Thursday, October 1, 2009

Getting Hired

A few people have linked to this awesome story from Tim Schaefer about how he did a very unique job application that landed him his job at Lucasarts many years back. It reminded me of another unique approach I'd read about, taken by John Newcomer, designer of Joust, who got hired by Williams after handing in a resume rolled up and stuffed down the neck of a rubber chicken.

It kind of amazes me that in an industry as competitive as gaming - scratch that - in all job markets ranking above "would you like fries with that?" - just how many people apply for jobs by submitting resumes with form-factor cover letters, and then showing up for interviews with minimal, run-of-the-mill prep.

Of course, you can go part-way on this and still not make the cut. We had someone a while back interview for a position, and he came in with a presentation over 50 slides in length he'd prepared on our product, competitors, market trends, etc. Really exceptional. One of the people on the interview loop asked him "this is kind of lengthy, and I'd like to spend most of the time talking with you. Can you go to the summary slide?". "umm... summary slide?". Fail!

Anyhow, food for thought


Darius Kazemi said...

I heard a story from Mike Dornbrook about the time Infocom publicized a game tester position in their newsletter The New Zork Times during their heyday. They unexpectedly received thousands of applications, all through the mail, it being the early '80s. They were faced with this giant stack of paper, and went through the first bits of resumes. They all kind of blended together. They were all pretty qualified. Not too far in, there was one resume with a little cartoon of a guy saying, "Hello sailor!" At which point they said, "Screw it, this guy seems funny, he gets the job!"

(Note to modern n00bs reading this: it is entirely possible to get *too* cute on your resume. It depends on the sense of humor of the company you're applying to. I bet if you did something super funny on an application to Double Fine, that would work in your favor. For most other companies... your mileage may vary.)

KimPallister said...

Darius: Good story. Thanks.

I think the goal here isn't "be funny". The goal is "Be remarkable"

Funny is one flavor of remarkable. There are others. Think about what the job is, what the characteristics are that they are looking for, who will be scanning the pile of resumes, and how might one stand out as exhibiting those traits so that they pick yours out of the pile, etc.

So HR gets the pile of resumes. Fine. They'll scan keywords and do their thing. In the meantime, find out who the person hiring is, and have THEM go to HR and say "do you have a resume for this John Doe guy? I want to bring him in for an interview" etc.

Darius Kazemi said...

Indeed. The remarkable applicants to *my* company are the ones who have actually bothered to read what we do, and comment on something we've posted on our blog, or talked about their passion for gameplay data!

Andy said...

good one.

In Dan Miller's book -48 days to the work you love: You stand a 50% chance of walking up to a person/business and asking them for a job and actually getting it.

For anyone out of work- that is an extremely good read. For anyone who will someday be out of work, that is an extremely good read.

OK recess is over, I'm going to get back to doing some work I mildly disdain but make a lot of green rectangles doing.

djedery said...

Personal anecdote along these lines:

The year I applied to the MBA program at MIT Sloan, one of the application's essays was "tell us about a time you did something creative." I didn't want to compete with everyone else's stories so I simply wrote an essay about how I write essays... specifically this very one. I embedded photos of myself brainstorming, writing, asking a friend to edit it and thanking them properly for their help, etc.

It was all reasonably cute and since I got into the program, I assume it helped more than it hurt. :-)

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