We've been doing a lot of interviewing interviewing at @HinterlandGames lately and here are some general thoughts/observations that may or may not be useful to anyone who is currently looking for a job.
Some of this may be specific to our approach, but I suspect much of it would apply generally no matter which studio you are applying at.
There's a lot of verbiage available in the wider-spread tech industry about how you are interviewing a company as much as they are interviewing you, and that companies need to prove to candidates why they should join them.
I agree this is generally true -- the worst outcome after an interview process is if after several months of working together, the candidate or the employer discover they are not a good fit for each other. This is a big failure state that should be avoided at all costs.
It's impossible to know for sure what it will be like to work with someone based on even several hours of interviews, so a lot of hiring is done "on faith" based on info and a kind of "group wisdom" you derive from having multiple folks interview every strong candidate.
One great way to increase your chances of success, as a candidate or an employer, is to ask a lot of questions. Not only is this a great way to get info about a place or a person, but it's also excellent insight into how someone's mind works.
You can tell a lot about a person by what questions they ask, how they ask them, and what they do with the information. Also, an interviewee who doesn't ask questions comes across as incurious. Being curious is a critical attribute for successful game developers.
We're all super busy and it's difficult to find time to play a game extensively before you interview at a studio. An easy shortcut is to watch YT vids or streams. This is better than nothing but it is not as good as spending even 1 hour playing a studio's game.
It may come as a surprise to people, but in general watching someone play a game is not as "high quality" an interaction as actually putting your hands on a game and playing it. That's where the truth of a game emerges.
Most games have some form of fairly easy/cheap or essentially "free" version that can be tried in a trial capacity, but if not, ask the studio for a key. This shows some initiative and a real interest in their work.
It's much cheaper for a studio to give a free game key away than to hire someone who is potentially not a good fit long-term, and some at least minimal degree of interest in the thing you make should be a pre-requisite for any hiring decision.
(I'm not saying you need to sink 100 hours into a game. Spending 1 hour seems like a reasonable expectation, and will give you enough fodder to ask at least 2-3 interesting questions about the game or offer some observations about it. This will help the interview outcome.)
In today's pandemic context, where it isn't possible to do face-to-face interviews with people in person -- which is where we tend to pick up so much of the intangible "feel" of a candidate -- being able to do video interviews is critical.
You just cannot get the same sense of a candidate doing interviews over the phone. You need to see facial expressions, body language. If you don't have webcam, consider getting whatever free video app the interview will be done through on your phone so you can show your face.
We hire people as much for their passion for game development and the specific things we are making, as we do for their appreciation for what is different about our approach, as well as our history as a studio.
Even for a studio that is pretty private about how we operate, like ours, there's lots of public info that has accumulated over the years about what we make and what we stand for. Even just reading our dev diaries will tell you a lot about how we work and what we believe.
And it's a small industry as we all know, so you probably know someone who knows someone who works with us and you can ask them questions about us or our work or our history and bring interesting observations to your interview with us. It makes us feel like you care!
You don't want to feel like "just another candidate" in a pipeline when you interview with us, and we work hard to make each candidate feel special and appreciated for their time. We ask the same of our time. We aren't "just another studio" you are interviewing with.
(I mean, we are, but we don't want to feel like that.) This isn't about being sycophantic (that would be bad), it's just about showing you have done your homework & that you are serious about finding a good place for yourself & you care about where you work and who you work with.
Another thing that really helps is if we can get a sense of who you are. Not what you have done (we can tell that from your resume), but *who you are*. What makes you tick? What do you care about? What do you do outside of work? What drives you? What makes you feel crazy?
From our perspective, we are not hiring a widget-maker, we are bringing someone into the fold, with all the skills and experience they can bring to bear on the problems we are trying to solve, and all the foibles and traits that make you human, and interesting to be with.
We don't need to be friends, but we do all need to like working together, and that's always easier if we have some interest and common purpose around what we are trying to do. It's always nice to discover this exists after the fact, of course, but whatever we can do to...
...to get a sense of this before hand, is better for you and better for us. Ultimately the "win state" for both of us is for you to join us if you are going to be happy, productive, and successful working with us, OR, to pass on us if you won't be. And your win state is the same.
I think this is all pretty obvious stuff but maybe it will be useful to those of you who are looking for work in the industry. None of these comments are motivated by specific situations we have encountered, but just general observations over years of interviewing and hiring.
In general, for me personally (and this will be different for everyone), the thing I value most in a candidate -- and this is also the toughest thing to interview for -- is GOOD JUDGMENT. The ability to make good decisions.
This is a skill that goes far beyond any technical competencies or craft skill you might have. I think this goes to the core of how you think and how you approach problems and for me it's the uber-skill that determines how successful someone can be.
On the flip side, there's a kind of "institutional" sense of what good judgment is, and how a group of people come to make decisions about things, and it's probably worth digging into how this works at any place you are interviewing with b/c it may impact how you feel there.
Anyways, those are some random thoughts. Thanks for reading and indulging me. One last quick thought re: the "have good judgment" piece. This is in no way the purview of liberal arts educated people, but I do find in general that people who focus too much on technical skill...
...and to clarify, by "technical skill" I do not mean programming, I mean the tools and techniques by which you approach your specific role...
...people who focus on nurturing technical skill at the cost of being well-read, generally curious, interested in fields outside their own immediate focus, etc. -- they tend to be less flexible and less interesting to work with. For me, at least.
I think this is a general "jab" at our STE(A)M-obsessed education system, which I think is a mistake. Every English major should take a basic coding class, and every engineering student should take a philosophy, history, literature, or religion class. At the very least.
Just my opinions! Take the ones that are useful to you, and ignore the ones you don't like. 🙏 /fin

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More from @RaphLife

1 Mar
Sorry to those who are disappointed you can no longer play #thelongdark on GeForce Now. Nvidia didn't ask for our permission to put the game on the platform so we asked them to remove it. Please take your complaints to them, not us. Devs should control where their games exist.
They offered us a free graphics card as an apology, so maybe they'll offer you the same thing.
There's really nothing newsworthy or shocking about our decision here. The shocking part is people's reactions to it. Nvidia admitted they made a mistake releasing without our permission, apologized, asked us if we'd like to stay on the platform, and we said "not at the moment".
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