The Last Major Untapped Sourcing Frontier – Online Video Game Platforms

Dr. John Sullivan and Michael Cox

An astonishing 2/3 of adults play video games, so almost everyone can be IDed and recruited on gaming platforms.

Let’s start by avoiding any confusion. Video Game platform recruiting isn’t about finding game developers; instead, it’s for filling every job you have open. Of course, all innovative corporate recruiting leaders dream of discovering a phenomenal “secret source” that few recruiting competitors are even aware of. And today, that undiscovered source is recruiting on online video games and Esports platforms.

Perhaps its strongest advantage is that you can easily recruit within this large and rapidly growing online gaming community and encounter little competition for top talent. Few fully utilize it. I call it the “secret sauce” of sourcing. It’s a well-kept secret despite the fact that online video gaming is now a rapidly growing human activity. Its growth is so widespread that many colleges, including UCLA, have sponsored teams competing in the Esports version of video games.

From a recruiting standpoint, one significant feature of this online community is that it’s extremely welcoming. It differs from other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Gamers are well known for their openness and willingness to engage with strangers that share their interests actively.

The Online Video Game Community Has A Different Composition Than You Might Think

As I mentioned previously, 2/3 of American adults play video games. Most of them play them for more than 7 hours a week. And by the way, I’m not talking about recruiting only the stereotypical “male teenager.” Surprisingly, the average video game player is 31 years old, and 45% are female (Ipsos research). Fortunately, this source doesn’t require any special recruiting tools. You simply begin your conversations with prospects by asking about their interests and experiences in gaming. Only later do you ask about their work interests and skills.

The Many Reasons Why Online Gaming Should Be A Primary Recruiting Source

There are literally dozens of reasons why recruiting on video game platforms will pay off both in the volume and the quality of the candidates you recruit. 16 of those advantages include:

  1. Post pandemic gaming is now an even larger and faster-growing community – corporations like Microsoft (with its multibillion-dollar purchase of Activision) have demonstrated with their dollars their faith in the growing importance of gaming as an industry. One expert recently declared, “Gaming has become all the more immersive and engaging and is stepping up to be the next social media platform fostering online communications and engagement at unimaginable levels.” If you, for some reason, still doubt the pervasiveness of gaming. Simply do an informal survey of your team to identify the percentage that could be reached via a gaming platform. Also, when you are conducting remote video interviews with candidates. Make an informal note of how many top candidates are sitting on a “gamers chair” designed specifically for serious gamers.
  2. You will face little formal recruiting competition – because my research hasn’t revealed a single major corporation that has fully funded a formal gaming platform recruiting effort. You won’t encounter much formal recruiting competition on this social media platform. Despite this underuse, the platform has proven that it can be effective for a few. For example, you may be surprised to learn that Mexican drug cartels are recruiting drug carriers using video games like Grand Theft Auto, Minecraft, and Fortnite. Caterpillar even held a global operator challenge to recruit gamers for joystick-driven equipment operator positions. And, of course, the U.S. Army has used its own video game America’s Army and Esports competitions as recruiting tools for years.
  3. This platform also reaches non-active job seekers – because the unemployed have a great deal of time to play video games. You will find plenty of active job seekers on these platforms. But as many as 80% of the gamers will be the highly desirable “currently employed individuals.” The so-called “passive candidates” simply can’t be found in large numbers using most traditional recruiting sources. Also, note that the disengaged employees who are thinking about leaving may be playing video games during work. You may be able to reach some prospects when they are actively thinking about leaving.
  4. It’s a great source for recruiting every generation – if you’re seeking younger recruiting targets. You should realize that  81% of Gen Z reported playing games, and 77% of Millennials played during 2021. And surprisingly, 42% of Baby Boomers also reported playing games in the past 6 months.
  5. It’s a good source for diversity – in the U.S., 45% of gamers are women. And many members of diverse groups are also active gamers.
  6. It may be a great source for resilient team members – Research shows video games can help employees manage stress and anxiety. These techniques can help gamers manage difficult projects and situations more effectively by building social, emotional, and mental resilience – especially during the pandemic.
  7. Collaboration in a distributed team Video games may directly help new teams be more productive. But, it can also help existing organizations reduce miscommunication related to hierarchy. Furthermore, players also report that video games, “taught me to collaborate with others and be more culturally sensitive towards those different from me.”
  8. Gamers may have transferable work skills – gamers are desirable as employees because those who operate in group play need to be team players to be successful. Winning video games in team and group play requires team members with skills that employers seek. Including great communication skills, speed, strategically planning, the ability to work around obstacles, working under pressure, and being adaptive and able to handle rapid change. The U.S. military specifically seeks out gamers because their advanced “joystick skills” are needed to operate much of their new equipment. You may find that the same joystick skills will soon become essential in your employees operating construction, warehouse, and manufacturing equipment, including robotics in your own organization.
  9. Gamers have developed a library of best practices Google how to download Fortnite on your phone to see a world-class customer onboarding process. Epic Games has done a fantastic job clearly articulating the next action to take so that you are never confused. Because of their experience trying many products, gamers consistently learn about different onboarding practices. Games have pioneered the onboarding process further by developing features to develop social networks quickly. For example, Parallel Kingdom pairs mentors to new players. 40 minutes into playing the game, users receive, “Hey, [Mentor] has been assigned to be your mentor. [He or she] will contact you the next time [He or she] signs-in.” These mentors showcase strategies for how to develop in the game (i.e., career development) and provide resources to help new users get started.
  10. Project and product management are infused throughout the medium It may come to you as a surprise, but the multi-billion MOBA genre was started as mod (a fan-made custom creation of an existing game). Modders have “A decade after “Skyrim’s” debut, some of the game’s most prominent modders are now on their own real-world adventure, landing jobs in the video game industry as full-time game developers.” These mods require skill sets including management, website design, storytelling, and marketing. You may also encounter a high level of project management when it comes to preparing for difficult in-game events.
  11. Team leads may have transferable leadership skills – there are many team/group competitions in video games and Esports. So you will likely also find that the winning teams have great leaders that excel at directing remote teams.
  12. You can reach a global population if you recruit internationally or if your jobs allow for remote work. You should realize that gaming is a worldwide phenomenon, especially in Asia, the Middle East, India, and Mexico. And you can find diverse recruiting prospects in almost every country with a strong Internet connection.
  13. There are multiple types of gaming on sites where you can find and engage prospects – you can identify and build relationships with your recruiting targets to be a member of their group. But you can also engage them on live streaming platforms like Twitch. And on video game chat and discussion groups like Steam. You can also identify prospects on sites designed specifically for finding gaming friends like WeGamers and GamerLink.
  14. There are also multiple media and face-to-face opportunities to reach recruiting prospects – in addition to virtual gaming events. There are many physical competitions and conventions that your employees probably already attend (where they can make contacts and find referrals). There are also many media advertising opportunities, including magazines, T.V. shows, player registries, large websites like Major League Gaming, and streaming video platforms like Twitch (which has 140+ million viewers). Together, there are multiple opportunities for sourcing, recruitment advertising, and employer brand building.
  15. It’s easy to communicate with digital users – because gaming participants are already digitally engaged individuals. You will find that your recruiters can easily and instantly communicate electronically with all of your prospects and candidates.
  16. Finally, you can recruit without a centralized corporate recruiting effort although having a centralized recruiting approach customized to this platform is ideal. Businesses of any size can easily recruit on this platform. Simply encourage employees to look for referrals when they spend any time interacting with others on gaming platforms (incidentally playing video games may also reduce your employee’s stress levels). You will likely find that at least one of your recruiters is already active on video game platforms in almost any sized organization. So they won’t need much training to begin recruiting on this platform immediately. And if you’re really bold, form your own team of gamers and challenge other teams to supplement your recruiting effort.

If you can only do one thing© – conduct a quick informal survey of the top five finalists for a couple of your open jobs. Ask each if an active recruiter could have also found them on gaming platforms. And if more than 50% answer yes, that’s your signal that you should immediately begin developing a gaming platform social recruiting effort. 

Final Thoughts

Despite the multiple compelling reasons presented above for adding gaming platforms as a primary recruiting source, you should still prepare for some resistance that will likely come from conservative individuals in HR. They will likely mistakenly assume that all gamers enjoy violence (only 39% play “shooter games”). Or that they are all misogynistic (even though 45% are women). Others may mistakenly assume that gamers are mostly slackers that are more interested in playing than working hard (check with your top performers that are gamers to verify that this is not true). And, recruiters may not know that companies have been using games to improve their quality of hire for years. Riot Games has used in-game play to predict the quality of hire and that has led to their dramatic improvement in their stock and products over the past 6 years.

Finally, don’t forget to create and use results metrics to assess the effectiveness of gaming platform recruiting compared to every other successful recruiting source you regularly use.

Author’s Note

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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