How I Outsmarted The Gamified Job Search Algorithm Created To Screen Me Out As A Potential Job Candidate

“Way to go! You just uncovered a deeper look into your unique strengths and professional attributes. Scoutible was created to uncover hidden talent, remove barriers to opportunity, and build a happier, more meaningful lifetime work experience for all.”

I applied to my dream job on Indeed.com: Content Creator Specialist. They were looking for a writer to develop and curate their web content for executive training and leadership courses and I am uniquely qualified. As often happens with online applications, an email request followed to take an additional assessment, a personality test to confirm I’m not a sociopath or embezzler and will come in on time. You know, responsible, accountable, and a good team player. Instead of the standard test of fifty questions “Are you more like this or like that,” with the instructions to choose my first impression quickly and don’t overthink it, they’ve gone and gamified the job search.

Just barely keeping up with technology, I had to play video games on my phone to be vetted. I use my phone for airline boarding passes and getting an Uber or Lyft. But banking or ordering from Amazon, give me my iPad. I’m deeply committed to using my phone for talking, texting, and taking pictures. What it was designed for.

First sign up, then download the app. Both were challenging because I’m not intuitive with technology. After many tries, I was finally in and ready to participate in the games. Quest #1: Inform the king that there is a plot against him. Watching my grown sons play before, I always wondered what they found so entertaining. I’ve also observed my 5 ½ year old grandson Declan play Minecraft. The general gist is move your person along to gather clues, weapons or superpowers. Get the most stuff without dying and you’ll be a winner.

I did not feel like a winner. This tortuous experience felt like getting my teeth drilled at the dentist, “When will it be over?” I was supposed to stop along the way to gather clues, at least that’s what the dialogue boxes told me, but I ran my avatar right up to the castle gate and chose “Tell the guard you need to see the king.” He made me go back to a tavern and get the name of some woman in a blue dress.

My rationale for every choice presented to me was “How soon can I get this over with?” When the king asked, “Do you have any weapons?” even though I saw the dagger in the lower corner of the screen, I chose “I don’t have any.” I relayed my message, the king thanked me and finally my quest ended.

Then, Quest #2: an escape room. I had to gather powers or sparkly things or whatever. Like, five of them! The floor was a checkerboard design, and some squares revealed a skull and crossbones. Then they faded away and I was supposed to remember the pattern of the maze without stepping on the skulls or else I fell through the floor into a fiery pit. Good news! I was immediately resurrected to try again, striving to make my way to the superpower square. I felt so dumb, but I was determined. I thought WWDD—what would Declan do? He could easily complete it, even at 5 ½, and the thought gave me stamina to keep going. For the seventeen tries it took me to get all five objects.

After all my fumbling and bumbling around this obstacle course called a game, I couldn’t imagine what kinds of strengths the algorithm would extrapolate about me. The results put me on Team Maverick: “You’re a true original who lives life on your own terms.” Yes, I am. 

Apparently, I am also a highly ambitious competitor who is laser-focused on success.  As a leader, I excel in roles with a disciplined approach. With strong intellectual curiosity I am motivated to learn a wide range of subjects.  I am a self-reliant person who doesn’t need handholding and can be relied on to complete tasks independently. Perhaps most importantly, I stand up for what’s right, even in the face of peer pressure or adversity. All those characteristics are true of me, but how did they know by my inept game navigation?

This process gave new meaning to the term “game-playing culture” at work. I used to think gaslighting and negative communication were the problems. Remind me again—wasn’t it a writer you wanted? I have a master’s degree, five years of experience teaching writing overseas, and many years in corporate communications. I am a creative writer, editor, and proofreader. Ask me to write five essays and I’d happily do it. I’d be in my zone of genius, feeling no stress.

Require me to play video games to get a job? I felt agitated and anxious the rest of the afternoon. I imagined someone in HR looking at my results and giggling, “This is an old person who doesn’t understand our world of gaming. She may be trainable, but I’m not sure. She has a master’s, so she’s probably over educated and over experienced. Not fun to have around.”

Hey! I’m fun! Just because my idea of a great time is watching reruns of The Golden Girls or The Carol Burnett Show doesn’t mean I’m not fun. I like interacting with people more than screens. Face to face, with live conversation and discussion. Do I really want to work for an organization that uses a personality test masquerading as a video game to determine my fit?

“Harrumph,” Pamela’s avatar muttered as she stomped off the game board, avoiding the skull and crossbones and leaving her dagger behind.

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