Building a world-class game development team starts with hiring exceptional artistic talent. But in a rush to fill an open role, many studios end up making costly hiring mistakes. The wrong artist can drag down project timelines, damage team morale, and inflate budgets. Here, we will talk about the costs of wrong hiring, having an impactful interview, steps before and after the interview, crafting the best job post, identifying great resumes and portfolios, managing freelancer game artists, and re-hiring former employees. Follow these best practices to attract and retain top game artists perfectly matched to your studio.
From Family Business to Pixune Studio Founder: Mehdi’s Creative Journey
This guide draws on an insightful speech by an experienced creative art studio manager, Mehdi Goodarzi, to help you refine your hiring process.
He has developed an interest in graphic design and printing, working in his father’s lithography business from age 16. By 18, he was fully focused on printing and advertising. He later gained experience managing advertising for magazines, animation, and game projects at large companies in Dubai. Three years ago, Mehdi and his brother founded Pixune Studios in Poland to establish their own animation and game art studio after working as freelancers.
He has hired over 50 people in different fields like branding, printing, 2D/3D game art, and animation for about 15 years.
The High Costs of Hiring the Wrong Game Artist
Before diving into hiring tips, it’s worth underscoring the significant financial and cultural costs of making a wrong hire. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the cost of a wrong hiring is up to 30% of the person’s first-year salary when factoring in wasted time, missed opportunities, and declined productivity.
Beyond direct costs, a wrong hire can infect your studio culture. Artists creating subpar or inconsistent work quickly frustrate teammates. Morale and collaboration decline. Talented staff may leave rather than endure a difficult coworker. Workarounds like extensive oversight eat up resources. But once you’ve extended an offer, it becomes difficult to change course suddenly.
Defining Precise Requirements and Expectations
Thoughtful advance planning is the best way to avoid making a wrong hire. Start by developing a detailed job description outlining your ideal candidate. Include both hard skills, like mastery of specific artistic tools and software, and soft skills, like the ability to accept feedback and work within constraints.
Look beyond formal job duties to personality factors determining whether a candidate will thrive in your studio environment. An introverted artist who prefers working alone may struggle in a collaborative team structure. Detail your studio’s workflow and values so applicants can self-assess their fit.
Provide current examples of artistic assets and style guides related to your current projects. Asking applicants to mimic your exact art style through a test project yields important insights. The more details you provide, the more precisely game artists can assess whether the role suits them.
Crafting an Appealing Job Post
Your job post is often the first impression artists have of your studio. Emphasize exciting projects in progress and opportunities for artistic growth. Share your studio’s values, like creativity, diversity, and collaboration, and highlight unique perks and culture.
Include nuts and bolts like day-to-day responsibilities and broader objectives so applicants understand the scope of work. Use visuals and videos to showcase your games and team members. Distribute your post across platforms popular with artists like ArtStation, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Vetting Applicants Through Portfolio Reviews
A portfolio review often proves more insightful than any resume or interview. Scrutinize applicants’ samples side-by-side with your current art needs and style guide. Look for mastery of relevant artistic tools and workflows. Pay attention to details like lighting, textures, and color composition.
For example, Pixune game art studio claims that they offer art services for many game engines, like Unreal Engine, Unity, Godot, GameMaker Studio, Construct, etc. So, the game artist who is applying to work there should have the expertise of crafting art for these engines.
But don’t focus solely on hard skills. Applicants’ portfolios also reveal crucial personality traits and work styles. A portfolio emphasizing creative conceptual art may indicate imagination and versatility. Tight consistency across pieces could signify attention to detail. Diverse subject matter and tools can suggest adaptability.
Flag any portfolios that stand out for further assessment. Reach out directly to engage promising applicants. Don’t underestimate the power of a personal email or chat invitation to make a strong talent feel welcomed.
How to Identify Standout Resumes Worth Interviewing?
When reviewing resumes, watch for indicators of excellence like:
- Education credentials from respected art programs
- Range of industry experience at known studios
- mastery of the latest tools and workflows
- Awards, honors, and scholarships mentioned
- A sampling of skills through links to online portfolios
Look beyond formal resumes to artists’ online presence on sites like ArtStation. Commentary, followers, and community engagement reveal passion.
Quality matters more than quantity. Concise, visually engaging resumes demonstrate communication skills. Tailored resumes aligned to your open role show focus.
Follow your instincts on intangibles. Unique side projects or hobbies may suggest creativity. But avoid assumptions based on demographics or other generalizations.
Flag promising applicants for further screening through interviews and portfolio reviews. A resume alone cannot showcase full capabilities. But a standout resume flags artists worth getting to know better.
How to Evaluate Portfolio Authenticity?
Some applicants may present portfolios containing copied or AI-generated artworks in the digital era. Watch for these red flags:
- Widely varying art styles within the same portfolio
- Styles mimicking well-known games or franchises too closely
- Images with cropped-out watermarks or artist signatures
- Generic art lacking personal voice or stylistic “fingerprints”
Test artists with mini assignments aligned to your current projects. Review key pieces using image search to check for matches elsewhere online. Ask game artists to walk through their creative process and demonstrate mastery of artistic tools.
While no method is foolproof, consistently vet portfolios through these steps to avoid wasting time on inauthentic applications.
Conducting an Impactful Interview
Many managers rely too heavily on standard interview questions that elicit rehearsed responses. For deeper insights, frame questions around past experiences rather than hypothetical scenarios. Ask applicants to describe specific situations dealing with difficult team members, unclear requirements, or missed deadlines. Listen closely to how they approached challenges and learned from setbacks.
Follow up with probing questions to reveal problem-solving skills, resilience, and grace under pressure. Look for signs of accountability, a growth mindset, and continuous improvement. Beware of game artists who blame external factors or downgrade achievements.
Discussions about past projects will naturally lead to technical questions tailored to your open role. Have artists describe and demonstrate artistic techniques critical to your work. Provide a mini-assignment aligned with current projects as another gauge of proficiency.
Remember, interviews are a two-way assessment. Allot time for applicants to ask questions and share any concerns. Their engagement level speaks volumes. Candidates focused solely on compensation may not appreciate your studio’s unique culture.
- The interviewer should speak 20%
- The interviewee should speak 80%
Crafting Insightful Interview Questions
Well-designed interview questions reveal key insights into artists’ capabilities and fit.
Starting questions get the conversation flowing. Open-ended inquiries like “Tell me about yourself” or “What appeals to you about this role?” provide useful icebreakers.
Open questions prompt detailed responses. Ask game artists to describe specific situations that showcased problem-solving, communication skills, or resilience. Listen for revealing details beyond rehearsed talking points.
Beware halo effects that allow singular traits like elite education or charisma to outshine substantive assessment. Counter with open questions that draw out nuanced experiences.
Close-ended questions requiring limited responses (yes/no, rank order, multiple choice) test specific knowledge. However, over-relying on close questions yields a superficial view.
Avoid questions with obvious right answers. Hypothetical scenarios rarely elicit authentic reactions. Stick to real-world examples that demonstrate candidates’ true colors.
The best interviews blend open and closed questions while mitigating halo effects. Thoughtfully designed questions reveal both capabilities and cultural fit.
Checking References to Confirm First Impressions
Reference checks seem routine yet remain a remarkably insightful exercise. Share your own positive first impressions and invite referees to elaborate on a candidate’s standout qualities. Ask about substantive contributions to past projects and challenges faced. Share any potential reservations and seek referees’ candid perspectives.
Listen closely for nuanced feedback that corroborates or contradicts what you observed first-hand. Silences, politeness, or vagueness may signal underlying issues. The goal is a holistic view of each candidate as a worker and teammate.
Assessing Cultural Fit and Intangibles
Technical and artistic skills can be measured relatively objectively through portfolio reviews, assignments, and reference checks. But harder to quantify “soft skills” often determine whether a candidate gels with your team or clashes with your studio culture.
Take note of cues like energy, body language, listening skills, and etiquette in interactions. Look for passion, curiosity, and enthusiasm that fuel growth. Beware of artists who come across as entitled, aloof, or difficult to please. Take your time in assessing intangible traits that ensure an outstanding hire.
Presenting a Competitive Offer
Once you’ve selected an exciting candidate, put together an appealing offer package. Discuss compensation expectations transparently, but allow game artists to name the first number. Research competitive pay rates, but also consider factors like seniority, niche skills, and local job markets. Emphasize growth opportunities, culture, and other non-monetary perks that sweeten offers without inflating salaries.
Some artists will request specific benefits like relocation packages or equipment budgets. Decide whether these demands align with the role and precedent at your studio. Consider crafting tiered offers that add perks or bonuses for truly exceptional hires. But trust your instinct if terms veer into diva territory.
Onboarding New Hires for Success
A thoughtful onboarding process is critical for integrating new artists fully into your team. Introduce new hires across the studio and clarify their role. Set them up with properly configured equipment and access to key systems and resources. Assign a mentor to help navigate processes and answer everyday questions.
Studies in the US show that new hires typically decide whether they intend to stay at a company long-term within their first 40 days on the job.
Schedule regular onboarding check-ins to exchange feedback in both directions. Collecting new hires’ perspectives on everything from office setup to team dynamics yields helpful insights. Proactively address any productivity roadblocks or disconnects quickly before they worsen. A smooth onboarding experience helps cement new artists’ engagement and sense of belonging.
Managing Freelance Game Artists Strategically
While full-time hires anchor your core team, freelance artists provide helpful flexibility. Augment capacity for short-term projects or plug specialty skill gaps without inflating headcount. But take care in freelancer selection – a bad fit can still carry consequences.
Lean on referrals from trusted colleagues when sourcing freelance artists. Reach artists directly through platforms like ArtStation rather than third-party agencies. Compare portfolios carefully and test game artists on narrowly defined assignments. Limit risk on big projects by first assigning specific assets for completion.
Once you find reliable freelancers, build an on-call roster to tap for future projects. Track each freelancer’s capabilities, availability, rates, and reliability. Maintain clear communication and provide structured feedback to drive continuous improvement. But recognize freelancers juggle multiple clients and projects simultaneously.
In-house, Remote, or Outsourced Artists?
In-house teams enable tight collaboration but require office infrastructure. Full remote models access global talent pools with lower costs. Hybrid approaches balance flexibility and in-person team building.
Outsourcing specific project components can access specialized skills cost-effectively. But outsourcing core game art risks continuity challenges.
Weigh tradeoffs like morale, security, oversight, pipelines, and tool access when choosing artist work models. Let each project’s unique needs guide work model decisions.
Should You Re-Hire Former Employees?
When a former employee wants to return to your studio, proceed with caution. If the employee was fired or departed under difficult circumstances, pass on re-hiring no matter how pressing your hiring needs. The same issues will likely resurface and undermine team cohesion.
But if the employee left voluntarily on good terms, re-hiring can make sense. Their familiarity with your systems and culture reduces onboarding time. And you already have direct experience working together. Set clear expectations if re-hiring to address any past performance issues. Renegotiate compensation based on current role needs rather than precedent.
A re-hired employee returning after a positive experience may bring renewed enthusiasm and appreciation for your studio’s culture. But make sure the circumstances of their departure won’t complicate team dynamics unnecessarily.
Building a World-Class Artistic Team
Hiring exceptional artistic talent lies at the heart of developing immersive, visually stunning games. But rushed or haphazard hiring leads to expensive mistakes and wasted effort. Invest time upfront in thoughtful workforce planning and candidate evaluation. Let your studio’s culture and ethos guide hiring decisions at every stage. Set new hires up for success through structured onboarding. Follow these best practices to build your dream team of game artists equipped to bring your creative vision to life.