You’ve been invited to an interview. Are you telling yourself:
“Hooray! I got an interview!”
Or (if you’re me)…
“Oh no! I got an interview!”
You feel awesome for being one of the chosen ones, but now you’ve become a giant ball of anxiety and awkwardness. That’s ok! During the search leading up to my current employment, I learned a few things through my mentors, research, and just practice, that were of immense help to me. I hope these lessons will also be helpful for you while preparing for your next interview.
Everyone that is going to interview you is human. Several of them will probably be nervous too. Several could be bored since you might be the 5th, 18th, or 40th person they’ve talked with. Since you’re on the ATX Game Makers site, you’re likely going to be interviewing for a job in the games industry. It’s probably safe to assume most of the people you’re going to speak with play games and more than a few of them will be as passionate as you. Don’t diminish your role in the industry, even if you’re scared. If you want to make or help make games, you are a game maker. Programming small games in your spare time? Game maker. Quality Assurance? Game maker. Scribble down ideas for things to make in Confluence/Unity/Unreal when you get home from school or work? Game maker. Own it.
Support & Practice
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You don’t have to charge into the interview process alone. Most of us have gone through the pain of a job search and want to help good people get into and stay in the industry.
ATX Game Makers has been amazing for meeting new friends who supported me during my job search. I was even able to find two amazing mentors that gave me feedback on my resume and interview strategy. Ask the contacts you’ve made through meetups if they would be comfortable giving you a mock interview. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll be in the real interview! Look on LinkedIn for someone who’s in a similar role to the one you’re applying for, and send them a message asking if they have time to talk or meet for coffee. Their first-hand experience will help you learn what your interviewers are looking for.
Research & Planning
If the position has a recruiter, talk with them to see if they have any more information before your interview. Go over the job posting and studio’s website. You should have, at the very least, some basic knowledge about the studio and what their mission statement or brand pillars are. Do they do charity work? What values do they strive for? Do you play their games? (Be honest)! Why or why not? Why do you want to work at that specific studio? You should also have a list a of questions to ask the interviewers. An interview is a two-way conversation; you want to make sure the job is one you’re going to be comfortable in. What does the day-to-day look like for the role you’re applying for? How many people will you be working with? Will they be in office or remote? How do they measure success in that role? Have notes for the interview and take notes during it.
The STAR Method
When preparing for your interviews, the STAR response technique is a valuable tool for responding to questions which interviewers will ask to determine what skills you’ve utilized in the past. The STAR method focuses on four key concepts:
- Situation: a short description of the situation.
- Task: explain what task needed to be completed.
- Action: describe what actions you took to complete the task.
- Result: explain the result of your efforts.
Take a few seconds and really think of the right experience to describe. You can talk about a previous position, a volunteer experience, or a group project. Whatever story you decide to go with, make sure it’s related to the job you’re interviewing for. You won’t know in advance what your interviewer will be asking so pull out the job listing and review the specific skills and qualities they’re looking for and then think of previous situations where you used those skills. You could be asked about positive or negative experiences. For instance:
- If they’re looking for leadership skills, they might ask how you’ve dealt with an employee who failed to complete a task.
- If you’re going to be working in a team, they might ask about a time you’ve worked with someone with a very different personality than your own.
- If there are going to be tight deadlines (it’s video games, there are always tight deadlines!), they might ask about how you’ve dealt with a missed milestone.
If you’ve never had a negative experience on a job… well, you’re very likely not being realistic. Everyone has had a missed deadline, difficult colleague, or disorganized org structure to deal with at one time or another. Don’t identify individuals by name or be negative, but explain what the issue was, how you dealt with it, and what the result was.
“In one of my previous positions, they weren’t using any project management software when I started which made it difficult to plan for long term story arcs and releases. I introduced my team to Trello and required its use planning current releases and any future idea, no matter how skeletal. As time went on, communication and organization both increased as everyone was aware of what task they were on, what tasks others were on, and what tasks needed to be done for the next several milestones. We became a much more efficient team, and everyone was happier and more confident with what they were working on. The quality of our releases improved as well.”
Even if you don’t get an offer, send an email and ask if the interviewers have any feedback for you. It can be hard to do, but it’s worth it to get some hard data as to why. Maybe you ramble when you get nervous (I absolutely do). Maybe some previous experience you cut from your resume could have helped your chances (I’ve had this happen too). Maybe you need more experience in a certain area (oh wow… me again). Asking for feedback can give you a chance to clarify what you were missing and start to work on that, instead of just wondering. You won’t always hear back, but if the recruiter or interviewer has the time, feedback can be invaluable.
Just as a final note, no matter how nervous you get, just breathe! Interview skills come with time and practice, so get out there, get to work, and good luck!
“We are all our own worst enemy. But also our best teacher.”~Gouken