Published on January 7, 2019, at 1:10 p.m.
by Gillian Castro.
Technology is changing and so are job applications. Ketchum, a global communications agency, announced in 2016 that it was updating its application process for its competitive summer fellowship program. The idea came from Ketchum’s Spark Tank, the agency’s annual competition between employees to create new and innovative ideas to grow the company’s success. The agency’s new application is called Launchpad, and it involves a two-week-long competition between applicants designed to find those most suited for the position based on skills rather than experience.
According to a 2016 news release, Michele Lanza, Ketchum’s SVP/partner of Global Talent Acquisition, said, “Prior to LaunchPad, Ketchum relied heavily on an applicant’s past internship experience as the primary selection criteria for our Summer Fellows Program. While the strategy had been successful, we knew it was not allowing us to see beyond a resume — limiting us from broadening and diversifying our talent pool. The design and implementation of LaunchPad gave us a homegrown tool to help even the playing field, to look at candidates based on their potential vs. what they’d already had the opportunity to do.”
During the two-week competition, each applicant is given two prompts, each featuring a different topic. The applicant is tasked with creating a strategy-driven response to the problem provided. In previous years, one of the prompts focused on digital while the other focused on creative.
“It’s the most unique application process I had ever experienced because you have the opportunity to showcase your thought process and creative thinking skills,” said Skylar Spencer, account coordinator at Ketchum and 2018 summer fellow. “I think it gives you a chance to showcase capabilities that aren’t necessarily on a résumé.”
The goal of adding gamification to Ketchum’s summer fellowship application is to find a more diverse and nontraditional group of applicants. According to Spencer, the unique group of individuals that this application brings forward is widening the pool of applicants and flooding more talent into the public relations industry as a whole.
Ketchum is not the only company that has added a gamified approach to its application process. Advertising agency 22squared created a two-day collaboration process with its Mobilize weekend.
“The primary goal of our Mobilize weekend is to offer an opportunity for young advertising hopefuls to experience a taste of what it’s like to work in this industry, while doing something good to ‘Give Rise to Change’ that nonprofit organizations can benefit from,” said Jenni McDonough, SVP of Human Resources for 22Squared. “It certainly gives the applicant a chance to flex their creativity and think differently about the way they view the agency and the opportunity.”
According to McDonough, gamified processes such as Mobilize help to promote collaboration and a sense of team work between current employees and applicants. The weekend works to emphasize one of 22Squared’s seven cultural pillars, “We’re Better Together.”
While collaboration and team work are important aspects of Mobilize, the weekend also helps to set applicants apart and show their skillset that wouldn’t always have been evident on a résumé.
“For 22squared, our interviewers get the chance to see if the candidate has a strong point of view and can think outside of the proverbial box,” McDonough said. “We get more than we would from a standard résumé. We’re looking for pretty special, unique thinkers at 22squared. We want to hire people who bring their voice and can add something to our culture and our work. We get an opportunity to see how a candidate can stretch, if they rise to the occasion and triumph under stress and pressure, or do they crumble. It’s an opportunity to actually witness how candidates perform.”
While each of these applications includes a unique, gamified aspect, both afford an applicant the opportunity to lead with their skillset rather than their specific agency experience or how they look on paper. “No matter the question, we just want to see how you think – from point A to point Z,” Spencer said. According to Spencer, it is important to be purposeful and strategic throughout the entire process, even though it may be difficult to prepare in advance.
McDonough also offered her own piece of advice for being successful in this process: “Have a point of view, know how to tell your own story, be confident in what makes you unique and different, don’t hide what you can add to the party, be proud of it.”