the company, but well worth it. They have also built a structured matrix on scoring the cases.

Candidate experience

Designing the case is a lot of work from the company and evaluating them as well, but it also demands a great deal of time from the candidate. Hence, they built an awesome experience where they promise to share all relevant data on all applicants with all other applicants. So, they share all the case studies that are submitted with all the other applicants including the feedback. This creates a learning experience for all rejected applicants that is highly appreciated. This is of course done with the candidate’s permission.

Second change to the process

Although the quality of hire went up from using the case studies, they realized there was something still missing: personality. So, the second step in the process was to start using a game based psychometric assessment that looks at five traits. The reports are shared with the candidates and manually interpreted by Raccoon. Two traits are currently overweighted in their decision because they are very important to the current state of the company as a start-up: cognitive flexibility and priority setting.

They seldom select based on the tests alone, especially since their volume of applications isn’t too big to have an interview with all candidates or have all of them do the case study and evaluate it. The psychometric scores are used for the interview and to test the ‘reflective’ capabilities of the candidate. If a candidate scores lower on certain traits, how does this person mitigate that? In a recent example they had a candidate that scored low on cognitive flexibility. They invited this person for an interview and ended up hiring this candidate. This person was able to perfectly reflect and discuss what it meant and what was needed to mitigate being not as good at this trait. The employee is doing great now.

When they have so many applications, they have to select based on the assessments they always select one outlier, just to check their own biases and validate the tests are still valid.

Are start-ups leading the way?

As this was the second start-up founder that I spoke to that told me they moved away from the traditional CV interview  hire process and started reading up on science of hiring and innovating their hiring process I was pleasantly surprised. I wonder, are these agile, continuous improving start-ups showing us the way forward? Can corporates learn from them when it comes to recruitment? And if they keep hiring better people, that is, people better for their specific job and fitting better to their values, I’m pretty sure in no time they will beat their corporate competitors as we all know that talent is our greatest asset.