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FAQ 73:

Applying Long Distance

Originally written: July 1, 2011

A lot of wannabes have difficulty accepting the "Location, location, location" rule (see FAQs 24 & 27). So let's beat that dead horse with renewed vigor, shall we?

What's this "Location, location, location" rule you mention above? I'm too lazy to read FAQs 24 and 27. Spoonfeed me, Sloperdude.
The rule is, unless you've got a lot of industry experience already, if you don't live within daily commuting distance from the prospective employer, you won't get hired.

[Sputter, sputter, choke] Wha...? Why??
Because the company has 199 other applications for the job you're applying for, and more than half of the applicants are local. Not only are they local, but their qualifications equal or exceed yours.

No way! I'm special. I just haven't had a chance to show it yet.
What the #€¢ж do you mean, you "haven't had a chance"?? What the #€¢ж have you been waiting for? Get the #€¢ж to work and build a portfolio, goshdarn you, you lazy danged so-and-so!

That's difficult because... [plausible-seeming excuse deleted].
Oh my gosh, "difficult"!! That's the end of the world! What gives the cold, uncaring universe any right to expect poor widdle you to get anything "difficult" done? Look, everything about what you want to do is difficult. You can't expect the universe to bend itself and make everything easy for you! "Difficult." Sheesh! Read FAQ 26 (link to the FAQs in the nav frame at left).

No, no, no, you misunderstand. I'm just a student, I'm just looking for an internship. Surely they don't expect a professional-quality portfolio from student interns?
Don't go off on a tangent, kid. I'll get to internships later. The point is, since you're not local, you have to stand out from the crowd more. Maybe you should read my April 2010 IGDA column, "The Games Game: The Other Side of the Job Search." And while you're at it, read my March 2010 column, "The Games Game: What's The Trick To Avoid Getting Filtered Out?" Click the Games Game link in the nav frame at left, then click Archives on the IGDA page.

Does the employer really want me to live locally before they'll consider me?
I already gave you the answer, so you know the answer -- but you don't WANT to know it. You're engaging in wishful thinking now. Check out what Dr. Laura said about hope in FAQ 47 (get to the other FAQs via the nav frame at left). The beginning of the quote is, "Hope is disappointment postponed." Idealistic wishing and hoping is not a plan. What you need is a realistic view of the world first; then you can start to make a plan.

But that's a chicken and egg conundrum! I can't move unless I have a job, I can't get the job unless I move... it's unfair!
Who said the world had to be "fair"? And besides, how is it "unfair"?
In a game of mah-jongg, only one of the four players can win. Does that mean the other three players have been treated unfairly?
The company gets 200 applications for one opening. Only one of those 200 applicants will get hired. Tell me, where's the "unfairness"? 199 guys won't get the job, and you'll be one of them since you don't live locally. That's not "unfair," that's "reality." The guy who gets the job doesn't see any unfairness. I don't see an unfairness. The employer doesn't see an unfairness. Does an unfairness really exist if not everybody can see that it exists? Crying "unfair!" is a childish, petulant response to reality. You need to move beyond that. You need to grow up.

Okay, never mind, forget I said it was unfair. But you have to agree that their insistence on my moving first shows that companies are prejudiced against non-locals.
No, I don't. I have to chide you again for drawing a wrongheaded, self-centered, childish, petulant conclusion. Companies are not maliciously acting to prevent out-of-staters from gaining jobs or internships. Every game company (even the smallest) is constantly deluged with applications, not only from out-of-staters, but also from highly qualified locals, and even foreigners. Looking at your application, the fact that you're an airplane flight away or a day's drive (or more) away, knowing that they can't ask you to come in for an interview the next day, they understandably prefer the local candidates whose qualifications are just as good or even better. Locals need no long wait, and are much less risky (since there can be an in-person interview before hiring).

They should give me a break.
They should "give you a break"?? Bull$#!+! Game companies are not in business to give wannabes a break. They're in business to make money. That means they need new employees who can start off running and don't need a lot of handholding. Get your head out of the clouds.

You're being mean. Let me put it a better way. They should take a chance on me! I'm special. It's just that I haven't had a chance to show it yet. How can I show it if nobody will give me a chance?
You've acknowledged that there is risk involved for someone. It's a risk for you to go through the extraordinary task of moving first, without the guarantee of a job. And it's a risk for a game company to hire you long-distance, without you having any proof of your specialness, and without even having met you face to face to see how well you'll fit into their team. You think they should bend over backwards for you! You think it is they who should take all the risk! That's backwards. The risk has to be on you.

Yes, okay, so I can't fly or drive all day for a two-hour interview at the drop of a hat. But surely they could easily interview me by phone.
Phone interviews are a distant second-best interview method. They're used to pre-screen finalist candidates, not as a substitute for in-person interviews.

I heard about a guy for whom a game company hired him with just a phone interview, and paid for his relocation. How do I do that?
There are always exceptional candidates, people for whom the hirer will bend heaven and earth to bring aboard. I don't know about this guy you heard about, but he must have had industry experience, or done something exceptional. You said above "I just haven't had a chance to show I'm special yet." Make your own darn chance. If you create the next Angry Birds, and it becomes a worldwide smash, then all the game companies will fight each other to woo you. All you have to do is create the next Angry Birds first.

I have an idea. A friend of mine lives near the game company. I'll give them his address. Then when they contact me, I'll come up with a plausible excuse why I need a day or two before I can interview. If they give me the job, I'll just move, and they won't suspect a thing. Pretty smart, huh? Think that'd work?
Who are you, Lucy McGillicuddy? That's not only fraudulent, it's hare-brained. Interviewers are pretty good at finding out the truth. And if you get found out, you'll see that it was also stupid. You can't work around the Location X3 Rule.

Here's another idea, then. I just won't put my address on my résumé. That way, my résumé won't get filtered out in the initial weeding process. When they call me to schedule an interview, I'll just dodge the question of where I live.
That won't work. Read my April 2010 IGDA column, "The Games Game: The Other Side of the Job Search," and my March 2010 column, "The Games Game: What's The Trick To Avoid Getting Filtered Out?" If you don't give your address in the résumé, I assume you're hiding it. I look at your phone number area code and assume you live in that area code...

Aha, but in this day of mobile phones, and people moving all the time, the phone area code is not a sure indicator.
No, but I don't care. But that's not all. If you're a raw graduate, you might have your high school listed. And you surely have your college listed. I can look at those too, and make more assumptions or guesses.

Yeah, but those are just assumptions -- just guesses. You don't know for sure where I live.
So I'll ask. Are you going to lie to me? Because if you do, I'll find out. And you're history. I put "liar liar pants on fire" into your permanent record in my files. You don't want to go there.

Where can I get a list of American game companies that accept out-of-state applicants?
Sorry. Nobody can make a list like that. Each company's policies change all the time. They change when managers change, they change when projects begin and end, they change seasonally. Besides, no company would turn down a perfectly good applicant just because he speaks with an accent or comes from a different culture.
What you really need is a list of American game companies. The challenge with making such a list, and keeping it up to date, is that new ones form all the time, and companies shut their doors all the time. I imagine it would be practically a full-time job for someone to try to maintain such a list. Just the same, you can find lists of game companies, on Wikipedia, GameDevMap, GameIndustryMap, NeoSeeker, MobyGames, IGN, I have links to all of them on my Game Biz Links page. See the yellow nav frame at left. (If you don't see a nav frame at left, click the nav frame link at the very top of this page.) I imagine no one of those lists is totally up-to-date and complete, but you can make your own list by using all those lists and correlating them. When you find conflicting addresses, you'll have to see if one of them is more recent, or one of them is a satellite office versus the main HQ (headquarters) office... It's called "research," and it's an important part of any job search.

Hey Tom. I'm a different guy, not the same person above who asked all those questions that annoyed you so much. I have an entirely different question. Instead of a job, all I'm seeking is an internship. Surely the advice you gave above doesn't apply to my situation, correct?
Wrong. There's no difference whatsoever between an out-of-state job candidate and an out-of-state internship candidate. Every single thing I said above applies to you equally well.

But the risk is smaller for an intern than for a permanent position.
Yes, but the "Location, location, location" problem is exactly the same either way.

Where can I get a list of companies that offer internships?
There's no such list. See what I wrote about "lists of companies that accept out-of-state applicants." The answer is exactly the same. My advice is exactly the same.

But I don't live out of state. I live in the same state, just 500 miles away. So none of that stuff you said above about out-of-staters applies to my situation, right?
You're a $+øøρ!đ @$$, you know that? Are you hair-splitting or are you blind? I used the term "out-of-stater" because I needed shorthand for "people who live farther away than an easy daily commute." Open your mind, let those connections form. See parallels. Or are you just blind to any information that's not to your liking?

What other constraints do you think i should be prepared to face?
You should expect that asking vague all-encompassing questions won't get you good answers. Read FAQ 65.


Others before you have managed to get out-of-state jobs; those others make a good impression by their resourcefulness, their tenacity. Rather than whining about unfairness, those others took the risk, saved money, moved to a game hotbed. Then they can show up for an in-person interview on short notice; if they've got decent qualifications (matching or exceeding the local competition), they could well get the position. As I said, there's no prejudice against non-locals.

All game companies are willing to hire out-of-staters with good job experience, or out-of-staters who are newly local. And most companies are willing to take on interns, no matter what part of the country they used to live in. But very few are anxious to hire inexperienced out-of-state candidates. So you just have to work harder, target wisely, make a plan, save money, move. Take a risk. Life is all a risk. You risk either a life of regret that you never tried, or "the path less trodden, that might make all the difference" (to bastardize Frost). It's unrealistic to expect others to take risks on your behalf.

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© 2011 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. May not be re-published without written permission of the author.

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