Nine things to consider when applying for a job in games

Nine things to consider when applying for a job in games

By Miles Jacobson

January 21st 2014 at 3:40PM

Sports Interactive studio director Miles Jacobson offers advice on getting a foot in the game industry

Here at SI the whole area of job applications is something which is very much at the front of our minds at the moment as we’ve just publicised roughly 20 new positions and we’ve been dealing with what can only be described as a torrent of applications ever since.

Here are some learnings we've had from this process.

1. Make sure you have both a covering letter and CV – or at least put some text into your email about why you want the role. I was very surprised how many people just sent a CV with a blank email. Which brings me nicely onto…

2. Stand out from the crowd

Getting a job in any business is difficult. Getting a job in a business that’s perceived to be as exciting and (dare I say it) glamorous as games is very difficult indeed. Before you can even think about getting a job, though, you have to get your face in front of the people who are doing the hiring, and to do this you’ll have to find a way to make yourself stand out from the crowd.

In our most recent round of recruitment we had more than 500 applications for what were two relatively junior positions. These came from a massive variety of candidates, but one thing they had in common was that most kicked off by saying how much they loved our game/company and how it was their life’s ambition to work for us. That’s very nice to hear, of course, but you have to understand that if you’re saying it then everyone else is probably saying it too.

There’s simply no way that any employer can take the time to meet everyone that applies for a position, so try to find something that makes your application stand out from the crowd. This won’t get you the job, but it may just get you an interview.

On its own your CV is unlikely to get you a job… but it could very easily lose you one.

3. Pay attention

All employers have their own methods for hiring new staff, but most will kick off the process in a similar fashion – by sifting through the initial applications in an attempt to reduce the list of candidates under consideration to a manageable number.

In other words, most employers will start off by looking for an excuse to remove as many candidates as they can from the ‘possible’ pile. One easy way to do this is to remove any candidates who didn’t read the job ad properly. So read it once, then read it again and make sure that you deliver everything that’s asked for – and that it’s appropriate for your current skill levels. A DBA is not someone who enters details about footballers into a database, for example.

4. And pay attention to detail

Another ‘easy win’ for employers looking to reduce their workload is a sloppily-presented CV. If your CV is riddled with spelling errors, missing vital information or just badly presented then you’ll be unlikely to make it past stage one.

On its own your CV is unlikely to get you a job… but it could very easily lose you one.

5. Don’t say it… show it

Modern technology offers job seekers so many ways to showcase their abilities that a well-written and well presented CV on its own may not be enough. If you’re really keen on getting into a creative industry, then take some of the opportunities that are open to you to demonstrate your creativity.

For programming positions, let us know where we can see a demo of some of your work – or detail of the kind of work you’ve been doing. Artists or animators need a link to a portfolio. QA roles should point out some issues with our last title, and potential solutions. We don’t have designer roles at the studio, but would expect the same as the QA roles would be a good way to get someone to take notice.

On the comms side of things (which more and more developers have in-house nowadays), write a blog, set up a YouTube channel or even just maintain an active Twitter account. It doesn’t matter what it is, just do something to show that you not only have ideas, but that you also have the initiative to express them

Make sure that you know every piece of publicly-available information on your prospective employer. If you don’t, one of your competitors will.

6. Do your research

The internet is a bonus to any employer as it allows them to do a little background research on any prospective candidate before they even meet. That, however, works both ways. If you do manage to make it past stage one and find yourself invited in for interview, make sure that you know every piece of publicly-available information on your prospective employer. If you don’t, one of your competitors will.

Also make sure that you’ve cleared your social networks of any idiocy. Or, even better, don’t be an idiot in the first place. Some of the applicants for our current open roles are people who have been banned from our forums or social networking platforms (which aren’t easy to get banned from) and when we’re looking for people to not interview, those come very high in that pile.

7. Be prepared

If applying for a programming position, it’s likely that you are going to have a programming test at some point. If the studio is advertising C++ positions, and you’ve been using C# for the last couple of years, brush up on your C++.

And always answer the way that you think is the right way to do it, not necessarily what you learnt at school/university. Often with the programming tests there is more than one answer, and they are more tests to find out how you approach issues.

8. Be yourself

When you do eventually find yourself face-to-face with a prospective employer, don’t try to be the person that you think they’re looking for... just be yourself. After all, it was you who impressed them enough to get you to the interviewee’s chair, so why be someone different now?

9. And finally….

Apply for roles at studios whose work you admire and want to be part of. Passion for what you’ll be working on (even if it’s the tech, and not the games) is very important – if you don’t have passion for the work, you may as well get a job doing programming outside of the game industry as you’ll likely make more money that way…

That’s probably enough to start with. Best of luck with your job hunt.