Baker’s Dozen


I spend so much time talking about how to get a job – but never about how to leave a job. Sometimes that says just as much about you as a person as your tenure with a company. If you have been in the games industry for any amount of time – you either fortunately or unfortunately have had to leave a job, a company or a project. Sometimes it’s for greener pastures, and the move was instigated by you, but sadly sometimes you might be laid off, or even terminated for whatever reason (not getting into that in this post). Leaving a job is never an easy thing to do. There is always going to be some fall out- leaving close friends who started out as co-workers, leaving a project that you loved or even hated, and leaving what you know to go to something that is unknown. Perhaps there is relocation involved so a new city is coming into play, or maybe it’s just time to try something new – will you be successful? All of these can factor into some stress and anxiety at the job. I’m here to share an adage that my first “real” boss shared with me. She said to me, “Angela – people remember how you leave a company, not how you came into a company.” Huh? Whaaaaattt? That always struck me as an interesting thought. How can people not remember how you came into a company? I thought first impressions mattered most.

Here’s where that thought proves wrong. People always remember how you left things. Did you leave things undone? Did you dump a ton of incomplete work on your co-workers? Did you start to speak really poorly of your boss/co-workers/company? Are you the person who used to come in and work and get things done, and now you are more concerned with getting your iTunes library off of your computer, even though you still have two weeks before your actual leaving date? Are you being a punk? Do you now look at your co-workers, who up until two days ago were really talented people, but now are bottom feeders at that crap company that you used to work for? Not cool! So not cool.

Another way to sour your last adieu is the ever popular “goodbye email.” I’ve read many of these in the 15-plus years I’ve worked in HR. Some are funny, some are sad, and other just make the writer look like a tool. My absolute personal favorite, and they don’t happen that often, but when they do – oh man – they are good, are the goodbyes that casually refer to “some people,” or “you know who you are” What? My advice is to keep it short, keep it sweet, and if you have to give a shout out to someone- do it in person. Go up to them and thank them in person with a handshake. It’s more meaningful, and it also means that you care enough to make sure you told that person to their face that you were appreciative of their support, honesty, whatever it is. Thank you should mean something.

In sports they always talk about finishing strong. That is how you want to leave company – on the best terms possible. Be gracious, be kind, be the best version of yourself. I’ll say it again- we all work in a VERY small industry. Everyone knows everyone. People have long memories. It would be a bummer if the you getting hired in five years misses out on a great job, because the you that you are today is a punk when leaving a job. The last two weeks – because you have given proper notice- (another “DO” on everyone’s list) should be when you tie up loose ends, complete those lingering tasks, and complete what you were supposed to get done- to the best of your ability. It’s about building bridges for the future, not burning them, keeping connections going, not shutting them down, and by all means leaving a door open, as you just never know where the road will take you, or your previous co-workers.

Until next time…

Office Space, 20th Century Fox (1999)

Office Space, 20th Century Fox (1999)

Hiring is always a battle of good and evil. It’s trying to find the best candidate for the spot. Hiring managers anguish sometimes over which candidate to ultimately hire. It’s not a decision that we at Insomniac Games take lightly either. A lot of time, energy, conversation, training and money goes into every new hire here. And when its right- it’s like the clouds part and the sun is shining, birds are singing, and flowers are popping up. And when it’s wrong – and everyone makes a wrong choice once in a while, it can be like “The Shining” (kidding – it’s never been that scary here). But that’s a story for a different day. We’re here to talk about the initial application you submit for your dream job and what happens on our side once you hit submit when applying through an applicant tracking system. Yes, its resume and reel review time!

We recently had and opening to fill in HR. Our HR Assistant/Front Office position was vacant and we needed to find a qualified candidate. And so the recruiting process began; we went through all the questions about what would best fit our group, what skills we were ultimately looking for, and what role this particular opening would fulfill. We reviewed the job description, making sure to hit all the key responsibilities, chose assessment questions to help us assess relevant skill level and experience, and then waited. We did not have to wait long. Resumes came rolling in, in classic fashion. We saw candidates that were qualified, over qualified, under qualified and then not qualified at all. The worst offenders were guilty of what I’ll kindly refer to as application SPAM. APP SPAM is applying for a job the candidate is not really interested in or qualified for – case in point the environment artist or the game designer that applies for an HR Assistant/Front Office Administrator. WHY? Why would you apply to an HR job when what you really want is to be an artist or a designer? That has never really made sense to me and yet, it happened repeatedly throughout our most recent hiring process. I have heard hiring managers lament the strange candidates they get, and I have moved candidates from one job posting application to another when they have accidentally applied for the wrong position, but I’ve never really seen blatant random applications like this. We had animators apply, artists apply, and marketing people apply – for an entry level HR spot. Don’t get me wrong – HR IS where it’s at – but just because you want to work in games, heck, just because you want to work at INSOMNIAC GAMES, doesn’t mean you should apply to every position we have available. With a shotgun approach you’re only going to end up shooting yourself in the foot! Case in point – those people who thought – “Oh man- once they see my resume – they are TOTALLY going to see the talent here, and offer me a job regardless of what position I applied for”. Unfortunately, what actually happens is that you screwed yourself out of being an Insomniac job candidate for the next 12 months.

rejectWHAT?!?! Yup, you heard right. Why? If we reject your application, as being unqualified, we won’t review your resume for another 12 months. Think we’re taking a hard line? Perhaps we are but this is what it looks like on our side of the fence…we are going to see that you applied for HR, and art, and animation, and programming – all just hoping to get your resume seen by someone – anyone. What it shows us is that you are confused and perhaps a spammer of resumes. Did you read the posting? Did you really think that your skills were a match for the job? I’m not talking about the people who apply for a gameplay programming spot and also apply for a mobile gameplay spot. These jobs are similar and clearly have some similar skills and knowledge overlap. I’m talking radically different skills for each job. I don’t hire a plumber to work with electrical wiring in my house… even if s/he is an AMAZING plumber. Here’s what ultimately matters most: Do you have the skills to do the job? Is this the job you want to have? Did that artist really want to be in HR? Nope. Not when their objective stated – “to be a part of the Art team at Insomniac Games.”

The point is this, we want to hear from you, when our job openings match your skillset. Be a sharpshooter, not a shotgunner.

Until next time….

ExamIt’s a common question that we get a lot at shows and from candidates themselves… “What is the deal with the test? Why do you test?” Or “Hey, I’m a senior – why should I have to test?” Well, here are a few reasons why Insomniac tests and what we hope to get from the test itself. Other companies certainly have their own reasons, but here are a few of ours. As I’m sure you have noticed, video games are a VERY collaborative process. When you submit a reel or portfolio, the work represented could come from multiple sources. There could be four or five artists working on one level together. There could be a designer, a scripter, a systems designer and a creative director all in one small section of the game. So how do we know what you did? How can you show your amazing skills to us – if there are so many cooks in the kitchen (or so they say)? One of the reasons we test is to see what YOU can do. Not what your neighbor did (or for your benefit) did not do, and to see how well you can take direction, given a set of instructions. Do you need a lot of direction from a lead, so we have to give you too many hints or info? Or, can you fly on your own? Maybe the position is too senior for you? These are all things that we look at; not to mention the time frame. We give you a week or two to work on our tests- depending upon the discipline. One thing we learn is if can you budget your time and meet deadlines. Now that I’ve told you all our secrets, I’ll let you in on another one. We also test so that everyone has the same experience in the interview process. What does that mean? It means that everyone is on a level playing field. You got the same chance, the same test, and the same way to prove yourself as your fellow candidates. No one is getting better treatment because their last game was a Metacritic darling while you were just happy that Metacritic decided to ignore your company’s last effort. Again, it all goes back to you proving what YOU can do. What are your strengths and what are your weaknesses – because we all have a bit of both. Our goal is to do our best to level the playing field and to make sure that we get the best candidate for our team regardless of their last game, last studio or how many years’ experience they have!

So you have applied, and you got this test from us, and you see that you have two weeks to work on the test. Great! Now what? You already have a full time job, you are trying to change studios, and you just got this from us – trust me, we know – it’s stressful and it’s time consuming. It takes a lot of energy and thought and creative powers to work on these tests and we really appreciate everything that goes into our tests from you. We know that this may mean longer nights, or a Saturday or Sunday spent working on this project, but for us it’s the person that we are going to be working with for the next however many years! Interviewing is a time consuming process for us as well. Hiring managers have to look at resumes, send tests and then review tests, have phone screens, have on site interviews, and then work with their teams to sort out if the candidate is right for the spot… multiple times for just one position. It takes a lot of time and often resources to hire someone; but our thought is that we’d rather make sure we have the right person in the right spot than make the wrong hire. That does not mean that we bat a 1000 all the time, and that is why we have our 30/60/90 review period, but we take the time to really invest in the process and hope you will too!. Thanks and until next time!

It’s been forever since I last wrote. No excuses. Just got busy. Maybe that is an excuse in itself- but I’m really working on getting back into the blogging game, and sharing a bit of my small corner in Insomniac Games with the rest of you. This one should be exciting- especially for my first post in over a year (ouch!).

When I say to people that working in HR in the entertainment industry, let alone in games, is always entertaining, it’s ALWAYS entertaining. There is never a dull moment, and there is never a day that is the same. When one works with creative souls, there are always interesting events. But, let’s set the stage for this nugget of information. We had a candidate come in for an on-site interview. This person had passed a test, and had already phone screened with a member of the team. We had high hopes for this candidate! I met with said candidate, thought they were lovely, and very excited (maybe a bit nervous) about the interview. Not bad things in the least. As a footnote – being a bit nervous about an interview is a good thing… it keeps you on your toes. What you want to avoid is the paralyzing nerves that give you sweaty palms and make you stutter when you try to talk. But, back to the candidate. He interviewed well with the next group of interviewers. Then things started to go south…. There was an off color comment. Then a few f-bombs, followed by a few more inappropriate comments about the previous set of interviewers (ie now potential new coworkers). And just to add a cherry on top- a few more f-bombs – just for fun. What happened? Where was this going? What happened to the pulled together candidate that was presented at the beginning? MAYDAY! We are going down in flames. BIG TIME.

Needless to say – the candidate took himself out of the running, due to his complete lack of professionalism in an interview setting, and for his unprofessional comments. If he felt THAT comfortable in an interview – what was he going to be doing or saying if hired? I’ll be the first to admit- and if you have worked with me- I have dropped a few f-bombs in my time, but I would never do that in an interview. And neither should you. There is still such a thing as interview etiquette and it has its place. We work in a creative space, and with that comes a certain amount of latitude. I would jump out of a window if I worked in a corporate environment, as would many of my co-workers, but there are still a few boundaries. Treating your interview and your interviewers with respect is one of them.

Until next time…

It’s been a while… way too long- sorry about that. Where does the time go? I feel like we just got back from our year end break, and here it is almost Memorial Day. (Notice I’m giving props to the fact that we close for the last two weeks in December? Nice- right?) So here we are – almost the end of May, with summer right around the corner. Summer makes me think of BBQ, hot days, the beach, and interns. Yes… Interns. Summer is the time for those eager college students to descend upon our studio, and begin what is known as their internship at Insomniac Games. Internships here typically run from mid May to mid August/September – depending on when students return to their respective schools. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This blog post is to talk about internships, how we approach them here, why we do them, and then some other bits as well.

So what is an internship here at Insomniac? Internships are opportunities for students to come in and dip their respective toes into game development for 8 -10 weeks. We require that all our interns be students, and they must be returning to school the following fall. Not all programs are set up that way, and programs will vary –but this is our criteria. It’s the only hard criteria that we have. There is no GPA qualifying average, there is no requirement to receive course credit for your time here, and the school that one is returning to, does not have to be a gaming school. We have students from all walks of education apply, and we like the diversity that this brings. But you are probably wondering what does one do during an internship? You get a chance to do what everyone else is doing – work on a game. You are not pushing papers, you are not getting coffee for anyone other than yourself, and you won’t stand in front of the copy machine all day (who uses paper anyway). It’s not going to happen! We firmly believe in settling interns in with their respective teams and giving them real tasks to do. You will have deadlines, you will have work that you are expected to generate, and we expect it to be stellar.

So why an internship? Why not kick back, and enjoy the summertime? Well- you could do that. I did that. I’ll be honest. But I think students are a bit more savvy these days than when I was in school. An internship is a perfect way to get some real life experience under your belt, and help reduce that brilliant catch 22 of – you need experience. How do you get experience if no one will hire you? Taking an internship will also afford you the opportunity to make real industry contacts. Who better to recommend you to their industry contacts than your supervisor or a co-worker when you are looking for work after graduating? They can speak about all the great things you did, how fun you were to work with, how seriously you took your duties… and bingo! A door has been opened.

Here, we also have a really strong track record of hiring our interns after they have graduated. Several of our interns have returned to us for full time spots, and we love that. It’s the best possible scenario, to be honest. It’s a new hire, but one that already has some knowledge of everything, and everyone in the studio. One of our former interns Rowan Belden-Clifford just this week had his first press interviews and helped with the announcement of our Facebook adventure, “Outernauts”. It was a very exciting moment for us as a company, I hope for Rowan, and for me personally as the spearhead for our internship program. Good things do come out of internships! We have had the opportunity to hire an intern into every department that that has had interns in recent years: Art, Animation, Audio, Community, Programming, and Design. It’s a really rewarding process for us, and I hope for those that we have hired, as well.

So, internships- get them if you can, make them work for you, and you just never know where the road will lead.

Until next time…

Insomniac Games’s HR guru Angela Baker blogs about working in the industry, getting jobs, dealing with recruiters and all sorts of other cool things that are great to know if you are considering a career in the gaming industry. Here’s her latest blog!

My Story: How I got into Video Games (or at least in the building)

Often at shows, or in chatting with candidates here at Insomniac, people ask “How did you get into the game industry?”  It’s becoming more and more a common question – and I’m not sure if I should be flattered or confused by it.  Is it because I don’t seem like the typical gamer (I’m not- but what is that today anyway), or is it just because there is a lack of information on how one really does break into the industry?  I will be the first to say I am not involved in the creative aspect of the games- I don’t program, my art skills are laughable, and if asked to design anything – I would break out in a cold sweat.  But I do love to work with creative people, and I knew that I could handle the world that is game development.

In a nutshell this is how it went down: Graduated from college (Go Gauchos!), and was working a job at a dept store- my college degree being put to such challenging work as folding, and hanging.  I went to my college roommates wedding, and reconnected with an old friend from school.  After much complaining on my part about how my job was awful, she recommended I get in touch with her company’s HR placement branch.  This was the early days of email- I had to ask a friend to help me email my resume to the recruiter! (I forgot the .com part).  After going on two different interviews, one was great, one was terrible – I was hired by one (clearly the one that went well!)  I was officially hired as the Departmental Assistant aka Front Office Person!  But it was the entry (entry, entry) position in a field I knew I wanted to get into.

After being a sponge for four years and learning all I could, a contact that I worked with, suggested I interview for an open position at a game publisher.  She was conveniently helping with the placement, and wanted to know if I would be interested in taking an interview. Sure!  What have I got to lose!  So, I faked being sick with food poisoning, and went on an interview.  After an interview or two (or five), and meeting with my first SVP, I was hired.  Taking a step up in title and responsibility at this new company – I was afforded the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business.

After 2+ years at that company, knowing that my time was at an end, and having made the decision to start looking, said company made it easy – they laid me off.   I will say it right here and right now – it was awful when it happened.  The panic, the questioning of one’s worth…the whole thing.   It’s that thing of knowing you need to break up with someone and then they go and beat you to the punch and break up with you!  The nerve!  I will also say “A HUGE Thank You” as well.  It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  It made me realize that there are lots of great companies out there and you just have to find your place.  Anyway, back to the job search.  I had a bit of time before I would find myself living on friend’s couches when a former coworker recommended a position at a network.  Sure – again-  what have I got to lose?  It was a creative environment and sounded like a challenge.  I was busy putting my resume out to various creative outlets – and thru another friendly contact- I sent my resume to Insomniac Games.  I knew full well they did not have an opening, but it was a company I admired, and had heard nothing but THE BEST about.  I made contact (with my now current boss), and asked to be kept on file – just in case anything changed.

Fast forward about 10 months- lots of work at the network, with a group of amazing HR professionals –  lo and behold, through another networking group that I belonged to, I found out that Insomniac Games was looking for an HR rep!  So I reached out again to the Head of HR, interviewed, met with Ted, and have now been here almost 5 years.  I still feel lucky to be walking in the doors every day.

It’s a bit more than a nutshell, but the point of all of this is connections and networking.   Most of the professional opportunities I have been afforded have been through networking with former coworkers, contacts at companies I had business with, friends, classmates, etc.  It’s all about making those connections work to your advantage.   Take every opportunity you can to connect with people, put a face with the name, and always remember to leave a good impression.  We work in a very small industry, and people remember having a positive (or negative) experience.

I honestly cannot recommend enough keeping in touch periodically with the people who you used to work with, and using networks to keep tapped in. Make sure you have a professional network, and a professional profile that can be looked at (like Linked In).  Also join groups- WIGI, your local IDGA, or be involved in the local community of gamers.   You just never know where your next (or first) opportunity is going to come from.

Until next time…

Is it the most wonderful time of the year?  I think it might just be.  It’s GDC time again!  How does this happen?  It seems like we just closed the booth, packed it up, got the labels on the cases, and walked out of the Moscone Center in the rain… and before you know it – UBM is asking for hotel reservations!  No joke I got the advanced reservation list of hotels for 2011 – on July 26th … in 2010.

As I write this, our booth has been verified as “delivered”, we have electrical, carpet, furniture, and a great reel  to share with everyone.  Our production art team has been hard at work, with Chris to make this one memorable!  I hope you will stop by to check out the magic, and to say “hey” to some of the hard working Insomniacs that I get the privilege of working with on a daily basis.  Our booth is in the Career Pavilion – Booth #2536, and I’ll be there to answer questions and share a bit about Insomniac and our culture.

I get a lot of questions at this time of year about how to apply for open positions, how our process works, why we don’t actually physically take resumes or reels, and what happens when we give you the web link to apply to.  We use the web link application for several reasons… but I think the most important is that it is the green way to go.  We as a company are really trying to be as green as possible, and shipping back to the office 300 lbs of paper and plastic that eventually will be recycled is not very ecologically minded.  We also have had the unlucky misfortune of having our giant box/es of resumes and reels get lost in transit.  It was an unfortunate event– one that we certainly learned a very hard lesson from –and one we are not eager to repeat.

Two reasons down, two more to go!  I don’t know about you – but paper can get lost on my desk, in the office and certainly when it’s being given to three or four people to review.  If we get an electronic application/resume/reel we can have multiple people looking at a candidate at the same time, and we won’t lose it!  And we can always come back to the document if we think a new position is a better fit for a specific skill set.  And one of the last reasons we do this is to actually save you.  How much easier is it to get a business card from us and write a quick note on the back of it, than to have to carry around 75 copies of your resume?  That is what I thought!

So now you have our card, you have our on-line application link in your hand, and you are ready to submit… but you pause and say “What happens when I hit submit?”  Excellent question!  We take recruitment very seriously here – and one that we work on EVERY day.  Once you hit the submit button, your resume and application are queued up for us to review.  We typically download resumes once or twice a day, and begin the task of parsing them for hiring managers.   We check for duplications, and then begin the process of looking at each and every application.  It’s a VERY time consuming process… but one that we take on with excitement as you just never know what each new application holds.  You could be the EXACT candidate we are looking for.

After each application and resume is looked at, if the skills and background are what we are looking for to fill the open position – the resume is sent then to the hiring manager.  At that point several things could take place.  You could be asked to take a test, we could schedule a phone conversation, we could have you come in the office.  It all depends on the position.  But one thing that does not change – we do review each and every application.  We typically get around 10,000 resumes a year… so that is a lot of reading!

One or two words of advice about applying for a position.  Carrie (our Chief People Officer) and I like to call it the 80/20 rule.  If 80% of the job sounds like the skills that you have, and 20% scares you to death… I think go for it.  Please don’t reverse this though!  If 80% of the job is stuff you have NEVER done, and 20% seems manageable… then I think you need to wait for a position that better suits your current skills, not those you hope to have one day.

I hope this sheds a little light on how we do what we do…and also reiterates how excited we are to see some of you at GDC!  I think it’s going to be a great show, and I do hope you drop by Booth 2536 and say “hey”… and check out Chris in a blond wig… oh yah, I said it!

Until next time…

Last time I talked about etiquette for interviewing.   Topics were – what to wear, how early is “too early”, etc.  In my follow up  – I’d like to put my two cents in on some other  tips/tricks/nuggets of info that might be helful.  As I mentioned last time – this is purely from my standpoint, and what flies here at Insomniac Games.  What happens here may not be the ideal for someplace else, but I would say that the main ideals are pretty common.  So let’s jump into this!

The “Thank You” note vs. email: I have to be honest in that this is actually a point of conversation in our HR dept on a regular basis.  I am a believer in the email – it’s the way most people communicate these days.  It can be sent rapidly, and then sent on to several individuals at the same time.  My boss- on the other hand is a fan of the hand written note.  Her thought is that it shows that you care enough to take the time to personally write out the note, and send your thanks.  I think both have valid points. I will not reject either.  The point here is – send one.  Do one or the other- but do one.  To come in and take at least 45 minutes of several peoples day is something to say “thanks” for.  It’s polite and shows that you know it’s a big commitment on everyone’s part to interview and make the right choice for a hire.  It also demonstrates that you’re interested and gives you a chance to express why you think you’re the right hire.  So send something to say “thanks for taking the time to meet with me”…either electronically, sky writing, smoke signals, pony express or the good old USPS.

How to accept or decline an offer: This one seems like a no brainer – either you are going to take the job with a “yes!” or you are going to decline with a polite “thanks but no thanks”… or so you think.  I am shocked at how complicated this step has become.   First – ask as many questions as you like- if you are serious about the job.  If you’re not accepting on the spot – be clear in your questions – “I have a few questions on relocation – can you explain the following…” or “I have a question on how your benefit plan works.”   This is a big step and we want you to make the right one – but please, please be straightforward.   We want this to be the right choice for the studio and for you.  Be clear in your acceptance – “yes” is always a good one – no “well.. ummm…. I guess” or “sounds good”… or “I think so”.  This is an opportunity to show us the great communication skills that you possess.  It is perfectly acceptable to say “I’d like to think about this for day or two – and if I have any questions – I will let you know.”  Clear and to the point.  If you know the position is not for you – that’s ok too – and the sooner we know the better for everyone.  If you are interviewing at multiple places, weighing your options, we get it – just tell us and get back to us.  Disappearing into the ether is not a great way to decline a spot.  It tends to leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth not to mention our desire to call 911 to make sure you’re ok.    A simple “Thanks for the opportunity, but at this time, it’s just not the right spot for me” is enough.  If calling and declining freaks you out – send an email, or leave a voicemail at 3:00 am… at least you are letting us know, and we can move on to the other candidates.

Following Up vs. Stalking: There is a fine line between the two  – and one that you want to make sure you are on the “just following up” side as opposed to having me put your name out to security.   It’s certainly acceptable to get contact info of the HR person or the person in charge of the interview process to follow up and touch base.  It’s fine to ask a timeframe for filling the position, and if there are other candidates in process.  It is not Ok to call every day of the week – checking in on your status, or to send emails to everyone who interviewed you asking if a decision has been made.  Sometimes things happen – the hiring manager goes on vacation or the project hits a critical spot and it takes a bit longer for us to get to the decision point.  The thing is – desperation does smell- and it’s not a good smell either.  If we’ve interviewed you, we will get back to you.  Promise.  And more often than not – more sooner than later.  We know it’s not polite to keep you waiting or guessing and we do our best to move relatively quickly.

And Finally….

Enjoy the Experience: This one might be easier said than done – but it should happen.  This is an exciting process to go through, where you get to meet interesting people, and have exciting conversations about what you are passionate about – video games!  The process should be better than a root canal by a long shot!  It is a serious one – don’t get me wrong – as it’s a big step to hire someone – but it should be more about a dialogue and an exchange of ideas, than say the Spanish Inquisition.  Relax, breathe, and be yourself.  We want to meet you, and see you in action, not the “interview persona” but the best version of you.

Until next time….

Etiquette.  It may seem old fashioned, and maybe some of the ways that etiquette is thought of are antiquated, but there is still a reason why it is around.  Etiquette here at Insomniac Games includes “Coffee Etiquette”… if you finish the pot, you start another one.  If you are the person brewing the coffee, you get the first cup, plain and simple.  We have people here who want to set up a coffee-cam to shame those who do not abide by these rules…. But I think that may be taking it a bit far… but just maybe.  There are also certain ways to handle situations, certain standards that should be considered when job hunting, interviewing and finally accepting (or declining) an offer as well, and that is where this blog comes in handy!  Since I meet with most of the candidates who come in to the Burbank office, I run into a lot of questions about what to do for an interview, what to wear, how early is too early,  what is too formal, what is too casual, and what is expected?  The examples and answers that I am going to share are clearly from an Insomniac perspective, but I think the major thread will be applicable for other studios, and publishers, etc.   So let’s jump in and work on avoiding those embarrassing faux pas!

“What should I wear to the interview?” I get this question a lot! We ride a fine line between the old school knowledge of a suit and tie, and then the reality that we are a creative entity and one that rejects the “corporateness” of said attire.  My best answer is this: know your audience. If you are meeting with an Indi developer – be comfortable.  Be clean, be presentable- jeans are going to be fine but not if they are ripped, dirty, or sitting below your hips.   I would always recommend wearing shoes as opposed to flip-flops.  T-shirts are fine, as well as any other shirt- just make it clean (ie – no naked ladies, no curse words, and no holes).  And in my opinion skip the tie, though if you are meeting with any of the business arms of the company (finance, marketing, PR, etc) you may want to step it up a notch… but I will say it’s been a while since I have been at one of those BIG companies – so take that with a grain of salt.

How early should I be to an interview? There was actually an article on this the other day on Yahoo news…they say no more than 15 minutes early.  I agree.  There is such a thing as getting to a place too early.  We want you to be prompt, ready, paperwork filled out, and ready to roll, but we also don’t want you to be sitting for hours in our lobby.  We love to see you – but our front office person does have things to do.  The 15 minute window is the perfect amount of time to have all this happen, to get you a drink, and get you settled in a conference room or office, and then start the interview on time.   If you arrive super early, relax in your car, drive around the block, and see what is around the office… check out the area.   If you are going to be late- you should also call.  Even one minute late warrants a call.  It shows that you know time is valuable, and that you are taking this seriously.  Good communication skills are a huge plus for anyone- so put them to use!

Can you be too casual in an interview? Ummm the simple answer is yes!  We work in a creative environment and business, but this is still a business.  Slouching in your chair, chewing on gum, pen caps or your fingers is not the person I want to see in an interview.  We want the interview to be a dialogue, a big conversation – it’s not meant to be an interrogation, but this is an interview.  You want to be putting your best foot/feet forward.   Remember you are interviewing us – just as much as we are interviewing you.  So relax, but be your BEST relaxed self.

How to close an interview? I think candidates get nervous about how to finish an interview.  What questions can you ask?  What should you ask? I think that you should have a couple of questions prepared for the recruiter/ HR rep that you meet with.  Ask them what the time frame is on the position- are they filling right away or are there tons of candidates yet to meet and process, is the hiring manager going out of town and the decision will not be made for two weeks?  What are the next steps- should you as a candidate prep your references?  Should you be expecting another round of interviews?  Is there a background check?  These are things that give you an idea of what to expect or not expect.   The more in control of the process you feel the better.  We are talking about your next career move- right?

And on that note- we close this edition of Baker’s Dozen… There will be a part deux – that deals with thanks you notes vs. emails, offers- either accepting or declining, and how to make the whole experience fun… ok maybe not that – but we will follow up.

Insomniac Games’s HR guru Angela Baker blogs about working in the industry, getting jobs, dealing with recruiters and all sorts of other cool things that are great to know if you are considering a career in the gaming industry. Here’s here latest blog!

So I noticed that the last blog was all about “What NOT to do”…well what about “What TO DO”? I don’t always want to be a Negative Nelly… if you meet me in person – I think I’m kind of nice. So let’s dispel this negativity and get with the positive. Maybe we need to take to the Mary Poppins School of Discipline “A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down”. As a total side note – was anyone at the Swell Season concert last year when Glenn and Co brought out the man who with his co-writer wrote “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and had all of us at the Greek singing till our hearts were content? That is what I love about concerts and live events – the total spontaneity of it all. Anyway I completely digress… the positive!

So here we go – what TO DO:

• Show off! Your resume is your space to really tell us/show us why we should hire you. IF you don’t toot your own horn – who will? So be sure to highlight all the great things that you do, have done and can do. Do a little strutting. Key word here being little. There is a fine line between being confident and being arrogant. Be sure to be on the right side of that line.

• Have a fantastic reel or link. Only show the best, completed artwork/animations/designs. Make me want to see more of your work. Make me wonder what amazing thing you will do next, and hope that I can hire you before someone else does. Also be aware of length. It’s better to err on the side of brief than on the side of epic. Also please credit the work of others that you collaborated with or used elements of their work.

• Show us how you work in a team. Did you do a class project? Did you work with a team to make a function or asset look or feel like it was the best element in the game? What did you learn from that? What worked and why?

• Make sure that I can contact you. Please make sure to have a name, address, phone number, and email address on a resume. You might be shocked to see how many people don’t put that on their resume, or omit some of this info. My crystal ball is usually not working – and it’s tough for me to know where you are, or how to contact you.

• Please do attach a resume, or a link to a resume. Make it easy for me to read what you have done/accomplished. If hunting around a website for a resume takes too long, I may just pass you by. Be proud to display your resume!

• Follow the Boy Scout motto – and be prepared! Keep your resume current. Everyone should have a current copy of their resume ready to go at a moment’s notice. You just never know when you will be asked for one, or when that dream job is going to pop up on Gamasutra, and you want to be in the first wave of candidates.

• This may not be part of the resume or reel branch – but this kept coming up at GDC this past year- so I will mention it here. Business Cards. It’s all good to have a creative business card and one that shows who and what you do – but I highly recommend having a blank, white back side to your cards. It’s a handy place for a message to be written on, a website link or a separate contact number. It can even be used when we run out of business cards for us to write our contact info on. When the back of the card is black, or full of graphics- it’s tough, and then the game of “who has a piece of paper” starts. Make it easy for us, and for you. Keep it clean and simple.

Maybe that will do for this week… it’s pretty sugary sweet… so until next time..