Sure, but it’s loaded word. You can say “Oh I mean it for real!”, but guess what? So does everyone who says it. The CEO who ensures his nephew’s best friend gets hired will certainly be saying “but he was the best candidate!”. It’s not a word that can be used without a ton of baggage coming with it.
Pretty sure the standard way, I mean, hear me out, maybe this is crazy is, you find someone who wants to do the job, is at least capable of doing the job (on a basic level, this is usually an easy bar to clear), and you offer them money to do the job.
Kidnapping etc. is not usually necessary.
The problem that tends to happen in a lot of companies is two-fold:
BAME people (exception in the UK being Indian and Chinese people), women, disabled people, and so on, often don’t even make it to interviews. Due to the higher difficulties involved in their lives, they’re inherently less likely to have the checkboxes needed to get there. Or they may get pretty far but then you look at the “ideal” candidates, and suddenly “Oh well this guy went to an ex-Poly and this guy went to a Russell Group uni so we’ll chuck the resume of the ex-Poly guy”.
In interviews where personality and so on is considered, the same groups are less likely to be found to have the “right traits” or be “a good fit” for the team, because the existing team is mostly white and mostly male.
And together these make a real barrier. The biggest problem with “merit”, in the end is that even when it is honestly used (which is rare, I feel), it tends to be extremely subjective. You have to make up some sort of set of objective criteria, and those will be being made up by some bunch of mostly white, mostly-male guys, and will include plenty of subconscious bias, particularly of the “but obviously X is better than Y!” kind, where they all instinctively agree and so something is made a criterion without even being challenged.
It’s been proven time after time. The easiest way to prove it is to send in a bunch of resumes with what white people regard as “black” names to a company, and then the same resumes, with “white” or really unidentifiable names on them, and see who gets called. You already know the results. Some companies have moved to name-blind stuff as a result, but that only really works when you’re hiring an awful lot of people into a relatively large company.
The more detail you give people, the more it biases them, too. Gender, race, age, whether you grew up rich or poor, and many other factors all bias people. If you take that all out, and go with “just merit”, you still need the white-man-set criteria, and most companies aren’t willing to go that far.
A big problem in the games industry is entrenched sexism, too (and to some extent racism/homophobia, but I think that’s less extreme), in that there a lot of very comfortable, very qualified nerds out there, who expect anyone who comes into their company to be like them, and get mad if they’re not. God help you if you’re a woman who is good programmer, but isn’t an all-round nerd, and you want to get into games. People get quite oppressive in policing what you can like and so on. Someone wants to a massive picture of Spock or something? Awesome, “everyone” thinks it’s cool. You have a copy of Twilight on your desk? People will mock you about it, in a “friendly” way. “Friendly”. And this sort of thing goes on and on, and becomes constant background noise. A few people will be totally immune to it, but most people aren’t. And that’s without even getting into how many self-declared “nerds” are faux-intellectuals who embrace fringe theories and pseudo-science, because it’s edgy and cool to them, so women and non-white people have to deal with an unusually high proportion of game devs having theories about “racial IQ”, or assuming women are just less intelligent or whatever.