I work for a relatively small company. We don't get a lot of resumes from people with experience, yet we're in a position where we should hire people to grow. We pretty frequently get resumes from people just out of school.

We'd like to try to find the diamonds in the rough, but flying non-local people out and taking a day out of several people's week to do a sit-down, in person interview is expensive. We also do phone interviews for any semi-promising candidates, but those can take a while to set up, and are usually a couple of man hours lost.

We've considered implementing a programmer test, but we have yet to figure out a good one that other studios aren't using.

What are some practices that your studios use to look through these people, with minimal internal overhead?

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I hate to criticize a fellow UnityAnswers comrade :) But this has already been answered extensively on StackOverflow. Plus, here - we're the ones trying to get hired, not doing the hiring. :) Post a question about how to bypass those stupid interview questions. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Cyclops
    Jul 14, 2010 at 22:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'll respectfully disagree with you on the second point. Personally I find game project management and team dynamics to be just as big of an issue to shipping games as problems that people "on the ground" have. Good games are made by good teams which have good people. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetrad
    Jul 14, 2010 at 23:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think what John C was getting at was that there are plenty of answers on SO for interview based programming tests. I also don't think that basing a decision on a programming test should be the final determination. \$\endgroup\$
    – Casey
    Jul 14, 2010 at 23:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ -1, sorry. Both not on topic (SO question really), and answered about 50 gazillion times. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 29, 2010 at 21:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for asking about growing a team rather than trying to fill a position. No comment on whether it belongs on here or SO. :P \$\endgroup\$ Nov 21, 2011 at 9:26

5 Answers 5


We have a mixed art/tech environment, but hiring process is always the same. Cull interesting resumes and offer candidates a task from start to finish on his own where you give him only a high concept. For programmers a small game that can be made in several days (can use programmer art or stock) where you give him a concept of what it should do and tech to do it with. A really basic game. For artists it's either a spec work or a pitch for concept.

They can work on their own on that, can use whatever help they need (google, ask around, whatever) as long as they finish on scheduled deadline. Test consists of first cull if project is actually what it was supposed to be (does it work at all etc.) and where you go through process he used to make it and code review where you discuss his decisions while making it.


What the heck... :)

How to Recruit Great Developers

What process do you use to recruit programmers

What is the best way to tell an excellent programmer in a job interview?

How long should it take a senior developer to solve FizzBuzz in an interview?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Not that those are bad questions, but the scope of this one is more specifically towards non-senior people who might need training and oversight. I don't have a problem picking out good senior people. I have a problem trying to find smart people who just don't have enough experience to sound good in a traditional interview. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetrad
    Jul 15, 2010 at 2:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tetrad, only one of the Questions mentioned senior, and I mainly picked it because it mentioned the FizzBuzz test, which could at least help you phone-screen people. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Cyclops
    Jul 15, 2010 at 3:14

No professional experience doesn't mean no experience at all. Check if the candidates have participated in any local/global event such as the global game jam, the independent games festival or they just come up with a website with their portfolio.

On the other hand, some programmers just love programming competitions; check that too (ACM, TopCoder, Google Code Jam, UVa, SPOJ, to name a few). Experience on this kind of competitions make up for any weird test in fashion and will probably help you get some resumes out.

All in all, I think this post from Joel Spolsky always help.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1. Prior non-professional experience is a must. If they haven't written any game (or similar project) at all when applying for a job, you'd better off waiting for someone who has. \$\endgroup\$
    – Macke
    May 12, 2011 at 22:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 If someone is applying to work as a programmer at your studio and they've never even tried making a game, even if it's just a simple one, they may not be worth your time. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 21, 2011 at 9:23

The quickest way to cull candidates is a 10 minute phone interview. Usually within the first few questions I know if this is going to be a good candidate or not.

  1. Do you know C++ or C?
  2. Can you tell me the difference between these two variables?

    int a;
    int* b;
  3. What's the difference between a++ and b++?

I consider knowledge of pointers to be the absolute minimum level of competency. If you are applying for a professional game job and you don't know how pointers work, you are going to be in way over your head.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think what we're going to end up going with is a take-home, timed programming test. So something like this, but can be fired off via email without even having to necessarily take up one of our programmer's time (other than scoring if after the fact of course). We already do a phone interview, and that's a good screening process, but I was hoping for more hands-off ideas. +1 anyway. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetrad
    Jul 27, 2010 at 22:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ In my experience, the longer the programming test, the more of a waste of time it is for all involved -- the goal should be a filter. You would be very surprised at how many people couldn't answer Chris' simple question about pointers above but could easily fool you over the phone in a screening. You could probably train your admin or HR person (if you have one) to filter the responses to those questions -- no need to waste any programmer time and you quickly know if they have any knowledge whatsoever about programming. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 28, 2010 at 3:44

One of the things that is quickly making the rounds as a easy filtering mechanism is codility.


It's a service you pay for to give automated timed programming tests. The bad thing is that there are a fixed number of tests. The good thing is that the tests are automatically graded by unit tests. So for culling a large number of people this might be a good approach.


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