A video game that transforms the job market

We are experiencing increased inequality in the US economy. According to economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, US wealth inequality increased significantly over the past forty years. In the 1970’s, the top 10% of US families earned less than 10% of the total US income. Today, the top 1% of US families earn more than 20% of the total US income. Though some inequality is a natural by-product of a capitalist economy, increasing inequality can have a negative impact on the economy and on the society at large. According to historian Tony Judt, “there has been a collapse in intergenerational mobility… economic disadvantage for the overwhelming majority translates to ill health, missed educational opportunity, and—increasingly—the familiar symptoms of depression: alcoholism, obesity, gambling, and minor criminality.”

Digital technology can create more equitable access to economic opportunity. Knack is a company that aims to do exactly that. Knack has designed a video game to measure and showcase the “talents, traits, competencies, and career aptitudes” of job candidates that are otherwise difficult to detect. The game’s algorithm assesses characteristics such as mindset, decision making, social and emotional intelligence, character, leadership potential, thinking, creativity, and team effectiveness among others. Employers can use Knack to measure the key traits and characteristics of their current top performers, and then compare these metrics to the metrics of job candidates. Knack is designed to complement or potentially replace the current resume screening process.

This technology has the potential to revolutionize the way companies screen candidates. Rather than depending on signals from a person’s resume (e.g. Alma mater, past work experience), employers can get deep insights into the way job candidates think and behave. This tool may help employers remove natural biases in their recruiting process. It can also help employers recruit a more diverse pool of employees that are a better fit for the job.

Using this technology, job seekers can send a clear signal of their traits and capabilities. Job candidates will have more equitable access to job opportunities. Applicants may no longer require a degree from a prestigious university to get an employer’s attention. Students or job seekers using the tool may discover a new talent, trait, or characteristic that makes them valuable to employers. Knack may even provide academic or professional inspiration to someone who has a limited view of their career opportunities.

Though Knack has the potential revolutionize the labor market, it cannot do it alone. Human Resource departments will need to adapt this technology to evaluate not only their current employees but also their job candidates. They will need to redesign their recruiting process. Employees who are hired through the Knack system may require different training or career development programs to match their skills, traits, and areas for development. Company culture will need to welcome and encourage a more diverse workplace.

Knack can help build this ecosystem by sharing its technology and mission with key stakeholders. By working with universities, educational institutions, and human resources departments Knack can build familiarity with and confidence in its product. Collaborating with companies on their recruiting process and employee training programs, Knack could refine its product design to better meet the needs of both employees and job candidates.

Knack can also build a suite of technology to complement its current tool. To truly achieve an equitable job market, job seekers and employers needs resources beyond the Knack video games. Knack could develop more accessible career coaching, training, and job search resources for job seekers. They could develop a comprehensive recruitment tool for employers that syncs with companies’ existing digital HR tools. Knack could develop educational curriculum to help students identify and build on their natural talents and traits.

I’m eager to see how Knack changes the game.

(621 words)


Fortune. 2016. Wealth inequality in the U.S. is 10 times worse than income inequality. [ONLINE] Available at: http://fortune.com/2014/10/31/inequality-wealth-income-us/. [Accessed 16 November 2016].

Knack. 2016. Knack. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.knack.it/index.html. [Accessed 16 November 2016].

NPR.org. 2016. Recruiting Better Talent With Brain Games And Big Data : All Tech Considered : NPR. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/02/25/388698620/recruiting-better-talent-with-brain-games-and-big-data. [Accessed 16 November 2016].

USAPP. 2016. The explosion in U.S. wealth inequality has been fuelled by stagnant wages, increasing debt, and a collapse in asset values for the middle classes. | USAPP. [ONLINE] Available at: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/usappblog/2014/10/29/the-explosion-in-u-s-wealth-inequality-has-been-fuelled-by-stagnant-wages-increasing-debt-and-a-collapse-in-asset-values-for-the-middle-classes/. [Accessed 16 November 2016].


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Student comments on A video game that transforms the job market

  1. Very interesting company and post! If employers are truly committed to the game, this could open some doors for first round interviews. My biggest concern, however, is what happens after that initial interview? Will interviewers truly believe in the predicting power of Knack and remove their own biases? As you mention, the game has to build some critical mass and create a network big enough for both employers and and potential employees to take it seriously.

  2. Knack seems to be capitalizing on the double-blind hiring processes that many companies are attempting to adopt. In TOM, we learned that if a firm is trying to restructure the value proposition of a supply chain, it needs to take in consideration the concerns of the existing members. I would like to learn more about how Knack is tackling this issue for both educational and professional institutions. How does Knack see itself interacting with current players in education, such as the College Board? How will it address concerns of cheating, where someone takes the assessments for someone else? I would also be interested in learning more about the algorithms by which Knack determines a person’s competencies. Similar to the SATs or IQ tests, critics will claim that these assessment unfairly gauge certain competencies at the expense of others, such as interpersonal skills.

  3. This is a terrific post about a potentially life-changing product (although I hate to consider something with this much social value as a “product”)!

    Knack clearly has a more-than-worthwhile mission and has discovered a strong set of technical procedures to tease out their users’ inner strengths. My one key concern was the potential quality of opportunities available through the platform. However, looking through Knack’s website, some of their employers are enormous conglomerates (Citi, AmEx, Tata, BCG, Comcast, GE, AXA) that span countries and industries.(i) My next questions would be to better understand where to go from here: should Knack start pressuring companies to share that they use Knack as a recruiting measure, or should the dissemination of value be word-of-mouth? Would Knack be helped by having a physical location in major metropolitan areas to seek to facilitate similar meetings/events? Is digital-only potentially excluding high-value jobs where the employer’s HR is too understaffed or low on cash to fund a digital hiring push?

    (i) Knack, “Employers,” https://www.knack.it/employer/index.html, accessed November 20, 2016.

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