Getting into game audio part 3 the actual interview Asbjoern Andersen


In this part of Megan Frazier's great guide to getting into game audio, she shares her thoughts, techniques and tactics once you reach the interview stage:
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Congratulations! Level up sound! If you’ve made it to getting interviews, most of the actual work is done.

Real interviews – the only meaningful metric

In looking back over my journey, I both struggled with and succeeded in is “taking the wins that are given to me”. In general, I haven’t observed the behavior of my peers taking the ENORMOUS success marker that getting an interview means. For many people, it’s all about getting a job; 100% of the success as to whether or not they “did good” is tied up with employment and income. I’m not saying those things are not important, but failure to recognize the success of simply getting an interview causes folks to behave desperately. If there was one small odd bit of advice I’d throw out into the universe is this: if you got an interview, let go and just be yourself. The universe has stated you are enough, any rejection or success at this point is merely about fit. 

When you’re chatting with hiring managers, you need to realize that this is about fit and this is not a skill quiz. Your primary goal should be sussing out what their pain is and if you believe you are the solution, help the hiring manager through the decision-making process of choosing you. This is about them, primarily

Where it becomes around you is when you see something that indicates they are interested in you specifically (I call these buying signs) and the proper response is asserting conditions to work for them. Ultimately this is the assertion “I am able to solve that, however, ……” An example could be location; if the role would require you to move, and you have a very distinct buying sign and you are sure they are moving forward with you, asking if relocation assistance would be provided, how that would work with moving and starting employment, ect. These behaviors are all putting things gently in their way of buying you, giving you leverage to ask for more things. It’s effectively leaning back and allowing you not to be overly clingy in the interviewing process.

Poorly skilled (interviewing skill set) hiring managers will tend toward skill/quiz-like questions and this conversation may appear much like the screen. It’s important to get past that behavior to identify their pain at the appropriate pace of the interview and assert value at the appropriate pace and tone. If you are not sure if you are the solution, be honest about where you are at in your skill level. This isn’t about being overly humble, either. In my experience as a recruiter, I did not succeed at selling rockstar candidates. I massively succeeded in having a good-natured, honest “B candidate” underneath my expensive prissy A candidate. 

For example, let’s say an audio director knows they are switching their middleware solution for their next title. They know the new solution is proprietary and therefore they are not going to find candidates who have experience working with their proprietary technology. If the skill silo they are looking for is a person who is a sound designer, they know they would likely be in a better position if they hired someone who had also worked with building their own custom integrations, even if they weren’t flashy or groundbreaking. If the skill silo they were looking at was an audio programmer, they might want to see integrations of proprietary software (obviously not theirs, but someone’s!), multiple languages or knowledge of multiple middleware solutions. If they hired a subject matter expert of a WWISE to Unity integration, there is a risk that the candidate cannot adapt to their proprietary needs. People in general heavily favor “which candidate provides immediate wins.” It is very rare they can afford the time to grow their people, however, when that does happen, the candidate who wins is usually the candidate who expresses the best attitude.

An average candidate passively has their skillset pilfered through and hopefully, it becomes apparent that they’re a good fit. An amazing candidate has heard the scuttlebutt and prepared why they are the perfect solution for that situation. It’s all resting on the reality that hiring authorities are only interested in solving their immediate problem. Craft your interview questions to allow you to strongly assert why you are the solution.

A good start working at becoming an amazing candidate is to note what tools each studio uses, what engine and what middleware solution they all use. It’s not necessarily public, but the info is out there and can be gathered over time. The more data and preparation you have walking into a job interview makes it proportionately easier to get at what the hiring manager is really looking for and ultimately assert your value as to being the solution to their problem.

In article 1, I talk about how I discovered and molded my skills around a certain silo, and ultimately, made it into a bit of a brand of what I do. There is however a personal brand into who you are and how you interact with folks. I don’t believe this is something that you can fake, and I do believe it is more something you discover as you learn about yourself and mature as a person. A lot of folks coming out of school struggle with a personal brand, I’ve observed, merely because they haven’t lived as much life yet. My personal brand includes  “scrappy” “offbeat” and “introspective”. I only really discovered this by asking holding managers why they hired me, usually at the tail end of a contract. Over time, I realized they were all pointing at the same thing in my personality. Obviously, I’m not this way 100% of the time, but it is my knight’s raiment I wear into interviews.

The Panel

I consider most panel interviews handshake interviews or screen-in’s. They aren’t important to track. You’ve been screened, so the firm knows you’re basically qualified. You’ve been actually interviewed, so they know you fit socially/skillfully within the audio director’s worldview of the solution to the problem. I philosophically believe that the battle has been already won or lost by this point from a candidate’s perspective. The hiring authority probably knows whom they are going to hire, or if the right candidate has been found, however it is polite to give other disciplines the opportunity to object or give feedback. My philosophy here is incredibly biased however, in the vast majority of positions I have succeeded in getting I was the only candidate on the field.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t prepare at all for panel interviews; merely bringing your cross-functional vocab and preparing questions for each person are the guiding principles in how to shine here. Panel interviews are not always cross-disciplinary, they can be within a larger audio team. Prepping questions for each part of the pipeline in audio is perfectly appropriate.

Panel interviews functionally work against a candidate from a negotiation standpoint. The more time and effort you put into an interview series, the more it hurts to let it all burn by saying no. I can’t tell you how much it hurt when I realized I had spent a good chunk of my brain space for 6 whole weeks in the process for a AAA firm only to have it dashed with absolutely nothing to show for it. Interviews are EXPENSIVE on your time. It is a good idea to consider how much time they are draining from you. While I have never refused a panel interview, recognize the time being drained.

The VIP

VIP interviews come up usually after panels and this person is the overarching Creative Director or the hiring authorities’ boss. VIPs are almost always screen-in’s, they are simply given the option to politely supersede the HA decision due to internal politics. I have found these interviews have the least to do with skill and are more about asserting my values and design principles. Basically, they want to know if my thought process and moxie will match the organization as a whole. 

The Close

Closing is as subtle an art as mastering sound. It is something everyone should study over the course of their life. A beautiful close is like a beautiful game of Tak from The Kingkiller Chronicles. The intersection of humanity, charged with the electric emotional feelings of need and want, with the scent of obfuscation as the two people come to terms creates a vibration, a sound between two people. That sound can coalesce into this incandescent harmony or this dissonance of loss and the participation of watching such things is a fascinating feature of my journey in time. Now, to pull out of crazy metaphor, let’s dive into details.

Closing is both the simplest and most complicated part of the interview process. It is the last call where you are offered the job. The primary goal for the candidate is to get as much compensation as possible while not being laughed out the door. The goal for the company is to get the talent for as little as possible, while hopefully enough that maintains loyalty for as long as they intend to use them. While their interests might differ and there can be contention, this is not war. It’s a dance.


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Closes at larger firms traditionally are handled by HR; however, certain firms and certain positions might dictate that the hiring authority or VIP is the person who is issuing the offer. A VIP issuing the offer suggests the organization is hierarchical or that the VIP is actively involved in many on-the-ground decisions. A hiring authority issuing the offer implies that the organization practices flatter power distance. An HR representative issuing the offer implies dedicated corporate processes. 

Closing is done at every stage

The biggest failure most candidates struggle with is thinking the close is merely this conversation at the very end; in truth, the candidate should be closing at anchoring, during the screen, during the actual interview and the panel, or with the VIP. Asserting your value should be done at EVERY stage, not just at the very end when you’re wheedling over price. The final conversation should be a minor afterthought to get the paperwork arranged.

Silence and Listening

Silence and Listening are the most powerful tools in your negotiation arsenal, bar none. Pausing after the offer has been revealed while you think about it is one of the bigger moves I learned in the negotiation process. It’s hard because your heart is beating out of your chest and you’re filled with all the emotions, but playing cool here is the difference between a masterful close and a failure. Use short sentences, and do not over speak or qualify your questions. 

Qualifiers

Qualified speech is speech that implies nuanced communication. Closes are binary, black and white. Qualifiers are grey “maybe” patterns. Anything that is maybe/possibly/could/should or statements that imply uncertainty or conditional in outcome are qualifiers. Active speech, do/will/cannot/will not, and speech that leaves no nuance or is explicit feeling is non-qualified. It is essential that your speech is as explicit as possible, and give concession as appropriate. Stating “I usually charge” is inherently weaker than “I charge X, however, given your scope I can work with you.” 

Example soft close:

Them: “We would be happy to offer you X”

You: [Pause. Take a breath without making a noise. Silence.]

You: “Is that the best you can offer?” [Bask in silence further. This is where listening is most important, if they qualify it further, roll the dice. If they do not qualify and let the silence happen, accept or reject the offer.]

Them: “Well unfortunately yeah, that’s really as high as we can go.”

You: [Pause. In this example, the words yeah & really point towards qualification. The qualification also can be in the tone of voice, speed of speech]

You: (polite tone) “Ok, just so I understand, you cannot offer X+1 dollar.”

Them: “Wellllll, we might be able to if I talk to Hiring Authority[this is another qualifier! Move to soft close]”

You: “You know, I am really excited about this opportunity and want to move forward. Would you be able to talk to the hiring authority to see if we might be able to do X+1 dollar? If so, I will accept. If it’s truly not possible to offer X+1 dollar, I understand and I’m not going to break the deal over a dollar.”

Soft closes leave the buyer in a position to counter and assert the seller’s ask is too great. Again, if you look in my above example, I state “I will not break the deal over a dollar”. However, I’ve made it quite clear my rate should be x+1. This gives the buyer the chance to court me, the seller, by going the extra mile to make sure my compensation asks are met. Also, the ask does not need to be solely one dollar, I’m just trying to illustrate the mechanics of asking.

Closing hard.

The first thing you should know about hard closing is that the situations where they are appropriate are rare.

The second thing you should know about hard closing is everyone you close hard should still be treated with dignity and respect. 

If you close someone hard without treating them with dignity, that tells the world something about your personhood. 

Closing hard is when you do not leave the buyer with any recourse; this is a “take it or leave it” situation. Closing hard is when you have overwhelming leverage over the buyer and you are merely dictating the terms for you to continue participating. In game audio, the only situation I have experienced a hard close is when I talked about in Part 2 lining up the External Recruiters and getting the best rate.

Example Hard Close

External recruiter: Hi Megan, thank you for taking my call. I’d like to talk about the job with Game Studio, our benefits, and compensation if you choose to contract with [Recruiter Firm]

Me: Hey [recruiter], no problem! I already know about the job from [hiring authority] and you can send over the benefits after the call. I just wanted to get a sense for rate before my call with [competing External firm] later this afternoon. [It’s important to note, I am not impolite, but I am taking control of the conversation. Rather than waste both of our time, I get to the only thing I care about: rate]

External recruiter: Of course, we can go up to $46.32 per hour for this role. 

Me: [pause, listening to the tonality of voice, one silent half breath] So just so I understand you cannot go to $55.

External recruiter: Oh no, that is way out of our range.

Me: [pause, listening to the tonality of voice, one silent half breath. polite, curious tone] I understand. You cannot go higher then?

External recruiter: I know you currently are talking to [competing external recruiter] this afternoon, so I might make a special exception for $47.

Me: Ok I will note that and get back to you after the call with [competing external recruiter]. Thanks for the time! [this is the hard close]

*************if the recruiter objects*********

External recruiter: well wait, what would make you sign with me?

Me: I mean, if you offer me $55 I will sign on the dotted line after this phone call.

If you say you will accept something, do so if they acquiesce. If you are worried that recruiter A is accepting too easily, and therefore your rate is too low, tell them you need to think about it and get back to them tomorrow. Ask recruiter B with that rate +30% to see if you are right. Shop around a bit.

I personally never accept counteroffers, it’s a byproduct of my background as a recruiter. If I have accepted one offer, that’s pretty much good for me. I absolutely use offers I am considering to leverage better offers from preferential firms, but at no point have I fully accepted those considerations. Shopping around is fine, just be cognizant of a hiring authorities’ time and be quick.

Communication is Key

Soft closes should never be given to clients who exhibit demanding behaviors. Conversely, hard closes are less acceptable in different cultures around the world. You need to take the knowledge of their background and intercultural communication as you express this close. This takes a lot of prep work ahead of time. 

As a note on gender, I hesitantly would observe many people who are socialized as women tend towards soft closes, and people who are socialized as men tend to expect those folks socialized as women to close soft. I personally find it acceptable to cater to those expectations with non-demanding clients and subvert those expectations with demanding clients by taking on much firmer closes. However you attempt your closes, try your best to be confident in yourself. Confidence is not about closing strong, it’s about knowing yourself enough to close appropriately.

Closing sounds scary.

Yeah, it is. 

My first close was this awful teeny bank that dropped an F bomb at me on the phone while we were negotiating price. They wanted 15% rate, and were very very angry (for reasons that were not my fault), and they kept on insisting for 15% when I wanted 30%. My heart was beating out of my chest and I had to hold my breath because I wouldn’t budge. I knew I had leverage. Finally, after 5 seconds, which is about 5 years on a phone call, they relented. I collapsed back in my chair, panting, and my supervisor basically high-fived me. After 10k hours of experience in closes, I still feel the metaphorical flames on my face each time. The only difference is that I am more sure of my leveraging position.

While I certainly love the intricacies of closes, I do not think you need to be a strong closer to get into game audio. I only mentioned them as I have not seen a game audio-specific close documentation, and do so in the hope to benefit some folks who struggle with it.

I hope this has been helpful; my next article will cover audio tests. 

Thank you specifically to Alistair Hirst and Aryn Gessell, but also to the many other people who helped shape this article into what it is today.

A big thanks to Megan Frazier for letting us share her excellent guide!

About Megan Frazier:

Megan Frazier is currently the Senior Sound Designer at Creative Labs, the software arm for HTC VIVE. When not hunting sounds with her trusty PCM D-100 named Larry, she is usually calculating her CS/min from her last LoL match or crafting big plans for her next D&D campaign. Learn more about her work here.


 


Power Lists - essential audio resources and insights:

• The Sound Design Power List

• The Game Audio Power List

• The Film Sound Power List

 
  Succeed in sound:

• How to Set (and Get) the Right Price for Your Audio Work

• 10 Essential Tips for Game Audio Freelancers

• How to be a successful sound designer – with Scott Gershin

• How To Actually Live as an Audio Freelancer – by Melissa Pons

• How to set your sonic creativity free & overcome creative inhibitions – by Mark Kilborn

• 5 Useful Tips for Upcoming Sound Designers and Sound Editors

• Sound Opinions: How to get game audio pricing right

• Building a successful audio post studio – with Kate Finan and Jeff Shiffman

• Rebuilding your studio: Goals, tips and lessons learned

• Creating audio for games – with Martin Stig Andersen

• A life in sound: How to foster creativity and protect yourself from burning out – with Chance Thomas

• Better audio work habits: How a Wacom Tablet can help reduce the risk of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

• Better audio work habits: How a sit & standing desk can reduce your sedentary studio life

• Tips and thoughts on running your own audio post production house – with William McGuigan

• 30+ year audio veteran Andy Greenberg, on building client relationships in the advertising industry

• 7 Sound Alternatives to Working For Free

• Audio Outsourcing Success: Essential Tips, Thoughts and Working Practices from Adele Cutting

 
 
The sound success series:

• How to succeed in UI/UX Sound Design, ADR Recording, & Audio Programming

• How to succeed in sound design for Film, Documentaries, and Trailers

• How to succeed in sound design for Games, Animation, and Television

How to succeed in Field Recording, Foley, and Teaching Sound

• How to succeed in Audio Branding, Music Editing, and sound for VR

• How to succeed in Theater Sound Design, Podcast Sound Design, and Podcast Production

• How to succeed in Sound Editing, Sound for Advertising, and Production Sound

• How to succeed in Sound Editing, Sound for Advertising, and Production Sound

• The Composer Success Series: Composing for Film – ft. Pinar Toprak, Nainita Desai, & Jonathan Snipes

• The Composer Success Series: Composing for TV – ft. Charlie Clouser, Sherri Chung, & Cindy O’Connor

• The Composer Success Series: Composing for Theatre – ft. Elyssa Samsel, Kate Anderson, and Daniel Kluger

• The Composer Success Series: Composing for Games – ft. Inon Zur

 
Breaking into audio – guides and resources:

• The ‘Quit Aspiring’ book – by Adam Croft

• How to get hired in game audio – thoughts and insights from your potential employer’s perspective

• Why gear is not the ticket to entry in the game audio community

• 4 Effective Ways to Break into Game Audio

• Tips for Creating a Perfect Resume for Audio Industry Jobs

• Yet Another Game Audio Hiring Article – by Ariel Gross

• 5 Tips for Getting a Job in the Audio Industry

• Applying for a job in game audio – by Matthew Florianz

• Freelance Game Audio: Getting Started and finding work – by Ashton Morris

• How to get started (and make it) in game audio – 10+ fundamental questions answered by Akash Thakkar

• Courses: How to network and get paid for your work in the game industry – by Akash Thakkar

• How to Craft a Perfect Cover Letter for Audio Industry Jobs
 
 
Finding those audio jobs:

• Get the weekly Audio Jobs newsletter

• Join the Audio Jobs Facebook group
 
 
Showcasing your work:
 
• Get a free profile on Soundlister

• Upload your demos to Soundcloud

• Upload your demos to ReelCrafter
 
 
Networking:
 
• Find game audio community groups around the world

• Find interesting audio events around the world

• Find other audio pros around the world
 
 
Coping with a layoff - and how to bounce back:

• How to prepare for – and power through – a layoff in the game audio industry, with Brian Schmidt:

• How to Survive a Game Audio Layoff – insights from Damian Kastbauer

• What it’s like to be laid off from your video game studio

• What To Do Before and After Being Laid Off

• Facebook Group: Survival Skills for Creatives
 
 
Education and knowledge:
 
• Get an audio mentor at the Audio Mentoring Project

• How To Learn Game Audio Online – A talk with Game Audio Educator Leonard Paul

• Hear the very best podcasts about sound

• Read the 100s of sound stories and guides on the A Sound Effect blog (search for stories here)

• Browse Industry Data: Game Music and Sound Design Salary Survey Results

• Browse 100+ Sound Design Guides

• Find essential books about sound – for film, games and audio post production

• Get tips and ideas for making your own sound effects

• Use the Audio Events Calendar to find audio-related events around the globe

• Get a steady stream of great sound stories from the community

• Discover 1000s of sound libraries from the independent sound community

• Take online courses in Wwise, FMOD Studio, Unity, Pure Data & Unreal at the School of Video Game Audio
 
 
Getting into independent sound effects:
 
• DIY SFX libraries - Your guide to your first sound effects library

• Sound effects survey results: Here are 90+ ideas for new SFX libraries

• How to create an indie sound bundle

• The quick-start guide to adding sound FX library metadata
 

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  • Environments & Ambiences Chimney Wind Play Track 30 sounds included, 93 mins total $7

    There was a massive storm going on outside and we could hear the wind from the chimney so we popped our field recording kit up and extended the microphones to as far as they would go up the chimney and pressed record. We managed to capture the low end and rumbles of the wind interacting with the chimney.

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    This library is recorded in a small furniture workshop where office furniture is sawn and created. We recorded the sounds of the factory so that they can be easily combined together to create a workshop of any scale.

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    • Large circular saw

    • Drill

    • Doors

    • General work noises

    • Industrial Spaces

    Microphones were placed at varying distances from the recording subjects. Many recordings were created using a LOM Geofon contact microphone.

     

     

    50 %
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  • Rolling thunder, rain in the city or in the countryside – these are the sounds that are included in the collection “Thunderstorm Rain Vol.1”.

    These sounds are well suited for creating a stormy, rainy atmosphere for movies, games and other audio-visual content.

    All sounds are recorded in WAV format, 96 kHz, 24 bit.

     

    The following sounds are included:

    • Atmosphere of Thunderstorm in City Outside Window
    • Drops of Thunderstorm Rain on Windowsill
    • Heavy Rain
    • Pouring Rain
    • Rain Hurricane Rattle Metal Plate Loop
    • Rain in the Gazebo
    • Rain In the Village
    • Rain on Windowsill and City Traffic
    • Rain Thunderstorm on City Traffic Background
    • Rainy Atmosphere with Thunderstorm in City
    • The End of the Thunderstorm
    • Thunderstorm
    • Thunderstorm Rain Intensifies
    • Thunder FX

     

    Product Details:

    • 82 GB
    • 96kHz/24-Bit
    • 73 WAV files

    Thunderstorm Rain Vol.1 – Sound List

  • “Sci-Fi Textures and Loops” are unique sound effects in WAV 24 Bit 96 kHz format that are suitable for creating a dark, mysterious, alien atmosphere when creating science fiction films, games, and music tracks.

    32 %
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  • The Reindeer/Caribou sound effect library has 150 audio files and over 500 individual sounds. Including:

    • Isolated vocalizations of adults, young calves, and newborn calves, including grunts and nickers
    • Isolated mouth and nose sounds, including breaths, exhales, inhales, snorts, coughs, smacking, swallowing, sniffs, burps, and gurgles
    • Herd activity, including resting, moving, herding and round-up
    • Real and foley bells
    • Antlers clashing
    • Footsteps, walking and running on different surfaces
    • Eating and drinking
    • Sleeping/Resting
    • Digging snow

    Reindeer/Caribou - Sound Effect Library

    Most of these sounds have been recorded with a collar microphone on reindeer, so the sounds are extremely intimate, isolated, and close-up. The collar microphone was attached to a female reindeer with a calf, which captured the most intimate moments. The collar microphone also recorded many other reindeer in the herd, so there are a lot of unique reindeer vocalizations.

    This sound effect library also contains all 33 files from my previous Reindeer sound effect library.

    Note regarding the naming of the animal: Wikipedia says that “Reindeer is the European name for the species of Rangifer, while in North America, Rangifer species are known as Caribou”. So, you can use the same sounds for each of them because, at least in terms of sound, they are nearly identical!

    20 %
    OFF

   

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