Preparing for interviews is an emotional rollercoaster.
First there is the elation of finally hearing back from a games studio, and getting the interview.
Then the dread sets in – what are they going to ask, what do I need to do to prepare, and how can I make sure I don’t miss this chance to work at the company of my dreams?
In this post we’ll look at what questions you might be asked, and the themes interviewers will explore. Being ready for these will help youy to ace the interview.
(Having difficulty getting interviews? Read my previous post on networking to increase your chances of getting an interview).
If you’ve got the interview and you’re preparing for it – read on!
Interviewers want you to do your best
Interviews aren’t meant to be a trick. The interviewer wants you to be able to share all of your experience fully.Good interviewers will ask follow-up questions rather than letting your experience get missed or misunderstood accidentally.
If you can get into the right mindset, treating the interview as a friendly conversation between peers, rather than an exam where you are being tested, will hopefully reduce nerves!
What will the interview be like?
Sometimes there is a first screening round with a HR person, who will check that your background is vaguely appropriate. Any sort of industry or academic UX or research experience should be enough to proceed.
The real test is the interview with the team – usually one or more senior researchers.
At a junior level, their questions might be more hypothetical (“how would you do this”). At a senior level, they might be asking about specific times you have encountered these challenges and what you did. If you can give concrete examples, using something like the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result), that will help give comprehensive answers and build confidence in your ability to do to the role.
Every games company is unique, and their approach and exact questions will differ. Here are some themes and example questions to prepare for…
Scenario based interview questions
A very common format for interview questions is to ask “what would you do”. These will be looking into how you approach problems. The interview is usually expecting you to ask more questions about the context, rather than diving straight into answering. Here are some examples:
- A team have made a prototype for a new multiplayer party game, and would like to know if players enjoy it, to decide whether it’s worth taking further. What would you do?
- How would you handle a designer telling you they didn’t believe the research work you are presenting?
- A team has asked you to increase the sample size for your usability test. What do you do?
- Your team would like to know how to improve retention on their free-to-play mobile game. How would you approach this?
- What would you measure on a survey to see if players would buy a game on release?
- A PM asks you to soften the interpretation of data for an important review and says it’s on the plan to fix, how do you handle it? (Thanks @VidyaResearcher)
Knowledge based interview questions
Successful candidates will need to build confidence that they understand how to run research, how this intersects with game design, and that they are able to talk about games in an appropriate way with other game developers. Some questions ask directly about your game or research experience to explore those topics.
- How does games user research differ from other types of user research?
- What is statistical significance, and when is it important?
- What’s a game you’ve played recently that has good usability?
- What can you do to minimise leaks from a playtest?
- When in game development should you be running user research, and what studies would you recommend?
Opinions based interview questions
Some questions don’t have ‘correct’ answers, and are used to understand how you think. A good approach is to show you understand multiple perspectives on the topic, commit to an answer, and justify why you have committed to that answer.
- What do you think is the hardest bit of being a UX researcher?
- What are your thoughts on personas?
- How do you make sure research findings are understood by the whole development team?
- How many playtesters do you need to test a game?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses as a researcher?
- What is a game you like, why do you like it? What is a game you don’t like, why do others like it? (Thanks @VidyaResearcher)
What comes after the interview
Email the interviewer to say thank you – it takes no time, and won’t hurt your chances.
If you’re lucky enough to get through to another round, this can either be similar interviews with other domain experts (like an interview with non-researchers), or can be a take-home task, such as reviewing a game or designing a study. I cover more about what the process can look like in How To Be A Games User Researcher.
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