Dealing with interview questions

“How many planes are currently flying over Kansas?”

That was supposedly an interview question for Best Buy, and just one of the questions from this list of 25 oddball interview questions:
http://www.glassdoor.com/blog/top-25-oddball-interview-questions-2011/

I loathe questions like these. In my mind they serve no purpose in an interview other than to make the interviewee/interviewer look like a fool.

Thankfully most games companies have enough sense to not trot out those pointless questions, and instead try to be friendly and just have a chat to get to know you. Most of the questions will be straightforward enough, but there are a few that can throw people, especially in your first interviews when trying to break in.

 

“Tell us a little bit about yourself”
This isn’t a test in my experience* – it’s just to break the ice. The people interviewing you have probably just read a CV and covering letter and simply want to know a few more things without asking direct questions. That being said, you want to be prepared for this, and want to be able to talk for a few minutes. You can probably expect the interviewer to ask you a few questions during your answer.

It’s one you’ll need to figure out for yourself, but I’d probably start with my name, mention that I’m originally from Northern Ireland and that I moved to England to go to university. I’d briefly mention my course, and how I got into art. Since I’ve worked at a few companies I’d talk about them, the roles I had and the games I’d worked in. I’d also mention that I enjoyed travelling, photography and eating.

This is a question that is easy to prepare for, but you don’t want to memorise the response – keep it relaxed, and like I said, be prepared to stop and answer other questions related to what you are telling the interviewer.

*In some industries this IS a test, but in my experience it has always been a conversation starter.

 

“Where do you see yourselves in 5 years time?”
Another old staple, it’s like playing guess the future with an arbitrary number attached. Why not where do you see yourself in 17 years time? Next Tuesday? In the games industry some companies don’t even exist for 5 years. Thankfully this question seems to be dying out in favour of trying to assess career aims, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to answer the question.

I’d be honest, especially for your first job role. You really don’t know, especially with the rate at which technology changes. You’d like to be working in videogames in some role that you grow into, but as you’ve not had much experience you are still very much going to be learning and adapting.

 

“What are your greatest weaknesses?”
This is the one where we are taught to lie, to pretend a strength is a weakness. The staple answers are along the lines of “Oh, I work too hard”, or “Im too much of a perfectionist”, but both the interviewer and interviewee knows that the question and answer are pointless. It’s interview by rote. What is the interviewer expecting to hear? “I’ve got a terrible sickness record”? “I get violent quite easily”?

Theres a sensible answer for this question however – know what the job is and answer with something thats not related to the actual job, but vaguely related to the general jobs of other people there. For environment artists this could mean that your weakness is character animation or mission scripting in Unity etc.

Oh, and please don’t answer with “I have no weaknesses”. Thank you.

3 Responses to “Dealing with interview questions”

  1. Stuart Harrison Says:

    Having sat on both sides of the table*, this analysis rings true. Bear in mind that however much you may (or may not) want a job to be about your specific skill set, it’s often as much about who you are as a person. The recruiter will often be recruiting someone for their own team and so have to work alongside the interviewee on a day by day basis. It makes the work that much easier if you can actually get along and have something in common. Don’t be afraid to show your personality – personally, I’d much rather have someone turn me down for a role where I’d grate with my manager than accept me and make my work life a living hell.

    The “where do you see yourself in five years” question is about personal development – that sounds obvious but it’s surprisingly important. It shows you have your career path planned out in your head and will be working hard to achieve it. It’s the difference between getting someone in who’s just going to stagnate and getting someone in who can be running the outfit in 5-10 years time. That said, once you near the senior level, there is often a choice between specialising in a skill set or becoming management (and little overlap between the two) – some people definitely prefer work to management :)

    *Regarding interview tables: depending on the company atmosphere you may be sat opposite your interviewer, or you may be adjacent, or across a corner. If you’re opposite, that implies a more formal interview atmosphere (they value skill over personality); if you’re sat adjacent, that’s a lot more friendly (they value personality over skill). Tune your responses appropriately!

  2. Jon Jones Says:

    Solid advice! Both the questions you mention are the two I hate most when I’ve interviewed anywhere.

    Where do I see myself in five years? If you’re a startup or making an MMO, probably another company because of the high failure rate attached to both. If you’re a social \ casual game developer, I’ll probably have worked for 3 or 4 more companies after yours. If you’re a AAA developer shipping a full-blown current gen product, hopefully getting close to shipping and polishing my resume. But then, I’m snarky. ;)

    As far as the greatest weakness question goes, I’m usually pretty direct about it. Anytime I’ve switched jobs, I’ve always gotten one better and with more responsibility, so I simply highlight that gap. I re-emphasize what I have the most experience doing and say “Frankly, I’ve done a lot less of [this genre\being a lead\working this closely with design]. I’m confident that I can do it based on my other experience, but I’ll be honest about where my skills need further development.” I’ve always done pretty well by that.

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