Blog / Game Design / How to Get Your 1st Game Design Job: Dealing with Interviews, Feedback and Rejections (Part 3 of 4)

How to Get Your 1st Game Design Job: Dealing with Interviews, Feedback and Rejections (Part 3 of 4)

How to Get Your 1st Game Design Job: Dealing with Interviews, Feedback and Rejections (Part 3 of 4)

Last time I touched on finding game studios to apply to, reaching out to game industry veterans, and the actual application process. Now I’m going to get into interviews: how to prepare for them, what questions to expect, and how to get the most out of the experience.

You can use the following table of contents to keep track of the series:

  1. Refine Portfolios, Resumes, and Cover Letters for Results (Part 1 of 4)
  2. Where to Apply and How to Increase Your Odds (Part 2 of 4)
  3. Dealing with Interviews, Feedback and Rejections (Part 3 of 4) – this post
  4. How to Pass Game Design Tests (Part 4 of 4)

You can subscribe to the Game Design Digest to get notified when I publish the last part of this series.

When you’re invited to interview, you will likely be told who is interviewing you, or what type of interview it is. (More on interview types in a second.) If you aren’t told this ahead of time, then feel free to ask the recruiter so you aren’t caught off guard.

At its core, an interview has two purposes:

  1. The interviewer gets to know you
  2. Learn about the company and the team you might be working for.

With the right kind of prep, you’ll come across as a better candidate, and you’ll walk away with more information.

What’s the interview process like at a game studio?

This will vary a lot depending on the studio and the position, but let’s look at a typical process for a large game studio:

  • A quick chat with a recruiter, who can help you navigate the interview process
  • An interview with the hiring manager, typically your future team leader and an expert on the project and job position
  • Possible additional interviews with other team members
  • One or more rounds of design tests, before or after the interviews

Multiple rounds of interviews aren’t just there to make the process more competitive, or to make you wait even longer for the job offer you’ve been dreaming of. Often, these interviews have different goals.

To help you prepare, I’ll cover each type and teach you what you can expect.

In a small studio, you might only meet with one or two people and might even be offered a job right away! These interviews might cover a wide range of topics, so it’s still a good idea to prep for each type of interview I discuss in the next section.

Interviews on Experience and Resume

The first job interview is usually about your past experience and resume. This is rather straightforward, focusing on what you have done and how you have handled past challenges.

A large part of working as a designer is working within limits, and sharing how you have handled these kinds of situations gives a great idea of what you are like to work with. How did your design change over time, why, and how did you adapt to it?

Example questions about your experience:

  • “Tell me about a time when you had to change your design due to constraints?”
  • “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a lead or member of your team?”
  • “What was your favorite part of working on X?”
  • “What is something you wish you could change about X or wish you would have done differently?”

Culture fit interviews

Culture fit interviews are also very important and very common. These are about finding out whether you are someone worth working with.

There isn’t much room for a genius asshole, and no one wants to work with someone who is going to make coming into work dreadful no matter how good they are.

But besides general personality, there are a lot of important attributes that game designers are looking for in this interview:

  • Are you comfortable with pushing your ideas forward when important?
  • Can you toss your ideas aside gracefully when you’re overruled?
  • How do you work with others? Are you competitive or collaborative?

There’s a balance between rolling over at the first sign of criticism and being too arrogant to accept feedback. Experience will teach you when to push for a design and when to set it aside, but even early on, being able to handle both these situations is very important.

You won’t always be asked questions directly about this, and culture fit is something that shows up indirectly as a part of every interview.

Example culture fit questions:

  • “How would you handle a situation where a feature you had been working on needed to be cut?”
  • “Why do you want to work here?”

Skills tests

Prepare to be tested on these skills and knowledge areas during your interview.

You’ll frequently see skills tests. These are like small, impromptu design tests (more on these in the next article), where you chat through a challenge or come up with a design on the spot.

Don’t worry too much about the quality of your ideas. No one expects you to have an amazing design with just a few seconds of thinking.

What the interviewers want to see is your design process. Do you jump on the first solution you think of? Do you have a method for evaluating these designs? How do you critique a design?

Start the skills test by asking a few questions. Make sure you understand the goals and constraints, and design with those in mind.

Talk through your thinking, and be ready to scrap your idea or build it into something better on the spot. It is totally ok to say something along the lines of “I’m thinking X or Y, but they have some problems with Z.” This shows that you understand your gut reaction is a starting point.

During a skill test, the interviewer might respond to an idea with “no, we can’t do that because of X.” This is to see how you handle feedback, and how you adapt.

I encourage you to work with your interviewer here, bounce some ideas around and talk through the problem. It’s important to know you don’t have to have all the answers, and your interviewer is more experienced. You should be okay with utilizing that.

Just make sure that you are the one guiding the design and ultimately making the calls.

Example questions during a skill test:

  • “What changes would you make to a game you are currently playing?”
  • “Give us an example of a challenging game design problem you’ve encountered.”
  • “If I asked you about adding X to our game, how would you go about designing it?”

Asking the interviewer questions

An interview is also your chance to learn more about the position, the team and the company. Don’t leave the interview without asking at least a couple questions to show that you are taking the studio seriously, and to help you make a decision if you do get an offer.

Some of the questions you might have are practical. You might be speaking with a studio that expects you to work 60 hours a week, are you okay with that? Maybe you want to know more about the team’s production schedule, or more clarity on the role’s responsibilities.

I also like to get a feel for what the game company culture is like. I get a feel for what would be expected of me, and how my job might overlap with the person I am talking to. I also ask about what the interviewer enjoys working on, which teaches me about them as a person, but also about how the studio views its own games.

The questions you ask them really comes down to what you what to know, but here are some that I like to ask:

  • “What does your day-to-day typically look like, and what would you expect mine to be like?”
  • “How do you and your team feel about crunch or handle it when a deadline is coming up?”
  • “What is your favorite part of the game, or favorite thing you have worked on?”

How to practice interviewing

It’s great to practice for a job interview with a friend beforehand, especially if you’re looking for your first job in the game industry. It might feel uncomfortable, but these are the people who want you to succeed and can help push you to be better.

Ask your friend to try and ask interview questions to trip you up or catch you off guard. If you stumble, ask them to help you think about better ways to respond.

It’s also worth remembering that each real interview you do is also practice. Getting to the interview stage of a job opening is never a waste of time. Even if you don’t move forward with a company, that interview experience helps prepare you for the next.

Getting rejection letters and asking for feedback

You want to make sure you are getting the most out of the interview, and feedback is a major part of that. I always recommend ending an interview by asking for feedback.

This is especially true if, at the end of the interview, you feel that things will not be moving forward. I’ve had a few interviews that I could tell I wouldn’t be moving past, and I used the remaining time to ask for how I could best improve.

Other times you might just get a rejection email from the recruiter. Sometimes this will have feedback from the team, and other times it won’t say much at all. Don’t be too upset when this happens.

Entering a new career can be tough, but we can at least guarantee that you won’t have to change professions as many times as Mario has.

It is okay to ask the recruiter if the team has feedback on how you can improve, especially if you have been through a few interviews. Not every studio will give feedback, and I have a special place in my heart for those that do, but asking can’t hurt.

Even if it doesn’t result in useful advice, more communication always helps keep you in the recruiter’s mind for when other positions open up that they think you might be a good fit for.

Also remember that a rejection might have been totally out of your control. I have had position requirements change during the interview process, or even close completely. It’s always possible that something happened internally that caused the position to close.

It sucks when this happens, but there’s some relief in knowing it’s not your fault. This is one reason why I suggest asking for feedback whenever possible. Companies don’t want you to feel bad about your experience either, and there’s no point reviewing every word you said if it turns out it was just bad luck.

You might also get a rejection because of how your interview went, because you lacked key skills, or because someone else was just a better fit. Don’t let this discourage you, and use it to level up. How you handle these is important. Incorporate feedback if you got it, analyze the interview process yourself, and try to do better.

Just like work, filling out applications and interviewing can lead to burn out. If you just feel like you can’t do it anymore, take a break! It is totally okay to choose a pace that’s right for your mental health.

For this reason, you don’t want to line up a bunch of interviews with different companies at the same time for this reason. You want to give each interview your all, and you can’t do that if you are spread thin.

Recommended supplemental reading:

If you’re reading this post, then you’re most likely looking to get in the industry. Here are a few posts that dive into the fundamentals that I recommend you to checkout.

What is Video Game Mechanics (Beginner’s Guide)

How to Become a Video Game Designer

How to Write Game Design Document with Examples

How to Make a Game Design Portfolio (That Works)

Next steps

All right, now you have a basic idea of what to expect in your interviews. While these will still vary with each company, and no two interviews will be the same, this should give you a leg up and a great starting point.

In the next, and last article in this series, we’ll be getting into the fun stuff and talking about design tests. This is where you get to flex your creative muscles.

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