As I said in my last post, I’m learning just how hard it is to get a job as a writer. Like most people out there, I’ve had my share of jobs, ranging from working for minimum wage all the way to being on a hand-picked team at Electronic Arts. But never have I gone through such exhausting processes just to get an interview from a company! I guess this is the life of a writer.
My first experience with this came shortly after graduation, in January. This was the first set of jobs I applied for. There was a company hiring for two positions, one was somewhat like a blogger and the other wrote guides, so I applied for both jobs. Just days later, I received an E-mail from their HR department telling me that they might be interested in me and they’d like to talk on the phone before going any further. We set up a time and I eagerly anticipated her call.
During the phone interview, she told me their hiring process was a little different than most jobs and I would be required to do a project for them the following week. The project was at home and on my own time, with a deadline of the following Friday. She said they have not got all the details of what the project would be, but it would take anywhere from a half of days work to a full days work to complete. Of course, I told her it sounded good and I was eager to do it but was a little shocked that I’d have to do so much work just to be considered for an interview, let alone considered for hire.
Unfortunately, due to a bad call connection, and the conversation we had on the phone not going too well, I didn’t even get to that step. I was both sad and relieved because it would have been a great opportunity but I was also leaving for vacation the following week when the project would have been due.
Back from Vacation (middle of February), I started applying for every job I qualified for, and even some I knew I’d never hear back from (gotta take a chance, right?). About two weeks ago, I applied for an interesting batch of jobs. It was one of those days where I was going through my job resources and found that I qualified for more than I didn’t qualify for. I typed up cover letters for each and sent my resume through the Internets full of hope and dreams!
And then I heard nothing from them.
Not for a while anyway. One of the companies I applied for, a semi-popular online role-playing game company, was interested in me and wanted me to take the next step in the application process. I know what you’re thinking, a phone interview? Or maybe a real interview, in person, so we can talk about my strengths and weaknesses? Nope, project time! They sent me a spreadsheet with 5 pages of writing from their game. I had to alter, edit, and/or correct what I found was wrong with the writing and send it back.
I will have to admit, it was actually kind of fun! I’ve spent many hours (more than I’ll ever admit to) playing video games and also creating them, so nothing was out of the ordinary to me. The first page I had to take their writing and alter/change it to fit the space. They didn’t tell you how long it has to be, but it’s not hard to guess about how many words can fit. On top of that, it was creative writing, which I love, so I took some extra time to make it into something I’d like to read in a game.
Satisfied with that, the next page was basically checking and fixing basic grammar and punctuation mistakes. It wasn’t always so clear, but the instructions said “creativity is okay”, so I altered a few things here and there, but keeping to the same style they laid out.
The next page was similar but introduced their coding into it. The page after that got into much more detailed coding. I’m pretty familiar with this due to using RPG Maker. It uses a lot of coding in the text to get it to say exactly what and how you want it to. For example, in RPG Maker, putting <n1> will print out the name of your first party member. I’ve also learned, in other games, it’s common to have code like <HP> for current hit points and <HPP> for total hit points. In the case of my project, there was a very fine set of rules that had to be watched. The coding had to be singular and no punctuation in or around it (i.e. <HP>. would break the code), so some creativity was needed (a lot actually) to change sentences around to fit their needs. This was a lot of fun, but very time-consuming.
The last page was a screenshot of the game itself where I had to pick out mistakes in the text. These ranged from text too long to fit in a window all the way to a wrongly used apostrophe. I picked out a good seven or eight mistakes right away but felt there must have been more. Looking it over a second, third, even fourth time, I did find some small mistakes, such as the use of the word “screen” that almost broke the 4th wall. I suggested a change to the word “area”, better fitting in with the rest of the text. I was glad I looked over it so much, though, because the very last thing I caught, after reading it over and over, was a typo where the word “off” was used instead of “of”. How bad would it have looked if I missed that one?
So all in all, it took me a three or four hours to complete. Could I have got it done in an hour? Sure. I could have gone through it all once, making corrections and not looking back, but they’re looking for someone who is willing to spend the time and effort to catch little things, catch things that most people wouldn’t even think about. So I gave it my all.
We’ll see what happens with this job. They said we’d hear back next week about an actual interview.
Still, it’s interesting to me how different applying for jobs as a writer is from other careers. I’ve worked for both Electronic Arts and Sega of America, whose hiring process consisted of getting a call telling me to come in at such time, and then an interview that lasted maybe 30 minutes, max. My wife, who is an RN, didn’t have to show her ability has a nurse in order to get her job, and my brother didn’t have to crunch numbers to prove he knew math for his accountant job.
I’m not complaining, I love to write, to show off what I can do. More and more I’m realizing that writers, and the jobs and lives that go along with them, are a unique bunch. I look forward to whatever the future has in store for me, but one thing is for sure, I will never stop writing.