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Gaming Company Wants 'Passion,' Not Resumes
 

By Stephenie Overman  4/20/2012
 

Video game giant IGN Entertainment has issued its second “Code-Foo Challenge”—a no-resumes-allowed recruitment program aimed at finding coding talent, regardless of educational background and experience.

The six-week program gives aspiring coders the chance to get paid to learn coding languages and work on real engineering projects. “Blow our minds while you're here and we'll hire you. No kidding,” stated the IGN website.

Instead of submitting a resume, candidates are asked to submit a statement of passion for IGN and answer four questions that test their coding ability.

IGN, headquartered in the San Francisco Bay area, decided to take this nontraditional approach to recruiting because “we wanted people with the passion to become developers,” said Greg Silva, vice president of IGN’s human resources. “We were looking for people passionate about gaming. We weren’t looking for any resume.”

In 2011, 75,000 people viewed the application page, 104 people completed it and 30 participants were accepted into the program. Those participants, ranging in ages from 20 to 30, came from all over the United States, including many places with limited employment opportunities for technical talent. Only half the group had college degrees, according to Silva.

Out of that group of 30, IGN hired eight. “We benefited significantly on our return on investment,” Silva said, because all participants, including the eventual new hires, worked on useful projects.

The participants were especially well-connected to IGN’s gaming audience because they are members of that audience, he said.  “One of the ways we did outreach was on our website, to our users.”

Adam Passey was one of 2011’s applicants who found information about the contest on IGN’s website.

“I always wanted to get into gaming,” Passey said. “I saw this as a conduit into the gaming industry. It was a huge chance where I could show my fire for gaming.

“What I love about this program is that it gives people a shot [even] if they don’t have a resume but have skill and passion,” said Passey, who said he had an “okay” resume but one that “wasn’t going to get a second look. … I had work experience. I had led a small team but not at a big-name company.”

Passey not only is an IGN employee but also runs the 2012 Code-Foo program and will serve as mentor to the new group of participants.

Game Challenge Changes

In 2011, the company did not require applicants to create videos, but some did so to illustrate their devotion to gaming, Silva said. “They were taking the process to the next level. They had that drive. That’s what defines us: We’re not looking for people who just complete the work assigned. We want people to take it to the next level.”

This year [2012], he adds, “we are asking for video clips. We’ll see how that goes.”

Another difference in 2012, according to Silva, is that there will be more focus on mentoring and on “pair programming—two people pairing up to bounce ideas off each other.”

Silva doesn’t expect the coders who arrived at IGN Entertainment without formal training to face career obstacles in the long run.

“Not at all. … Look at Adam [Passey], for example. He’s deeply involved. People are fighting over Adam,” Silva said. Passey’s lack of a college degree “is not going to hold him back; he’s going to continue his career growth.”

IGN Entertainment has a tuition reimbursement program and offers employees an opportunity for career growth, according to Silva, because the company understands that such opportunity is an important retention tool.

“People ask: ‘Am I growing, am I learning, am I getting development?’ The development [Code Foo participants] are getting, not only during the six weeks [of the program], but beyond that, definitely is a hook.”           

And so far, Everybody is still here who came from the program” in 2011.

The application deadline for Code-Foo 2012 is April 30, 2012, with IGN notifying applicants by May 18, 2012, if they've made the cut.

Stephenie Overman is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va.

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