Should I Call?: Following Up on Job Applications in the Game Industry [05.19.08]
- Jill Duffy
I've applied to a few jobs at game companies, but I haven't heard anything back from them yet. It's been about two weeks. Should I call? I've also heard other people say that if you get an interview, you should call the company again afterward. When should I call? Won't it seem like I'm bothering them? I don't want to appear desperate, like I'm calling or emailing them too much.
Thanks for your advice,
Dear First-time Caller,
It's funny how similar a job interview can be to a first date. Let's say you meet a nice person whom you're interested in. You get his or her contact information (or you first make contact with a rep at a game company, or see a job ad) -- but then how soon is too soon to call? Then you go on your first date (job interview), where you have to dress to impress. After the date, should you call right away? Should you tell the other party you had a lovely time and are dying to get together again? Or will that make you seem desperate, needy, overbearing?
As much as interviewing is like dating, it is absolutely not like dating when it comes to following up after making initial contact and after the interview.
People at video game companies are busy. Imagine how much busier they are when they need to hire, when they're not only flooded with job applications, but also short-staffed or preparing to move from the preproduction phase to full production (those are two scenarios in which the company would be hiring in the first place).
When you first apply for a job, especially if it was advertised online, realize that the hiring committee will be extremely busy sifting through resumes and applications for at least one week after the job was posted. During that first week, it's reasonable to assume that the company probably won't get back to you; they hiring team is inundated with applications, flooded with resumes, up to its eyeballs in demo reels.
After two weeks, follow up again, either with a phone call or an email if you have the specific name and direct email address of a person at the company. If you applied through a standard online form or using a generic email address, such as email@example.com, then it's a little more difficult to follow up. You can try calling the main phone number at the company and see what happens. It doesn't hurt to try.
I've known people in the game industry who applied for jobs in the fall and weren't hired until spring. It happens. If at any point in your job application process you get the name of a person who works at the company, make sure you get his or her email address and phone number. In the event that your application is curtailed for months and months, you'll want to stay in contact. You want the people on the hiring committee to remember your name. Be friendly to them, but be respectful of their time, too. Keep your emails short (three sentences). Keep your voicemails short (30 seconds).
From your own personal experience, First-time Caller, I'm sure you hate being harassed by solicitors. Maybe the local blood bank has been calling you every two weeks since that one time in high school when you donated blood. Maybe you get a letter from National Public Radio every three months asking you to increase your pledge of support. Perhaps, like me, you get an email from Paypal every six months reminding you that you never activated your account. So when you think about calling these game companies, you don't want to be that guy.
However, when it comes to hiring, it's a totally different situation. Trust me. Here's a little story: When I was managing editor of Game Developer magazine, I had a freelance writer who was more of a journalist than a knowledge expert in game development, so I had a limited number of assignments for him. He was great at writing interviews and trends pieces, but was unqualified to write technical articles, and the magazine needed more technical articles. The writer knew his work with our magazine was limited, but every single time he finished an assignment for us, he would ask, "What do you have for my next assignment?"
At first we said, "We don't have anything for you at the moment. We'll let you know when something comes up." And he would go away -- for about two weeks. Then he would email. Then he would call. And call. And call.
Now, I'm the kind of person who, when pushed to do something I've already said I don't want to do, I get dogmatic about it. I mean, I blacklist people who don't understand that no means no. But it got to the point with this one writer that it was easier to just answer his phone calls than wade through voicemail upon voicemail. As stubborn as I am, I continued to give this writer work. When the other editors and I finally said, "Look: We need technical articles, not more trends pieces. We can only run maybe one trends piece every three or four months," he would respond with, "Great! I can start on the next piece for the next quarter right now. What's the topic?"
His persistence paid off not only because he was unrelenting, but also because he targeted his efforts appropriately. He didn't try to do things he wasn't qualified to do. He didn't try to change the magazine's goals. He saw his opening, and he went for it, over and over again.
When you're following up with a game company, keep those points in mind. If you know you are right for the job -- you're qualified, you'd be a good fit with the company culture -- then call. I'd say call once or twice a week for the first two weeks, then once every two weeks thereafter.
If someone tells you, "Sorry we haven't gotten back to you yet. We're working on it. We'll be touch soon," ask "When?" and then when that date passes, follow up again.
There has been some good advice about following up, or "chasing applications," as it's sometimes called, on our forums. If you have a particular set of circumstances that you want to clarify, I would suggest asking our awesome forum community for more advice.
Good luck to you!
Jill Duffy is editor of GameCareerGuide.com and senior contributing editor of Game Developer magazine. She used to be shy about picking up the phone, but made a New Year's resolution this year not to be. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions about working in the video game industry. If you send your phone number, she might even call you back.