How a grad creatively recovered from a job interview disaster – before he became an industry icon

“I can’t believe I just said that…”

I’d be interested to see statistics on what percentage of job interviewees have suffered such a thought.  And I wonder how often the interviewer even noticed or was bothered by the interviewer’s supposed gaff.

Twenty-two years ago, a young Tim Schafer made a big gaff…and the interviewer certainly noticed. But after some creative thinking, he landed the job. Today, he’s a computer game industry icon.

Check out these excerpts from his blog, or read the whole post (including copies of his rejection letters!).

“My job hunt was getting kind of depressing. I was building up a pile of rejection letters, most of them from jobs I didn’t even want.”

But then, one bright summer day, I walked into the campus career center and saw this:

That’s the original posting for the “Assistant Designer / Programmer” position at Lucasfilm, Games Division.

I called David Fox right away and scribbled all the notes you see while I was talking to him. I told him how much I wanted to work at Lucasfilm, not because of Star Wars, but because I loved, “Ball Blaster.”

“Ball Blaster, eh?” he said.

“Yeah! I love Ball Blaster!” I said. It was true. I had broken a joystick playing that game on my Atari 800.

“Well, the name of the game is Ball Blazer.” Mr. Fox said, curtly. “It was only called Ball Blaster in the pirated version.”


Totally busted. It was true—I had played the pirated version. There, I said it…

The rest of the phone call didn’t go much better. But at the end of it, David told me to send in my resume, along with a cover letter describing my ideal job. Since I figured I had blown the interview, I had nothing to lose. So I did my cover letter in the form of a semi-graphic adventure.

It worked.

Click to expand

What we can learn from Tim’s application:

1. Know how to sell your strengths

Tim could easily have penned a typical cover letter, but his creativity wouldn’t nearly have been apparent. Granted, the traditional cover email/CV combination is more appropriate for the vast majority of positions. But candidates must still use these mediums to demonstrate their skills and capabilities. That’s why we’ve given candidates the option to attach multi-media work samples to their Innovate CV. After all, sometimes a candidate needs to go beyond ‘telling’ and start ‘showing’ in order to stand out.

2. Exclusive applications work

I’d be willing to bet that Lucas Films were more taken aback by Tim’s sincerity than by his creativity. After all, this wasn’t merely a creative application that Lucas Arts had received…along with a hundred other companies. Tim’s application was designed and created exclusively for them! Imagine that.

Hiring staff can tell immediately tell when they’re receiving a generic CV (as good as it may be) versus a customised CV. The tailored approach takes into account the industry, organisation, and position. When candidates respectively make the effort to personalise an application, they present themselves as a far more professional and thoughtful. Innovate CV’s management system allows you to easily oversee your various CVs.

3. Play with the rules

Lucas Film’s asked Tim to submit ‘a cover letter describing [his] ideal job.’ Tim understood that they likely wanted to ascertain his writing skills and creativity. So with that in mind, he took a risk, and took a different route.

Hiring managers want the best, and unless the organisation is stuck in her procedure, they don’t mind if candidates break the rules to stand out. Read between the lines to determine where you have space to try something different. But of course, know your limits. Common sense applies.

4. Be proactive, even if when it hurts

Tim’s job hunt wasn’t going well, yet he persisted. His proactive visit to a campus career centre led him to his dream opportunity.

Job hunting is emotionally exhausting. When the lousy jobs even seem out of reach, it’s easy to give up on one’s dreams. There’s a world of gamers out there who are forever grateful that Tim didn’t do just that, no matter how tempting the option may have been.

5. Interviews aren’t everything

Despite a lousy interview, Tim’s fantastic follow-up won him the position. One strike doesn’t mean you’re out.

Candidates who struggle in an interview can confidently bounce back. Take stock of what went wrong and remedy the issues with a thoughtfully worded follow-up email or letter.

Well done, Tim. Thanks for sharing your story.

What else can we learn from Tim? What have been your nightmare interview moments?

(oh, and we’re giving away a holiday to Brazil and iPads – you might want to check that out…)


Categories: Articles for Job Seekers


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One Comment on “How a grad creatively recovered from a job interview disaster – before he became an industry icon”

  1. David Fox
    February 10, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    As the David Fox that hired Tim Schafer, I gotta say that I was doing all I could to keep from laughing when I told him he had been playing the pirated version of ballblazer. Many more people played our first two games in their pre-release pirated form than as purchased copies. Who knows, maybe that, more than anything, helped establish the repuation of Lucasfilm Games!

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