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What games recruiters really want

Some top tips answering FAQs around applying for jobs in the games industry.
A group of developers chat at a networking event
© Gary Dutton

Let’s find out what recruiters are actually looking for and how the process works.

What happens in the application process?

Processes are different in each company but our experts told us that once a job is advertised, candidates send in a CV and cover letter, sometimes through a job portal, sometimes direct to the studio through their own system or via email. After the application deadline passes, a studio may receive hundreds of applications which will be filtered by recruitment staff to a shortlist of 10 candidates. These will be reviewed in more detail and from this list perhaps 5-6 candidates might be interviewed by phone (sometimes called a screening call), before 2-3 are invited to come in for interview.

How do companies filter applications?

Again processes differ between companies. Some are formal while some are informal. Many larger companies use portals which demand a lot of information before you can apply. This is designed to help them filter many candidates. Some large companies expect hiring staff to assess hundreds of CVs. Ian Goodall says, “Remember, studios may only look at your CV for a few seconds to put you into the yes, no or maybe pile.”

How do the best candidates stand out?

Claire Boissiere recommends you try to tell your story: “For me it’s that story, a clear and concise story that shows they understand themselves. I like to see their education and any work experience. If someone’s work experience is only a couple of weeks, that’s fine, but you want to see how that work experience related to their course and then their hobbies and personal projects. Can I spot a consistent theme of a key to who this person is, what‘s motivating them? If that story comes across quickly, I’m interested.”

Ed Perkins from Square Enix advises that he’s “looking for how a cover letter connects to the CV, and perhaps to LinkedIn.” Karen McLoughlin from Sumo Digital wants to see passion, talent and commitment: “Go to game jams, network, work with games communities. Demonstrate your passion to get into games.”

Cover letters or CVs or both?

Our experts differed on this question. Ian Goodall recommended that candidates compress their covering letter into an opening paragraph in their CV which introduces themselves by saying who they are and briefly setting out their ambitions. Claire said that in her experience, she never got to see cover letters. Ed Perkins said that it’s hard to see someone’s personality in a CV – he wants to see cover letters that say what the CVs cannot. For Karen, cover letters are really important to help you “sell yourself, tell us why you want to work here, inject a bit of passion and personality into your application. We don’t encourage people to write long cover letters, it’s really a summary.”

Why diversity is good for teams

Claire made the case for teams with different perspectives from a varied group of people: “I’m interested in people with different experiences, because of the creativity that comes from that, a spark that comes from a diverse team.”

How closely should I match the CV to the job description?

Ed advises caution on getting too close to the job description in your CV: “It’s a bad idea to play back every single word from the CV because you get no sense of character. This job really speaks to you, you really want it and that comes across. It might not be a perfect fit, but that will help you stand out.”

How can I demonstrate what motivates me?

All our experts said they want to see a candidate’s passion but it doesn’t matter how you demonstrate it. Claire says, “It’s good to see what is the thing that captures them. It’s not just ‘I want a job in the games industry’.” You need to show why you want a job in this specific company.

Should I go for it?

Ed encourages everyone to apply and to ignore any preconceptions about whether they can do the job. “We’ve seen in workshops that men are more likely to assume they will deserve the job, versus women who feel like they have to prove they can do all the job on day one. I recommend that everyone just go for it. What’s the harm in applying? No-one will put a black mark against your name in the industry for applying for a job. There’s something to be said for that self-belief.”

What if I have gaps?

Claire agreed with Ed. “I’d recommend that if you hit about 60% of the tick box criteria for a job, you should try. You can fill the gaps with your story, your personal projects.” Some experts said they were more likely to meet candidates who acknowledge gaps in their CVs, but who show how they are working to plug those gaps. That self-awareness is a good sign that recruiters look for, as long as enough of the basic criteria are met by the candidate.

What if I’m not shortlisted?

Karen acknowledges that it’s a very competitive process, but advises that you keep trying. “Don’t lose determination. Don’t be discouraged. Be determined.”

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