In the last year, I’ve been through at least four job interviews. Since all the jobs that I applied for were software engineering positions, the interviews usually follow the same sort of process. There’s always a technical component and then some project manager types try to assess how well I would do in a team environment. No matter where I go, the interview is always lengthy. The interview that was the shortest in length this year was just over an hour and I was shocked how little time the company spent on interviewing their candidates. The average time I’ve spent during an interview is about three hours.
When it’s a three hour process, the first hour is usually spent with two engineers. The second hour is spent with another set of two engineers. The third hour is reserved for project managers and if applicable, designers or artists. For me, talking with the engineers is the part that always stresses me out. When they ask me what I’ve done on other games, I’m ok with that. When they ask me technical questions that I can answer in a sentence or two, I’m also cool with that. It’s when they ask me to go to a white board and get me to solve a problem while watching me is the part that is the toughest. Literally thinking on your feet while solving a technical problem is not easy to begin with but imagine doing that while two people are watching you, waiting for you to write something on the board. Situations like this are stressful. Some companies skip the whiteboard questions and instead get you to write a written test. I was once put in a room alone with the test and a crappy pencil that kept breaking on me. They told me I had one hour to do as best as I could. I think spent more time watching the lead breaking on me than actually writing down answers.
The part when I have to talk to project managers and designers is much easier for me. I think I have fairly good communication skills so I just do my best to answer their questions about the “process” of making games and working in a dynamic team environment. I have a friend who is also a software engineer working in the games industry and curiously enough, he has the exact opposite feelings about the different parts of an interview. He is never stressed out by the technical aspects of an interview but he finds it much tougher to talk to the project managers and other non-tech types.
When the interview is over, especially the three plus hour ones, I usually find myself feeling exhausted and I’m always, without fail, hungry for food right afterwards. From a physical standpoint, I haven’t really done much during the time but I just feel mentally drained. Once, I just came home, ate a whole bunch of chicken wings and feel asleep on my sofa. From a company’s perspective, I can understand why they make candidates go through the rather lengthy process. I just remembered that some companies won’t even ask you to come in for the three hour interview until you’ve passed two separate phone interviews. EA was like that when I applied in 2006. Choosing to take on a new employee is a considerable investment and possibly a risk for a company. Beyond the obvious salary commitment, there is an investment in time and training. The risk is that the employee doesn’t work out like that they had hoped and that can have ramifications on the quality of the game and/or when the game is delivered.
I’m curious as to what the interview process is like for your job type. How did you get your current job? I’m a bit envious of those of you who are able to get a job by just meeting with one person and talking about your past work history and not being grilled with hard questions.