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Ask Massively: Would you hire a gamer?

Kevin Stallard

I usually dislike writing about the things that everyone else is talking about, but I'm sufficiently motivated (read: ticked off) about this topic that I might as well throw in my two cents. With all due respect to my readers and the people who take the time to write in to Ask Massively every week, this time I am going to answer questions that have been asked in other columns.

Should employers dismiss job applicants who play MMORPGs like World of Warcraft?

I'm not going to direct this answer to you gamers out there. You probably have a good idea of what my answer is going to be. This is for all of the corporate recruiters, hiring managers, and corporate paper pushers out there who think games like World of Warcraft sufficient reason to disqualify a job applicant.

Dear Corporate Recruiter,

You might think that this is going to be yet another hate-filled polemic in the gaming press that portrays you as out-of-touch corporate drones who think that our choice of hobby is something sinister and evil. Let me assure you that this will be quite the opposite. In fact, my aim is convince you that games such as World of Warcraft are no different than any of the other hobbies that your employees are involved in, and that it does not detract, in any way, from employee's job performance.

Among the most cited reasons for rejecting applicants that play MMORPGs are "bad sleep habits" which can lead to absenteeism and frequent use of personal leave and a loss of productivity from players who surf the internet during the work day looking at gaming sites such as Massively. I'd like to address both of these in order to illustrate that MMOG players are no different than the rest of your employees.

If "bad sleep habits" is sufficient reason not to hire someone, are you also in the practice of rejecting applicants who have children? As a father, I can assure you that dealing with a sick child in the middle of the night affects my sleep far worse than staying up an extra hour to finish a raid does. If "frequent use of personal leave" is an issue, then why do you offer personal time off as a benefit? If it is considered socially acceptable to take the Monday after the Super Bowl off of work, or the Friday after Thanksgiving, or St. Patrick's Day, or any other "non-recognized" holiday, then why is it a big deal when a gamer takes a day off to play a new game?

I can also speak to the issue of "lost productivity" in the workplace. Is there a difference between the employee who takes a couple of hours out of his day in order to surf the web and an executive who takes a "three martini lunch"? Why is it perfectly OK to allow employees to take two or three 15-minute smoke breaks per day, but non-smokers aren't allowed similar time to read their favorite web sites? Why are gaming websites blocked using technology like Websense, but fantasy football sites and day trading websites are allowed?

Most competent managers have long abandoned the idea of micromanaging an employee's time and have shifted their focus to results. If an employee completes his tasks on-time and accurately, the manager should have absolutely no interest in how that employee spends their time. Conversely, if the employee is unable to complete work on time, or is constantly having to redo their work because it is poorly done, then does it really matter why? It saves the company time and money to eliminate ineffective employees rather than attempting to "fix" them.

Ultimately, this is about you, the HR Recruiter. Asking a candidate about their personal habits in an attempt to divine whether or not they are capable of performing their job well is a shortcut and a cop out. It means that you are unqualified to judge the merit of a candidate based on their resume and prior job history and have to resort to issues you understand such as "lost productivity" and "bad sleep habits". Speaking from personal experience as a hiring manager, I have learned to detest HR's interference in "screening" candidates based on industry buzz-words and "performance indicators" such as hobbies or outside interests. I have seen HR reject resumes of people that I eventually hired because the candidate took the initiative to send me a copy of his resume directly. Now that I think on it, this article is going to portray you as out-of-touch corporate drones after all.

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