If you’re trying to break into gaming it’s important to leverage all of your relevant experience. Here are 5 tips on how you can shine the light on the right skills, and avoid potential pitfalls during the phone interview.
When interviewing at a gaming company, you might take a less conservative approach as it comes to dress code (although in my opinion, wearing a nice suit never hurt anybody) but at the end of the day, every interview comes down to the same universal core mechanics of the interview process. The goal of every candidate, whether applying for a Director of Engineering role or a Senior Artist position, is to convince the hiring manager that you are the best candidate for the job. Many companies will first conduct a phone interview before inviting you for an in-person meeting. Phone interviews don’t typically last too long, so it’s important to make a good impression in a short amount of time. Being a recruiter and speaking to a lot of candidates, I’ve come across some things done really well during the phone interview, and I’ve seen quite a few pitfalls. Here are 5 areas to focus on during the interview that if executed well, are likely to improve your odds of getting a call back.
1. Understand the role. Before you begin the interview, ask the hiring manager to give you a two minute overview of the position so that you can focus your responses to what the hiring manager is interested in hearing about, and not your whole work history. Listen carefully to what the hiring manager says. They will most likely share with you what is on top of their mind, which probably means that these are either specific pain points for them, or are the critical drivers for the role. Make sure to speak to the areas of your experience where you have showcased critical strengths and have successfully overcome similar pain points that the hiring manager has mentioned. This will tie the gap between your many years of wide spectrum experience, and the specific experience qualifying you for the role.
2. Leave no stone unturned. Don’t just respond to questions but make sure that you understand the underlying reasons for why the questions are being asked. For example, the hiring manager asks you how many years of experience you have managing direct reports. Before you respond with ‘none’, think about what other experience you have that is similar to the one of managing directs. If you were previously managing interns, held a leadership role on the project, taught leadership classes, were a personal coach, or were a part of the mentoring committee, all of these experiences communicate more or less the same thing and that is the ability to lead, mentor and grow (people) the team. Now imagine that all of this would have gone unnoticed if you had simply responded to the question with ‘none’.
On a similar note, let’s say you are interviewing for a Game Producer role and have never previously managed a development team. When asked if you have previous experience managing a development team, don’t immediately respond with: I’ve never done that. Instead, think of what experiences you do have that can compensate for the missing area. For example, think back to a time when you were a lead on the project, or needed to closely collaborate with your teammates to achieve a common objective. While it is not the same as managing a team of developers, you have most likely acquired skills that are also necessary for managing a team. To communicate your knowledge of the gaming space, talk about your passion for the industry. Definitely mention if you have been an avid gamer since childhood. In the end, you have leveraged two experiences that you do have—working with the team of peers towards achieving a common objective, and your knowledge of the gaming space—which together make up for your lack of direct experience managing a game development team.
3. Know your strengths and your weaknesses. Every professional, regardless of the fact that they are actively engaged in the job search or not, should know his EVP (employee value proposition). What is it that you bring to the table that is different from everybody else? This is your differentiator during the interview process. This is what is going to put a name AND a face to your applicant profile.
The importance of being aware of you weaknesses should also not be understated. Theoretically your weak areas are your opportunities for growth. And it may not be necessarily that you are not good at something. It may be that you just didn’t have an opportunity to grow that particular skill in the past. Either way, being aware of those areas will prevent you from getting blinded sided by the hiring manager when he brings them up during the interview process. At the end of the day, if the particular skill is not a crucial driver for the role, so long as you have a plan to address it and show the hiring manager that it is not going to become their problem, it should not disqualify you from the role.
Lastly, it is always helpful to take a close look at the job description before heading into the interview, and check off the areas that you think are a good fit with your experience and then mark off areas that could be a miss. Having an answer prepared for how you are going to make up for the missing ‘must haves’ will improve your odds of getting a call back.
4. Be clear on your career goals. Before you start having a conversation with the hiring manager, you need to have a frank conversation with yourself. Determine the things that you enjoy doing in your current role, and what you’d rather never do again. Then take a few minutes and review your overall career history. Put those together and you should have a good summation of your ideal job, or the ideal next step. It may be that you have decided that after working for ten years as an individual contributor you would like to break into management and lead the next generation of talented engineers. Or your experience may be the opposite. You may decide that’s time to get back to your roots in programming after ten years of managing a team and be more hands-on with a project. Whatever it is, YOU need to be clear on what you want. The hiring manager will always appreciate a candidate who is self-motivated and has a clear idea of the direction he wants to go in.
5. Evaluate if the role is right for you. All of the above points are based on the assumption that you want the job, and not just ANY job, but the specific job that you are interviewing for. At the end of the day, you can do your homework, come fully prepared for the interview, give all the right answers, really nail it and get the job. But as the adrenaline rush of the interview process fades off, you still have to come to work every day and be engaged and motivated to do it. If you haven’t done the due diligence reflecting on your career goals and deciding whether or not this role is the next best step for you, you might find yourself in the position where nailing the interview process has overshadowed your true goal of getting your dream job.
Now that you've read up on my tips for how to write a killer cover letter and create a winning resume, hopefully you can use the lessons above to nail the phone interview, and land that dream job. Good luck!