Archives For Game Job Interview Tips

Get the Name Right

Paul Teall —  January 25, 2016 — Leave a comment

I tweeted about this recently, but I figured it was a topic that was maybe worth explaining in more than 140 characters.

I’ve talked in the past about how seemingly minor errors in your resume or cover letter can get you in the reject pile. Think of it this way – if it’s a popular job ad that’s getting a lot of interest, and a recruiter is sifting through dozens and dozens of similar applications, do you want to draw their attention to a careless error in YOUR submission? Of course not. Here’s one of those small mistakes that I’ve seen in many, many submissions – getting the company name wrong.

Seem unbelievable? Something that you would never do? Consider these examples:

  • NCSOFT
  • BioWare
  • Double Fine
  • inXile Entertainment

If you send in a cover letter and say that you’re thrilled to be applying to “NCSoft”, “Bioware”, “DoubleFine”, or “Inxile” – you’ve made an error. Will that minor oversight automatically get you rejected? Why take the chance? How a studio spells its name is an important part of its brand. BioWare decided years and years ago to put that capital W in there for a reason, and I guarantee you that when someone there gets a submission to “Bioware”, it at least catches their eye. How can I guarantee that? I work for TurboSquid, and I’ve reviewed lots of resumes over the years. If someone applies to “Turbosquid” or “Turbo Squid”, I always notice, because that’s not our brand. It just looks incorrect to people on the inside, because it is. It sends a small signal that you haven’t taken the time to figure out how to properly spell the company’s name. Don’t let that be one of the first impressions you make.

If you’re not sure how they handle the spelling, take a few minutes to poke around their site. Don’t just trust the logo, those can be deceiving. It might look like something that’s all caps or one word, but that might be due to their logo font. Find their “About Us” page, and see how they refer the brand there. It’s a small enough thing that it won’t get noticed if you get it right, but there’s a good chance it will be noticed if you get it wrong.

Good luck on the job hunt, everyone!

This is the time of year that people spend time considering how they’re going to improve themselves. Goals are set, resolutions are made. That’s what got me thinking about this post, but it isn’t something that should only be considered around the impending new year. If you’re in the process of hunting for a job, it’s helpful to ask yourself this question often – “what am I doing to get better?” If you’re spending time improving one of your skills (or learning something new entirely), that’s going to help you in the interview process in several ways. If you’re not spending any time trying to get better at something -well, you should probably start, because you’re competing against other job hunters who are.

The primary benefit of improving/learning a skill is obvious – you’re (hopefully) getting better at something that will help you get a job. Beyond that, your learning process can be a great thing to bring up during interviews. Spend some time thinking about things like:

  • How do you stay on top of current trends in your field?
  • How do you go about learning a new skill? What resources do you use?
  • Is there a skill/tool/programming language that you taught yourself? How did you do it?
  • How long did it take you to master or become adept at a new skill? What were the biggest challenges?

Be ready to discuss things like that, as they have the potential to take an interview in some interesting directions. When I’m interviewing people, I love to hear about how they are learning things on their own time. It gives you some insight into how they might approach a unique challenge if they end up working side-by-side with you!

Don’t be afraid to bring up things that you learning/improving that aren’t directly related to the job you’re applying for. Learning how to cook? Play an instrument? Speak French? Those can all be interesting discussion points in an interview as well. They help give the interviewer more insight into who you are, and how you might fit in with the team.

One of the fastest possible ways to eliminate yourself from contention for jobs is to send the exact same resume and cover letter each time you apply for a job. Trust me – studio recruiters and HR staff can tell your cover letter is generic almost immediately. And what does that generic message tell the studio about you? That you can’t be bothered to do any research about either the company or the specific role that you’re applying for. You might be intimately familiar with that studio, a huge fan of their games and a great fit for the role, but it’s too late – you’ve been weeded out. You won’t even get the chance to show them that in an interview.

We’ve covered this topic briefly before, with a quick tip from Deep Silver’s Erica Haack. Her main point about cover letters was this – “I want to know why you want to work for us and specific experiences you have relating to the position.”

I also came across a couple of interesting posts this morning on Fast Company. The first post, which discusses some common cover letter problems, include this great point:

Whenever an entry-level gig opens up, she’s soon inundated by applications not only riddled with misspellings and typos, but more terrifyingly, “what appears to be a fundamental lack of understanding of how to sell oneself to a prospective employer.”

I feel like people don’t realize how many other applicants they’re up against when they’re applying for a job, especially the more junior positions. Your margin for error is razor thin. Errors are obviously unacceptable, but a generic, un-targeted cover letter is almost as bad. The studio could be looking at dozens, maybe even hundreds of applications for that position, and you have a very small amount of time to convince them that you’re at least worth talking to about the job.

The second post offers up some tips for making sure your cover letter holds the reader’s attention:

…you can use the cover letter to show your employer-crush why your experience is just right for the job description. Do not, do not, do not let it look like a template. Would you hire someone who sent you a template? No. So don’t send one.

Notice the 3 “do nots” to emphasize not using a template cover letter. Don’t do it.

Writing a new cover letter for every job takes time. It will slow you down. The alternative, however, is risking having your application thrown out immediately. Take the time to personalize the message when applying. Keep it short, honest, on point, and let the studio know how your skills and experience are just what they’re looking for.

GDC Job Hunting Tips

Paul Teall —  March 3, 2012 — 1 Comment

GDC is almost upon us, and the Career Pavilion will be an essential part of the conference for many attendees.  If you haven’t been before, the GDC Career Pavilion houses an impressive collection of game studios who are looking to hire.  They’re forking over good money for that fancy booth, and they’re doing it so that they can talk to you (or maybe that guy next to you….).

If you’re going to GDC, what are some things that you can do to increase your chances for success in the Career Pavilion?  Here are some suggestions, from someone who has wandered a few such conference job fairs (including GDC’s):

  1. Be prepared – before you even set foot in the Pavilion, do some research and come up with a plan.  Here’s a map that shows which companies will have a booth.  Research some of them.  Hell, research all of them.  You’ll see studios that you recognize, but you’ll also see some that you probably don’t.  Know what games they make, know where they’re located, know a little something about the history of the company – facts like these will help you when you strike up a conversation with the recruiter working the booth.
  2. Start early – Zach WIlson, Senior Level Designer at Visceral Games, has this to say – “lay some groundwork – remind recruiters you’ll be there and try to pre-schedule meetings.  That’s how I got my current job.”
  3. Be presentable – don’t look like a bum, basically.  Take a shower.  Wear deodorant.  Maybe hold the garlic and onions from that sandwich at lunch.  I’m not recommending a suit or even anything very dressy – just don’t wear that wrinkly,unwashed t-shirt that you’ve been wearing for 3 days.  Hotels have irons (they even work on t-shirts).
  4. Be courteous – That recruiter that you’re talking to will be working that booth for many days.  Working a booth is draining – you’re standing all day, and you’re saying the same thing over and over again to a LOT of people.  Hey, that’s what they’re there for, just be aware of it – ask them how they’re holding up.  Once you’re talking, don’t get carried away – express your interest, ask a few questions, hand off your resume, maybe ask about time frames/next steps, thank them, and move on.  There’s always exceptions, of course!  If you’re chatting with someone, and they want to get more in depth (potentially even with an on-the-spot interview), roll with it.
  5. Get there earlier in the day – towards the end of the day, thoughts are starting to drift towards a comfortable seat and a cold drink.  You’ll get more attention if you catch them while they’re fresh.
  6. It’s not just about the Pavilion – be prepared wherever you’re at!  Parties, hotels, on the street – you’re bound to hear someone mention that they’re hiring who doesn’t have a booth in the show.  Don’t be afraid to express interest.  They’re not mentioning it in the hopes that no one hears them, they’re looking to get the word out.  Take advantage of the opportunity!

This list is by no means exhaustive – ask around to other people who’ve been to the show. They’ll have lots of great advice to offer.  Good luck!

Interview Interactions

Paul Teall —  February 18, 2012 — Leave a comment

Whenever you’re working through the interview process with a company, you’re likely going to have several interactions with that studio.  It’s important that you take every step of that process seriously, and realize what impression you might be making with each interaction.  Here are some of the steps that you might take:

  • Initial contact – sending in resume and cover letter
  • Phone interview with HR
  • Follow-up e-mails
  • Phone interview with a department manager
  • On-site interviews

You might have several more steps involved before ultimately receiving a job offer.  It’s very important to realize that each of those stages is an opportunity for the studio to weed you out.  Don’t underestimate what impact a poor interaction during any of these stages might have.

I have a friend who was responsible for several hiring decisions at a large developer, and he always uses the term “coarse filters”, which I like.  If a candidate submitted an application, but didn’t follow an instruction he had in the job description, he’d immediately dismiss them.  That was his “failure to follow instructions” filter.  It showed that the candidate probably hadn’t spent the time to fully read through the job description.  He had similar filters for cover letters with lots of typos, e-mails that didn’t reference the right job, and more.  It might sound harsh, but you have to realize that you might be up against 100 (or more) other candidates.  The hiring manager just doesn’t have the time to personally get to know each candidate.  They have to look to make quick judgments to get that stack of resumes down to a manageable number.

Keep that in mind in every interaction you have with the game company you’re talking to, and you’ll have a much better chance at advancing to the next stage in the interview process!