The A to Z of games recruitment

The A to Z of games recruitment
James Batchelor

By James Batchelor

February 12th 2014 at 1:00PM

Develop speaks to industry experts to compile this handy guide to the game industry hiring process

A is for Agencies

“Searching for a new job can be a frustrating and time-consuming exercise, particularly if you’re in a full-time position, so it pays off to enlist an experienced recruiter to help. We can present you with available, relevant roles and advise you on details such as salary, closing dates, interview processes and any key points that we’ve picked up from hiring managers.

“We ensure that your CV goes directly to the decision makers rather than the black holes that ‘jobs@.com’ email addresses can often be. We’ll inform you of any feedback and (hopefully) arrange your interview. We can even negotiate your offer. By helping you secure your dream role, we hope you’ll see the benefits of using our services and think of us next time.”
Simon Hope, Aardvark Swift

B is for Brighton

Brighton is a hotbed of UK talent with local studios such as Boss Alien, The Chinese Room, and Relentless Software, making it a great place to look for your next job. Brighton firm Studio Gobo is currently looking to expand its team, following collaborations with Disney, Codemasters and Microsoft. Co-founder Jim Callin (pictured) told us more:

“We're looking for exceptionally talented programmers, artists, designers and producers of all levels. We offer an excellent employee package, including a share scheme, bonus and free gym membership.

“All our work is done in cross-discipline teams. We're also a very social company with a great love of food – in fact, we cook lunch for everyone in the studio every Friday.”

C is for CV

A recruiter’s first impression of an applicant often comes from their CV. Here’s our collection of industry tips to ensure yours stands out:

 Search for examples of CV formats online to find one that will enable you to include all relevant information and details.

 Never use the same CV for every role you apply to. Make sure your CV fits the job descrption.

 Make sure it’s easy to read and no longer than two pages.

 Summarise your achievements at the top, list your skills and provide a brief introduction to yourself.

•  Always include a telephone number and, if possible, a link to your online portfolio.

 List the most recent experience first. This should always be listed above education.

 Never include salary expectations or reasons for leaving your current employer – it could be misunderstood.

•  Check for grammatical and spelling mistakes. Thoroughly.

•  Show that you want the job. Mentioning an interest in video games might not be enough. Don’t be afraid to mention non-gaming hobbies and interests.

•  List you achievements, not just your responsibilities – but be honest about them.

 Never include a picture.

 Don’t be afraid to be creative, particularly if you’re applying for a design role.

•  Consider including key things you have learned and how these will contribute to the job you are applying for.

•  If you’re applying for a job abroad, check if there are differences in what they expect from CVs.

•  Keep it concise.

D is for Develop

Yes, we have our own ways of helping you find the perfect job, or the next superstar to join your growing studio.

First and foremost, there is the Develop Jobs Board, found at www.develop-online.net/jobs. This includes the latest jobs listings from studios around the world across various disciplines. You can follow the Develop Jobs Board on Twitter via @Develop_Jobs, or email Alex.Boucher@intentmedia.co.uk to find out how you can get your vacancies listed.

You can also find a series of guides for both job seekers and recruiters online as part of our New Year, New Job special. Check them out at www.develop-online.net/Jobs2014.
We've also published a new #DevelopJobs section in the latest issue of Develop: a seven-page guide to the month’s recruitment news. As well as reporting on the latest dev staff shuffling at major developers, this section gives you an insight to what companies are looking for with Recruiter Hot Seat and Get That Job, plus new feature Employee Hot Seat.

E is for Eutechnyx

“At Eutechnyx we think the whole team can be involved in recruiting world-class talent. What better way to promote our studio to potential new employees than to publicise the success stories of our team?

“Our employees shared their journey – relocating to the North East, fast-tracking their careers, global travel opportunities – and it’s all captured in our #IDidItHere campaign. This highlights why Eutechnyx is a great place to work, as well as featuring the North East as a great place to live and a hub of games industry talent.

"Our official #IDidItHere webpage tells the story of some of our staff, but the #IDidItHere Twitter hashtag belongs to everyone. Check it out for tweets from the team, updates on the social side of working at Eutechnyx and pictures from around the world by members of staff traveling on business.“
Erin Turnbull, Eutechnyx

F is for Fashion

They say the first bite is with the eye, and this can be just as true when studios bring in applicants for a job interview. So here’s our round-up of industry fashion tips for making that great first impression:

  Don’t be afraid to ask what the dress code is before the interview. Underdressing can seem disrespectful, but overdressing just makes you look silly. Suits are almost never required.

  The games industry often describes its dress code as “smart casual”. When in doubt, too smart is always better than too casual.

  Look at the company’s website or Facebook. Photos of the team at work should give you an idea of appropriate attire.

  Whatever you wear, look tidy so your prospective employer knows you have made an effort.

  Make sure whatever you wear is comfortable – there’s enough discomfort to worry about when you’re being interviewed.

  Don’t wear something that distracts the interviewer from what you’re saying. Your skills are more important than your dress sense.

  Wear a smile. Go in comfortable and confident to make the best first impression.

G is for GDC

"The Game Developers Conference has a long tradition of connecting developers with potential employers. It’s the one time of the year where the entire industry is gathered to learn, network, and inspire.

“Our Career Centre plays host to over 40 of the industry’s top publishers and studios focusing on a wide range of platforms and verticals including console, online, mobile/tablet, free-to-play, indie, and more. Here, attendees can meet directly with hiring managers, present portfolios/CVs, and get advice on finding the right career path.

“We also run the Game Career Seminar. The main seminar takes place on our Student Day (the Friday of GDC) with lectures aimed at breaking into the industry. We also have a portfolio review panel judged by industry professionals.

“This year, we’re adding a Game Career theatre to the Career Centre with lectures focused on high-level career development."
Meggan Scavio, GDC

H is for Hiring the right staff

“When looking to hire an applicant, companies will focus first on skills and secondly what value the applicant can add to their business, but there are other points that are just as crucial to consider.

“For instance, once you have found the right person in terms of having the necessary skills to complete the job, you then need to see if they are a ‘cultural fit’ within your company. There have been many examples of businesses hiring a new member of staff that have clashed with the current team in terms of different personalities and approaches.

“This then creates a new problem within the team and can cause unbalance and mistakes to be made. Therefore it is always important to not only assess the person’s skills but to also have them meet existing staff to see if they will be a good addition to the team. We find that character referencing is a good feature to add to the process.”
Eamonn Mgherbi, Avatar Games

I is for Interview

The interview is perhaps the most vital part of the job application process. If your CV opens the door, the interview is your last chance to stop prospective employers from slamming it in your face. Here’s how you stop that from happening:

 Research the company – its services, products and competition – as thoroughly as possible. This will allow you to sell yourself better in the interview.

 Research the common and average salaries for your position, and other roles in your field, before going in. This means that when they are about your salary expectations, you can make an informed assesment.

 Don’t forget vital skills like a good, firm handshake, maintaining eye contact and listening carefully to the person conducting the interviewer.

 Ask questions. It shows you are enthusiastic to find out more about both the job and the company.

 It’s okay to admit you’ve made mistakes in the past – everyone has. The trick is to explain how you learned from it. Think back to feedback from your last performance review if you’re stuck.

 Feel free to be honest about why you’re leaving your current job, but be mindful of what you say. If it is centred around a personality conflict, don’t bring personal dramas into it; just explain how you have learned from the situation.

Look up some of the more common interview questions that come up, or ask someone that went through a similar process. Think about how you can make your answers unique and specific to you.

Some questions will be completely unrelated to your skills, your experience or even the job you’re applying for. Don’t panic – the interviewer is simply trying to see how you react when you’re out of your comfort zone.

 Turn up on time. Early is better.

J is for Job Descriptions

It’s absolutely vital that you read job descriptions very carefully when applying.

Vicon’s product manager Philip Elderfield (pictured) says: “Nobody wants to waste time applying for the wrong job. Rejection can be a blow to confidence, which can be avoided with careful choosing.

“Job descriptions are often quite brief, but they are generally the only information available to help you decide whether the match is close enough to invest further time in perusing the role.

“It’s pretty rare that you’ll read a job description and think ‘that‘s exactly me’. More often than not, you’ll find that the role broadly fits what you’re looking for and your skill set but don’t be put off if every point isn’t crossed off. The best organisations invest in good people and that isn’t always about ticking every box in a job description.”

K is for Keywords

“It’s very important you get your keywords right when posting a job listing. A candidate searching for a role will use a particular word or search term, so you need to make sure your vacancy contains this so it can be found within the job site search, and also on Google.

“Sometimes more than one keyword is needed in a job spec. For example, if a programmer is looking for a work within the mobile sector, their search could well be ‘programmer mobile games’, ‘programmer iOS games’, or ‘engineer Android game’. In order to cover all of these searches you will need to have all of these keywords somewhere within your job spec. It’s also good to give a rough idea of your location so people searching for ‘programmer job in Midlands’ can find you.”
Nathan Adcock, OPM


L is for LinkedIn

“More than 22,000 companies worldwide currently hire through LinkedIn. Often it will complement other recruitment channels, but more firms are seeing more of their hires come through LinkedIn. This is down to ‘passive candidate recruiting’, which means identifying and engaging talent, even if those professionals aren’t actively looking for a job.

“An up-to-date profile including a professional headshot can be your best friend if you’re looking for a new job. Make sure you add two or three previous positions and complete your profile summary describing your skills and experience. We’ve also given members the ability to add images, video and presentations on their profile, so other members can get a fuller picture of what you do.”
Richard George, LinkedIn


M is for Management

Bored of being on the bottom or middle rung? Consider how you can progress your career all the way up to management.

Reflections’ Lorna Evans (pictured) says: “Moving into management is all about communication and people skills. People who are good at this are in short supply, which is a real opportunity for those who have a passion to develop others and earn more money.

“If you are naturally a person who feels good about helping others shine and are okay to replace the word ‘I’ with ‘we’ then this is something you may want to consider. Find a mentor and understand what ‘good’ looks like. Talk to your HR Manager and seek training. If people like you and you have a good attitude, you really can start to build on these traits as a future career choice.”

N is for Networking

“By attending major events, workshops or exhibitions, you show your interest in the industry as well as in the companies that are attending.

“Events are also a great place for networking. It is always good to know people from different companies and countries. You never know – there could be a job opportunity during lunch time or a presentation. It is also always a great opportunity when you are the one who holds a presentation or workshop. If you have the chance for this, you should take it.

“Furthermore, some companies like InnoGames have referral programs. This means you might get a job offer first hand from an employee out of your network who already works in this company.”
Christoph Hillermann, InnoGames

O is for Opportunities

One way you can forge a long-term career in games is to keep an eye on where the key opportunities lie. It’s not just about what developers need now, but what they need in five-to-ten years’ time

“Unity and Unreal Engine skills are in demand more now than ever due to the growth of mobile and social developers in the market,” says Amiqus’ head of games recruitment Stig Strand (pictured).

“Building a good working knowledge of these skills in your spare time will lead to securing more interviews and opportunities in 2014, especially if you work in technical design.

“HTML5 programming skills are also rare and increasingly in demand, and experienced console programmers and producers are always needed to join expanding teams now that the next generation of consoles has arrived.”

P is for Portfolio

Few things can impress a potential employer like the best examples of your work, either from previous jobs or your own projects. But compiling an inaccessible portfolio can diminish the impact of your work. Here’s our industry top tips to ensure your creations shine:

 Only include your best work. If you have older work that doesn’t quite show the best of your abilities, make it clear when it was first produced. Consider adding notes on what you would change now.

 Try to send relevant examples. If the studio specialises in RPGs, send artwork that would suit this genre.

 Put your newest and best examples towards the beginning of any demo reel – you need to impress them from the off.

 Demonstrate your variety. If you’re an animator, for example, don’t just show characters walking and running – have them pick up a box, push heavy objects and so on.

 Confusing layouts and unstructured information will make it harder and less likely for the recruiter to explore your full portfolio. Remember, you only have 20 to 30 seconds to grab the viewer’s attention. If they are put off within that time, they’ll just move on to the next candidate.

 Show how you have worked to a brief in the past, or iterated on your designs for things like costumes and vehicles.

 Take your time. Make sure everything works and is in top condition before submitting it.

 Consider investing time in an online portfolio, even if it’s a free website. This gives you a link you can send to people interested in your work.

 Be as creative with the portfolio as you are with the work. Think about how you can make it stand out from the competition.

Q is for QA

QA testing has proven to be a great gateway into other aspects of development. The skills and processes you learn in this area prepare you for most other disciplines.

Testronic Labs’ recruitment resourcer Pedro Barahona (pictured) says: “QA gives you great insight into the final steps of production, and how developers work. Localisation QA in particular tends to come late in development, often during the infamous ‘crunch’ period. It is hard, precision work, under great pressure and tight deadlines.

“As this is a job with very few academic and technical requirements, it is a great way to add quality content to your CV and because of the flexible nature of the work, it is often something you can do whilst studying or doing other work. You will also gain friends and contacts in the industry.”

R is for Relocation

Working overseas can be an attractive proposition, but you must consider all aspects of relocating your life.

“Some companies help new employees from foreign countries with their relocation,” says InnoGames’ lead recruiter?Christoph Hillermann. “This includes help with visas and finding a new apartment.

“What information and documents are needed varies. It is easier when you move inside the EU than from the US to Europe, for example.

“Another issue is language. We are a German company but our company language is English, because we have colleagues from 22 nations. We also offer language courses in German or business English, if needed. It is also important to learn about the different tax system in the country you will work in to avoid any surprises on your payslip.”

S is for Silicon Roundabout

“Based in the heart of Tech City, Silicon Roundabout is a vibrant area of East London where a cluster of tech, gaming and creative companies are ever-growing.

“The area offers a wealth of opportunity for top talent in London and is a great mix of business and pleasure – often throwing some great parties and events. For example, Silicon Drinkabout is an event with after work drinks for start-ups every Friday. It’s open to tech and creative firms of all sizes as a place to meet like-minded people, swap ideas and help grow and prosper.

“Mind Candy, creator of Moshi Monsters, moved to the area in 2011 after seeing it gain a lot of momentum. The Silicon Roundabout area has helped us grow by attracting talent from all around the world.”
Amanda Cowie, Mind Candy

T is for Twitter

“Twitter provides the opportunity to follow relevant and important individuals within the games industry.

“You can use Twitter as a platform to demonstrate your knowledge, opinions and enthusiasm for the industry, as well as other aspects of the market. You can also use it to demonstrate your skills with links to your work. Over time you can really make a name for yourself. That wasn’t possible to do before.

“So it’s a great platform to provide links to your personal blog, portfolio, your company page or a piece you have written. If hiring managers regularly see impressive work or contributions
to the industry, you increase your attractiveness to studios.”
Peter Leonard, Amiqus

U is for University

“A university with an established and recognised gaming course can give you the skills and knowledge you require to enter the industry.

“Good courses give you experience in group work and time management, practical skills, and a portfolio of work. It will also encourage extracurricular events like game jams and will give you contact time with studios, which will allow you to see what development is like and show the studios what you can do.

“It is vitally important that you decide what you want to do in the industry so that you can study the right course. Many large studios prefer a postgraduate level of study, so you may want to consider courses that offer an MEng, or study an MSc course after your undergraduate course.”
Darren McKie, University of Hull

V is for Visas

If your career takes you to a new job overseas, there is still the barrier of visa applications to overcome.
Hamburg-based Goodgame Studios hopes to hire 600 employees from around the world this year, and offers the following advice.

“Non-EU nationals who apply for jobs should request a so-called ‘Blue Card’, an approved
EU-wide work permit, ahead of time,” says head of HR Hendrik Mainka (pictured). “It can take between two to three months until a Blue Card is issued. Without this, applicants are not able to legally stay and work in the European Union.

“We also provide an ‘onboarding’ service for international employees. The support ranges from finding accommodation to opening a bank account and filling out government forms.”

W is for We Are Racing

“We Are Racing is Codemasters’ call for talent who share our passion to join us. We’re preparing for the road ahead and this campaign celebrates the passion that runs throughout our studios for creating best-in-class racing experiences.

“We’re hiring across programming, game design and art disciplines for projects on our core series, such as F1, GRID and DiRT, alongside franchise extensions and new IP for all the major console platforms, PC and mobile.

“With our Warwickshire campus in the fields and our city-centre studio in Birmingham, our working environments suit any preference and offers flexitime to help maintain a positive work/life balance.”
Rich Eddy, Codemasters

X is for Xyrality

Xyrality is a prime example of the burgeoning development community in Hamburg – a city aspiring developers should consider when searching for jobs.

“Hamburg is a great city for making games,” says HR?manager Hanna Bernicke (pictured). “There are 140 developers and publishers with together over 3,000 employees in this city. You can also meet many of the industry’s important and interesting people at the numerous networking events that take place in Hamburg.

“With our current size of 75 employees, we’re still small enough to enable everybody to develop their own ideas and big enough to have the necessary resources to realise them. We’re always looking for motivated talents that share our passion for great games.”

Y is for You

“One of the best ways to sell yourself is evidence-based through portfolios, documentation, working demos or code examples. Prepare a clear picture of the core skills and attributes you bring to a company – not only what applies to the job, but additional skills too.

“Recall your achievements at previous employers that had an impact on content, process or any other factor that was down to your contributions.

“Always be yourself though; you will feel more comfortable in the interview and come across more confidently. Your potential employer will respect your honest approach. Should you secure the role, you will be more likely to stay longer term if the studio provides the right fit for you as well as the right position.”
Peter Leonard, Amiqus

Z is for ZeniMax

Bethesda parent ZeniMax is currently growing many of its studios, including the Austin branch of Dishonored developer Arkane and BattleCry Studios.

BattleCry president Rich Vogel says he is looking for designers, artists, animators, programmers, platform engineers, QA testers and web developers for its first title, an unannounced free-to-play project.

“We are looking for people that are driven, smart, easy going and who like working in a team environment,” he says.

Arkane Austin, meanwhile, is working on a next-gen game. President Raphael Colantonio adds: “We are currently looking to add roughly 30 people across every department, particularly art, animation, programming, and level design.”