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How to Get Hired at a Game Studio: Art Edition 2021

Filament Games | Educational Game Developer

In our How to Get Hired Series, we interview hiring managers all about their departments, their best practices for success at Filament Games, and qualities in applications and applicants that make an impression. For this installment in the 2021 reboot of this series, we interviewed Art Manager Brandon Korth! 

See our previous How to Get Hired post on the art department here, and see our current open positions here. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How would you describe the open role(s) and your role, along with your day-to-day work? How does your role interact with other roles in and out of your department?

Day-to-day, I would say my work is split up between a few different categories. I’m either hiring, supporting the sales team, or supporting the art staff. Filament’s art leadership roles aren’t art direction-based, since we do so many projects at once. No one would be able to do much art direction across ten different projects at a time, and so we rely a lot on the teams themselves to do their own art direction. I’m around to do one-on-ones with team members, make sure they have the resources they need, help coordinate communication between team members, hiring, and managing contractors – and then for sales, I help with estimates to give us accurate numbers for future projects.

In terms of the current open role of Unity UI UX Designer, this role is important across the entire lifespan of a project. The day-to-day for this role will depend on where a project is at in its lifecycle. At the start of a project, they will work super closely with the game designer and work to create the first visual representation of what the game’s design will look like. They will also be creating what we call “wireframes” at Filament, which are shared documents that everyone on a team can reference to have a shared understanding of the project. 

They will also work to create UI assets working directly in Unity, implementing things alongside the game engineer, and then towards the end of a project, doing animation work, particle effects, and other visual polish. 

Tips for success at Filament Games? 

Have a hunger for ownership over what you’re working on. There’s really not a lot of prescribed tasks here – no one is going to tell you exactly what to do on a daily basis. You’re going to encounter problems and it’s up to you to figure out how best to solve them. Obviously, there’s a bunch of other talented people here who you can talk to and rely on, but someone who is excited about issues that they’ve never had to solve before, and owning that, is set up for success here. 

This goes along with the freedom you have at Filament to do what you’re interested in – there’s a lot of flexibility. When it comes to different aspects of art as a UX designer, you can always talk to your illustrator and pitch in on some illustration, or on the other hand, if you’re an engineer and you want to pitch in on some UX design, you can talk to someone and make it happen. There’s so much freedom in this small, indie-dev studio per project. Usually, there’s a group of around five people working together, start to finish – and it’s up to them to decide how everything gets made. Everyone gets to wear different hats and you can pitch in through different aspects of the project. 

What should an applicant make sure to include, and on the other hand, make sure to avoid, in an application for your department?

Something that’s always an instant plus is when someone includes work that is relevant to our work here. This feels weird to say because it feels obvious, but so often we get applicants with portfolios that just have nothing to do with what we do and the visual style doesn’t match. This applies to getting hired anywhere, but research the place where you’re applying, and make sure you have something in your portfolio that matches the place where you’re trying to get hired. 

I always appreciate a portfolio that I don’t have to dig through to find relevant work related to the job you’re applying for. I definitely have almost passed on people because I had to dig multiple layers deep to find that they had really relevant experience from past projects. For example, if I have to go to your website, then to a secondary navigation page, and then click into an individual project just to see your relevant work, that’s not ideal. One thing I did when I was applying for jobs was creating a second website that just contained relevant work for the type of job I was applying for. I was applying for 3D work, artwork, and UI UX work at the time, and my portfolio was all over the place. So I made a website for just one type of work, and that made my job application process a lot easier and more organized.  

I also really like to read, in cover letters, why you want to work at Filament specifically. The common mistake that you want to avoid is using the cover letter to re-explain your resume – it’s really your opportunity to explain why you want to be at Filament Games, not just why you’d be a great fit for the position you’re applying for. If I’ve looked over your resume and I’m considering you, at that point, I trust you’re talented at what you do. I want to know why you want to do that here, specifically. 

What are the steps you take during your hiring process?

I do an initial application review first, which involves looking over your resume and portfolio to see if you fit the necessary qualifications. Then, I’ll do another review of applications with others from the department. After that, we do a phone screen, which is a 15-minute interview where everyone in consideration gets the same questions. It’s my chance to talk to people and get to know them. One thing that I like to tell people is that Filament doesn’t have any mean people that work here – they are not the kind of people that we hire. We hire people who are kind and excited about what they do. 

Then we have an art test/skills test, where we’ll send out a set of instructions and ask applicants to take a weekend and either create mockup screens, or illustrated assets, or 3D animation work. This is just primarily for us to be able to tell if applicants are able to do the work that we’ll be putting them into, should they be hired. Oftentimes, the roles we’re hiring for go directly into a project, so knowing someone can hit the ground running is a huge plus. We try to be as transparent as possible when sending out the skills tests so applicants have a good idea of what we’re looking for exactly. 

After that, there’s a technical interview where I’ll bring in other people from the department and the applicant and ask them questions about their skills test, and give them a chance to ask us some questions. Once that’s over, there’s the gauntlet interview – which sounds scarier than it is – in this interview, we bring in someone from each department to be able to interview the applicant and ask questions that relate to their departments specifically. For example, an engineer can ask a potential UX designer questions about how they’ve interacted with engineers in the past. That’s our final stage for determining a good cultural fit. And lastly, there’s a final screening with myself and Chief Creative Officer, Dan Norton. 

It’s a long process – though sometimes we combine steps like the technical interview and the gauntlet interview. The fastest I’ve ever hired someone is two months – hopefully, that’s a frame of reference for people when they’re thinking about how long the process takes. 

What are some qualities, skill sets, or character traits you value in an employee?

One of the most valuable things I’ve noticed in my employees is the ability to be useful with the time that’s not being prescribed to them. Sometimes we will have team members that are not fully allocated to a project or only half-time on a project. In theory, they have 20 hours a week where no one is telling them what to do, they don’t have a specific task list, there’s no client paying them to do anything. My team is really good at filling their time without needing someone to hold their hand, and I think that’s a great quality, to be able to fill your time with useful things. Whether that’s working on training activities, or supporting other teams, and not just saying “well, I’ve done my work so I’m just going to be done for the week.” I’m looking for someone who is motivated to make use of their time when no one is telling them to do so.

Unity is great to have as a skill set. It’s surprising how many people who apply, and people we’ve actually hired, who don’t have Unity as a skill on their resume. So that is a very nice thing to see – it’s nice to see when people have actual programming experience, but knowing your way around the game engine yourself is super valuable, as a UI UX designer, or as anyone on the art team. Knowing how your assets go into the project after you’re done with it is great. 

Interested in applying for one of our open positions? Check out our careers page here! There’s a lot to love about working for us. Learn more about our company culture and who we are below:

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