#58: “Any Company Would (But Not Square Enix)”
Published in 2016/04/28 issue
April 1st, 2016 was Square Enix’s welcoming ceremony for new hires. It’s been almost 6 years since I started interviewing new grads for Square Enix, and I’ve been in charge of the final round of interviews for the past few years. Since I’m the final interviewer—and, well, the executive officer in charge of Business Division 5—they told me to show up at the “friendly gathering” on the evening of the ceremony day as well. At 6 p.m. when I went up to the lounge on the 20th floor of Square Enix’s headquarters, it was full of excited and hopeful young people dressed in interview suits. It was a bit painful to watch for an old man who’s exhausted from work. *forced smile*
While everyone was socializing, a boy who joined the company this year came up to me and said “There’s something I really need to ask you, Yoshida-san.” I asked him what it was, and he said, “You were my last interviewer, and I was really depressed afterwards because I was sure that I’d failed. When HR followed up with me later, I even told them that I’d definitely failed. But a few days later, I got a tentative offer… How did I pass the interview? I’m dying to know.”
“Hmm, why did you think you failed?” I asked while thinking to myself: Crap, did I put a lot of pressure on him in that interview…? As I tried to recall, he said “I think I made three big mistakes.” To summarize his explanation:
- He didn’t know who I (Yoshida) was
- Even though I’m in charge of FFXIV, he said “I don’t know anything about online games”
- When asked what the worst game he’d ever played was, he answered with XXXX (Editor’s note: I can’t publish this)
When I heard this, I thought “Wow, new grads have it rough.” First off, #1 doesn’t matter. It’s normal to not know who your interviewer is, and even gamers often aren’t interested in who makes their games. I love movies, but unless it’s something I enjoy enough to rewatch many times, I’m not going to remember who the director was—and that’s normal. And personally, I generally don’t buy games just based off of who made them. Furthermore, game development is a group effort, so I think it’s too much of an exaggeration to say that the people who appear in the media “created” the game (it’s the workplace that’s always going through hardships).
The same goes for #2, which is just a matter of preferences. When you consider the percentage of the Japanese game market that belongs to online games, not having played one before isn’t going to work against you. Of course, if you’re entering the game industry, it would be better to research in advance what kind of products the company makes and what markets they’re competing in. However, whether you’ve actually played that game before should, at the very least, not be a disadvantage to you (although I think it would be an advantage if you did).
And then we have #3. In my interviews, I always ask “What is the best game you’ve ever played and why?” as well as “What is the worst game you’ve ever played and why? Also, what would you do to fix it?” He answered the latter with XXXX (Editor’s note: Like I said, I can’t publish this), but apparently, after the interview he remembered that it was published by one of Square Enix’s associate companies and his heart sank. When I ask this question, I always make sure to add “Feel free to name any of our own games,” so I never thought that someone would actually worry about it *laughs*.
I laughed and told the boy “That’s not what we were concerned about when we interviewed you, so you passed.” There were two reasons why we hired him. First, he was extremely consistent in answering each of my questions and showing his logical reasoning. Second, he spoke very passionately, especially about his “worst game” and how he would fix it. His proactive ideas left a strong impression on me. When you’re asking about the worst game someone’s ever played, it has to be something they actually spent some time on, otherwise they won’t be able to come up with topics. Most of the time, people talk about why they bought the game, their attachment to the game before they bought it, or anecdotes from their playing experience. It’s immediately obvious if they’re making stuff up or repeating things they read online.
The boy looked relieved at my answer, but he’d piqued my interest, so I gave him a bit of advice: “I don’t know which department you’ll be assigned to, but if you’re the kind of person who gets hung up over things like interviews, you should put that behind you.” I told him that when you’re discussing work, the position or rank of who you’re talking to isn’t really relevant. Even your superiors make mistakes or incorrect judgements. You do need to show respect towards the age difference, but other than that, you shouldn’t be so concerned about ranks and positions that you can’t say what you need to. After all, debates aren’t about refuting the other person—they’re about understanding their intent and expressing your own opinion.
…Anyway, Square Enix’s new hires for the year have arrived. Including that boy, they all seemed nervous yet extremely excited. Getting a job isn’t a goal; it’s a new beginning. I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ll have in store for us.
Lastly, during that conversation, there was one point that I thought I should fix as an interviewer. One of the reasons why he thought he failed the interview was because of something I’d said to him afterwards.
What I said was: “Thank you for the interview. Finding a job must be difficult, but if you can speak this well, I’m sure that any company would accept you. Good luck!” However, he apparently interpreted it as “Any company would accept you (except for Square Enix).” Man, I was sincerely trying to encourage him… Being an interviewer is hard in its own way. *laughs*