When eyeballing a studio...

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Tigerfeet Polycount Sponsor
Hey folks! After two phone interviews I've got an onsite interview with my first game company. :D (suitably stoked) I'm fully aware that an onsite interview is mostly to see how you fit in with the team. So, what I want to ask all you grizzled veterans is what would YOU look for during an onsite interview? What kind of questions would you recommend I ask while I'm there?

So far I'm making a note to pay attention to lighting conditions, what kind of a break room they have (is there a fridge, microwave), ask about how flexible hours are, try to see if anybody is using a tablet (I use one for everything, so I'd want one). I plan to take a look at the general safety of the area though I don't expect any problems from that quarter.

Thanks in advance for any advice :)

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  • fmnoor
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    fmnoor polycounter lvl 12
    Chances are they'll give you a quick tour so you can check those out yourself. I sometimes ask about the coffee (flavours etc) or where X Y Z departments are (if I need to find the tools programmer, where is he? and so on). Also would generally ask about their tools suite (if they have a custom engine they probably use custom exporters and so on - they'll probably show you this on their own to see if you can grasp it)
  • Justin Meisse
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    Justin Meisse polycounter lvl 14
    every studio is going to have Wacom tablets, some studios will have Cintiqs
  • GeeDave
    Yeah there's always a question about coffee! One place I interviewed at said something along the lines of "If you need to pop out for 5 minutes to buy a coffee that's fine", which certainly isn't a deal breaker by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a big "Shit, I'll be spending about £15 a day on coffee, and I have to leave to get it!"

    Interesting question though, I've honestly never though about it a great deal. I work in a very nice studio at the moment and the only thing that "bothers" me is the air conditioning, or rather the employees use of it (we have controls on the walls so anyone can change it, which might not be the best idea).

    I used to work in an office where a programmer was so poorly situated that he had to wear fingerless gloves. It's going to be one of those "can't please everyone" sort of things, but if I was being super picky I might factor it in, as it's pretty tough to work when you've got mountain cold winds blasting the back of your neck because one guy needs to "cool off a little quicker"

    Tablet's are a must, I would expect any studio to give their artists one.

    Chairs... very god damn important, if they use something you'd expect to find in a poorly funded college classroom, you're going to have a bad [back] time.

    Edit.
    Oh... and yeah, in most cases you're brought in for an interview purely just to see if you'd work well with others and/or are sane enough. (there are always exceptions to this "rule", of course) so it might be a good idea to ease off on things you might not naturally enquire about.
  • MagicSugar
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    MagicSugar polycounter lvl 10
    Tigerfeet wrote: »
    ask about how flexible hours are,

    I won't ask this question, it could be construed that you're scared of....crunch. It's a valid question IF you're not desperate getting this position from this particular company.

    I suggest asking instead, if the company offers free dinners in case a project you're in goes into...overtime mode. Yeah...probably best not to mention the c-word.
    Tigerfeet wrote: »
    What kind of questions would you recommend I ask while I'm there?

    Basically I'd ask questions that would make me look like I'm committed to this company and improving my skillset/level while Im there. Such as...would they subsidize part-time eduction/workshop training (like Gnomon online workshops or free trips to conferences and such).

    Shit like that...just not questions that would make you look "high maintenance". But if you're a bonafide "rockstar"...lol...shurrre, why not.
  • low odor
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    low odor polycounter lvl 13
    I think it's valid to ask what the core hours are..and definitely ask them about crunch and what is expected of you...if they get bent out of shape when someone asks them those kinds of question, then you dodged a bullet.
  • EarthQuake
    low odor wrote: »
    I think it's valid to ask what the core hours are..and definitely ask them about crunch and what is expected of you...if they get bent out of shape when someone asks them those kinds of question, then you dodged a bullet.

    Yeah.
  • ae.
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    ae. polycounter lvl 9
    EarthQuake wrote: »
    Yeah.

    agreed, if there honest and not shady they will tell you the truth :thumbup:
  • Tigerfeet
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    Tigerfeet Polycount Sponsor
    Thank you guys so much! I actually already asked about crunch in my first interview, so that's taken care of.

    That's genius asking about subsidizing further training, and not something I would have thought of on my own.
  • tremulant
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    tremulant polycounter lvl 12
    If one asked "What does the company's financial situation look like?" Who invests and how are projects financed?", would that be completely inappropriate? Cause I'd sure as hell love to know/ask that !
  • Ghostscape
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    Ghostscape polycounter lvl 13
    The "do they have a microwave" and "do they have coffee" shit is hilarious. If they don't, run.

    At my old place everyone would go to get coffee at one of several local coffee shops rather than drink the coffee at work, because going out to get coffee is really a ritual - you go with some friends and you bitch about work and socialize and it gives you a break from the office.

    The questions I would definitely ask all come down to "what's in it for me, and what are you looking for?"

    Ask what the core hours are. Core hours is not # of hours per day, it's the hours you're required to be there. Everyone is going to expect the 8 hour minimum, but a lot of places will have core hours of 10-5 with a break for lunch, and you're expected to either come in earlier or stay later to hit your 8, so you are flexible in that regard. Some places have even more flexible work environments - my last job let you choose your own hours entirely (with the caveat that you had to be there for meetings - it meant meetings were always scheduled a day in advance which was nice. We had a guy who lived on a 30 hour day or so which was funny because he'd rotate between being an early morning guy to a late night guy).

    Ask what is expected of you in a daily, weekly, and project-wide basis. What are your responsibilities, who are you working with, what tools are you working with, what is the organizational structure/who are the leads, etc.

    Ask about their bonus structure. Ask what their crunch policy is, and how well they feel they manage crunch.

    Overall, in my opinion, the best questions to ask are the ones that help you figure out how you fit in and whether you'd like it there. They'll ask all the questions they need to figure out your qualifications, etc, you don't need to invent a question that shows off how cool you are. Asking questions that are designed to help you figure out if it is a good fit for you shows more interest and desire than any number of "How would you like to know how great I am?" type questions.
  • JO420
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    JO420 polycounter lvl 14
    My advice is to go there and not have a scripted idea of the questions you want to ask. Go with the flow of the conversation and try to act naturally. If you come to a 2nd interview thin king of what to ask and what to not ask you might come off as stiff or even strange.

    Dont get me wrong,asking questions is a good thing,but dont get too caught up in it,typically a 2nd interview is to see if they like you,if you come off unnatural it could be a huge disservice to you.
  • Yozora
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    Yozora polycounter lvl 11
    GeeDave wrote: »
    I work in a very nice studio at the moment and the only thing that "bothers" me is the air conditioning, or rather the employees use of it (we have controls on the walls so anyone can change it, which might not be the best idea).

    This sounds very familiar :p
    Our programmer can't stand working in the cold, and our boss can't stand working in what everyone else in the office considers to be "average" temperatures.
    So we all get to freeze, yay. And the boss ain't even in the room half the time! So we switch it back to normal temperature but when he comes back, he switches back to freezer temperature again.

    The good thing is that I don't personally mind the cold that much... but it bothers the programmer a lot!
  • sltrOlsson
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    sltrOlsson polycounter lvl 10
    Like you said, an onsite interview is to get a better idea about you and how you coop with others. Just remember that someone that's hiring is looking for someone to work with, not just someone who's good at the 3Dz!

    Don't ask stuff you actually don't care about, it will show. Maybe you think that having a microwave is the most important thing in the world, but it's kinda stupid to ask. Any company with actual humans in it will have basic shit like that. Asking stuff is good, asking stupid stuff makes you look stupid. :)

    Good luck man! It's a great feeling getting some attention! ;)
  • vcortis
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    vcortis polycounter lvl 9
    1. Where do people live around here?
    2. What are your core hours?
    3. What is your policy on crunch?
    4. How are projects financed?
    5. What does the current dev cycle end on this project?
    6. What types of ways are you looking to grow the company?
    7. Are there any other projects you're working on?
    8. Do you tend to promote from within or look outside the studio?
    9. How are reviews done for employees, annually? bi-annually?
    10. How are art critiques handled?
    11. How do you handle your bug tracking?
    12. What are your tools like?
    13. Where is the game at in terms of overall completion of functionality?
    14. What is your PTO policy? Are you able to come in la little ate/leave early and make up the time to make appointments (this is especially important when you're moving)
    15. What is the company culture like? Do people go out together, does the company host socials?
    16. Who would I be reporting to? (always good to see if there is a billion managers)
    17. How big of a team will I be directly working with?
    18. How open are you to letting me branch into other aspects of my discipline, or will I be doing the same work day in and day out until project ship?
    19. What is your employee retention rate? (do a lot of people leave the studio?)
    20. How often do you playtest your game? (if people don't play it, it won't be fun)


    Those are a few I came up with off the top of my head in exactly 3 minutes. Just the tip of the iceberg of questions I try to ask or at least get a good idea about. Granted, you don't want to constantly be asking questions. Get to know the people working there too, be friendly and courteous. If you don't like the people you will be working with, then none of the above questions even matter!

    Good Luck!
  • Nitewalkr
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    Nitewalkr polycounter lvl 9
    Tigerfeet wrote: »
    Hey folks! After two phone interviews I've got an onsite interview with my first game company. :D (suitably stoked) I'm fully aware that an onsite interview is mostly to see how you fit in with the team. So, what I want to ask all you grizzled veterans is what would YOU look for during an onsite interview? What kind of questions would you recommend I ask while I'm there?

    So far I'm making a note to pay attention to lighting conditions, what kind of a break room they have (is there a fridge, microwave), ask about how flexible hours are, try to see if anybody is using a tablet (I use one for everything, so I'd want one). I plan to take a look at the general safety of the area though I don't expect any problems from that quarter.

    Thanks in advance for any advice :)

    An unexpected question that can derail you from your mock interview practice. For example: They may ask you what are your personal hobbies (NEVER GO WITH VIDEO GAMES AND LEARNING HOW THEY WERE MADE.)

    They also might ask you stuff like:

    Suppose you are dumped in an on going project, How would you handle that.

    What would you require to start a project.

    What are your key goals.

    Where do you see yourself five years from now.

    What if matrix...(ok that one they may not ask..-.-)

    At the end they may ask you if you have any questions for them:

    You can ask them stuff like:

    What is the work flow, what type of tools they use. How does the project progresses like what phases does it go through? What documentations are required for each phase.

    and stuff like that.
  • Mark Dygert
    GeeDave wrote: »
    Yeah there's always a question about coffee! One place I interviewed at said something along the lines of "If you need to pop out for 5 minutes to buy a coffee that's fine", which certainly isn't a deal breaker by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a big "Shit, I'll be spending about £15 a day on coffee, and I have to leave to get it!"
    At that point I would buy a $20 coffee pot and make it at my desk. =/
    But I can't imagine a place that would starve people of the greatest source of creativity. You would probably be beating people away from the pot with a stick. You might be able to discourage them by drinking directly from the pot, like a dog.
    GeeDave wrote: »
    Chairs... very god damn important, if they use something you'd expect to find in a poorly funded college classroom, you're going to have a bad [back] time.
    And the chair you start out with probably won't be any good. People have a way of cannibalizing a work station when someone leaves.

    The chair you find sitting in your cube on day one will more than likely be the worst possible chair in the company. But this is good, because you do NOT have to put up with it, if its in really bad shape you can normally ask to have it replaced which everyone else was too busy swapping for minor upgrades and didn't think to ask for a new one.

    Just watch out because the cannibals are watching you unwrap it...
  • JasonLavoie
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    JasonLavoie polycounter lvl 12
    Just watch out because the cannibals are watching you unwrap it...

    Yes... yes we are :poly141:
  • IchII3D
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    IchII3D polycounter lvl 8
    I personally would ask a lot of questions about art production. What will your day to day work involve.
    • How is the team segmented and specialised, do artists get a variety of work to do or are they put in a very specific role?
    • How much moving around happens within the art team, are artists allowed long term ownership of specific areas of the game?
    • How much does the company outsource and what are the artists rolls when dealing with it, is it managed by specific people or does the art team get cannibalised fixing other peoples work?
    • How close do other departments work with art, as an artist would I be working closely with a designer? How are tools requests handled? Is there a good structure and interconnection between departments?
  • MM
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    MM polycounter lvl 13
    make sure you get an office room just like the managers or producers instead of getting shoved into a cubicle space. i hate cubicles.
  • Nitewalkr
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    Nitewalkr polycounter lvl 9
    MM wrote: »
    make sure you get an office room just like the managers or producers instead of getting shoved into a cubicle space. i hate cubicles.

    Isnt that like up to them? I mean project participants would get cubicles, project manager and their assistants get side offices and so on?
  • Tigerfeet
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    Tigerfeet Polycount Sponsor
    Thanks again everybody for your advice! Just wanted to pop in and say that the interview went great. The studio looks amazing, I love the layout and the few people that I met (apparently half were on vacation and the other half were sick) were super nice. Here's hoping they make me an offer :)
  • perna
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    perna quad damage
    Asking about overtime can be tricky, though.

    Often I'll hear even artists say something like

    "no, we don't have to work overtime
    .....
    ....
    .......
    ..
    ......
    ....
    ......
    ......
    ....
    .......
    ....
    .....
    but most of us hang around until 9-10 anyway"

    I also hear "It's awesome here. No, we barely ever crunch. Sure, right now, but right now [some big explanation for why he's crunching EVERY time I talk to the guy]"

    So you need to be quite critical to find out the truth about the conditions. Always talk to the veterans. The family people who don't have stars in their eyes and the energy to work 12 hours a day.
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