1/27/2014

How to search for a job in gamedev

One could think writing an article telling people how to search for stuff in the age of Google is ridiculous. Sure, if you are an advanced researcher, you probably will be able to search for gamedev vacancies using the most popular search engines, but I would argue it still won't be the most effective way to do it. 

First, a bit of a disclaimer. In this article I won't be covering skills required for any position in gamedev. Also, the article will only be informative for people who haven't worked in gamedev yet. Once you get your foot in the door, what follows is either obvious or intuitive, but most importantly - not necessary, because once you are in, you gain way more powerful tools than the "outsiders" have.

Well then... How do people search for jobs? They visit the most popular sites, like Monster or Careerbuilder. Yes, click on those links. Spend some time there, search for game designer or a producer or a concept artist or whoever you wanna be and get these few results actually matching your query. You have just looked for a job in gamedev in the worst possible way.

When looking for a job in gamedev, you have to understand something. People are still a rare resource in this industry. When a bank or a consulting agency posts a job offer for pretty much any position, they get hundreds of resumes within first 24 hours. They probably throw half of them away randomly before actually looking at them, because they can. These industries have been here for decades. They have an opinion of respectable and stable working environments and every year, universities spit out thousands of wannabe bankers and consultants. Society has managed to produce thousands of HR directors, brand managers, community managers and chief financial officers. At the same time, it failed to produce enough ZBrush artists. Therefore, unlike in any standard industry, an opening in gamedev is not so easily filled. This means a few things.


One: the vacancies in gamedev stay open way longer than in other industries. If you apply for a marketing manager anywhere, you pretty much have to do it within 24 hours from the moment the opening is posted or you don't stand a chance. In gamedev, you might apply a month after the job offer saw the cyberlight and still get invited to an interview. Obviously, it has disadvantages too. Offers that are over a week old get buried under hundreds of other offers. This is one of the reasons why gamedev companies often don't bother with searching for employees through most popular channels.

Two: some of the vacancies are not getting filled for so long that companies might be willing to shift responsibilities between existing members of the team and create a new job with a different profile. Therefore, if you meet most of the key requirements but lack in a field or two, for which you can make up in other useful areas, you still might have a shot. In traditional industries, not meeting one minor requirement almost certainly means a failure. There's just too many people out there that have all the skills (at least in their resume).


Three: almost every company in the world has an e-mail address where you can send your resume "in case they need someone with your skills". These resumes often don't get a second of HR's attention and the whole "we might want you even if there's no opening" is more a part of employer branding, not an actual recruitment effort. In gamedev it's quite different. Most companies are in need of specialists. Ubisoft alone now has over 400 openings across the globe. Don't get me wrong. These companies won't take just anyone to fill these spots, but reading randomly sent resumes is one of the ways they try to actually recruit. In many cases, gamedev companies are really getting these out-of-the-blue CV's and might actually call such applicants.

Having all this information in mind, how do you actually search for a job in gamedev?

First, find a good source of gamedev job offers. We have established, that the biggest jobsearch engines are rarely the way to go. Many gamedev companies advertise on smaller, but more targetted sites. Many bigger game-related sites have a "jobs" section. You can try gamedev.net or gamasutra, there might not be many offers there, but if you add sites like that up, you might get some results in staying up to date with job offers. There also exist small local sites, like polish skillshot, their only purpose being listing the gamedev job openings.


A much more powerful searching tool would be LinkedIN. This is where most of gamedev people are and where you should be too. You will also find, that "game developer" or "game designer" query spits out hundreds of results, as opposed to Monster's 0 to 10. I would still advise checking out the smaller sites too. LinkedIN may list the most job openings, but also most of them are in bigger gamedev companies, where you often need quite a lot of experience. Smaller companies tend to be easier to get to for beginners and these smaller companies rarely spend money on LinkedIN job ads. Also, these smaller job sites are visited by less people. Less people = less competition for the job = higher chance you can get it.

Second, reach out. Companies don't always advertise their vacancies on external sites. They only post them on their own website. Search for companies in your area. You will be surprised, how many there are. You don't have to start in AAA industry right away. Mobile teams are also lots of fun. Gamedev map is a really nice tool to start with. It might not be most up to date in all areas and it definitely doesn't list all the smaller studios, but it can still provide a nice database of your friendly neighborhood studios. If you don't fit the profile of any job offer they list on their website, still send your resume. You never know...


Third, network. If there is a company you would like to work for, get in touch with them. This will sound like I am advising you to stalk people, but really try to get in touch with employees of that company. Find someone active in the community and writes a blog (lol), comments on LinkedIN, tweets or whatever and follow him/her. Start being active in similar groups, show your knowledge / skill / friendliness / enthusiasm through your posts on forums and other means of indirect communication. Sooner or later you might get into some more direct contact. Also, check if someone you already know can't get you in touch with someone in the company you wish to work for. Ask them if they could forward your resume. There's a huge difference between "Hello, my name is Brian, I would like to work for you guys, here's my CV" and "Hey bro, my good friend Brian is very enthusiastic about working in gamedev and he really seems like he'd be fit for it. Here's his CV - please pass it on if you have a second."


When I was looking for a job in gamedev, I have successfully managed to get in touch with a man in one of the companies I applied for. We have exchanged dozens of e-mails and during this electronic conversation he hinted two jobs in his company that weren't even advertised and I got an interview this way. Ultimately, I didn't end up in that company, but the interview alone kept my enthusiasm up and taught me a lot.

Lastly, be up to date with the industry. It will give you hints, which studios might be more eager to hire. A company is opening a new studio? They will likely be prepared to include some juniors in their structure there. Capcom boasts about hiring 500 people in the next 5 years? You know where to send your resume first. I highly recommend Develop Online for getting info like this and also, a lot of general, but useful tips on getting a job in the industry.

I promise to cover some more "getting a job in gamedev" topics in the future too, so stay tuned.


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