Thursday, May 3, 2012

Interview at PopCap: What to Expect

I've been working at PopCap Games for just about a year now, so this post is very late in coming, but since I'm currently in charge of hiring a team of developers, I thought I would write it anyway.


It was April last year. I was driving home from work when my phone started ringing. Being the cautious driver that I am, I refrained from answering and drove on. (Okay, that's not completely true. At the time I was director of technology at a small company and had formed a habit of not answering my phone when I didn't recognize the phone number—I received a lot of calls from sales people.) Anyway, soon after my phone finished ringing I heard the uncommon bling of a new voice mail. I was intrigued...

"Hi Brent! This is from PopCap Games. I'm calling you in regards to the resume you submitted. I'll give you a call back at a later time. Thanks!"

I don't want to get too detailed about the whole story, but I freaked out. I pooped my pants. I spent the next two hours searching the internet for PopCap employees with names starting with "Elli" and ending in "man" (the "gurrggles" were inaudible pauses if you hadn't guessed). To make this introduction shorter: my wife found him, I emailed him, he called me, yadda, yadda, and now I am employed as a lead developer on the Platform Service team.

Now I want to fill in the blanks a little about the interview process:

PopCap Cares About Candidates and Employees

This is a simple example: I've been flown around the country for interviews. I've been picked up from the airport by company employees driving messy Toyota Corollas. I've also had companies offer NO transportation from the airport at all (maybe getting to their office was part of their interview process).

PopCap was different. I was told there'd be a car waiting for me at the airport. I honestly expected a taxi at best, but I was surprised when I spotted a man in a tuxedo holding a sign reading "Nelson". This guy escorted me to his—for lack of a more accurate word—"pimped out" Lincoln Presidental Towncar and drove me all the way to downtown Seattle. I was further amazed when I walked into the elegant hotel they put me up in and realized I was extremely underdressed (it was definitely hospitality at its finest).

The point I want to make here is that by the time I arrived for the interview the next morning, I was sure of two things: A) PopCap Games truly cared about its potential employees and B) I was filled with rockstar confidence and ready to let that bleed from me onto my interviewers.

PopCap Performs Relevant Assessments

Whiteboards are nice. Algorithms are fun. But do you know what's really awesome? Giving a carpenter a hammer before asking him to build a cabinet. For some reason a lot of companies feel that they need to torture developers by having them write code on a whiteboard or analyze arbitrary algorithms in order to gauge their abilities as a developer. Assessments at PopCap are relevant and allow candidates to use the tools that they would use on a daily basis—primarily a computer and the internet (though usage of the internet should be limited).

When interviewing at PopCap you can expect to be given the proper tools to solve the programming problems they give you. However, they do expect you to understand and know how to use them. I personally felt that my development abilities shined much brighter under these circumstances than they had when I was scribbling on a whiteboard and regurgitating the definition and implementation use cases of a min heap.

PopCap Is Where You Want To Work

If you are interested, check out our job listings at The specific position on my team is located here

tldr: You definitely want to work at PopCap Games because they are dope.


Mari said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eBN said...

Hi Mari,

I heard back in three days, but the team I interviewed with was in extreme need. Who did you interview with?