So you have an interview coming up for your first job in VFX, how do you dress? What do you say? What can I do to GET this job!? The anxiety and stress you are feeling is understandable, working in Visual Effects is a prestigious career and one that not everyone will manage to break into. What follows is a list of tips to help you in your first interview.
Alright, so we'll start with the more obvious stuff and work down to the gems!
Don't wear a suit
Jeans and a t-shirt are fine. Present well, but no need to suit-up. Visual Effects is full of artists, not the corporate type.
VFX studios can be hard to find as they don't like to advertise themselves. They're also not always easy to access with locked doors requiring access cards. Arriving early means you can scope out the joint, get your bearings and have a moment to calm yourself.
If your meeting is online, block out an hour before your call to just sit and relax and get everything prepared. Make sure your Mic and Webcam are working (a webcam is strongly recommended!) and make sure you have everything you need prepared.
"Don't go in expecting to get the job."
Know Your Audience
Who will be in the room with you? What is the studio working on right now? How many people work at the studio?
Don't just go in expecting to get the job. The more you know about the company and people in the room, the better off you will be. You'll be able to ask more specific questions around the show, or what they're looking for in a hire. Knowing what they are looking for means you can focus on demonstrating your skills in that area (or bluffing your way through!).
The #1 Thing Juniors Get Wrong
Take a look at the list below and rank them in your mind from what you think is most important to least important:
Questions the recruiter wants to answer:
- Do we like him/her?
- Can they do the job?
- Will they grow in the team?
Most juniors will have say the recruiters mostly want to know if they will grow as an artist, then 2nd whether they like the person and lastly, whether they can do the job. This makes sense on the surface, after all, you wouldn't be having an interview if they didn't think you could do the job, right?
Can they do the job?
In actuality, the priorities flow the complete other way. VFX work is highly transient, jobs come and go very quickly. So, naturally, recruiters looking at hiring a junior often have a job needing to be done on a show and they're looking for the best person to hire who can do that job the best.
Of course, this doesn't always hold true as there are some studios which take on green-light juniors - roles they create in order to nurture and upskill new artists. But even in these cases, focusing on demonstrating your ability to "do the job" during your interview is still one of the best ways to score the position.
"If you get the job, you will have plenty of time to prove your worth."
Will they grow as an Artist?
So if the recruiter is primarily looking for someone to fill the current needs, it logically follows that their lowest priority is whether you'll grow as an artist. They don't know whether they can keep you on beyond the current show/s so they're not currently concerned with how much "Raw talent" you exhibit.
This doesn't mean it's not a factor at all. The studio wants to keep you on after the current productions, so if they can they will, and your ability to grow will determine your likelihood of staying on. But if you get the job, you will have plenty of time to prove your worth to the team and show them how much you can do.
Do we like him/her?
There's not much you can control about this particular priority beyond the typical cliché's of "Be Yourself" and "Be a positive energy". This is sometimes less about how much they like you and more about whether you will fit in with the current team members. So beyond being a nice person, don't stress about this point.
"Ask a tough question to someone in the room."
How to be memorable
Being memorable in your interview is one of the best ways you can shuffle your card to the top of the deck. But how do you do this?
You should come up with your own style and ideas, but one technique I like to use is to ask some tough questions to someone in the room (usually the Team Supervisor). Often you'll get asked something like "What makes you want to work here?" or "What's your biggest strength?" etc.
You can reframe these types of questions into a lot of good options. Here's a few examples you could ask:
- Why do you like working here?
- What's your least favourite thing about working at the studio?
- If you could do any other job in the studio, what would it be?
- What do you dislike about working at the studio?
The answers to these questions aren't that important, although they can give you some insight to the working style at the company. The reason for asking a question like this (and you should generally only ask one) is to throw the interviewer/s off guard. So you're looking for a question they won't expect, asking a question like "What is your least favourite thing about working here" is so effective because it will force them to think on their feet. This will naturally help you in being more memorable.
Of course, this isn't the only way to be memorable, but it's a consistent method you can use in pretty much every interview regardless of the interview style. If you go this route, just remember to not seem too serious about it, just show them it's a light-hearted question.
Your first VFX Gig is always going to be the hardest to win. Don't be discouraged if you end up going through 20 interviews and not getting the job. After all, if you got an interview you're already in the top few percent of artists!
You should always ask for feedback from unsuccessful interviews. Ask them for any feedback you can get on how to improve your chances in future. Better yet, you could even ask this during your interview with a question like:
"If I am unsuccessful in this application, what would you recommend I work on to improve my chances next time?"
This gives you the chance to get feedback on the spot and immediately get to work addressing it. It's also another way of being memorable as it shows the team you have an immediate desire to improve and take feedback on.
~ MattePaint Co-founder Conrad Allan