Playing D&D will make you a better recruiter
A few months ago, I was
invited by Sourceurs? Non, peut-être. Live to talk about Role Playing Games and Recruiting. I had
loads of thoughts that didn’t really fit into the conversation so I wrote them down. And forgot to publish this post for months...
What do I mean by RPG (Role Playing Games)?
Well, RPG is “mainstreamlingly” known as D&D. If you’ve been watching shows like “The Big Bang Theory”, iZombie or “Stranger Things” you would have seen the characters actually play similar games.
Wikipedia defines role-playing game (RPG) as a game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Players take responsibility for acting out these roles within a narrative, either through literal acting or through a process of structured decision-making regarding character development. Actions taken within many games succeed or fail according to a formal system of rules and polyhedral dices.
Playing RPGs can help you develop your recruiting skills.
RPG is all about storytelling. It’s the core idea of it, you are in a fictional world and you’re going on an adventure of some sort.
You could be impersonating all sorts of characters, such as a thief, a cleric or a barbarian in a Fantasy environment, or a detective, an accountant, or an astronaut. There’s no limit to what you can imagine, but once you’ve chose your character, you’ll have to bring them up to life otherwise the recreational/fun aspect of the game will not be there. A lot of the fun of the game can be found in the actual role-playing, and the bickering of a cleric and a barbarian can provide a lot of comedy.
Storytelling is also how the game will progress. When the GM (or referee) asks “you are in front of a door with a bright lock, what do you do?” the players will have to make decisions and describe their actions in detail to their team and GM. If the players don’t take any actions or don’t do a good job at describing them, the consequences can be dire. The GM usually has a scenario pre-written and their job is to guide the players through it, but if the players decide not to do anything (we all sit down on the shiny round rocks that are arranged in a circle in the room), then the game is stilled and the GM will need to do something to trigger the next actions of the scenario. You throw your dices and see what happens: success, you have a nice rest and you’re now ready to start adventuring again, or failure, sitting on the stones triggered a hidden mechanism that released a poisonous gas in the chamber. In any case, the player will have to start telling a story: if the game is to go anywhere.
As a player, you have no idea what scenario the GM has in store for you, and you luck with the dices can completely change your character’s fate. There are 2 things that you cannot control: the scenario that the GM has prepared and how lucky you’ll be. If you get unlucky, you’ll need to adapt quickly (nobody wants to wait for 15 minutes while you weigh your options, it’s a game after all) to modify the actions that you had planned.
For example: you need information on XYZ; you decide to go talk to the witnesses. You throw your dices and no luck, your score is really low, not only do the witnesses not want to talk to you, but they’re now accusing you of trespassing. When I ended up in that situation, I cobbled together a story that ended up making the GM laugh and they accepted it for the sake of the story.
Unless the GM has specifically instructed you to do something against your teammates, working together as a team will enable you to drive the story forward. If you all go in different directions in-game, the GM will take actions to bring you back together (if only because it’s really hard to manage multiple storylines within one scenario and you don’t want your players to go rogue on you).
Oftentimes you will need to collaborate with your teammates because your character’s skills are complementary. For example, the Thief will go scout out the place because they are good at furtive work and then the Barbarian will jump in and bulldoze their way through the enemy with their great axe, while the more “fragile” characters stay out of harm’s way.
But what does it have to do with Recruiting, you may ask?
Well, as a recruiter you need to be able to articulate the story of the company, the job and its missions and purpose.
If the candidate cannot recognize themselves in the role or doesn’t really understand all the potential things they could learn and achieve, chances are they won’t progress in the process.
I started playing RPG at the same time I started working as a recruiter. I have very often been told by my colleagues who would hear all my calls that I’m very “scripted” when I talk about a job to a candidate. Not scripted as in I’m reading something out but scripted in the way that my story is the same every time I’m talking to a candidate about the same job.
What is the reason for that? Well, it’s really quite simple. When I start working on a new role, I like to figure out the purpose of the job and what the person who gets the job will be able to achieve in this role, and then I build a story around that. Nobody wants to listen to a recruiter read bullet points, we can read the job description. We want the juicy details and the interesting bits, and it flow a lot better if you can tell a story around them.
Reflecting on this, I think that I developed my storytelling skills because I’ve always worked on hard to fill roles: either the salary was below market average, the company sucked, the role had KPIs from hell or it was a fixed term contract. Whatever the reason, I have needed to go above and beyond when it came to talking about the jobs without over-selling them (no hiding these 60 DAILY sales calls).
So, how can you improve your story-telling skills if you are a recruiter?
Well, you can role-play your story. But at this point, the play has nothing to do with being recreational, we’re completely losing the “ludos” aspect. It’s only a game because there are no consequences if you fail.
Or… you can play RPG and learn how to tell stories while being in space, in the Shire or in Baker Street (to name but a few places I’ve been). Another example: when all of a sudden, I realised that my useless in-game pet, a baby dragon with atrophied wings, that only spit a few sparks when sneezing, can save the day: if I tickle his tail, he will sneeze some sparks and light the campfire so we don’t freeze to death. Thankfully the dices complied. Through regular playing you will learn skills without realizing that you do, and you’ll then be able to implement them in your daily activity without even thinking about it.
Recruitment also requires a huge amount of adaptability; from HM requirement changes (I need them to speak English and Turkish fluently, then 2 weeks later, I need them to speak English and Lithuanian), market fluctuations (recessions, covid, wars…) and everything that might not go your way throughout the recruiting process (candidate randomly decides that they want 10K more because they read somewhere that they should ask for that even though you thought you had locked the comp expectations with them). Priorities change, life happens and if you cannot adapt and flex around that, I’m sorry to say it’s going to be very hard for you to be a good recruiter.
There again, I believe playing RPGs can help you upskill yourself. You can watch as many online trainings and read as many self-help books as you want, nothing will replace practice. And it’s always better to practice skills when there is nothing at stake if we fail. RPG can do that for you. What is the worst that can happen? Your action will fail and you will have to go around it or do something more slowly or in a less showy manner. In the grand scheme of things, this is a minimal inconvenience and you will still very much enjoy the game, albeit you’ll probably get teased by your team mates.
Last but not least team work.
As a recruiter it can be very easy to get quite siloed and to have no idea what’s happening outside of your tiny recruiting world. I recruit for Marketing, so I have no idea if we need sales people, software engineers, or anything like that, right?
Well, you can. I have certainly seen a lot of recruiters who operate that way. I’ve also seen recruiters who were interested in everything and could talk about various orgs and were able to pass on candidates to various teams “because I heard you on a call to a candidate talking about this role the other day”.
And while at the end of the day there is only one person on the phone with the candidate, you can go a lot further if you collaborate with your team, but also with your other stakeholders (say, sourcers, coordinators or hiring managers).
While playing a RPG, you will learn negotiation, collaboration and compromise because in order for the story to move forward, the group needs to decide on an action plan together, and if someone goes rogue and decides to only do their own things, nothing good will happen. You will probably be “punished” by the GM in order for you to go back within the tracks of the planned scenario or you could cause your team mates to lose all their life-points and kill their carefully crafted character that they had been leveling-up for weeks, months or sometimes years!
Ultimately, when you work in recruitment, everyone works towards a common goal: hiring people to grow the company. On a daily basis we need to collaborate with Hiring Managers, HR people and so on, so having good teamwork skills will ultimately enable you to work better.
So, this is the end of my diatribe about why you should play RPG if you want to be a good recruiter. Playing RPG has massively helped me in my recruiting role and I firmly believe that if I am a good trainer today (I can teach you Data Protection without you falling asleep) this is very much because of the skills I have learnt and practiced as an elf, a barbarian, or a slayer.
Give it a try. You don’t have to commit to hours and hours over years, there are some RPGs that enable you to complete an adventure in a couple of hours. And there are also numerous RPGs that don’t have the super rigid rules and guidelines of D&D and the maths required are so minimal they didn’t even deter me.