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  • Red Flags On The Job Hunt: Student Edition

    - Meagan Byrne

  • 9. They talk about being one big family

    It just means they don't have boundaries.

    They will call you while you are in chemo (or just show up) and demand to know where those documents on the shared drive are. (Did not happen to me. But something like it happened)

    Work should be separate from life. It's how we keep sane and balanced. I worked for my parents as a kid and if you have never worked in a family business before let me tell you, it is awful or at the very least exhausting. They will ask you for work answers over dinner. They will yell at you in front of other staff because they don't need to be professional. After all, we're family! 

    It's hard enough for new staff to feel comfortable taking lunch breaks or leaving on time when they want to look productive and like a team player. You don't need to add on a manager who makes fun of you for heading out at five, even if they say it's just "good natured ribbing."

    10. They don't know basic things about your local industry (also, you should know basic things about your local industry)

    This is probably less of an issue if say an insurance company has hired you to make a web game. But if you're, oh say, talking to a Canadian studio and they don't know what the CARFAC Minimum Fee Schedule is or they didn't know that another studio in the city won an IGF award for a game that looks a lot like the one they're working on then you may want to be careful.

    Usually this means something might be a little sketchy about the money situation and if this is paired with point eight (won't talk about money) then just run for the hills. A small new studio that has it's shit together will be able to talk intelligently about the local market and industry. A bunch of people who want to "live the game making dream" with no idea what even exists in their own city need to be avoided.

    11. They bash other companies

    For some reason this happens a lot with groups who fall into point nine, but not always. Just like you should not be bashing or badmouthing competitors neither should a perspective company. Other than being unprofessional it usual means something isn't quite on the up and up with the owner or manager.

    Game Development is a very small world and there are lots of bad companies that everyone knows about, but an interviewer has no reason to disparage another company in front of an interviewee. Now, someone may ask if you are interviewing with other companies and, if they feel compelled, may advise you to avoid a particular company if you mentioned it. But I'm not talking about that.

    I'm talking about you showing up, mentioning a competitor's game in an answer and then having to listen to a twenty minute rant from your interviewer about how much that company/game sucks. It's not cool and it speaks to a larger professional problem that might not bother you now, but probably will before long.

    12. They won't show you around the studio/office

    This is one of those points that won't be a red flag until after you received an offer.

    If a company is really serious about you they'll make sure you get to check the place out and talk to the team to make sure you're a good fit. It's a good time to find out that there's a pinball machine next to your working area and decide if you could handle that. You should be able to ask if you can check out where you might be working and most places would be proud to show you around.

    Them not offering to show you around is not the problem (Though companies should offer!). It is, however, if they say you're a top candidate or you're on interview number two, but they WON'T show you around when asked. That's what you need to watch for. 

    NDAs exist for a reason so there's really no reasonable excuse why you can't have a tour of the working space before you get an offer. This is usually a sign that they are hiding something and it's either the team or the workspace. Or maybe something worse. Be prepared to wish you changed your mind about accepting that offer within a week or two.

    13. They give you the creeps or a "weird vibe" you can't place

    You are much better at picking up "problem vibes" then you give yourself credit for.

    If something doesn't feel right about anything from the application to the interview then just drop it. Do not make yourself take a job at a place that feels off just because you think it's stupid for not having a concrete reason. If they get back to you just say another opportunity came up or don't answer at all if the vibe is particularly creepy.

    It doesn't make you a bad person and you deserve to work in a place you feel comfortable in!


    I will give you one last caveat, some of these things are not going to sound like red flags to you and not to sound like an old person, but... you don't know what you don't know right now. That being said, it's not about avoiding 100% of these flags. It's about having an idea of what to look out for and to ask probing questions about. Sometimes you take a job with all the red flags because you had to (I did! Twice!). Because you need to live and there was nothing else at the time.

    But when you do take those jobs have a plan to get out and continue job searching. And who knows? Maybe it'll work out, but it's better to plan for failure and hope for success.

    I hope this helps you (even a little) in your job search!


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