Opinion: Interview techniques

In this reprinted #altdevblogaday opinion piece, Jury Rig Software technical director Darren Vine offers several simple, easy-to-remember tips for job interviews, applicable to both general and game industry positions.
[In this reprinted #altdevblogaday opinion piece, Jury Rig Software technical director Darren Vine offers several simple, easy-to-remember tips for job interviews, applicable to both general and game industry positions.] You have landed an interview at the company of your dreams. For some, it may have been a long hard road to get there, but now you are sat waiting to be called into the meeting room. Others may have had several interviews and been unfortunate enough to not get any further. This post, I hope, will get you that job. I have also deliberately kept this short for one very, very good reason. You will never remember it all in an interview. You have so many other things to think about that every little tip you are given will vanish the moment you step through the door. I am going to pass on 3 simple rules. These rules were passed on to me (I forget by whom or I would credit them) after my first ever set of interviews went poorly. They are short and to the point and because of this you will remember them. They are:
  1. Don't fold your arms.
  2. Maintain eye contact.
  3. Don't answer with yes or no.
As I said, three simple rules. After being told these I landed my first job. Coincidence? Probably, but they have worked for every single interview I have ever had since so I feel they work well. I have also lied a little bit about the rules. They are not quite as simple as I have made out, but it's all common sense so don't panic. Don't fold your arms Really, don't do this. Don't wave them around like a loony either. If your hands are prone to sweating try not to keep rubbing them on your lap. Keeping them by your side makes your slouch so that's one position to avoid as well. Leaving them on your lap prevents this though. Use hand gestures to reinforce what you are saying but try to avoid pointing. Be animated with them, words alone do not always convey what you need. Also leaning forward a bit when asked a question or answering shows you are attentive to whats being asked. Maintain eye contact Maintaining eye contact is critical. I don't mean concentrate harder on the floor or HR lady's chest. I mean look them in the eyes. If more than one person is interviewing you, focus most of your time on the person who asked the question. Flick from one to the other occasionally, but spend 75-85 percent of the time focused on the person that asked the question. If you find this hard, and people do, look at the top of the nose between the eyes. No one can tell the difference from across the table. Don't answer yes or no to questions… But don't ramble on either. I have seen many people botch an interview by talking to much. Get to the point, or their mind will wander. Answering yes or no makes you seem disinterested in being there. Something that you do not want. Three or four sentences is perfect. It is enough to get a fairly detailed answer across but not enough to bore the interviewers. It also helps lead the conversation down paths that you can be confident talking about as well. This plays on your strengths. Final Advice The only other bits of advice I can recommend are fairly obvious and can be prepared before or after the interview. The first is wash. If you are prone to sweating put deodorant on. Most importantly do this on a clean body. Lynx (or Axe depending on the part of the world you are from) on top of a day's (or for some, days') stale body oder really doesn't smell as nice as you think. First impressions count. Nobody wants to be gagging on a mixture of the two as you walk into the meeting room. The same goes for what you wear. I normally go for slightly smarter than I would expect to wear on a normal day working there. For a job in the game industry, that would be a shirt, smart jeans, and shoes. If it was office work, then it would be a suit. If you are unsure, a suit never hurts. Though if everyone else is in jeans, then it can feel uncomfortable, but it's better than coming across as lazy. Mind your Ps and Qs. Saying please and thank you goes a long way. This shouldn't be a problem because you are always polite, right? Nerves affect everyone, some worse than others. No one will hold it against you, interviews can be stressful. If something goes awry, take a deep breath, wait a few seconds, and restart. Try not to panic and just slow down. Things normally start to go wrong because you are trying to think of things to fast. Don't forget to take your portfolio with you and a CV. It's best not to have it covered in coffee stains. There may be some tests. I tend to do badly at riddle-style questions, but often it's how you arrive at your answer that counts. After the interview After the interview, whether it went good or bad, think back on what you saw and the impression they gave you. Interviews are a two-way street. They also provide you with the opportunity to decide if the company is right for you or not. Some company's are notoriously bad at getting back to you. Even with an email that says thanks but no thanks. I think that this is huge professional faux pas and something the games industry is terrible at. Any managers reading this should take note, it reflects badly on your company! Be prepared for this, chalk it down to experience and move on. If you feel you must have an answer, drop them a mail a couple of weeks after the interview. Chances are if you didn't receive a reply before, you probably wont now either. If you went through an agency, chase them up. Some people dislike agencies, but they are very good at this aspect or they wouldn't make any money. …And finally These are the rules I stick to. I look forward to seeing more suggestions in the comments below, but these three have worked countless times for me. They are small, simple and easy to remember at all times. Some people can rattle off pages of hints and tips but you will never remember them once you are actually in the room. [This piece was reprinted from #AltDevBlogADay, a shared blog initiative started by @mike_acton devoted to giving game developers of all disciplines a place to motivate each other to write regularly about their personal game development passions.]

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