I want to start this article first with the acknowledgement that I was not and am not actually looking for a new position. In this case a "once in a lifetime opportunity" arose and I just had to try. In actuality I'm very happy with my current employer and team. As with many of these types of chances, if I hadn't at least tried or made an effort I would never have forgiven myself.
It wasn't long ago I found out that a very well known and respected gaming company was looking for a new java developer. I'm happy to admit that this company's game is one of my all time favorite games to play. I have played this game for many years, and to think that there was a chance for me to join such a team was exciting. Naturally, as a husband and father, before I could talk myself into such an opportunity I had to discuss it with my family. I broached the subject with my children first. They, also being big fans of the franchise, were nearly begging me to apply. They had dreams of what it would be like for them running through their heads, as children will do. So the next hurdle was to get my wife's reaction. I like to think that my wife is the practical one in our family. She's the one that keeps me grounded, as I am a dreamer (much like my children). So when she arrived home, I brought up the subject, and all the reasons why I figured she would say no. At this point I can't say if I wanted her to say yes or no. Just the idea that it would be possible was both exciting and very scary. Yet I wanted her true feelings about the matter. Her answer was, "Well if we have to move to another country then we have to move to another country. If you don't take the chance you won't be happy." She knows me so well. So I took the chance and that's what the meat of this article, the whole process, and what I could learn from this process.
The first step for me was to make sure my CV was up-to-date. It had been a couple of years since I searched for a job, and since I don't usually look for work unless it is absolutely necessary, my CV needed a little clean up. Once that was done, I went to the company's online job portal. Now I can't say I'm a big fan of online portals, but this one was efficient. It didn't ask for a lot of detail that was already in my CV. It did ask if I have any game development experience (I don't). I uploaded my CV, and made sure my contact information was all correct and that was it. I can truthfully say that I figured that this would be the end of the process for me. I didn't have game development experience and I figured developers with this experience would be prioritized over those without.
So I was pretty surprised when a couple of weeks later I received a call. The person on the phone was very polite and friendly. I was asked a few questions, checking on my availability, if I understood that if I got the position that I would have to move to another country, and why I wanted to work for their company. I was then informed about how the process would continue. I would receive a small game related project to code. This would allow them to see my coding experience. I would need to turn it in 24 hours before my interview the next week.
Now I won't go into detail about the project they gave me, suffice it to say that it was a small game based on a classic game. I found the task challenging, mostly due to my inexperience with gaming. I focused mostly on my strengths with the coding but never was really satisfied with the game play. I'm not ashamed of the work I produced, and actually found that I had fun with the project.
The day of the interview came and I was really excited. Partially because the two people conducting my interview are really well known in the game's community. I've heard plenty of times the old adage "Don't meet your heroes", as a warning that people you only know by reputation are nothing like that in person. In this case the adage was completely wrong. The interview started out with a rereading of the job description to make sure that we were all on the same page. They then asked questions about my experiences, how I became a developer. What sort of work have I done. They asked very good questions on my interpersonal skills, and how I have dealt with different scenarios in the past, and most importantly what I learned from these. I found this line of questioning right on the money for a company who values teamwork. I was also asked how I would handle hypothetical situations where I made a change to the game and the community were less than happy. I find this also important for dealing with customer reactions, something I've never been asked before in a job interview. Later we did a dive in on my code project. Here, the questions were sharp, but still extremely positive. We discussed why I made the decisions I made, and if I knew how to make it better in the future. I was never made to feel inferior due to a design decision. Finally there was time given for me to ask questions, about the process, the company, the city. I was informed at the end that they still needed to interview other applicants and I would receive feedback in about a week.
A week later and I received a call from the same person who contacted me to set up the appointment. I was informed that I didn't make it to the next level, but that I had did well. The main reason for missing out was my lack of gaming experience. I was invited to apply again in the future. Again I was never made to feel bad that I didn't make the grade. I was even told that there were over 400 applicants for the position, and that not all of them made it to the interview. Which of course helped me feel good about the entire process.
Now I admit that much of this process was probably colored by the fact that I indeed had nothing to lose when it came to applying for this job. If, as happened, they said no; I didn't lose anything, I still work for a company with a team that I absolutely adore. I do not need to go through the stress of uprooting my family and moving them across Europe. Would I have accepted the job if it were offered, that I can't answer even now. The final decision would have been made by not only me but my entire family.
So if I didn't lose anything, did I gain anything from the process? Of course I did!. I gained an insight on how a good interview process is performed. I learned about how to ask the kind of questions that matter. I also realized that there are companies who think more about how a potential member will fit into a team than what skills they have.