Hire Smart: Dump The Resume Pile, Start Playing Games

How L'Oreal uses games to find leadership qualities that rarely show up in resumes.

Every talent-recruitment executive knows how hard it is to make a good new hire. But L'Oreal, the French cosmetics giant, is making hundreds of successful hires each year from a pool of thousands of highly qualified young prospects who connect with L'Oréal through business games.

Hiring at most corporations begins with a job posting. Each posting draws a seemingly infinite number of applicants responding through websites, social media, email, and (sometimes) even snail mail. To process the onslaught, technology is used to screen the sea of applicants.

But the typical Applicant Tracking System filters for keywords tied to relatively worthless data such as schools attended, previous work experience, and personal affiliations. Any manager who trains new hires will tell you that one's alma mater and previous work references are poor predictors of job performance.

What qualities do you really want in your next new hire? How about smarts? Not just academic knowledge, but the ability to think, solve problems, and be creative. But how can a corporation wade through an endless stream of applicants to identify that kind of much more complex criteria?

L'Oréal does it by inviting the world's most promising students to play games. For 20 years, L'Oréal has been using business games to identify potential employees, and many students hired through L'Oréal’s recruiting games have now risen to management level positions.

L'Oreal launched Brandstorm in 1993. In Brandstorm, international undergraduate marketing students are challenged to function as brand managers in reimagining one of the company's well-known global brands. Last year, Brandstorm attracted more than 7,000 participants.

Now in its 20th year, Brandstorm is such a remarkable success that in 2010, L'Oréal introduced its second recruiting game, Reveal. In Reveal, players work through a simulated product launch. The game moves through three phases—development, production, and launch—and players solve a challenge at the end of each of 12 scenes.

L'Oreal spokesperson Laurence Balmayer says Reveal is "the first ever multi-disciplinary digital platform which allows players to undergo a professional career discovery experience within the context of an international business like L'Oréal."

Brandstorm and Reveal have done a phenomenal job of elevating the L'Oréal name among the next generation of business leaders. More than 50,000 students from 43 countries have participated in Brandstorm, and in just two years, Reveal has attracted more than 100,000 students from 165 countries.

"These business games have successfully attracted a diverse pool of young talents and have opened up all these participants to the universe of L'Oréal," Balmayer said. L'Oréal is consistently ranked among the most desirable companies to work for in the world.

The games have become the fast track for employment at L'Oréal. "Each year, there are about 150 Brandstorm players and around 100 Reveal participants that are recruited by L’Oréal," Balmayer said.

Not only are hundreds of promising employees being hired each year, but some are now advancing to management positions, Balmayer said. "The best [Brandstorm] players who have been initially recruited by L'Oréal as trainees have accelerated into becoming marketing and commercial directors in the countries or regions in just a matter of six or seven years."

L'Oreal’s recruiting games are excellent example of using recruiting methods that predict performance. Participants are challenged to demonstrate in the games the very qualities and capabilities that L'Oréal wants in its workforce. So, it's obvious that the real winner of these recruiting games is L'Oreal itself.

[Image: Flickr user Ben Bunch]

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  • Leilahamidi

    Ford did the analog version of this years ago when they had an engineering position with particularly high turnover. The position required investment and training time on behalf of Ford, so each time an employee quit, they were set back several steps. They developed a prescreening test/series of games that was so successful in determining job performance that it was adopted company wide and can now be taken by anyone (for a pretty sum) through the Johnson O'Conner Foundation to help determine the ideal job for the testee. Also, whenever Charles and Ray Eames made a new hire for their office, the first task given to the employee was to take apart and put back together an intricate instrument. The task was a test and depending on how long or quick the employee completed the task, the Eames knew how best to utilize that person's skills and work habits in the office.

  • Larry Cummings / Chief Connect

    Having partnered with dozens of talent acquisition and HRM vendors I can say most are giving HR professionals what they feel comfortable with, resumes and anemic analytic.  Hiding behind those marketing documents and relying on line managers to place the bets (hire).  Most can then deflect any criticism for turnover and poor employer branding. 

    I only know of two technologies that are fighting the good fight.  Resumes are the last step in their selection process, if at all!  Larry@ChiefConnector.com if you are curious.

  • Dan Hou

    Credit to L'Oreal to hiring based on performance and how you function in a real job environment, rather than what's written on a piece of paper. But this isn't a new concept - developers have been hiring based on your ability to write pseudo-code in real time since forever, and designers based on their portfolio or real time sketches. 

    The challenge is extending this notion to business-centric disciplines like marketing. At HUGE, we give our most promising strategy candidates take home case studies that they have to develop a strategy against. Then as part of the final interview, the candidate has to present their thoughts. Its not at the scale at L'Oreal is doing it, but most small to mid-sized companies would benefit from a lighter weight implementation of this approach.

  • Matt Dunn

    Looks like L'Oreal are miles ahead of the game. Great article on thinking outside of the norm to get future talent and not relying on out dated traditional methods.

  • Louis Carter

    Thanks, Matt. I'm glad you like it. I appreciate your book, Made to Stick and focus on positive psychology.