Would you hire a gamer?

Would you ever consider hiring based on their playing of video games? I did, and here’s why. What a person does with their leisure time speaks powerfully to their motivation. Motivation matters, perhaps more than anything else.

Usual interviewing evaluates three areas:

  1. Can they do the job?
  2. Will they do the job?
  3. Can we put up with them while they do the job?

All are important, but for long-term success in a position, you absolutely must have the motivation to maintain your zeal for the position over long periods. With many candidates you can see this over their career and in the excitement and energy with which they discuss previous problems – but with the borderline cases or for those just starting out, how they spend their leisure time is a great indicator. In the best cases, it shows their excitement over solving the problem. Greater excitement in the process of the solution than in the solution itself.

As an example, we were once considering candidates for a position as a junior software engineer. The gamer was almost a year out from his graduation from a 4-year program and had been unable to find work. This may have been in part as he was unable to show any work experience – just a (now aging) degree and some odd jobs doing things like working at Radio Shack. Nothing to show he could develop enterprise applications, nor that he had the desire to learn from those who could. After asking our usual questions to determine if he could do the job (yes), we moved to the next stage in the structured interview: attempting to determine if he wanted to do the job. While there were hints in a number of his answers, the answer which sealed it was when we asked him about the games he played. He lit up not when describing the gameplay (some FPS), but rather when describing how he had learned how to script in the game’s proprietary language to give himself various advantages, like heal faster when health was below a threshold, or better armor when under attack, or higher damage when he was attacking. This was genuine excitement for solving a challenging problem using programming skill.

I’m happy to say, he worked out quite well. He had a zeal for every problem thrown his way, and what he lacked in experience and existing knowledge, he made up in drive and desire. I expect he will only get better with time, and am glad for the risk we took in taking him on.

How about you? What do you do to determine if your candidates have the drive to do what’s needed for the position?

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