Is This a Fair Filter for Initiative and Self-Sufficiency?

14 May 2020 | 134 Comments

A few days ago, an artist messaged me on Instagram to express interest in illustrating a future project for Stonemaier Games. I thanked them for their interest, complimented their style, and asked them to fill out the job application form on our website so I could have their contact information and portfolio all in one place.

In their response, they asked for me to send them the link to the job application form. They didn’t even look for the link–if they had looked for it and told me they couldn’t find it, I would have been happy to provide it.

Instead, they were essentially asking me to load the Chrome app on my phone, navigate to our website, find the link, copy it, return to the Instagram app, and paste the link in the Instagram message. But I didn’t.

Because, if I’m being perfectly honest, one of my first filters for deciding if I will have a good experience working with someone is their ability and willingness to even try to find an easy-to-locate link on our website instead of asking me to do that for them.

Is that fair, though? Is it fair for me to judge someone’s initiative and self-sufficiency based on their willingness to try find a link on our website? I’m writing about this because I want to learn if my perception of applicants who make such a request isn’t fair to them.

Before you answer–and I’m very curious to hear your answer in the comments–here are the situations I’m considering:

  • Job applicants (typically artists)
  • Game submissions (game designers): I can overlook a game designer who messages me directly about submitting a game instead of using our submission page. But if I then refer the game designer to that page and they ask me to provide the link for them instead of finding it themselves, I start to doubt their competency and commitment. If they can’t take 10 seconds to find the link, how are they going to respond when I ask them to spend 10 hours writing a rulebook?
  • Ambassadors (volunteers): This is a little different, because pretty much anyone can sign up to be a Stonemaier Ambassador, and ambassadors offer a variety of skills (group moderation, playtesting, proofreading, game teaching, convention presence, etc), some of which are paid roles and others are purely voluntary. But if someone contacts me to say they want to do one of those things and I tell them about the ambassador program, I think it reflects well on their competency and interest if they’re willing to find the link on our website.

Of course, these people could all say the same thing about me: If I’m not willing to take 10 seconds to find, copy, and paste the link for them, what does that say about my desire to work with them? But I think the point here is that they contacted me. Conversely, if I reach out to an artist or designer I really want to work with, I’ll provide the link for them or skip that step entirely.

I should note that Instagram–which is built for mobile–requires the most effort for me to provide a link for someone. If the request was made elsewhere–our website, Facebook, etc–it’s much easier for me to find, copy, and paste the link, which I sometimes do during my initial response, particularly if I’m really excited to work with the person.

Also, I understand that sometimes links aren’t easy to find. If so, that’s my job to fix. But all of these links are in the About menu on our website and on the Contact page. And for these applicants, the problem isn’t that they can’t find the link–it’s that they didn’t care to look in the first place.

What do you think? What are some of your early filters for deciding if you want to work with someone? My other big filter is communication–if it takes you longer than 2 days to reply to an email, that’s a huge red flag about how well we’re going to communicate long term.

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134 Comments on “Is This a Fair Filter for Initiative and Self-Sufficiency?

  1. Absolutely. I am a 46-year old non-tech savvy person, and I found it in 56 seconds. I even read your stance on wages in about 2 minutes in case they would ask that. I have found that in online teaching can attest that about 25% ask questions without reading the directions or trying enough. You want employees who can solve their own problems; I have no dispute to your method. If you want the job, show it! Maybe I’m harsh but it’s been a long 10 weeks.

  2. Jamey, you’ve certainly posted an interesting conundrum here. On a superficial level, I just plain agree with you. You’ve told someone where to find it, and they want you to hold their hand and walk them there.

    BUT…

    This is not unrelated to an experience I often had managing my son’s highly competitive soccer team. I would need people to fill out paperwork for tournaments and other competitions. Some people would just get it done, others needed a lot of prodding, and others practically needed to be walked through the process the entire way.

    What we don’t know, is why….

    Some people are resource-poor. Many of the kids on my team accessed the internet solely through their phone, and their connections were spotty and data was pricey. They couldn’t print anything out to be signed, they had a hard time submitting proof of their age, etc.

    On top of that, many young people are, while in many ways internet-literate, completely ignorant of what constitutes “good” internet. Instagram is a perfect tip, here. Is that really a good way to communicate a job application? I would never think that reaching out through Insta is the best way to apply for a job, but my almost 19yo son just can’t believe that Instagram is not a universal communication platform, that it is good for some things but not good for others.

    So, are you right to ignore this person? Well, it depends on the situation. Factually, they may be as you suspect, or they may be a talented artist and worthwhile contractor who is just weak in certain ares (my incredibly talented physician wife is pretty much horrible with technology but she will likely save your kidneys). Are you flooded with qualified applicants? Then you are well justified in moving on. On the other hand, if you genuinely like what you’ve seen of their art you may be justified in giving them an opportunity.

    1. That’s an excellent parallel, Jason! In this case, we have an abundance of artists and game designers to choose from. I agree that if the pool was much smaller, the situation might be different.

    2. To add to this, young people are less Internet-literate than we think. As an IT teacher in a high school, I have found recently that many students know how to Google something, how to get their email, and how to use their social media thingy. But other than that, they don’t know and don’t want to know as it’s the magic of the Internet. Most of them Google their social media site and click the first link instead of typing the URL in the address bar.

  3. I’ve been in Talent Acquisition over a decade. Directing someone to the location they may apply is appropriate. You do not need to spoon feed it.

  4. I have a very similar approach with Recruiters on LinkedIn when they contact me; usually they all start by telling me that looked at my profile and think I’d be a good fit, then proceed to tell me about the role (all good so far), the ‘red flag’ is if they then ask me for contact details – which tells me straight away they haven’t bothered to click on my CV which is at the top of my profile.

  5. Some work places value resourcefulness above all else, others value teamwork more.

    I come from an industry where employees prefer to suffer in silence, as they struggle to solve a problem, rather than ask for help. In my area it’s seen as a huge positive when someone is assertive enough to say “Hey, can you point me in the right direction?”

    Yeah it could be seen as lazy, but it might also mean that person will reach out to you much quicker if they were struggling with an upcoming deadline. Preferable to the resourceful person that fights on in silence, tries their best, but falls short on the last day.

    1. That’s a good point, Leigh–I want people to feel free to ask questions. In this instance, though, I had already pointed the them in the right direction. As you say, it’s not good if employees suffer in silence as they try to solve a problem, but do you want employees who don’t even try in the first place?

  6. I tell my college students that employers and admission committees are faced with tons of applicants. Consequently, they are looking for any superficial filter to trim down the size of their task. Don’t give them an excuse to ignore whatever worth you may have in your application. If it is hidden by typos, grammatical errors, sloppiness and laziness, it may be their loss, but you will be the one that will suffer the most. In the Darwinian struggle for jobs and graduate school slots, don’t be the low hanging fruit to be eliminated.

  7. Dude, you know I greatly admire you but this is a tough article. I wrote a reply that I thought was pretty good but came in a 494 word count. Then it occurred to me – this is the sort of thing that is disrespectful and if I hit enter, I’m once again ‘that guy’ lol.

    May I bring up a counter point to yours?

    I think the error is in the question itself, if I may be so bold.

    Is it fair for me to judge someone’s competency and commitment based on their ability and willingness to find a link on our website?

    Firstly, you assume ability. You have no idea how hard I labor over the most minor communication with you only to realize I missed something obvious. It was only after being diagnosed with dyslexia that I understood I would probably never be a fit for your process. Your process is fantastic, but maybe don’t assume it’s lack of effort or willingness. Many are simply ignorant and don’t even know these nuggets of info exist to seek.

    post hoc, ergo propter hoc

    The error is that the evidence you see could have many more benign causes than the conclusion you infer when stating ‘competency and commitment based on their ability and willingness.’

    I get that you were questioning that very statement, so my answer is not in rebutting the statement itself but the process of designing that statement.

    One contributing factor is how accessible you are. The yin and yang of that is the success you have with creating a tribe but that comes at the price of being spoken to like you are a buddy and not a business man with a lot on his plate. I know I’ve been guilty of this far too often.

    I have to admit… my first reaction to this was ‘HOLY #!$%’ this is how Jamey views me? lol

    Crap… this is too long to. Well, it’s the shortest I could do ;)

    1. The issue with this mindset is that yes, any filter almost by definition will have some false positives. In this case, great potential staff who have difficulty following a process you’ve set out. The issue that I think many of the commentors who have disliked Jamey’s approach seem to be missing is that as you scale up, you NEED a filter.

      Some of that can be mitigated by support staff, but there are lots of things, especially hiring decisions, that are difficult to delegate. Even more so when someone doesn’t follow your established hiring practices (such as Jamey’s form).

      So, examples of edge cases where a filter might fail aren’t an argument against – anyone using a filter is going to understand that they might miss out on some gems. But the bigger you get, the more you need to be willing to pay that price in order to avoid spending your entire day following up and filtering through random requests.

  8. I think that the point revolves around how you responded to the applicant. They asked you a question, if you answered ‘no, I’m not going to do that, you need to do it yourself’ and they refused, I think that’s a fine filter. If you just walked off and ignored them, then that’s at the very least rude and I would think unfair. So the important question here is, how did you respond to them, Jamey?

    I think that if someone asks a direct question and you just don’t answer it, that’s not ideal.

    1. Glenn: I didn’t reply at all, as I’d already provided them the information. Now, it would be different if I said, “Please fill out the game submission form on our website” and they replied, “I looked at your website and can’t find the form–can you help?” In that case, I would be happy to provide them the link, as that’s a problem with our website, not a problem with the designer’s level of initiative and self sufficiency. But that’s not what happens in these cases.

      A similar example is if someone messages me asking for private advice. I try to be polite in those instances, letting them know that I’m not available for private consultation, but if they post the question in the comments of the blog or the YouTube channel, I’m happy to reply there. Sometimes I provide a link to a specific article (but sometimes the question is too broad). If the person then replies to me asking for more advice, I simply don’t answer, as I’ve already told them very specifically that they’ll get answers if they post on our website.

      1. I think that if they asked for you to send them the link and you said no, and they didn’t find it for themselves, that’s a perfectly fair filter. I think that if they ask you for the link and you just ignore them, that’s not fair, they don’t know that you’re ignoring them for one thing. If someone asks a question, even if you think its a lazy question, any response that involves just ignoring them is going to fall into the not good response category for me.

        I think that one of the signs of this sort of thing is if I’d do it in real life, and no matter how lazy and dumb a question might be, I’d still consider it rude to just walk off if someone asked me it to my face.

        1. Glenn, I think a large part of this is how often it happens. Imagine the scenario where if every time you walked somewhere, someone came up and asked you for directions. Whether you’re out for a walk with your family, hurrying to make an important meeting, on your way to catch the train to the airport, out buying groceries.

          Potentially five, six, ten times a day, people were asking you for directions. Maybe fifty times a day. At some point it’s not rude to ignore unsolicited requests, it’s just practicality.

          1. The thing is that I don’t think practicality and rudeness are mutually exclusive features there. I think that something can be both rude and practical. To be honest, most rudeness is quite practical, people who go out of their way and act in an impractical manner in order to be rude are surely the greatest jerks of them all aren’t they?

            Also, this is significantly different in that this was a second stage interaction. If a stranger asks for directions as you’re rushing down the street, maybe ignoring them is acceptable, though I’d still suggest that a polite ‘Sorry, no’ is both reasonable and practical. But that’s not the analogy here, the analogy here is that someone asks for directions, you give directions and they’ve then asked for a lift to the location and you’ve ignored them and driven off. Actually, you’ve just sat there in total silence without giving a response as your spirit goes off and does other things, but I think there the analogy falls down. The point is that once you’ve interacted with someone, not giving closure to that interaction is even more unusual than simply ignoring a stranger.

  9. I understand your point. However, would you rather someone to send you a private message and try talk to you directly (which means he put himself out and made real effort). Or would you rather them to fill a form and forget about it?

    I see it a lot when I look for a job at LinkedIn. When I can easily apply by sending CV or fill a form. I do it and firgy about it. On the other hand, when I need to actually talk to someone or write a motivation latter, I will remember the job and only apply if I really want to. So in my eyes, talking to you is bigger then sending a form. That being said… If you ask for it, then he should of look for it or at least try.

    1. Liron: I would always prefer for someone to follow the processes we put in place to handle requests. Those processes are there for a reason. If they want to make a good impression in addition to filling out the form, they should participate in the Stonemaier community by asking a question publicly. Like, if a game designer fills out the submission form and wants to pique my interest, they could make a comment on the submission page to say (a) that they filled out the form and (b) ask a question that reflects on the unique nature of their game.

  10. The verbiage in this poll may be directly related to your thoughts and process but for me it doesn’t show a lack of competency; it’s more a lack of passion/drive/initiative. Commitment is a good description too, just not both together.

    I sometimes try to introduce myself through an email to gain some familiarity with potential bosses/contractors but using Instagram is not the way to do that. You literally don’t have the time to follow up with a person. If they’re interested, they need to prove themselves, and they should be aware of that. Basically, it’s in their court to make it work.

    The only thing I would consider (if you don’t have it already) is a careers/work with us page with links to the appropriate email account where the categories each have their own emails, like: jobs at Stonemaier games dot com, artists at Stonemaier games dot com, game ideas at Stonemaier games dot com. This way the candidate for the right position is going into a separate email account that’s then easy to manage.

  11. I think the “about” section is not an intuitive place to search for these links.
    I would add a menu option called “links”.
    Once you said the links are in the “about” section it took me 10 seconds to find them, but if that information would have been missing not sure I would find them immediately and could ask you for a link if I didn’t

    1. The first place I look for application forms is either About or Contact (if they don’t have a job/employment section). I don’t know how a “Links” section would be of any help, because that would imply links to external pages (all clickables are links). It took me less than 30 seconds to find it in two places without any foreknowledge.

  12. Lots of employers say “Go find the link on our website” and then there’s no link, or something labeled differently than how you described it, or there are dozens of links. Maybe the person wanted to ensure that they were using the correct one?

    1. Tom: Absolutely, if any of these people taken a quick glance at our website, struggled to find the right link, and mentioned it to me, I would have gladly provided it. But they didn’t even look–their first instinct was to ask me to do it for them.

  13. As the head of a business who does a great deal of evaluating applications and hiring employees I think it depends a lot on the situation. See, I (with an advanced degree in information organization and retrieval-both digital and physical) visited your website and I found the application difficult to find nested under the contact form. Especially since for a majority of businesses the contact form is simply for questions they need answered or help they need provided. Not career opportunities. Did I find it? Yes. Do I consider myself more computer and internet literate than the general populous? Also yes. If in your initial reply you gave directions such as “go to my Stonemaier Games website and fill out the job description linked under the “Contact” form which can be found toward the bottom of the page…” then yes, it is more incompetent for them not to follow specific instructions and that would put me off as well. However, if you just said “go to my website and fill out the link” then I would be unsurprised if they came back asking for a link-especially if they are not completely computer or internet proficient. I teach technology classes as part of my profession. You would be floored at the number of people who can work 1-3 aspects of a computer (for instance: email, social media, Microsoft Word) and struggle to grasp the workings of any other aspect of computers/the internet. That doesn’t mean they would be a bad employee/worker. I think often for website designers our websites make sense to us and therefore seem simple – that does not mean that they are easy to navigate or sensibly organized for the general populous. I think it is extremely judgmental and you could be losing out on valuable talent to eliminate someone based on the fact that you expect they should be able to easily navigate the internet and, one step further, your website without any direction to find the application you directed them to complete.

    If that pattern of asking questions you find ignorant continued then yes, I think it would be an indicator of a bad matchup whether that be from their lack of ability to complete simple tasks or a lack of time/interest to answer said inane questions on your part. I understand that 100%. But in my very honest and blunt opinion, I think if you shut down every person who asks for some direction one time just because you think they should already know it/find it on their own that you could really be shooting yourself in the foot from an employee/business standpoint.

    As far as the not responding to emails-yes, big pet peeve. If they can’t call back/email back and they haven’t been in an emergency situation then they get checked off my list as well. Additionally, if they TELL me what I should do in an application/interview: “you NEED to consider me because of my skills in this area,” or “I am willing to do x, y, and z but you CAN’T ask me to work Saturdays” then they also get immediately checked off my list. If they have the attitude of telling me how to do my job or what I can ask them to work from the get go, they are not going to like when I assign them a task they don’t want to do and I don’t have time to fight that fight.

    And sometimes hiring people to work with is just a crapshoot anyway. They look great on paper but suck as an employee. Or vice versa. One of my best employees (I think ever!) spelled her name wrong on her application TWICE! But I will forever be grateful I decided to give her a chance because once we got past the interview jitters she has been 110% and I wish I could clone her!

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks Holly! It’s also in the main menu under “About”–the listing in the Contact section is more of a backup. That said, I think the key difference here is that you took the initiative to look, whereas these applicants did not.

      You’re probably right that I miss out on some talented designers and illustrators based on this filter. But only a small percentage of people make this request, and we already have hundreds of designers and illustrators to choose from. So I think the little things people do to stand out–particularly when making a first impression–make a big difference.

      Also, I think it’s worth mentioning (in reference to “extremely judgmental”) is that yes, while there is a little bit of judgment involved, it isn’t like I’m making any major decision based on the person’s lack of initiative. I don’t exclude them from finding the link, nor do I consider them a lesser person or anything that would fall into the category of extreme judgment.

  14. Being contacted out of the blue is not in itself an issue, I think. The heading “job application” implies an employee role, not a freelance role, and so it might not be obvious to use such a form. However, having been told to do so then they should. As someone commented, people have different skill sets, so it’s not wise to just dismiss someone for something petty or minor because you could end up missing out on a fantastic set of skills. On the other hand, you also don’t want to have to spend more of your time than is absolutely necessary to extract those skills. You are also only looking at the situation from one perspective – I can think of a myriad of reasons of directly reaching out to you directly. At the end of the day, if you really wanted their talents, you would make the effort. The opposite is also true, if they really want your work, they will make the effort. Hence i wouldn’t penalise for asking the question, but i would also leave it to the individual to take the next step.

  15. I think you are perfectly justified in using this as an initial first impression. You asked this person to do something for you (“fill out the job application form on our website”). And the response was not to try and find it first but to ask to you to do the work for them by providing the link. It’s not a trick, its just a simple exchange that indicates how they choose to deal with the ask. If I had come back to you with “I’m sorry, I tried finding it on your site but was unable to, can you provide me a link”, you would know that I am capable or trying to achieve something independently, even if I had failed.

    1. Mike: I absolutely agree–if the person had displayed initiative and simply couldn’t find the link (even taking a quick look at our website, the same as I would need to do to copy and paste the link), I would be more than happy to send it to them. It’s some hidden secret that I’m keeping from them, right? :)

  16. I think I have to disagree with you here. One thing that is an issue is that I navigated to your website and it took me a nontrivial amount of time to find your job applications. There doesn’t seem to be any career tab or link. I did see it under contact eventually, but that is not a typical location for applications. I think this could be seen as a UI/UX issue more than a competency issue. Additionally, I would ask yourself what level of internet proficiency are you demanding from an artist? Is that a primary job function you expect? These are real questions to which only you have the answer. I do think from your point of view you have to make judgment calls on what level of assistance you’re going to offer to prospects. If this was a single occurrence, I would wonder what amount of inconvenience is stopping you from answering a direct question. Of course, if this is a common occurrence that level of inconvenience can compound and become overwhelming. Finally, you may want to ask yourself if you’d rather have someone that asked or someone that didn’t. At least if they asked they know where to go for information. Not everyone will seek an answer and that is a quality that should not be overlooked. That’s my two cents.

    1. Chriss: In these cases, they were asking for the link before they even looked for it.

      It’s not particularly inconvenient for me to provide the link, especially if I’m on my computer. The question here is more about whether or not someone asking me for the link when they’re trying to make a first impression is indicative of their self-sufficiency and ability to take initiative.

  17. I’m not certain that “fairness” is the right word. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses. This same person who is slow on initiative may very well turn in deliverables ahead of schedule, or perhaps they are uniquely creative in some way. It is hard to tell sometimes.
    What seems to matter most when I make hiring recommendations is that we try to ensure our peoples’ strengths and weaknesses align with our own. In that regard, I think you answered your own question.

    It is not really fair or unfair, but rather a question of fit. There is a lot that goes into an employer/employee remote relationship, and small differences can matter. No candidate is perfect (as is no manager), so it really comes down to you deciding which weaknesses you tolerate most (or which ones you compensate for the best).

  18. I run a small mental health clinic, and I regularly receive unsolicited emails from individuals looking for either employment or practicum placements within our clinic. Within a very short time period I adopted a number of approaches to handling those sorts of emails.

    1) If there are strange formatting issues, more than one typo, two different fonts (a sign of lazy copy and pasting) – it goes in the bin without a response.

    2) If they ask basic questions that are available on our website, which is not very large and complicated, and is formatted reasonably well for mobile – same thing, bin and no response.

    3) If their request seems unrelated to the sort of services that we provide (again, this is fairly clear from our website), and doesn’t provide an immediate idea of how this new service could be integrated into into our clinic – into the bin, and most of the time also no response.

    There are rare exceptions to the above, if something in the content of the email really stands out to me, but the vast majority are fairly generic, and within my first year in private practice I realized that I needed to be careful how much of my energy was directed at providing detailed responses or feedback to these unsolicited requests.

    This might seem overly harsh, but increasingly I’ve found that giving myself permission to not deal with these sorts of things actually allows me to focus more time and energy on patient care, which is ultimately the most important thing.

    1. I can really relate to this, Kyle, especially this sentence: “I’ve found that giving myself permission to not deal with these sorts of things actually allows me to focus more time and energy on patient care, which is ultimately the most important thing.”

  19. I run a pancake art company with a team of wonderful people…but I’ve learned several times over that I can’t really expect someone that I do all the work for to be a good investment of my time and energy. I’ve met creative and talented people over the years who I saw as great potential candidates to be artists on our team, traveling with us and doing pancake art events all over the world – but I’ve lost several pancake art kits to these folks, giving them the supplies they need for free and asking them to practice so we can work with them. I’ll end up having to follow up with them over and over again, haranguing them into practice, into updating us on their progress, and inevitably I lose my patience or energy and just stop reaching out.

    It just seems like if I go out of my way to make their task as easy as possible…it doesn’t mean anything. It almost cheapens the deal, I guess. I don’t know if I prefer to make people ‘work for it’, but it’s certainly true that of all the people who I’ve tried to bring into this world with me, the ones who have ended up continuing to be a part of it are the ones who actually put in effort and didn’t expect me to hold their hand through the process. Y’know. Initiative. At this point it’s the number one thing I look for in a candidate. I don’t honestly even care if you can draw – art skill can be cultivated. But it can ONLY be cultivated by a person who is willing to CULTIVATE it! So if we start to talk with someone about joining our team, and they end up texting our team FIRST? That’s a good sign. If that continues, it’ll work out.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Daniel. I think you say it really well. Having made my first full-time hire last year, I found from early on that I really valued Joe’s initiative. I give him some specific tasks, but it’s been awesome for him to identify issues and improvements and simply proceed to act on them instead of waiting for me. Early on he needed access to certain accounts, but now he just runs with it.

  20. Lazy people expect you todo all their work. This usually is the first sign. Maybe it’s a generational thing…

    1. Nope, I’ve seen it from people of all ages. And even if I saw it from, say, 20 people in their 30s, I wouldn’t assume that those people were representative of hundreds of millions of people in that category. :)

  21. A big portion of my career involved hiring people to work for me. Ive obviously come across this same situation myself. As a rule of thumb I’ve found that if I have to do the work for you, I generally did not hire you.

    Someone could be asking for the link very innocently. They assume you have the information readily available to you, and it would easier for you to send it, than for them to find it. All of those assumptions are true. Does that mean that employee will be bad at their job. Well no. They could be amazing at a set of skills that are essential to that job. What I’ve found that it does mean, is that their is a lack of self sufficiency there. As their boss or manager I will be the crutch they lean on throughout the days.

    At my company I worked for we had an operations manual that had nearly everything you’d ever want to know about spelled it plainly on how to execute written in that manual. It was easy to search through as it was digital and even responded to Google like search inquiries. Rather than search for the answer themselves, they’d lean on me. As a leader in the building I would of course assist. Id try to train that skill. Show then how to find the answer they needed, some would learn. Others never would. I found over time, it took too much of my time to hire those individuals. I’m sure I passed on some great talent. But my time was just as important as theirs. For time management reasons, they didn’t work for me.

  22. You made a whole blog post about this person. So whatever they did badly, it sure must have been memorable! They rolled the dice on asking the boss to do a small task for them and maybe finding an ongoing line of communication. If they are competent at the art stuff and you like the cut of their jib they may even be smarter than you give them credit for.

    1. I see what you’re saying, but this blog post wasn’t about a specific person. I used an example as a way of explaining a general concept in a way that’s easy for anyone to understand. It’s one of many instances of applicants doing the same thing–asking for me to provide something instead of trying to make a good first impression.

  23. Your approach seems reasonable to me Jamey. It’s easy to observe many examples of entitlement in our society by people of all ages, groups, and backgrounds. I think when a potential applicant starts off an interaction by giving the impression – intended or not – that they may be lazy or averse to a little time investment on their part, it’s not a good sign.

    As business owners, we can always improve UI/UX elements for visitors to our sites. Still, anything worth doing takes effort. A professional in the creative field, such as a tabletop game artist, should know that.

    What’s weird is: I don’t know how much easier the link you provided could be!

    -E

  24. It’s a sign you have poor website design. If applicants can’t find basic information why are you blaming them?

    1. Kevin: It’s a sign that they haven’t bothered to look on our website in the first place. And I’m not blaming them…I’m just not holding their hand. I’d rather work with someone who doesn’t start our relationship by asking me to do a favor for them.

    2. I had the same thought, so I checked to see how hard it is to find the link before answering the poll. I timed it – it took me 7 seconds.

      1. Thanks, Aubrey! And honestly, if any applicant messaged to say they were interested in working with us, and they said they looked for a link and couldn’t find it, I would be more than happy to provide it for them. But that’s incredibly rare–it’s clear to me in the vast majority of these cases that they haven’t even looked.

        1. Running down this train of thought though, if you think that the link is easy to find on the website, and they come back saying they couldn’t find it, wouldn’t that just as well be a sign of a lack of competency? I’m not an employer or businessman, so I don’t have any meaningful advice either way, it just seems like a sticky contradiction. Thought provoking blog post, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

          1. Perhaps a little bit, but I’m much more interested in their initiative and self-sufficiency than their ability to find a link. Plus, it’s an opportunity for them to provide feedback about our website in a constructive manner. Instead…they just didn’t even try.

  25. I completely agree with your thoughts. One of my personal measures is if someone is willing to volunteer for their idea. My world is a bit different, working for a non-profit, but I still judge their idea based on their own willingness to take the first step. This correlates to you wanting them to do some independent work.

  26. I think it’s a perfectly fair filter to have. If someone is upset at a direction you have them when you’re not their boss, how are they doing to react when you are. It seems like a simple way to find the people who are serious about working for you, and able to take direction. Also, going to learn more about this Ambassador thing you have!

  27. Key point is that they should have already looked that info up themselves. When applying to a company it’s your job to educate yourself about that company. Legwork and research is important. It shows true interest and, at very least, desire to be thorough in your approach.

    Some people have mentioned the difficulty in finding the link on the website. Problem solving skills and the ability to think for themselves also proves a good applicant. Not finding the link directly on the website, a quick and specific google search for it should bring it up. I’d also wager those who did find it, found it within a minute of searching.

    Expecting a potential employee to be able to do the minimal amount of research if they really are interested in working for your company is not at all outside the bounds of reason. My hat’s off to you for putting the link where you did as a test.

  28. If I asked a company I was applying to for a link and they told me to look it up myself, I would withdraw my application. Sounds like a very unprofessional company

    1. If you are applying for a job you should have already looked the link, and any pertinent information about said company, up. You should have already educated yourself about said company to show you are actually interested in working for that company.

  29. As a test, I went to the main Stonemaier page and it wasn’t immediately obvious where to go to find the application. I was able to find it quickly, though. “About” doesn’t seem like the best place for a job application, most sites I’ve seen with that sort of page have only a brief history, mission statement, or bios of key members of the business or website. However, since all the other links (blog, news, shop, kickstarter) seemed even less appropriate a location, I clicked “About” and found it.

    Certainly not difficult, but not necessarily ideal.

    A top level “Contact” link is what I as an internet user would typically look for (if not at the top of the page, then at the bottom). However, it’s part of the hover dropdown menu for the “About” page. The issue there is that hover links tend to not work so well with mobile. There are so many options in that dropdown menu having to do with contact (such as replacement parts, interviews, media requests, submissions) it might make sense to have that be its own separate header on the site.

  30. I think it’s definitely a sign that they may not be a good fit. It reveals a lot about their work ethic. It would be different if they said “I’ve tried looking but I can’t find the submission page anywhere, could you link me to it please?” But the lack of such a question suggests they haven’t bothered trying.

    I manage a couple of cafes and we often have people in for trial shifts. After having initial chat and showing them a few basics, at some point I will always purposely leave them with nothing to do and see what happens. It’s always one of the following:

    1) They get on and busy themselves completely autonomously.
    2) They ask if I would like them to do a particular task.
    3) They ask what I would like them to do.
    4) They are happy to stand and do nothing.

    4s never get hired and you’d be surprised how frequently this happens.
    2’s & 3’s are often the easiest to manage.
    1’s can be amazing, they can also have trouble adapting to our way of doing things.

    By asking them to fill out the form , as a potential employer you have already given them their first task and they haven’t even attempted it. It’s absolutely a sign that you’re likely to have issues with them in the future.

  31. Hi Jamey, certainly an interesting topic. As someone who has been involved in recruitment (albeit in a different industry), what this indicates to me is that the individual is not in fact particularly interested in working with you specifically, but that you are one of a number of publishers contacted. The unwillingness to look for the page themself is illustrative of the level of desire (in most cases).

    As to the question of whether this makes them any less competent, this is entirely dependent on the role they are looking to fulfill. If “self-starter” is a trait that is important for the role, then this behaviour is concerning. If you expect the person to operate under close supervision and guidance then less so.

    I’ve tried to be succinct so hopefully my point comes across! Keep up the good work!

  32. I have this at work all the time, one of the mild benefits of the current situation is that it is forcing people to find out information on their own rather than calling me up to ask me something that they could have found in the time it took to make the call.
    Perhaps I should be more ruthless and decline to find the information for people in the future.

  33. Again, I feel that this is a difference in personality types. I’m a game designer, which makes me a self motivated abstract thinker who is slightly (or very) obsessive, I wouldn’t ask for help finding that link if it took me a straight eight hours of digging and hunting to find it. That’s not a necessarily good sign, and certainly not for something that could be done in a fraction of the time by just asking someone. I’m going to go out on a line and say that the personality type usually attached to an artist is somewhat different. There are personalities who will always ask a person first before checking, its just their default way of reacting to a situation rather than something more indicative of effort or competency.

    The reason I wanted to post again though was to ask, how did you respond to the artist Jamey? I guess you clearly gave them a response, because as you say you find people failing to respond to communications a bad sign. If you responded by saying “Sorry, I’m not going to tell you that, the link is clearly visible on our website, which I expect anyone working with us to be familiar with.” then the artist understands that their default method of easiest solution isn’t available and they can be reasonably expected to employ a non-default method. If you did just leave their question hanging, then I think that is unfair, many people will wait for a response as standard. In the end, they didn’t know that it was a process for you to provide the link. They didn’t know that you didn’t have the website open as you were communicating with them and that it wouldn’t be a two second action to respond. I think that so long as you made clear to them that you were not an avenue of solution, for whatever reason, then you are being reasonable to screen them out for not finding another solution. I think if you ignored them simply for asking the question and for having a different method of default communication then I think that’s quite oddly arbitrary and if it matters, yes, unfair.

    So what exactly was your response to their last question?

  34. I have many thoughts on this topic, covering a broad range. Will attempt to be concise.

    First, I applaud your desire to find individuals to work with that are competent and determined. Makes sense to me that these are necessary skills to succeed in a professional relationship. However, I think you need to set the bar higher, on both sides.

    Philosophically, I’m not clear how it matters that the artist contacted you as opposed to you contacting them. You seemed to indicate this distinction is important to you. To me, this feels like an arbitrary line to draw in determining how to relate to a prospective collaborator. After all, if you have a form on your site, it seems that you are actually the one reaching out to others first. Why try to draw lines? Are you looking for more great people to work with or not? Why play coy or obscure the process of kicking off a successful relationship?

    If people are really banging down your door and you need a filter to turn some away, why not set a higher bar like requesting they draw some art for an upcoming game concept and witness their dedication to your vision first-hand before hiring them?

    In addition to the qualities you listed as making a good employee, I’d also consider, for instance, ease of communication, sameness of vision, responsiveness, professionalism, building of trust, and feeling uplifted by one another in every interaction to be much more telling indicators of future and long-term success.

    I’m not suggesting you have to do work for someone that they could and maybe ought to do for themself. I am saying you can communicate an attitude of helpfulness up-front. For instance, if finding a form isn’t obvious (which actually seems to be a question many are attempting to prove one way or another here, so it seems a material point), why not provide a bread crumb by mentioning what part of your site the form can be found on: “…on the About page”. In turn, you can expect them to communicate a request for help if they check there and can’t find it. (I wouldn’t fail an ad-hoc interview if someone somehow overlooks a link. I would fail them on them expecting me to do their job for them.)

    Making things efficient for those you work with can demonstrate you respect others’ time just as they do yours.

    In my opinion, one sign of a great leader is how they help those who work with them to succeed.

    Make it easy for people to do great work for you.

    Hope this helps, and best wishes in finding talented people who are great to work with!

  35. Dear Jamey, you can definitely learn something from this ‘behaviour’, so I answered yes. But, it’s mostly about the fit with you and this candidate, not the other way around. Do you have a full insight on the context why the candidate asked the link? Was he starstruck for having conversation with the great Mr Stegmaier and eager to keep conversation going. Was he testing you on your supportive leadership skills? Most interesting is that this question got under your skin and invoked a severe negative reaction. Since you haven’t posted your self reflections on your own thoughts/emotions, I assume you still haven’t figured out the context and have no insight how your communication (including this post) have impacted your candidate. Your quest for fairness should be oriented towards your inner self, not externally as best practice in recruitment. Unless bridges are burned, I hope the artist used the link to apply and you can further explore collaboration and communication. He might not be an good candidate, but is most likely a fantastic coach for your own personal development. These are just my two cents.

  36. I think this has to do more with your web design which may be by choice. You have a clear data map for games and newsbnews you burry everything on the web page about.

    None gaming companies draw in potential employers and customers and reduce people contacting directly.

    What is the purpose of the web. To provide information such as to attract customers. From your website I would say you are committed to games but not to employees based on the design.

    Comparing your web site to others
    https://www.bcbst.com/
    Menu points to the about us, then to the categories of company, staff, and careers link but this is to attract potential people. But this is not a game company.

    https://restorationgames.com

    Menu to about then to other info on careers link.
    Games are promoted well, but this shows the company is not looking to hire.

    https://iellousa.com/
    Menu to about then no other info on careers links

    I would redesign the about portion of the page especially if you get asked a lot about a link in the page. It says the page is not working for you.

    But it only takes a few clicks to get the information for the link, it is a filter that has worked for you. But it seems to be generating more work also. But from my world, which is not games or art, just looking at the design it says at first glance it says we are not looking to hire.

    I have seen company web sites with the career link that says not hiring currently which is a nicer, more organized way.

    Just my thoughts on it.

    1. Thanks Corey! I agree that any website (including ours could be better). But I don’t think that any person who has contacted me and asked for a link has even looked at our website for the link in the first place. For them, the issue isn’t that they can’t find the link–it’s that they didn’t look in the first place.

  37. I think that depends on what you’re looking for in an artist. If you’re ok with limiting your candidate pool to those that are technically savvy continue with your filter.

    I always caution my own thinking I that it may seem easy to me because I know where to look. Others may not have my experience.

  38. YES! I wish my organisation did this! So few people show initiative and expect everything to be provided for them.

  39. Interesting article and discussion. My small contribution: it probably depends on the correlation between the ‘mistake’ that’s been made and the way in which you’d be working with the person.
    For example, I work in publishing. If someone emails me and says they’d like to be a published author and they have a manuscript they want me to look at, but their email is full of typos and grammatical mistakes, I’ll find it pretty hard to take them seriously. But if a graphic designer looking for work sends an email filled with typos, it matters less.
    I’ve also learned that a few things I consider ‘easy’ aren’t easy for others, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t super-gifted in their own area. Remembering that helps me to flex on some small details, which can then open a door to working with people who have gifts that complement mine.
    All that said, you’re obviously a busy guy, so some type of filter system probably makes sense. I also think there’s a place for trusting your instincts, and small things can often be telltale signs of bigger things.
    So overall I guess I’d say don’t be too rigid in applying those types of ‘rules’, and perhaps you could lower your standards a fraction – but not too much. You’re definitely on to something here.

  40. I’ve interviewed many candidates who overstated their Excel or data skills on their resume. Eventually my team put together an intermediate test that assumed you would know vlookups and sumif statements. It wasn’t hard but it was a great filter. So, my first instinct was to agree that asking for the link was certainly a pretty decent piece of information that you could make some crucial judgement on.

    However, as I thought on it, I correlated it to a situation I see very often on the forums I frequent (including BGG): Some one will post a question like “What was the name of the Bruce Willis movie where he’s trapped in the building with the terrorists?” Well, eventually someone will chastise the poster and tell them a quick google search would have revealed the answer. But it’s usually the case that the person asking for the question wasn’t looking for information – they were looking for interaction as part of a community (virtual as it is). So I would say that while its certainly fair to consider it as a criteria in decision making, I would caution about assigning too high a weight to that one piece of information.

  41. I’d like to vote in your poll. Can you send me a link to the exact location of it on this web page, so I don’t have to scroll down and find it on my own?

  42. My opinion is that it’s not unreasonable to ask for the link because sometimes people’s thought process to navigate a website is different than the designers. However given you are just an two person operation you have to streamline your processes and they are your processes.

    1. Should the thought process have been different considering that the owner of a company requested that they fill out an application ON THEIR WEBSITE?

    2. If they didn’t try to find it, they have no reasonable expectation to have it provided for them. And of they did try to find it or are unable to look for it for some reason, a brief explanation is in order.

  43. You presumably will require adherence to company policies and processes for all team members. Following a process to apply is an important part of the screening.

  44. Based on your description of the exchange it is totally fair to form an initial impression about someone’s commitment, level of interest and competency. If there were five different application links on your website and it wasn’t clear which one they should use, then that might warrant a follow up question to confirm which one to use. It’s your business and your valuable time, I would think an artist that will be creating work in a digital format would be able to locate an easy to find link on a website.

    Even if you form an initial impression, that doesn’t mean you can’t still decide that you like their art enough to follow up with them in the future to decide if it’s a good fit. It’s just one data point for you to use.

    I’ve been an engineer for over twenty years. I still remember starting out and if you went to a senior engineer with a question/problem the first thing they would ask you is, “What have you already done to try to find the information?” They were much more willing to help you if you could explain what you’ve already done to try and help yourself. If they got the sense that you haven’t even tried to find the information with all of the resources available, then they would simply tell you to go away.

    Now that I am the senior engineer, one of my early filters is to ask the person I am talking to or meeting with to recap the main points of our discussion or their next steps. If they can’t do that, then I get the impression they weren’t really paying attention or need additional coaching.

  45. There is often an ethos that job-seekers have something to prove to employers. That may be true to some degree, but it is not one-sided. At a certain level of professional competence on the part of the job-seeker, the employer has every bit as much to prove, and sometimes even moreso.

    So while Jamey may have been using this as a test to see how much hand-holding he may have to do with a potential artist, the artist could be equally testing Jamey. He could be someone who already has a lot on his plate, but thinks doing art for a game would be kind of fun and is just checking to see if and how badly Jamey wants to use him (or her).

    If this artists’ work is solid but not something Jamey is going to bend over backwards for, then Jamey made the correct decision. If this artist wouldn’t mind lending his talents to the boardgame industry, but it’s not something he needs or hungers for, then he also made the correct decision. Ships passing in the night.

  46. It is reasonable, provided that the ‘easy-to-find’ link really is easy to find.

    Speaking generally, businesses sometimes think their website is logical and user-friendly when the navigation logic is based on company structure or processes which the client/customer cannot be expected to know.

    Just this week, I looked at a website for wallpaper, which is arranged by supplier names. All I wanted to see the wallpapers they had with blue as the main colour. I don’t know suppliers, or care about them, or the designers’ names. Hunting through a myriad of folders with names that meant nothing was not going to work. I gave up very very quickly.

    One very successful games company has all their expansions etc. hidden behind large pics of the base game title they go with. Lots of bandwidth, slow loading – and I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to find. Not to mention that all games are mixed up on the one page, and keeping track of what you’ve clicked on is impossible. If only website owners ‘play-tested’ their websites!

    Please don’t take this personally-I haven’t spent a lot of time on your website. But please check that the assumption you are using is indeed true – on both desktop and mobile versions of your site.

  47. As others have also indicated, I do not find the answers in the poll to be mutually exclusive (beyond the initial “yes” and “no”) – It may not be relevant to their competency and commitment; it may still be an indication that they’re not a great fit. That has more to do with your preferences as the one running the company, and the “cultural” expectations (whether geographical, generational, or a “company culture”) of others they will need to work with…
    Which brings me to the question I would encourage, which is, “What kinds of unintended filters might I be applying with this expectation? Am I okay with that?” For instance, is this expectation filtering out applicants who are otherwise awesome, but happen to be from an older generation? Am I okay with passing over a potential prodigy/protégé, who just doesn’t have the life experience my expectation implies (whether because they are young, or from a less privileged background)? Is it filtering out extroverts in favor of introverts? (or other personality differences, rather than a competency threshold.)
    From what I can tell, any of these are possibilities. Yet I think it’s still in your prerogative to say, “This may not be a good fit” regardless of those possible underlying factors. (As long as it isn’t due to to one of those factors *specifically and explicitly*, if such a factor were apparent, as that could be a kind of discrimination?)
    Just an extra 2 cents.

  48. Initially I felt “hell yes, they should have looked it up”. However, think it’s a good point that someone providing a service (art) may have their own limited company and consider that they are providing a service and not applying for a job. Acting as a consultant to a business I certainly would find it a little strange to fill in a job application. Often I don’t supply a resume either – I would send a proposal for a project because I’m selling a piece of work rather than myself as an employee. Having said that, if I was genuinely unable to find the link and I was interested I would email back saying that I had searched for it and checking if I was looking in the wrong place. You are measuring persistence in the face of (a very small) obstacle, which is an important trait.

  49. I don’t think that fair is the right word to use here. You are judging the entirety of a person’s work ethic, competency, and commitment based upon them violating a single unspoken expectation in one interaction.

    With that said, I don’t think it is your job to be fair. By adhering to these rules, you are going to miss out on some people who would be a great fit. You will also filter out a lot of people who wouldn’t. You don’t have unlimited time or unlimited demand for artists, so you have to figure out ways to filter that may not ultimately be fair.

    I will echo others that the job application is in an unexpected place on your mobile website. I found it, but it doesn’t surprise me that others would have difficulty. I am used to seeing a contact us link and finding job application info there.

    If you wanted to do what I would consider a fairer test, as part of the application, give the person a specific set of instructions to upload some art samples or something similar and see how well they follow all of the directions. You can spell out your expectations in the application and see how well they are followed.

    1. Hmm…good point. I just noticed that the mobile navigation menu isn’t as complete as the desktop one. I would recommend the mobile menu be changed to mimic the desktop version in terms of nested menus available.

  50. I have a couple thoughts about this.

    First, you ask if it is “fair.” Frankly, who cares if it is fair. “Fair” is something that I hear from a lot of younger, often spoiled, people who think that the world owes them something (OK…that may be a little harsh…I’m in old man mode right now..I know of many older people who fall into this mindset as well). But the point is that you are running a business. “Fair” has nothing to do with it. You are looking for motivated people; self starters who will take the initiative, not only on what they are hired to do, but to also attempt to take care of minor things without bringing them to your attention every five minutes. Your time is more valuable than that. “Fair” does not come into play.

    Second, the fact that they did this may still not be a deal breaker. It could be that their artwork is just THAT good and them not taking this simple step could be something that can be corrected in the future. It could be that they just aren’t that good at technology and didn’t know where to look for it. More information *may* be needed.

    That said, I lean towards the ‘yes, it’s a sign they may not be a good fit.” Unless they have artwork that knocked my socks off (and I have other artists available to me), I’d probably put their application at the bottom of the pile.

  51. So this doesn’t really speak to their competency and commitment, but it does talk about their initiative and thoughtfulness. In a totally different setting I have used similar tactics to filter out people who are going to cost me time and that for me was paramount. If I can get someone who is in the top 90% in terms of competency and commitment, but wont cost me time I’ll take that over top 95% but a time sink whose hand I have to hold.

  52. “Takes a collaborative approach to solving problems.” *check*
    “Demonstrates ability to delegate.” *check*
    “Isn’t afraid to ask questions.” *check*

    The artist seems like a winner!

  53. I would say this is a fair filter, it is after all unsolicited, why should you expend additional time for something you haven’t actually asked for.
    The closest comparision I have is that I get cold-called by sales reps. During the conversation they generally ask for my email address, which I give them, but unless they ask, or I think I really want to see what they are selling I do not spell my email out. The sticking point is usually our company name as most people assume a common spelling, rather than our alternative. Knowing how fussy spelling and syntax is in emails if they were serious they would check.
    I reckon it filters out 95% of cold caller follow up emails.

  54. I didn’t vote because my opinion wasn’t in the choices… So I’ll relate it here.

    1) You are completely in your right to use that behavior as an indicator of commitment and or competency. I’m also guessing you are very busy and have too many candidacies to go through anyways.

    But…

    2) You might end up passing over an otherwise great candidate. They might have a different cultural expectation of the exchange they had with you… they might be too casual about the potential employment… this might be their first encounter with a business like yours…. Maybe he was having a bad day… Maybe you were? Who knows?

    As someone who’s home through tons of interviews on the employer and employee side, I think it’s always best not to close off communications because of 1 thing.

    Take note of the things that bothered you with the applicant and use it once you have more information.

    My two cents.

  55. Great article. Thanks.

    I do it this way too and it works fine for me so far. If people want something from you but are not willing (instead outsoucing it to you) or able to do simple obvious tasks along the way one should be cautious.

    This does not mean people are not nice or good in what they are doing, but it is an indication to be cautious and that it might not be a good fit.

  56. Depends, if you’ve made them aware it exists on your site and mentioned the about menu, then yes. If they have no idea it exists and you are hoping they’ll find or stumble on the right method no. Either way, I wouldn’t use it exclusively, but it’s fair to weigh that as part of the decision process. But mentioning the general location at least provides them an opportunity to know that it exists, and where to look and let you know it’s hard to find (if it is).

  57. I think naturally our brain is hard wired to short circuit certain complex decisions (like hiring someone) with rules which when are violated immediate stop the process, which is why the first impression is always so important. I personally don’t think this is a deal breaker, if the position you are hiring for is a niche skill set/talent. However, one of the most important abilities for someone to have, regardless of the type of work/profession/industry is self-sufficiency and reliability. if you feel that this person is worth the effort, perhaps it would be best to give them another similar task (indirectly) that would aim to see if the pattern is consistent.

  58. I’m of two minds here. Initially, I would say that if they google their way to an application form, better to filter out. That being said, if the ultimate goal is to have the best artwork possible for a SM game, it might be worth it to provide the information. I suppose it depends on how many of these requests you get daily since you mentioned somewhere that you work a million hours a week already. (okay, 80+, but that feels like a million). It may only be 5 seconds, but that time adds up quickly.

  59. I think you are justified in your reasoning. I find that those (including myself) who are not willing to be self motivated in the pursuit of something are more interested in the idea of that thing rather than in that thing itself. I have meny things that I like the idea of pursuing but I rarely spend the energy, time and money on them that would be needed to really be involved. My true interests get my full attention and effort.

  60. Great discussion.

    Seems that “the link on our website” may be too vague to expect someone to try to hunt for in all business fairness.

    I refer retailers and conventions to our website regularly, but I tell them where. “Please fill out the convention donation form on our website under the Contact Us tab”. I put myself in their shoes and imagine “hunting on the website for a link” and that rarely goes as easily as one hopes of plans. -You have hundreds of blogs. “Is it one on of them?”- I’d say I wouldn’t expect a job application link to be under “About”; maybe “Contact” or “Careers”.

    Eh. That said, I don’t think you’re in the wrong either, if you want to test people with “a little effort to show you really want the job”. It could be quite fair, especially for artists; a trade that is has a reputation for being a little flaky.

  61. I’ve voluntarily came to this article but I can’t be bothered reading it, Jamey can you read it out, save the audio file and then mail it straight to my brain.

    In all seriousness, I think as a businessman you’ve probably developed a good gut instinct, hence your success, as a lot of choices you make will ultimately come down to gut instinct. So I don’t think you’re being unreasonable, as you effectively are pitching this question to your own subconscious business spidey-sense which you, I assume, trust with bigger questions everyday!

  62. It’s interesting…..I think the middle ground here would be when referring someone to a link that link should be provided. It may send up red flags from an employer point of you that a person wouldn’t even bother to look for a link (they probably would have found it in the time it took to reply). An employee however may wondering what kind of collaborative work environment they will be enter into.

    First impressions count so I think the onus is both parties to both their best foot forward from the application onwards.

  63. As a writer, editor, and content creator, and as someone who’s worked extensively in many kinds of customer service, I have some thoughts.

    1. Perhaps the artist is emailing you because they view it as a more personal way to break the ice, or because they’ve navigated the website and can’t find the link. Honestly, that’s what I would do if I was interested in working with your company or any other publisher.

    2. “Job application” doesn’t exactly say to everyone “if you want to work with us as an artist, click here”. Somebody reading that might think you’re looking to build a staff of clerks, customer service & shipping personnel. Maybe a link on the homepage that says “Creators Click Here” or “Work With Stonemaier” would be more concise.

    3. Ultimately, if you have a standard that you’ve set in place for people that you want to work with, then trust the standard you’ve set. If it works for you, go with it.

  64. I didn’t realize this would be such a popular topic for discussion, but I just wanted to say to everyone that I’m reading your comments, and I appreciate the constructive nature with which you’re expressing your opinions. That’s really helpful for me when I ask questions like these.

  65. I think if it was only in the About portion and you didn’t specify that, then you are making the links too hard to find. However I just checked and they can also be seen in the Contact section which is where I would have looked for them, therefore it’s on them.

  66. I literally just googled “job application Stonemaier” and the first link was the form. This might be my own personal pet peeve showing up, but you’re being much more than fair. If a person can’t be bothered to put in a modicum of effort, then you can’t expect much better in the future.

  67. If something about their behavior bothers you within the first 2 interactions you have with them there will most probably be other behaviors that bother you…

  68. Reading the comments has been eye-opening, specifically the reasons folks are offering for their opinions, and the outpouring of admonishment from folks who either didn’t read your entire post or fail to recognized the difference between solicited and unsolicited material/job applications. As the boss, it boils down to choosing who you want to work with. From the standpoint of a prospective employee, I’d rather exit the process than ask the business owner where to find a link on the website. I don’t want to work for a micromanager so I figure that’s my first chance to prove I don’t need micromanagement. 😉

  69. If they have come to you, then THEY need to impress YOU. You’ve already impressed them, that’s why they came to you.
    I always see this as the first test of a good employee: are they interested enough in the job to go to the effort of finding the information themselves? If they’re not that interested, I wouldn’t want to waste my time with them.

  70. I’d say you’re in the right here. You want people who have initiative and who will try to resolve problems before coming to you for help. If they can’t be bothered to look for a link on a very intuitive website, then you probably don’t want them working for you.

    If the art is amazing and the talent outweighs the potential issues of working with them, then that might be an exception to this rule.

  71. I think the immediate dismissal of the interested party is a mistake. Looking at your website in my mobile phone, it is not clear that there would be a job application link in the “about” section, nor is it clear that the company is entertaining applicants.

    As someone who has built a corporate team for a DOW 30 company and have hired several people at different levels; I have walked into interviews irritated that I was even speaking to them based on their resume, but after the interview, they became a top candidate. I have also had some candidates that almost lost out due to not sending a thank you note. These issues are minor and coachable. I recommend you give people a chance and no dismiss them for something so small. The team I have is awesome and it may not have been that way if I let such minor details derail the process.

    To each their own, you are the one that has to ultimately has to work with this person. I would just suggest being a bit more open, you might be surprised.

    1. I just looked and was able to also find it in the Contact section on my phone. The about section might be a little too hidden, but the Contact section makes sense for finding it quickly. There’s also a certain level of implied ‘if I have to hold your hand for this, what else will I have to hold your hand for?’ that makes me agree with their point of view.

  72. The very fact that you ask the question makes it a valid consideration. Consider a few, simple items that are also easily overlooked but could suggest much more.
    What if you insisted on being called “Mr Stegmaier”? Or, always “Jamey”?
    What if you refused to ever say “Hello”. Or, always offered someone a drink in a face-to-face meeting?
    Even if competence isn’t an issue, there are issues of company culture in play.

  73. We all want people who can work under their own initiative but you can’t expect them to look for the link them self. You want to hire them. So out of common courtesy you provide them with the information required. If they were coming to a job interview you would give them address. Analysing responses to this is not a true indication of their personality or skill set.

    You could lose out on a very good game design or artist based on pettiness.

    I would hate to think my game design could be dropped based on a hidden agenda.

    1. I’m disappointed you see my response (or lack thereof) as petty, StevO. I harbor no ill will to anyone who contacts me, nor am I callously dismissing them. They’re welcome to easily look up a link and contact me in the myriad of official ways we provide for them to do so.

  74. I tried this myself. If I wanted to submit a job application, I clicked on your main page, then scrolled down until I saw the contact button (which is helpfully labeled including “job applications”, and then on that page, found the “apply here” button pretty easily too. Two clicks got me to the form. I’d say you were in the right here.

  75. I would say it’s totally fair to expect them to look for it. Now, if they say they have looked for it and cannot find it (mobile, or hard to find), like you said, that’s on you to fix and you should send the link. But, if they are just trying to not bother, especially when they reached out to you, I think that speaks volumes about their motivation and excitement for the job.

  76. This reminds me of the article about the hiring manager who caught flack for never hiring someone who didn’t send a “thank you” letter after being interviewed.

    While I agree with the idea that if they wanted a job they would or should be willing to jump through some very wide and low hoops to get it, I also feel like this may fall under the category of “not in the job description”, and may be unfairly weeding some people out who would have otherwise been a great fit if not for this misstep. Not to mention that the ability and willingness to find links can be taught by working with your team, but laregly being an artist can’t. You’re hiring them for what they can bring to the team.

    If they are being hired to be an artist, is their ability to follow links being judged or their quality of artwork? Ultimately, that is up for you to decide, as perhaps that is something you are looking at in an artist. But in my opinion, this is not a wonderful way to set up a barrier to entry.

    1. They can’t Google “job application Stonemaier.” That doesn’t require any more than a modicum of effort.

  77. I would point our that on mobile the links are not super easy to find – you have to guess that they are on the about page, and then scroll almost to the bottom of the about page to find them.

    That said, someone making an unsolicited request like this should be aware that they are going to be categorized in one of two ways:

    1- They are hitting up every possibility in the hopes that one sticks (low effort per contact, huge breadth of contacts)

    2- They are targeting specific organizations whom they have researched and think, based on that research that they are a match for (high effort per contact, very few contacts)

    You’re looking for type 2 here, and so it’s totally fair to expect that they put effort into the relationship

  78. Just my two cents for what it’s worth is this. Maybe when replying to the designer, give them a nudge in the right direction. Such as ‘please fill out the form found at the bottom of our web page’ or something along those lines. Then if they can’t find it or refuse, move on. Not every company keeps their application(s) in the same areas of the web sites. They could have looked in the ‘usual’ places and didn’t see it. And possibly you even mentioned where they should look which makes my thoughts a mute point.

  79. From the other side of the exchange…. I would ask you to send me the link so i had the right link you wanted used. Instead of (potentially) having to reach you later for direction, getting the wrong link etc. Confirming data needed during a call is an “old school” technique for efficiency/accuracy. In general websites are not always updated accurately (even if yours is). Asking for info instead of assuming its findable/accurate is a keystone to avoiding disasters. That is based on two decades of business event planning/upper level executive support. Perhaps create a test for people that requires research instead.

  80. Depends. Do you need an artist? Send them the link. If you’re not really looking, then let them spend a little exertion. Not a hard test.

  81. I think there’s a big difference between the ambassadors (in particular the voluntary ones) here and people you might want to work with, but I do think there’s a matter of perspective. For example, on one perspective those people reached out to you to ask to work with you, from another perspective you put up a public profile that accepts outside submissions, which can be seen as them seeing their first interaction with the wider entity that you now represent as one where you were asking for something from them.

    As I say, for an ambassador who has essentially contacted saying something along the lines of “I’d like to do something for you for nothing more than the desire to help you” the idea of putting any kind of test or check in their way seems a little odd. I often see new game designers on BGG asking for feedback on a game or requesting playtests who then don’t put up direct links to the game and the rules, instead expecting people who are offering to take time out of their day to help them to navigate and even sign up to a given page. When someone is asking to give you something I don’t read that as a mark in the ‘take’ column against them just because they’re asking.

    In the end I didn’t answer the poll, because something can both be irrelevant to someone’s commitment and competency and yet also a sign that they won’t be a great fit. People communicate in different ways and some people find asking small questions and getting a back and forth going to be encouraging, some people find it irritating. I don’t think its a sign of lack of commitment or skill that they chose to ask you a question rather than hunt it out themselves, I think its a sign that they have a more extroverted and question based communication centred way of solving problems. I think that could certainly be a sign that they are a terrible fit to work with you though.

  82. Personally, I find it kind of petty. And I don’t mean that against you at all. But it’s like, if I go to a business and ask where the bathroom is and they tell me “go find the bathroom sign,” does that make me incompetent of finding a bathroom? Or am I just wanting the courtesy? I relate this more as courtesy rather than incompetency. I feel like if they are coming to you with something that can potentially make your business better and make you a profit, the least you can do is send a link. I understand there’s probably a lot of dead weight in those submissions that will never make you a dime. But what if your lack of courtesy with that ever turns off someone that has a brilliant idea simply because they found it rude? Just my 2 cents.

    1. I think it’s more like they ask you where the bathroom is, so you tell them “go down the hall and take the first left,” and then they ask you to walk them there, or maybe they ask you where the first left is.

  83. I was curious, so I Googled “job application stonemaier games”, and — voilà —, first search result. Seems like a low barrier to entry, so, in that regard, it seems totally fair.

    On the other hand, if it were me (a freelancer), I might have responded similarly. Even with the reference to “independent contractors” on the page, I would definitely feel out of place applying for a “job”, because most of the language in the description feels very permanent. But I probably wouldn’t have just asked for a link…rather, I think I would have responded with the link to make sure it was the form you were directing me to. I would guess that type of exchange would have been more favorable, since it shows some initiative and a desire for clarity.

    In any case, the first contact you have with someone makes an impression. Like you said, communication is a huge indicator, especially early on. And if you’re in a position to get a lot of requests, you have to trust your gut in these situations in order to protect your time.

    1. I, similarly out of interest, went to the SM website and started looking around. The bottoms of websites often have a site map, and on my way down, I saw a box containing “Contact Us…job applications…”. In addition, I looked through the navigation items at the top, and sure enough, in the drop down for About is a Job Application link. So like you said, in many ways a low barrier to entry.

  84. You’re right. That is a very good filter.

    If you do respond to their link request, with it’s on the website or something, it’s probably best to wait a day or two before responding as they could have asked for a link by habit (people are used to instantly getting information given to them). They might actually go and find it themselves after asking you.

  85. You are entirely correct, I think. If they are contacting you, and they want to work with you, then they should have at the very least looked into what you do and how you do it. This means browsing the website at the very least. Sure, they may have missed the links on first perusal. But when you point out that there is a link or a form on the site, and…

    …your website is fairly well designed (which it is)…
    …your website has an easy to navigate menu (which it does)…
    …your website has a search function (which it does, but see below)…
    …your website’s search function will pull up these forms (which it does; just checked)

    …then I think the onus is on them to locate this and fill it out. If their response had been “I have been to your website and I have looked for this form, but I am unable to find it, could you direct me to where this is?” then we might be dealing with more of a /you/ problem at that point. But I do not get the idea this is the case.

    All of that said, the one thing I might say to the contrary is that the search function on the site is not prominently displayed. It’s there, sure. You have to scroll down to the bottom of the page to find it. It is not exactly hidden, but it is not exactly the easiest thing to spot on the page either.

    Do not take this as a major criticism; just an observation. The search function eluded me for a bit the first time I went looking for it. I was expecting it to be either near the top of the page; perhaps in a sidebar or something. Found it though, and was able to find what I needed after.

    Other than that, I think you are spot on.

    1. Do you think it’s unreasonable to expect people to use a Google search? Searches of “stonemaier job application,” “stonemaier game submission,” and “stonemaier ambassador” all turn up the correct page and sometimes a relevant blog entry or two.

      I’m not sure the last time I’ve personally relied on a website’s search functions if it wasn’t prominently displayed. And even then, a Google search often works better.

      1. I don’t think it’s unreasonable, it’s certainly common for people to use google for everything. If I were looking for a job I’d look for a “Jobs” or “Careers” menu rather than an “About” menu. That said, there’s only 5 headers, only one of which really makes sense to find hiring info.

        Call it a test of familiarity with the website. If you like my company, you know what I offer and you’ve navigated my online presence. If you’re just shopping around, you won’t have done so.

      2. Google search is certainly something that works and makes sense in this instance. But (you knew there was going to be a ‘but,’ didn’t you?) I think that *if* you are going to have a search function on your site, it should be readily available.

        I have seen a lot of sites that will have a magnifying glass icon in their main menu area that, when clicked, opens up a search entry text box that can then be used to search the site. This seems non-intrusive, intuitive, clean, and easy to spot. If I were your webmaster, that is what I would suggest. But that is just me. :)

  86. Speaking as a college professor, this is something that I try to drill into my students. For example, I might lecture about a topic, include some slides with instructions in class, distribute assignment sheets with instructions, post both slides and assignments to our online class system. Then I’ll still receive emails from students for instructions. When I say “follow the instructions on the sheet,” they ask me to send it to them. My response is always: “There are numerous places that information is already located. You should be able to easily access that. Part of a college student is knowing how to do such tasks, and any potential employer will be expecting you to take that initiative.”

    There’s a strong correlation between students who cannot do those basic tasks (and ask me to do those tasks for them) and those students who do not earn passing grades in the course. I would assume that this is an easy and appropriate “filter,” as you say, for screening potential applicants.

  87. I honestly think you are asking the wrong question, as I think they are both correct. No, it is not a good filter to judge their competence (some people are not that known with ‘modern’ technologies but can be great artists). But yes, it can be a great help for you to judge the potential problems in communicating with them during a project. In the end, it comes down to how much time you are willing to commit in finding out if you are right (and gain time and avoid frustration) or wrong (and potentially loose a great artist)

  88. Given the circumstances, I completely agree with your decision. The only way in which I would consider giving the applicant the benefit of the doubt would be if they described trying to find the link and still failed. But even still, that’s a little like trying to get out of a ticket with the excuse, “I didn’t see the stop sign.”

    Conversely, we all do stupid things some time. If it runs on electricity, I’ve probably fixed it, yet I flubbed a computer repair interview once because they asked me if I was familiar with device manager and I asked, “which one,” thinking of the multitudes of PLCs I’ve studied. If they managed to find the link on their own later and successfully submit an application, would you give them a second chance?

  89. 100% agree on people asking for the link instead of seeking it out. If I’m looking for a job, a contract, or even just networking, it’s MY job to make it as easy as possible for the other person to want to work with me.

    I haven’t often been in the position to choose who I work with, but one of my early filters for choosing who I’ll enjoy working with is how accurately someone reads what I write. If you ask questions I’ve already answered, that’s gonna drive me crazy!

  90. Jamey, one of the things that many people should remember when entering into a business relationship is the importance of maintaining a balance between Asking and Giving.

    You have heard me same numerous times on my podcast, and that the first interactions you have with me should not be you asking me for something, usually money.

    In this case, the person first asked you to respond to their message. They then asked you about being an illustrator for your games, they then asked for information to how to become an illustrator, and then they asked you to take action to send them the details on how to do the very thing they had asked you about.

    In essence, this is a Ask, Ask, Ask, Ask, Ask without any return of giving.

    You must keep this idea of balance of giving and asking in mind when reaching out to anyone. And always find ways to Give before you ask. Or if you do ask, be sure to give something back immediately to keep the relationship in balance.

    1. Thank you!

      There are certainly different ways of looking at the question. And, a person should look at it in more than one way. Most people can consider or easily understand that there’s a power dynamic in hiring. I think most people don’t understand that a company is being (or can be) interviewed just as a job candidate can (I’ve walked from job offers due to uneasiness after an interview).

      Your “ask, ask, ask” evaluation is unique in the comments. Moreover, it’s well worth considering. Even small requests and interruptions can cost us time and effort that is best applied to other things. I hope you I haven’t wasted your time with my thanks. :)

      1. I think it is fair especially if the job is potentially going to be completed remotely through digital communications. Applying electronically to work at a local business in person is a different criteria and this exchange maybe would not be a good filter. Even searching five minutes on a website for information when applying for a job is minimal effort and Initiative and certainly not too much to expect from a future employee. Not everyone can be a tech wizard, but should have those basic skills (plenty of free online guides to learn them) if they expect to be employed in this style.

        I teach computer skills courses and always stress the importance of starting with what you did followed by the troubleshooting / tech question. “I looked at menu X and saw the form Y but was unsure if that is the one you wanted. if not, can you point me in the right direction” or something like that.

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