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Escape Rooms, Speed Dating and other unorthodox hiring processes that are gaining traction in today's Recruitment market

Kate Allen, Managing Director, Allen Associates

How do you work under pressure? If the answer is anything other than, “I thrive on it” or “like a boss”, I strongly advise you not to apply for a job at Nationwide. Why? Well, earlier this year, the UK building society rolled out their latest Candidate screening process: an escape game.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, imagine yourself locked in a room with a few others, forced to collaborate in order to solve complex puzzles within a short space of time. Should you manage to piece the clues together in under an hour, the door will unlock, and you will be free to leave victorious. If your team can’t crack the code, however, the door will remain locked until the organiser gives you a helping hand, a look of disappointment and a frustrating revelation of the now-obvious answers to the clues.

Themes range from the Wizarding World to conspiracy theorists’ newspaper-clad basements and the labs of mad scientists. During one memorable escape game, my group was tasked with performing an exorcism on a dummy in a ‘haunted house’. As the timer ticked down to zero and we frantically shook a lifeless doll while shouting, “the power of Christ compels you” to no end, one thing became crystal clear: none of us had the skills to become a Priest.

Now imagine you’re in the room, but this time you’re being judged by a prospective Employer on your ability to work with others to complete the task at hand. Sounds daunting, right?

Since January, this is how Nationwide have been screening Candidates to determine whether or not they are worthy of Employment.

As some of you may know, they aren’t the first to dabble in unorthodox hiring processes. Unsatisfied with traditional tactics such as face-to-face interviews or even biometric testing, some companies have taken their Recruitment offline, asking their Candidates to straighten their tie, smooth down their shirt and remove the salad between their teeth for an intense round of professional speed dating.

Introverts, beware: you’re about to be quizzed by a range of junior and senior Employees, who will be eager to find out what you can bring to the role in the way of experience, skills and qualifications. If they like what they see, your prospective Employer will make the first move and offer you the job. If they are uncertain, they may invite you back for second base. (I couldn’t resist.)

The question is, can these unusual Recruitment methods prove beneficial in sourcing the best and brightest from your talent pool?

Research shows that these unconventional tactics can certainly help in attracting talent - and it’s easy to see why. After all, most of us would rather solve a series of Sudokus to unlock a door than be grilled about our past experiences. But is this really the best way to determine whether a Candidate is the right fit? Surely the pressure of talking to 15 different members of staff in quick succession is worse than a casual conversation at a local café, and it doesn’t necessarily give Candidates a chance to pitch themselves as the perfect choice.

To me, Recruitment has always been a very personal affair. While these methods may prove useful in removing unconscious bias, they boil the process down to a tick-box exercise. Whether or not a Candidate escaped the room in time should not be the factor that determines their employment. Perhaps they’re brilliant under pressure, never miss a deadline and have impeccable communication skills but hate small spaces. Similarly, a Candidate may come equipped with many years worth of experience under their belt and a vast skill-set but take a little time to feel comfortable with strangers.

Forcing people into an uncomfortable environment is likely to alienate those who don’t fit into the company’s rigid definition of the perfect Candidate: a confident extrovert who loves a challenge.

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Over the last 20 years, we have grown as a business to become one of the leading independent Recruitment agencies in Oxfordshire, and in 2018 have opened our first London office, to service Clients in the capital.

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