As part of a new series, I’ve been talking to hiring managers to uncover what they look for in people applying for games.
John Hopson is games industry veteran who has worked on games ranging from small indy projects to massive blockbusters such as Halo 3, Destiny, and Hearthstone. Currently he is a Senior Director of User Insights at FunPlus.
In his career John has hired many user researchers. I spoke to John about his process, and thoughts on what candidates can do to maximise their chances of success.
What makes an applicant stand out?
Strong fundamental research skills and a flexible brain. We very rarely do the same study twice, so the right candidate needs to have a strong foundation combined with the ability to apply them to novel problems.
Does your hiring process start with looking at a CV? What makes a good or bad CV at this stage?
A good CV is clear and honest. If the candidate hasn’t worked directly in games or user research, their cover letter needs to explain how their history and skillset apply to this job.
Does your hiring process involve an interview? What are you looking for when interviewing?
In my interviews, I’m looking to confirm that the person is who their CV says they are and that they can communicate clearly. I don’t believe in gotcha questions, but I do want to make sure that they can speak intelligently about their history and previous research projects. I also want to see how they handle pushback on their answers and ambiguous questions.
Does your hiring process involve a task? What are you looking for when assessing responses to tasks?
I do use a short written test early in the hiring process to assess core research skills and writing skills. The questions are pretty basic, but it’s amazing how many candidates can’t tell the distinction between correlation and causation or write a coherent paragraph.
Does it matter if an applicant has a post-graduate qualification? Does that help people get ahead?
Post-graduate qualifications show dedication and (usually) more hands on research experience than undergrad. But a similar number of years in other industries can have the same benefits.
Do you have any advice for people coming from an academic background into games?
Academic communication tends to solve a different problem than industry communication for a very different audience. Make sure you’re writing/speaking for the needs of the current audience, not just defaulting to what you’ve done before.
Do you have any advice for people transitioning from other industries into games?
Be ready with a good story for how your skills and experience will transfer. Making games is exactly like making any other software in some ways, but radically different in other ways. Do some reading about the game development process and be prepared to articulate the differences between what you’ve done before and what you’ll be doing for the game.
Anything final advice for applicants?
Play the game the studio makes before applying, at least for a few hours. It will show the studio that you care and tell you a lot about what the studio values. Is the game beautiful but buggy? Wonderful storytelling but an unethical monetization system? If you get the job, your name will be on this thing, so be sure that it’s something you’ll be proud of.
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