Interview: Social Gaming Meets Career Advancement

Workers want the right job. Companies want the right people. But in a globalized marketplace with millions of online job applicants, finding the perfect fit can be a harrowing process.

Gild, a new kind of job search and recruitment tool, aims to smooth the process. Besides matching you up with jobs that fit, Gild lets you certify your skills, showcase your skills through competitions, and see where you rank among peers in your profession. Unlike traditional job search websites, Gild also lets you see where you are in a company’s application process.

It benefits companies, too. By reviewing job seekers’ skill ratings and certifications, companies can find the best potential employees more quickly.

CEO Sheeroy Desai calls Gild “social gaming meets career advancement.” We caught up with Sheeroy to learn more about how Gild works, the benefits of testing, and the role that games play in landing a job.

BP: What industries and nationalities comprise most of your user base?

Everything we do today, across the board, is focused on what we call the information technology space. Clearly, a lot of technology companies are our clients. We also have clients like United Health Group that aren’t technology companies, but do recruit a lot of technology talent as customers.

In terms of nationality and geography, our largest user base is India. That’s where we started our beta and did initial targeting. As such, about 80% of the population is from India. We did have a global launch last month, so now we’re seeing people from other parts of the world such as the United States, Philippines and the U.K. Our goal is to make Gild a global property.

BP: Are there any particular contests or tests that have had the greatest user response?

That’s a really interesting question. When we were building Gild up, we decided we were going to have different types of contests for the competitions. One of the contests was going to be the hardcore coding competitions. We thought that alone would be too limiting and people said they wanted something more light-hearted, so we also decided to do competitions that are really topical (Ed.: like Riddles and Inventions That Changed the World).

The main point at that time was to find the competition that would draw the most audience and so everyone would want to participate. The hardcore coding competitions are the ones that draw in the crowd. So that’s pretty much about our user base.

BP: Are some companies accepting Gild test scores in place of doing their own testing now?

The exams we’ve created are definitely accepted by some companies as a standard. An example of that would be Oracle across the JPAC region, which is Asia Pacific. If you want to get hired by Oracle, you have to do a test. We actually run and host those tests on our servers.

Similarly, if in India you get hired by SAP, or if you get hired by HP, you go through a testing process that has our tests. There are certainly organizations in parts of the world that are standardized on our assessments.

BP: Are there talented programmers who just don’t test well or are bad test takers? Or does that not really apply to the technology field?

When we think about who’s taking our skills test, they want to a job as a programmer and received a programming certification. What we are doing is putting coding on a challenging level. Each question is composed of some piece of code that you have to define or a piece of code with something wrong in it and you have to figure out what’s wrong or how would you improve it.

A lot of folks are thinking back to a testing days, back to the SAT days, it’s really not like that. These are questions designed to replicate the consequence you face in your job and the problems you have to solve when you’re working. From that standpoint, we don’t see that people don’t test well. It’s mostly about if you’re good at your job, then you should be able to do this stuff.

BP: As far as formatting your tests, it looks like they are timed and you have to do them all in one go. So you can’t do one section and save your test for another day?

Correct. That’s really from a standpoint of two things. One is the fact that you really have to do the test all at once is because we think that’s evening the playing field. Everyone should have to take the test under the same conditions.

The time thing is important because obviously the two people that get all the questions right, but if someone is able to do it in half the time than they better. So the timing is a way to distinguish who’s really better than the rest of the crowd.

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BP: Can you tell me more about Gild’s gaming component?

The most prominent place you can find it is under Competition (Ed.: Gild’s Competition page). It gives users the ability to take an online competition for a prize. We’ve given out iPads, iPod touches, cameras, we’ve given a trip to Vegas. That’s where the gaming element is most obvious.

But gaming is built into everything. We take your test and tell you how you compared to everyone else in your city, your country, and around the world. You apply for a job and we tell you how you’re ranking compared to everyone based on the requirements and everyone that’s applied. We say OK, 50 people have applied for this job and you’re ranking number 3. Here are some things you can do to improve your rank. Gaming is built into everything, but most obviously in competitions.

BP: The whole concept of using gaming and gaming mechanics to allow these workers to apply for work is interesting. Could you talk more about that?

I think this is one of the things that really is critical to Gild’s success. What we’ve seen today which is you can take things like managing a career or finances and even your health. These are very important things. But you don’t see people going on the Internet and engaging in those tools a whole lot.

Our viewpoint is that it’s not our fault it’s not interesting. We really wanted to bring those gaming mechanics into those important tools. If you look at things like Facebook, they are all playing games. So we thought what if you bring some of the gaming to a very important topic like your career?

That’s what we’ve been trying to develop and we keep building on the concept and we see that a lot. I’d say about 20 or 25% of our audience are very fanatical users. They keep coming back on a regular basis and engage in an online community. You can see that behavior where they get upset if they score low and they don’t win a prize. They say “how can I win a prize next time?” So we think those elements are important, because it’s human nature.

BP: What’s your vision for Gild’s expansion?

We really want professionals to take control of their careers. If you look at the world today, and the technologies that we have, we see how far the Internet has advanced. Yet people seem very helpless when it comes to managing and looking at managing careers.

It’s amazing how even the most qualified person has trouble finding a job. It’s a very paralyzing thing and a humbling experience. And a big a part of it is because of all these tests are just geared for employers. When you go to apply to a job on or Career Builder, you have no control over your resume and who’s going to get access to it. As a result, there are really qualified people using these limited avenues.

Our whole intent around Gild is we want to create a place where people and professionals can take control of their careers. They are the ones who are in the driver seat. We want the people who are really good to be able to make themselves more marketable. We want it to be a condition of a company choosing them.

From that standpoint, as a global standard, we want our initial focus to be on the technology space. We want technology professionals from around the world to build a community here. We want them to use Gild to not just learn more about themselves, but help them get better jobs. Once they have jobs, we want them to use Gild to help them go back to their employers and negotiate a better salary for themselves based on how they are doing. That’s our vision.

Official bio: Sheeroy Desai joined PAC Labs as the Chief Executive Officer in July 2007. He brings more than 20 years of experience in technology and technology services markets. Sheeroy was the second employee at Sapient Corporation, and began his career in technology as an early member at the Cambridge Technology Group — the predecessor firm to Cambridge Technology Partners — which was later acquired by Novell. Sheeroy graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1987 with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and a minor in Economics.

Written by Drea Knufken

Drea Knufken

Currently, I create and execute content- and PR strategies for clients, including thought leadership and messaging. I also ghostwrite and produce press releases, white papers, case studies and other collateral.