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Informational Interviews for Prospective Jobs

by Deborah Fike on 08/20/09 07:45:00 pm   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
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Getting a job in the video game industry can seem like an insurmountable task, especially in this economic climate.  If you’ve searched online job forums, you find plenty of opportunities, but it may seem like your applications never go anywhere.

As a recruiter for a game engine studio, it always amazes me that people don't do a little background research and networking before they start applying for jobs.  One easy way to do this is with information interviews, an interview where you -- as a potential employee -- ask your interviewer about their job (rather than focusing on your job prospects).  During an informational interview, you can ask questions like:

- What is your typical workday like?
- How did you get where you are today?
- What essential skills or personality traits are required to do your job well?
-  What are the most difficult problems and decisions you face?

If you conduct enough interviews, you’ll have an arsenal of information to prepare yourself for a job hunt.  You may also learn a thing or two about particular companies.  For example, maybe company A isn't what you're looking for, but company B is the perfect place for you.  And as an added bonus, when you do an informational interview, you will have a potential contact if you apply for a job there.  

Let’s be clear about a few key traits of the informational interview.  First, you are not interviewing for a job yourself.  This is about your interviewee’s job.  You should keep questions focused on your interviewee and keep your own portfolio to a minimum for now.  If you break that trust and try to market yourself, it can back-fire on you later with the interviewee thinking you tricked them. 

Second, be respectful of people’s time and try to limit the interview to about 30 minutes.  That means you have to plan ahead and know what kind of questions you want to ask so you get the information you really need about your prospective job. 

So how does one go about finding someone to interview?  You'd be amazed at the various opportunities available to you. Video game conferences, like the Game Developer Conference, offer great networking opportunities even if you just visit the expo floor.  Your alma mater can give you the names of alumni working in the industry. 

You can join communities online (such as LinkedIn groups) were industry veterans lurk.  And if all else fails, e-mail people at companies.  You’ll be amazed how many people will be willing to talk to people about their careers.  And once you find one person to talk to, you can always ask them for more people to interview, so that your prospective pool and networking opportunities continue to grow.

I hope this helps someone out there looking for a job.  I know information interviews helped me as a student, and I've used them several times throughout my career to learn about potential opportunities before it was time to turn the application in.  And as a recruiter, I almost never turn down someone wanting to learn about the job before applying.

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