CVs and cover letters
First, there’s something you should know about how studios recruit…
Every company that you approach for a job will have a slightly different application process. Although almost all will want to see a CV, different studios could have different expectations of what should go into a CV and whether a cover letter is useful.
For instance, some companies insist on a cover letter but at others the producers and lead developers who will actually choose who to interview may not get to see your cover letter. However, it’s usually the case that the recruitment company or department will see your cover letter, so on balance, we’d recommend you have both a cover letter and a CV.
However, read the job description carefully and then deliver what they say they want from applicants.
Here’s a quick guide to CVs and cover letters:
What goes in your CV? A good CV should demonstrate the technical and professional skills that map pretty well to the role you’re applying for, your work experience (studying, code jams/hackathons, part-time work and internships are all fine) as well as adding some ‘colour’ to the CV by adding a short list of interests and hobbies.
What should it look like? This is entirely your choice. You can find hundreds of free CV templates online, including in Google docs and Microsoft Word. Choose the one that suits you most and then populate it with a summary of you, your work experience, your technical and professional skills and your hobbies. Pictures are fine but not mandatory.
How much to write?
We would recommend you avoid writing more than 2 pages, since recruiters are busy people, but a single page would have to be very concise and comprehensive to avoid leaving too much out.
How to write it?
A CV is a list of skills and experiences so it’s hard to avoid it being a list. But if you stand back a little, a good CV should tell the story of your career so far. If you can show how you’ve been developing your skillsets through different roles or study, that will give recruiters a flavour of you as a potential colleague.
Should I tailor my CV?
We would recommend that you rewrite your CV slightly for each role you apply for, tailoring your skills to echo those listed in the job description. The skills matrix for your chosen role may be helpful, because you can mark up what skills are required and nice to have from a job description, then add your skills to show where you closely match the job requirements. Find the skills matrices in the downloadable links below.
Two pieces of advice on tailoring: We would avoid cloning the job description by using identical words to avoid your CV looking too good to be true. However, with too little tailoring, a recruiter might suspect that your CV is exactly the same for every company you apply to.
Should I explain gaps in my timeline?
Gaps in people’s timelines are pretty common and can be caused by unanticipated events such as illness, but it’s always worth considering whether to say why a gap occurred, otherwise it’s natural for the recruiter to wonder what happened. You can say “see my cover letter”, and then explain a gap more fully there. If it’s deeply personal or embarrassing, you should not feel pressured into sharing this and can elect not to explain it. It’s possible you could be asked about it at interview, so you’ll need a strategy to handle this, but don’t stress about it. Most recruiters understand that life often throws unexpected things at us and you can simply say if asked ‘I’d rather not say’. Almost everyone will respect that.
Most of our experts thought that a short cover letter is a good idea. Where the CV is basically a list of jobs, skills, experience, education and hobbies, the cover letter gives an idea of who you are, why you’ve applied to this specific company and how excited you are with the idea of working there. The cover letter will have succeeded if it makes a recruiter think “I’d like to meet this person”. It seems universally true that companies like candidates who express interest in their company. Candidates that have researched the target company seem more likely to succeed.
So, as much as you can, we recommend that you write a page or two expressing yourself about your ambitions for a career in games, the role itself, the company, their games and if visible, their team culture. The company and its games are all searchable online. Team culture can be ascertained by reading interviews with studio heads, reading their website and Twitter feeds to get a sense of what working there might be like.