Category Archives: smArtist thoughts

Job hunters! Auto-gather LinkedIn’s job suggestions for you to a spreadsheet!

Hi everybody! I made a little IFTTT recipe to automatically add all of LinkedIn’s job suggestions to a Google Drive spreadsheet for you. If you’re on the job hunt, this is a handy way to bring the leads straight to you.

Click here to set it up. All you have to do is connect your IFTTT account to Google Drive and to LinkedIn, and you’re done! One minute and you’re ready to roll.

For those that don’t know, IFTTT is a wonderfully useful task automation tool that’s compatible with Gmail, Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, LinkedIn, and over 100 other services to automate all manner of tasks in an incredibly simple way.

Hope you enjoy! I may post these more often as I create them. Task automation is of great interest to me these days.

LinkedIn For People Who Hate LinkedIn

I hear a lot of criticism levelled at LinkedIn from game developers. It’s a business networking tool, and on some level, people find that mildly repugnant. What the hell am I supposed to do with LinkedIn? Why should I care? It’s spammy. I’m not even looking for a job. Should I just delete it?

No, no, no, hell no. You need a LinkedIn, and I’m going to explain exactly why: If you don’t have a LinkedIn, you don’t look professional. Worse, you look like you don’t care enough to spend 15 minutes doing the bare minimum to look professional.

*mic drop*

I’m going to show you how to get a basic professional-level LinkedIn profile set up in 15 minutes, and wrap that up with some power-tips on how to use LinkedIn to get a job. This information is from the perspective of 1) a heavy, long-time LinkedIn user, and 2) someone who uses LinkedIn to research people to hire. I will tell you what I look for and why, and what to do and what not to do.

LinkedIn has over 225 million members in over 200 countries. There is no question that it is *the* social network for business networking. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a recruiter or a spammer or a job seeker to use it. If you’re an average developer that isn’t looking for a job, it still has its use. You can get set up in 15 minutes with a basic professional-looking profile, and contact settings that will keep people from bothering you.

Ultimately it doesn’t hurt anything to be on LinkedIn, whereas it limits future opportunities not to. In general, it’s a good life strategy to make sure good things can come to you without expending much effort, and this is a potentially high-yield way to do that. Let’s get into it!

1) Why do I need a LinkedIn profile?

Having a LinkedIn profile is the bare minimum you can do to look professional when people search for you. It’s a respected, credible source of information over which you have ultimate control. Controlling what you put on there controls how you present yourself. LinkedIn is the FIRST place people look if they want to know what you do professionally. If a hiring manager that could give you your dream job is searching for the right candidate, would you rather have your important professional information listed in the first place they will look for it, or not?

That’s one angle not many people consider… passive presence. You don’t have to be on LinkedIn every single day updating and posting and searching. Or even looking for a job. Think of it as your professional storefront. Wash the windows every once in a while, but don’t worry too much about it day-to-day. This is the key point: You want to be discoverable, even without applying consistent effort, even if you don’t need something *right now.*

2) What shouldn’t I put on my LinkedIn?

It pains me that this even needs to be said, but DON’T BREAK YOUR NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENTS AND TALK ABOUT WHAT SECRET PROJECTS YOU’RE WORKING ON. If you’re not sure, ask your company. When in doubt, don’t say anything. Game news sites regularly look for stories by combing through your LinkedIn profile and connecting the dots. Stalking peoples’ resumes to make the news is a scumbag thing to do, and I hate that it happens. However, it IS public information. There’s a new story every couple of weeks about a developer breaking their NDA on LinkedIn and making headlines. That one guy over at Kotaku has an entire column where he does this. And we give him the material.

Generally speaking, it’s not a good thing if product announcements happen accidentally. Especially not if it makes headlines and they link directly to your personal LinkedIn page. It shows a lack of discretion, and makes you look less hireable. And it’s also completely preventable, which makes you look even worse. You don’t have to be that person!

Here are a few bullet points of what NOT to put on your LinkedIn profile:

  • A fake profile. Don’t fill out a personal profile with your company name, then go around adding people. There are Company Pages for a reason, and you look like you don’t understand how to use the system, or just don’t care. Have you ever made the mistake of adding your grandparents on Facebook? Seeing this is similar to grandparent social media cringe.
  • Fake names. Use your real name. Don’t be cute. LinkedIn is a place to present yourself professionally, not be funny. I’m talking to you, Sparklesunshine von Ponypants. You were not as advertised.

  • Bad spelling. Especially for job titles. I’ve seen my fair share of Arists, Prodcuers, Desingers, Principles, Enviroment Artists, and once a “Certified Scum Master.” I’m also fairly certain you didn’t attend Pubic School. That, or I forgot to reset my search filter settings from last night.

  • “Cute” job titles. Having a creative title like “BADASS!” or “Pixel Wizard!” or “I fart polys!” isn’t necessarily bad, but it is *really* dorky. It makes you stand out, and not necessarily in a good way.

  • Douchey job titles. I find it hard to take anyone seriously that refers to themselves as a “visionary” or “thought leader” on a resume or LinkedIn. This tells me that person’s idea of a good night is a glass of wine and reading their own blog.

  • Party photos. I don’t care how many shot glasses you can fit into your mouth, how many glitter-dusted bar skanks you can hang off each arm, or about how you can turn a pig into a bong without killing it. Unless you’re applying to be on some sort of totally awesome reality show, keep it professional and boring. No one has ever said “Well, Candidate A is more qualified, but Candidate B burned off his eyebrows drinking a flaming Dr. Pepper while standing on his head — and he kept drinking. Our choice is clear.”

  • Age. Never tell anyone your age. You could be 10, 50, or 14 million years old. Never indicate your age. It’s not professionally relevant and it’s very easily judgeable. Don’t give them that. I’ve followed this rule since I was 12, because people get weird about people being too young, or too old. It’s ammo, and it can only lead to negative judgments. Don’t give it to them.

  • Religious affiliation. No one cares, it’s one additional data point that’s easy to judge people for, no one cares, aaaaand no one cares. I will be blunt: Being really up-front about your religious affiliation on your resume could make people think you’re likely to be enthusiastically obnoxious about it in the workplace. Think day one, enter that person: “HI EVERYBODY I’M REALLY EXCITED TO WORK HERE! I LOVE AND WORSHIP BACCHUS. LET’S STRIP DOWN, DRINK WHISKEY AND ROAST A GOAT!” This isn’t discriminating or stifling religious belief or thought, it’s a very simple and practical consideration: religion is an extremely sensitive subject that people really like starting discrimination lawsuits over. No one wants that drama. Don’t bring it up.

  • Twitter. DON’T LINK YOUR TWITTER. DON’T DON’T DON’T. Do. Not. Link. Your. Twitter. No good can come of that. It will confuse the message that you are a professional, because Twitter is the guileless Ritalin-popping chatterbox child of social networks.

3) What should I put on my LinkedIn?

Think searchable, relevant key words. You want to be easily discoverable via simple key words that apply to your skill set. Hiring managers, recruiters, and people like me search for people by job title, software proficiencies, and skills. For example, environment artist with Maya and ZBrush experience that’s worked on the Xbox 360. UI artist that knows Scaleform and has developed for the Wii. Animator with Softimage and Motionbuilder experience and has developed for the Ouya. (just kidding, no one cares about having Ouya platform experience! wah wah.)

Golly, I like bulleted lists. Here’s another one:

  • A professional summary. Two to three short paragraphs, depending on how long you’ve been in games. First person or third person never mattered much to me personally, but do it in the first person to be on the safe side.
  • Start\end dates for all your jobs, with proper job title. Under each job, describe your duties, what software you used, what titles you worked on (if you can), and one or two specific, interesting aspects of it that stand out. Don’t brag, don’t bitch, don’t gripe, and don’t fluff it out. This is a very important point: These are simplified pieces of data that are the basis for starting a conversation, not the conversation itself.

  • Education. I personally don’t care about education or what school you went to, but my purview is primarily art, where education for that matters less in the game industry. Still, include it if you’ve got it. It’s a qualification and another potential point of distinction that tells the story of you.

  • List of projects you’ve worked on. Link it to the company and the other people you worked with. Creating a little network like that will show people who you’ve worked with before, and in a job-getting situation, they’ll most likely be asked about you. And if you link to them that may encourage reciprocal linking, which will make it easier for people to find you from other peoples’ LinkedIn pages. Bam, discoverability.

  • Skills and expertise. The Endorsements system in LinkedIn is stupid and mostly useless, but it’s still worth it to edit that list to make sure that only skills relevant to you are listed. Keep it serious, and don’t list yourself as a Taco Expert or Beer God. Keeping these up to date and relevant make you easier to find. Keywords, yo!

  • Recommendations. The usefulness of written recommendations from people on LinkedIn is a controversial subject. Many people say they ignore them and think they’re worthless, and other people think they’re the greatest thing ever. My opinion is that it’s never a bad thing if you can get people on the record saying they liked working with you. However, if you’re in a layoff and everyone at the company is writing them for everyone else, it’ll be obvious that it’s probably going to be stress-induced fluffery, and more likely to be ignored. You can’t help but reciprocate if someone offers it without looking like a jerk. But if you can get a lead or a colleague you’ve worked with a lot to say a few good words about you, that’s never a bad thing. Just don’t put up 14 million of them, because that does start to look douchey.

  • Published works. If you’ve published articles or given talks at a conference, link them to your page. It’s a good thing! It demonstrates professional relevance, and it’s another point of distinction in your favor. Not everybody writes, and you look even smarter about the subject if you take the time to write about it.

4) What else can I use LinkedIn for besides looking for a job?

LinkedIn is a search engine in which people generally want to be found, so they make the relevant information easy to find. Aside from being a place simply to look for jobs, here are a few ideas for how LinkedIn can be useful:

  • Instead of applying for a job through the website, try to find their recruiter or HR manager on LinkedIn. Path less traveled!
  • Take advantage of LinkedIn Groups. You can meet cool people and learn. Check your friends’ Groups on their profile and join them. You can also request connections with people based on groups you have in common.

  • Are you interviewing? Ask for the names of the people you’re interviewing with and look them up. Find out who they know that you know. Ask questions about them. Knowing people in common can’t hurt. Also, make sure you check the gender of the person with which you’re interviewing… this does happen.

  • Add your coworkers. Find out where they’ve worked before, and get to know them better through that. “Hey, I saw on LinkedIn that you used to work at X company. Did you know Sparklesunshine von Ponypants? What a complete tool, right?”

  • Learn about new companies. See a new one opening in the news? Look it up. Look up the founders. Find out what they’ve done before. It’s a great way to educate yourself, and to find new connections with people you didn’t know you had.

5) General LinkedIn tips

  • If you don’t want people to contact you all the time, take the time to set your contact settings under Settings -> Communications. Set email frequency settings as low as you like, set who can send you invitations, and select the type of messages you’re willing to receive. If you want to do a fully fire-and-forget LinkedIn profile, set most of it to ‘off’ and enjoy the silence.
  • If you’re prepping to change jobs and want to stay secret, you can turn off LinkedIn’s profile update notifications first… shh. Settings -> Profile -> Turn on/off your activity broadcasts.

  • Keep LinkedIn updated quarterly. Set up a calendar event to update it.

  • Don’t forget your portfolio website link! Put it in the Summary, too. People forget this a lot.

  • If you’re trying to add someone you don’t know on LinkedIn, when it asks you how you know them, don’t select “Friend.” It’s tacky. If you don’t know them, don’t add them. If you’re a member of the same Group where you’re active, that’s cool, use that.

  • Here are ten simple but very important security settings to protect yourself on Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc:

  • If you’re adding someone, please remind them how they know you or how you met. Again, don’t call them a Friend if you’re not.

  • A link to your LinkedIn profile is not a substitute for having a resume on your portfolio.

  • After layoffs, I see floods of LinkedIn contact requests from people who never had LinkedIn before. This is one of my most important points: Connect with people before you need it, and before there’s a huge rush! It’s annoying getting hit up only by people who want something from you, right then. It’s worth taking the time to maintain your network and get your friends and coworkers in there.

In conclusion, if you want to look professional, be discoverable, and control the way you appear to potential employers, take the time to set up a basic LinkedIn profile. Even if you’re not looking for a job, you need a periodically-updated LinkedIn profile to ensure discoverability in case something good could come your way, or in case you really need it in the future. There is no downside to being easy to find and appearing professional to people who might give you money.

Jon Jones, Art Outsourcing Manager on Facebook!

Hi everybody! To those that may not follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn already, I’ve put together a Facebook page where I post video game industry job openings, startups, business news, hot new tools and tech, and more! Game dev productivity buffs, this is your news. :)

Please Like it share with your friends!

Resume and portfolio tips TwitterBlast!

Hi everybody! Here’s another TwitterBlast I did on my @jonjones Twitter account on the subject of resumes and portfolios. Here’s the info-dump, and I’ve followed that with a bit more explanation on why I dislike Blogspot and Wix.


  • Resume tip #1: Including your location is a must. Home address isn’t necessary.
  • Resume tip #2: When applying, specify the job title you’re applying for. Make sure it’s industry-standard, not something weird or made-up.
  • Resume tip #3: If your resume is light on experience, I personally like seeing skills up front..
  • Resume tip #4: It’s “3D Studio MAX,” not “3D MAX!” Even pros get this wrong, and most don’t care, but this drives me up the wall!
  • Resume tip #5: Only one typeface, and keep consistent font sizes. One resume I saw got smaller and smaller text ’til the end!
  • Resume tip #6: Since spellcheck won’t check most software names, make sure you proofread them carefully.
  • Resume tip #7: Clickable email and portfolio links in your PDF resume is a great thing to do!
  • Portfolio tip #1: If all you have is in your folio is classwork, and you graduated 1+ year ago, it looks like you stopped trying.
  • Portfolio tip #2: I like embedded demo reels, just make sure they’re big enough to see! i.e. not 320×240.
  • Portfolio tip #3: Having an “About” page on CGSociety with your full name and whatever nickname you use makes finding you even easier.
  • Portfolio tip #4: If you create a character of a different race than yours, ask honest friends if it’s unintentionally, hilariously racist.
  • Portfolio tip #5: Test your portfolio in all browsers and resolutions, especially if you’re embedding video.
  • Portfolio tip #6: I prefer seeing reels on Vimeo instead of Youtube. I just saw a full length softcore Indian porn movie as a Recommended Video.
  • Portfolio tip #7: A Blogspot page is not a portfolio.
  • Portfolio tip #8: A Wix page is not a portfolio. Wix is the Photoshop lens flare of portfolio hosts.
  • Portfolio tip #9: ENVIRONMENT ARTISTS! Dude, EVERYBODY MODELS ANGKOR WAT! Do the temples in Bhutan or something off the wall instead. Be creative!
  • Portfolio tip #10: Full Sail and Animation Mentor grads — when you graduate, use a new character model! It’s great to learn on, but I see it *everywhere.*
  • Portfolio tip #11: It’s not strictly necessary, but it’s always nice to get a Not Safe For Work warning before poppin’ out some boobs.
  • Portfolio tip #12: If you EVER autoplay music, I will find out where you live, burn your house down, and salt the earth.
  • Portfolio tip #13: You need a website in addition to just a reel, because it’s easier to update with new content.
  • Portfolio tip #14: When crediting people for assets used in your folio or reel, make sure you spell their names correctly.

So, Blogspot! Here’s why I don’t like it: It’s way too easy to have one portfolio piece per post, and have 2 – 10 pages’ worth of content I have to manually click through to see anything. Blogspot is for creating a timestamped archive of content, not a presentation of deliberately selected art. It’s fundamentally a posting format that automatically archives your work and hides it behind multiple pages anytime you post something new. You really can’t curate content or present your work that way. Imagine if every time you made a new piece of art, the 10th-latest piece of art you made before that was deleted forever. From an art director’s point of view looking at a Blogspot page, that’s how it is.

Yesterday when I was posting these, I almost passed on giving a guy an art test because he had a Blogspot page with so-so work on the first page, and his actual reel with good work in it on the second page. Fortunately I was being thorough and caught it, but not everyone’s going to do that. Make your art so easy to access I can see it accidentally!

I dislike Wix because a) it’s Flash, b) it’s VERY easy to make a horrible slow-loading page, and c) it’s VERY easy to make a horrible slow-loading page. I don’t care about fancy templates or cool presentation. Think about it this way: As an artist with a portfolio, you’re inclined to think of it as designing an experience to present your work and want it to look super polished and cool, and seeing flashy features and presentation is very tempting. As an art director, I have a list of portfolios to go through and I just want to see art IMMEDIATELY. I don’t care about bells and whistles, I’m less inclined to be forgiving of load times, and Flash-heavy websites that bog down my browser just annoy me. I see Wix and I see a platform that makes it incredibly likely art will be harder and slower for me to see.

In summary, Blogspot is for archived, non-curated content, and Wix’s temptingly flashy themes and features make it very easy to have a super slow portfolio. Some artists can do absolutely great working within those constraints to make good portfolios, but, across hundreds to thousands of portfolios, in the literal sense of “on the average” over a data set that broad, they are more annoying and badly done than not. There are exceptions, but it usually sucks.

Hope that’s helpful!

Art Test Tips TwitterBlast!

Hi folks! I’ve been posting a lot on Twitter lately, especially resume, portfolio, and artist tips. I’ve been queueing up a bunch of individual tips and pushing them out in one big two-second barrage of advice, and people have been asking for a more permanent location for them. Well, here you go! I’ll post these here anytime I do that from now on. Here are my tips on understanding and completing art tests:

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #1: NEVER be afraid to ask questions. It’s expected! However, a) DON’T ask just to seem clever, and b) DO try to ask them all at once.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #2: Follow directions precisely. You’d be astonished how often this DOESN’T happen, and it’s completely avoidable.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #3: We give directions, but also read between the lines at what isn’t said to add extra polish.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #4: Be tidy. It’s as technical as it is artistic. Tidy outliner, clean object and filenaming, organized layer groups in the PSD, etc.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #5: Be on time. If you’re going to be late, acknowledge it the *INSTANT* you know you will be late, and politely propose a new date.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #6: Log your time and be honest about it.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #7: Overdeliver, within reason. “Is there a way to jazz this up a little within my creative, time, and tech constraints?”

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #8: Unless they say otherwise, assume the art assets are meant for a realtime game. Construct the assets accordingly.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #9: When submitting, always send a separate confirmation email. FTP uploads don’t notify, and large email attachments sometimes bounce.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #10: Think hard about how you distribute detail with polygons and texture. This says a lot about how you think.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #11: Make sure the zipped art test contains ONLY the files needed, not dozens of extra directories or files (.mayaswatches, I’m looking at you).

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #12: If you’re asked to provide diffuse, normal, and spec maps… don’t randomly just not use them and not explain why.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #13: Don’t include files with random names like “SomethingWhatever.tga” or “DammitPleaseWork.jpg” or “”

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #14: DON’T PUT ART TESTS IN YOUR PORTFOLIO! a) It means you failed the test, and b) I’ve already seen 50 other people do that one, and probably better.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #15: Ask your friends to look over your work. Be willing to accept criticism. Don’t make people wonder “did he even look at the reference?”

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #16: Don’t let your own self-doubt keep you from finishing or submitting. It’s their job to evaluate you, not yours. Stay strong.

Artist tips braindump on my @jonjones Twitter feed!

Hi everybody! Long time no chat. I did a 15-minute-long stream of consciousness braindump of artist advice on my Twitter account (@jonjones) and I’m reposting it here — RAW AND UNCUT!

ARTISTS! Going through a lot of portfolios this week and have a few general RT’able notes and gripes following this tweet. :)

ARTISTS! Unless you’re selling your services as a Flash artist, please don’t make your website in Flash. It’s slow and lacks deep linking.

ARTISTS! If you have an embedded reel on your website, please have Play\Pause\Volume controls! Especially if it’s not downloadable.

ARTISTS! If you’re on LinkedIn, GOOD. Keep that updated quarterly. But don’t forget your portfolio website link! This happens a lot.

ARTISTS! Portfolios sorted by the projects you worked on are great. This is a recent example that I like:

ARTISTS! Keep your skills and software package proficiencies updated in LinkedIn. You can search for that, and it makes you easier to find.

ARTISTS! If you’re trying to add someone you don’t know on LinkedIn, when it asks you how you know them, don’t select “Friend.” It’s tacky.

ARTISTS! Instead of applying for a job through the website, try to find their recruiter or HR manager on LinkedIn. Path less traveled!

ARTISTS! Take advantage of LinkedIn Groups. You can meet cool people and learn. Check your friends’ Groups on their profile and join them.

ARTISTS! If you’re prepping to change jobs and want to stay secret, you can turn off LinkedIn’s profile update notifications first… shh.

ARTISTS! Take advantage of Facebook’s Friends Lists to filter your posts. I put clients\bosses\directors on a list to limit what they see.

ARTISTS! Take time once a week to check People You May Know in LinkedIn. Better to connect for its own sake than only when you need them.

ARTISTS! When scheduling interview, ask for interviewers’ names. Check LinkedIn, Mobygames, and FB for mutual friends. Make notes. Ask Q’s.

ARTISTS! Keep resumes down to 1 page. If >8yrs in games, 2 is okay. Anything more than 2 is fluff, and is judged.

ARTISTS! Good technical artists and VFX artists are *very* hard to find, and almost always in demand. It’s not a bad specialty to have…

Enjoy. :)

Oh, by the way, I recently moved to New York City and I’m an Outsourcing Art Manager at Avalanche Studios. w00t! Oh, while I’ve got everyone’s attention, Avalanche NYC is hiring for several positions. :) Avalanche NYC jobs page. … Tell em Jon Jones sent ya!

Predicting layoffs: How to check your studio’s health

Hi all! With the spate of layoffs recently, I’ve been thinking of how to assess a studio’s health so you can predict whether or not doom will come, and when. These are various ways I usually assess a studio’s health, and it’s upon that basis that I make the stay\go\”sorry, I’m booked out for months and regrettably unavailable for contract work” decision. This article applies mainly to full-time employees, but it could also be useful for contractors wanting to know if their clients will continue to have money to pay them.

I’m still new to the stock market side of things, but I’ve been trying my ass off to pay more attention to this ever since I worked at a THQ studio that was recently hit with massive layoffs. Following that rollercoaster has been instructive.

So, these are my questions\critera in no particular order:

  1. Track publisher stock movements and events. Sign up for Google Finance, add the big pubs (ATVI, EA, TTWO, THQI, ZNGA, UBSFF, KNM, NTDOY, CCOEF). How was their last quarter? Year? 5 years? How close are their sales projections to the actual reality when they release quarterly reports and how do they spin it? What obvious lies can you identify over time and what’s the common thread between them? What time of year have they historically performed “restructuring” and layoffs? (usually financial quarters\beginning of FY, but still.)
  2. Subscribe to the news. GamaSutra Newswire and to get a decent spread of up-to-date information on the industry. I subscribe to their RSS feeds in Google Reader so I only have to go one place to check. I also check GameTab occasionally, but I’ve had connectivity errors with the site recently. Beware of rumors and fearmongering, but still pay attention.
  3. Track patterns in press releases. Are there patterns between sequences of press releases like “This game will sell 5m!” – > “We have faith in the product.” – > “The product’s sales fell short of our expectations.” – > “In order to cut costs after disappointing sales, we’re restructuring our organization and have reduced [studio]’s headcount by 75.” How cyclical is this? Is there a predictable sequence of announcements that could give you an indication of what’s next?
  4. Know your publisher’s product catalog. Find out their fiscal year dates, and other games’ ship dates. What has happened to them when they miss a date? What is the organizational health and reputation of other owned and non-owned companies under your publisher’s umbrella? If you had to guess and be realistic, if shit hits fan which studio *should* be shut down first?
  5. Know your company’s track record. When did your company ship its last title? How did it sell? How did it rate on average? How about the one before that? Do they have a track record of missing ship dates?
  6. Know your genre. What genre is your game? Does that genre tend to sell well? Who are the biggest players in that space and are you competing directly with them, or trying to find a new take or angle or iteration upon the genre? Do you think your game compares favorably? And is its release date close to the release of another juggernaught in the same genre?
  7. Know your studio’s employee retention rate. How many people there tend to stay for the long haul versus staying only a year or less before moving on? “How long has the average employee at your company worked there?” is a question I have ALWAYS asked in an interview and it often makes people uncomfortable. :)
  8. Know who runs your company. Who are the principals of the company and what’s their history? What’s their relative rate of success with regards to companies run\managed previously, success of previously shipped titles, how long they’ve lead\managed? How long have they worked at the same company both currently and in the past? Mainly, find out if they hop around or commit for the long haul.
  9. Know your team’s history. Has this team worked together before, either as a whole or in small groups\cliques? Check previous companies. Look up all the leads up on LinkedIn and Mobygames and map out concurrent employment and previous working relationships for future reference. Write it down.

That’s all I’ve got off the top of my head for basic high-level stuff. I could dig deeper into tech and so on, but this is a lot of data already. Still, these are all considerations I consider important and I’ve always dug into companies in this way and add to the list of criteria over time.

I’m curious what people think, and I welcome comments and feedback! If I’m completely full of crap, please let me know because I want this to be better. :) Thanks guys!

[update] Thanks to Dave Shramek and Matthew Weigel for informing me that EA’s stock symbol is now EA (not ERTS) and to include Zynga (ZNGA)! [/update]