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Showing Up Unannounced

April 1, 2008

In all our job seeking experiences prior to college, the routine is the same. We show up, ask for a job application, are given one, fill it out and hope we get a job. The process may differ from place to place, but it usually starts the same. Show up – do something – get or don’t get the job.

In the professional world, it doesn’t work that way, and it really doesn’t work that way at game companies. I don’t know that anyone ever tells us that, though, or if it’s something we just pick up somehow somewhere. I don’t remember how I came to know this since I was 15 when I started working in the game industry.

Back then, and still today, people showing up unannounced for a job, to meet the people that made the games or for curiosity’s sake never made it past the front door receptionist. It’s amazing we even had a receptionist at the front door. When I later worked at Sir-tech Canada, we didn’t have a front door receptionist. Our name wasn’t even on the door, and the phone number was unlisted to prevent people from calling and disrupting development in one way or another. When I later worked at Microprose/Hasbro/Infogrames/Atari (a name change all in the course of a few years), the two entrance doors were just locked, and you needed a card to enter. If you looked in, there wasn’t anyone there… just a big empty receptionist desk with the word “Microprose” behind it.

I am sure that there are exceptions. Maybe EA at Redwood Shores has a plan. I imagine they’d have to. It’s an enormous campus, and people probably show up looking for gigs from time to time. If I had to guess, I’d say that their plan is to thank people for coming and refer them to their online job site and application process.

There is a process for these things, no matter what kind of job you’re looking for. I need to compare you vs. other reels or resumes I’ve received. I need time to look at your work. I need to arrange other people to meet with you, too, since hiring decisions in game companies are rarely made in a vacuum. I need to get an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) prepared, because if you’re coming in, you’re going to see some confidential stuff. We’re really talking a $1000+ event here, all told. During the hiring process, lots of very expensive time is expended to make sure that you are the person we need you to be.

If you just show up, you give me three options:

  • Tell you to go away, politely
  • Scramble and disrupt the days of multiple people to accommodate you
  • Thank you for coming, Mr. Meier. You’re hired.

You know which one it’s going to be.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 1, 2008 11:06 am

    We’ve had a number of people just show up at our office looking for a job over the years. Without exception they have been students of a certain local “game school”. I think they actually used to teach people to do it. (I say “used to” because it actually hasn’t happened in a few years. Maybe they got the clue that it doesn’t work and stopped telling their students to do it.)

  2. April 2, 2008 7:16 am

    The best one I remember was some kid’s mother turning up at our front desk asking for a job. Her son had apparently dropped out of school and was hanging around her house doing nothing much-soever. So what was the best career for him? Videogames of course!

  3. April 2, 2008 2:47 pm

    This reminds me of what I did long ago, when my parents dragged me over to Mythic EA’s office.

    It was awkward, embarrassing, and of course didn’t land me a job there. Howver, it did get me a point of contact, though. I still have the operations manager’s business card, which he handed me over telling me to contact him later after getting out of college.

    So, it wasn’t all in vain, I guess. 🙂

  4. April 3, 2008 12:18 pm

    As someone currently embroiled in an industry job search, I can somewhat understand the fevered logic behind just “showing up” (though I wouldn’t ever dare do it myself). Companies sometimes make it very difficult to communicate with a human being during an inquiry/application process. And when tensions are high, sometimes an applicant craves *any* answer from a particularly attractive job opportunity, be it “We’re still in the application process and will contact you later” or even “No, we’re not considering you for this position. Go away now.”

    Of course, the facelessness of it all is obviously intentional; these companies are likely inundated with hundreds of applications to sift through, so the less personal communication there is, the quicker they can process and sort the desirable candidates from the fodder. Still, the earnestness put into each application, when compared to the lack of return (or even response) from a potential employer, can be taxing on the psyche (not to mention the self-confidence) of an applicant.

    Not that I’m complaining, of course. ^_^

  5. April 3, 2008 10:22 pm

    The question of showing up is solved by applying some logic, as Brenda has done here. Small to Mid sized developers’ time is precious and their HR person (if they have one or two at the most) is usually swamped with applicants. They’re still too busy to talk to you in person if they don’t like your first impression.

    I say ‘first impression’ because you can re-apply.

    Don’t just send them the same information, same demo-reel or similar riff-raff. Send them what you’ve been working on in the meantime. The meantime being 3-9 months. (depending on the companies’ typical development cycle)

    This gives the people that received your old application, if you’ve left an impression of any sort to remember you by, the chance to see how far you’ve advanced in the past couple of months. If you’ve made progress on your skills and abilities, maybe worked on a mod group or developed your own prototype(s) (traditional, board, video or web) they will notice that.

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