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Eutechnyx's Search For Game Developers Gets Emotional: EIT and Good Hiring Practices

When considering a job applicant, Eutechnyx has found that testing a candidate's maturity, integrity and motivation helps select the best person. Here's how they do it.

It is a truism that the most important asset of any development studio is its people. Today, with a shortage of experienced staff, escalating payrolls and the ease with which developers can change jobs, nothing is more important than people and their skills. As the game industry has become bigger, more competitive and more professional, the demands on and by development personnel have increased dramatically. Staff costs account for the lion's share of the company payroll and their skills are the only real resource you can offer a prospective publisher. To succeed in the videogame industry, investment in people is essential.

But consider the financial risks of adding personnel. Whether your company advertises job openings itself or uses a headhunter, recruitment costs are considerable. Factor in on-the-job or external training, hardware and software, office furniture, and other overhead and you'll find that by the time new development staffers become productive your investment is well into five figures. If they do not perform as expected, are disruptive, or have a demoralizing influence on other employees, your investment becomes a liability.

How can you reduce these risks? Football coach Jimmy Johnson's simple formula for evaluating players is a good place to start. He says:

  • They must be smart
  • They must be hard working
  • They must be loyal

But when recruiting, how do you know if the people sitting across the interview table are really all of the things they say they are?

Finding The Right People

Let's be absolutely clear about one thing: Good development people are very hard to find. But what is it exactly that defines effective employees?

For one thing, they don't just deliver what you want--they routinely exceed your expectations. You ask for good work and you get great. You ask for two character concepts and you get 10. Good employees don't let you down. They are reliable and conscientious and realize that when the company does well, they do too. They are essential team members who respect you and, in turn, receive respect.

By contrast, bad or mediocre employees do no more than what they are asked. It doesn't matter to them if their line of code breaks the game because they know someone else will pick up the pieces. They are interested only in their individual contribution and not how it fits into the quality of the overall product.

They lack motivation or ability--or both. In any case, they don't appreciate what it takes to produce a good game because they can't tell the difference between producing code that makes for an enjoyable and challenging entertainment and code that produces a mediocre product. They might recognize a good game if they were to buy one--they just don't have the skills to create one.

Who's To Blame?

If a game reviews or sells poorly it is not the fault of the game developer, but the person who hired him or her. Those who hire unwisely might point to their comprehensive training program and in-depth job orientation, but what good is any of it if they continually pick the wrong person for the job?

A common pitfall for managers is choosing people who have personalities similar to their own. Think about it. How many friends do you have that don't share at least some of your characteristics? Work is no different. Many successful department managers are aggressive, uncompromising, and forceful. But these are not necessarily the attributes they should be seeking in their employees. A similar route to disaster is when people are chosen for their technical knowledge alone, with no consideration given to their social or interpersonal skills.

Either way, the ultimate responsibility for the quality of new employees rests squarely on the shoulders of the managers who hire them.

High-Caliber People

Look at your potential candidates and consider their personalities. A company needs to hire high-caliber employees. By this I mean people with integrity and a strong sense of right and wrong who want to advance by helping their companysucceed. It is essential, particularly in creative endeavors such as the video game industry where cooperation and teamwork are paramount, that new employees quickly find a comfort zone and fit in. Therefore, development studios should seek applicants with certain attributes. These include:

  • The desire to resolve conflict rather than cause it
  • The ability to find creative solutions to problems
  • The capacity to build trusting, quality relationships with colleagues
  • An openness to criticism of their work
  • An understanding of their own strengths and limitations

High-caliber people do their best because that's all they know how to do. Conversely, underachievers get left behind. They respond by being disruptive, obstructive, or belligerent. Underachievers try to make themselves look good by finding reasons why new ideas won't work and striving to ensure that nothing ever changes. People without ability and creativity can be very threatened by those who show flair. When this becomes the corporate culture, it is virtually impossible to instill change without a huge and expensive shakeout.

So how does a company find the high-caliber people it needs to compete and prosper in the ultra-competitive video game marketplace? Eutechnyx has addressed this problem by devising a comprehensive recruitment process. But we have added an important element: Emotional Intelligence Testing (EIT).

Scientists first proposed the concept of Emotional Intelligence as a measure of real world interpersonal capabilities that are not gauged by standard IQ tests. The fact is that many people with high or even the highest IQs have difficulties coping with everyday situations. People with high EI scores, however, tend to have far better communication and life skills. It is our experience that a smart person with a high EI quotient has at least a strong emotional foundation for success in the game development studio, where long hours and deadline pressure are counterbalanced by high spirits and teamwork.

Emotional Intelligence Testing

At Eutechnyx, we have used Emotional Intelligence Testing (EIT) successfully because it is extremely effective in determining whether a candidate has the personal qualities we seek: maturity, integrity and motivation.

We never make employment decisions based solely on EIT reports. The information is used mainly to help the Eutechnyx interviewer penetrate the job applicant's facade and find the real person beneath.

An EI test evaluates the job candidate's:

  • Self Awareness; examining factors such as self-confidence and one's ability to manage emotions in various work situations.
  • Emotional resilience; in simple terms, looking at how thick skinned a person is.
  • Motivation; what drives them?
  • Interpersonal sensitivity; assesses the extent to which a person considers the feelings of others.
  • Influencing skills; there is a fine line between being argumentative and persuasive.
  • Intuitiveness; the ability to reach decisions based on incomplete information.
  • Conscientiousness; the willingness to apply one's nose to the grindstone.

Together, these factors measure a person's Emotional Intelligence. But EIT is not a discipline in which the highest score is always the best. A trained analyst can only ascertain whether or not an individual possesses certain characteristics.

Obviously, high scores in such areas as motivation and conscientiousness are preferable to low ones. But they can also indicate a tendency to be overly fastidious or obsessively compulsive, issues that must be investigated further during a second interview.

The EI test comprises 70 straightforward statements such as:

  • I contribute heavily to projects and tasks.
  • I am comfortable taking charge of a situation.
    The applicants rate each one on a scale of 1 to 5 wherein 1 equals I strongly disagree and 5 equals I strongly agree.

The responses are analyzed by a professional EI testing center and a written report is prepared. It is Eutechnyx' policy to always provide a copy of the results to the applicant.


What Does Emotional Intelligence Tell Us?

Research indicates that over the past century people have been getting smarter; the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) scale originally designed by Binet and Simon has actually risen 24 points. Conversely, Emotional Intelligence scores have fallen, suggesting that people are getting more lonely, angry, and depressed.

Researchers attribute only 20 percent of people's success to their IQ. The remaining 80 percent is believed to be contingent on their Emotional Intelligence. Similarly, two-thirds of an employee's performance quality is attributable to EI, leading us to conclude that as an indicator of future employee production and attitude, EI is twice as important as intelligence and expertise.

When looking for effective managers, this is even more vital. Studies show that 90 percent of leadership success is directly linked to EI qualities. Significantly, the higher a person rises in an organization, the more significant EI becomes. In fact, researchers have shown that when evaluating a company's star performers, 85 percent of what sets them apart from average employees is their superior EI skills.

In game developers particularly, the top 10 percent of those possessing sound EI skills outperform those with average skills threefold! What's more, they also stay with the company longer and express greater satisfaction in their job and position. This has certainly been our experience at Eutechnyx.

EI Report Presentations

An EI report consists of a comprehensive written report and a summary chart that is particularly valuable in evaluating a programmer or artist's overall Emotional Intelligence. To get a better understanding of how these are used, let's look at the accompanying charts.

Figure 1

Figure 1 is a fictitious EI report for a young man whose Emotional Intelligence quotient would be classified as generally low. Notice that there is no defined pattern. The scores are scattered across the board. He would be very unlikely to get a job at Eutechnyx because the personal qualities we seek in a game developer are scored at a very low level. The person is not sure of himself (low self-awareness) and very sensitive (low emotional resilience), resulting in particularly low influencing skills.

The test shows that his interpersonal sensitivity is very high, meaning he would treat others with more respect than they would necessarily expect to receive. Therefore, he would have great difficulty in expressing his point of view and find it almost impossible to influence others. These are not desirable traits in a game development environment that relies heavily on a spirited exchange of creative ideas.

Figure 2

Figure 2 is the chart of a fictitious female applicant and it shows an entirely different problem. You can see that it has no easily definable pattern. The table features a combination of high and low scores, a configuration that would set off alarm bells at Eutechnyx.

It is not clear from this report alone whether or not the applicant would be right for a job. We can see that she has high self-awareness and emotional resilience but low interpersonal sensitivity. In a nutshell, the test results indicate that she cares about herself but has very little concern for anyone else. This raises the question: Would she fit in with her fellow game developers? In a meeting, such a person might attempt to shout down her colleagues and dominate the discussion. In a business where the free exchange of ideas is paramount, this is not a healthy characteristic.

Additionally, her scores for motivation and conscientiousness are not especially strong. However, her high influence score suggests that she might be a good supervisor--or, on the downside, the sort of employee who might persuade others to do her work.

But with an overall EI score of 6, she is in the 60th percentile of managers. Armed with this information and insight into her personality, it would be worthwhile to have her in for a second interview to determine if she is right for the job opening and the company in general.

Figure 3

Figure 3 is the actual EI report of an applicant named Andreas Firnigl who was eventually hired by Eutechnyx. It appears here with his consent.

What differentiates his report from the two previous is that the scores form an easily discernable pattern, grouped together at a slight gradient. Although there are two high scores, there are no contrasting very low scores.

Andreas scored well in self-belief and emotional resilience and surprisingly high in interpersonal sensitivity. This indicates that he is assertive but respects the feelings of others. His scores for influence and motivation were reasonably high, showing that he is capable of using initiative. However, his low score in conscientiousness was an issue that was explored---to our satisfaction---during his second personal interview.

All in all, his was a very good profile and one particularly appropriate for the Quality Assurance department where Andreas is now employed. As the key tasks of a member of the QA team are finding and evaluating bugs, the value of these attributes becomes clear: Andreas has good influential skills but is also sensitive to the needs of others and can report bugs in a considerate manner that does not antagonize his fellow development team members.

QA is an area where his potential can be encouraged as it often leads to further opportunities within a game development organization, most notably as a producer. Thanks to a successful evaluation and follow-up interview, he is enjoying his job and has been successful.

EIT and the Second Interview

With the aid of EI reports (which are always shown to the candidates), the second interview presents an opportunity to further explore and resolve possible issues raised by the test scores. At Eutechnyx we never reject applicants based solely on EI reports. But if the EI report confirms doubts raised during the first interview, it is money well spent that avoids wasting everyone's time on a second one.

When candidates are called back, they are given the opportunity to offer their own assessment of their Emotional Intelligence scores. This helps the interviewer make a final evaluation. Bear in mind that no candidate is perfect. But the EI tests cast a strong light on the applicant's strengths and weaknesses and add an important dimension to the evaluation process.

Conclusion

It's vital that you don't miss the applicants who are really passionate about games but have less than stellar qualifications. They are the ones who in spite of lacking a diploma or technical fluency can translate their passion into an ability to create great games. Particularly valuable are the ones who can deconstruct games in their mind and analyze the reasons why one game is good and another is not. These people are like gold and finding them is one of the main objectives of our EIT program.

By using EI tests, Eutechnyx has actually lengthened the recruitment process. But in line with the findings of most other organizations that use them (including the United States Air Force), the tests have been of great assistance in identifying smart, loyal hardworking and talented people. The use of EI testing enables game developers to recruit the high-caliber individuals that their organizations want and need.

 

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