Tips & Tricks: A Guide to Resumes

GDC is almost here, and like most of you, I’ve been preparing my portfolio and resume. Until today, I did not have a game design resume, but with only a year left before I graduate and the opportunities for internships upcoming, I wrote mine up and will be posting it onto my portfolio site soon. Writing resumes can be a difficult task, so I figured a guide, similar to my Guide to Portfolios, would be helpful for those in game development.

Keep reading to view the full guide to writing resumes!

What’s Different?

There are plenty of tools out there to help you write resumes, but game development resumes are a bit different than normal ones. Of course, you should have a cover letter for your resume, but you don’t want your resume to be too long. For students and grads, you only want a one-page resume, while those who have been in the industry for many years may have two or more pages. Because you are applying for an in-industry job, you want to focus your resume on your game development skills and experience.

What to Include

Following is a list of things you really need to include in your resume. These sections are part of every resume, but I offer specifics on what to include for game development resumes.

  • Name and Title: At the top of the resume, list your name, title, address, professional e-mail, and web site. You can also include a phone number if you wish.
  • Objective: An objective is just a mini-description of who you are, what you’ve done, and what you want to do. You don’t want to make it too long, but you do want to make it clear and informative. You can even spice it up a bit and show off your personality and passion. This is optional, especially since you will most likely need to include a cover letter which should essentially be your objective with more oomph. If a cover letter is not required, you really should include an objective.
  • Skills: Detail everything you are capable of, whether it’s a soft skill, such as leadership or communication skills, or any tools, languages, or programs that you know. Put all skills in order of most well-known. You may also want to tailor this section to the company and/or position you’re applying for.
  • Awards: If you’ve received any significant awards, especially if your game has won an award in a competition, list it, along with the year it was awarded.
  • Related Experience: There’s no need to show your entire work history, as it’s not likely that employers need to see that old high school job flipping burgers. If it has given you valuable skills and experience, list it. If it’s game development related, list it. If you’ve worked on any student projects, make sure you clearly note that they were in fact student projects. Unless you’ve taken courses in college in which you built games, you don’t really want to list courses. For everything you do list, you need to make it clear exactly what you did on those projects. This section should also be in reverse chronological order.
  • Education: List education in reverse chronological order. If you have a degree, list the major and minor if applicable, as well as your graduation date and GPA if it’s good. If you don’t have the greatest GPA, or even a degree at all, try not to worry too much about it; in the game industry, it’s better to have experience making actual games than just acing it in school.
  • References: There generally isn’t a whole lot of room left for references, and it’s generally accepted to have a “References Available Upon Request” line at the bottom.

The order you put the above sections in is really up to you, as there is no official order. I have heard some suggest that if you are a grad, then put your education before your experience, while others suggest the opposite. Whichever order you choose, you really want your name and title, objective (if included), and skills at the top. These are a few things you may or may not want to include, depending on if you have room or not and how you personally feel about them:

  • LinkedIn: If you have a LinkedIn account, which you should, you could list it on your resume if you really wanted.
  • Publishings: If you’ve had any articles, books, or other works published, you might want to list them if they are relevant.
  • Hobbies and Interests: This is something relatively new to me, but I’ve heard a lot of game developers talk about how they’d like to see a short list of any hobbies or interests you have, aside from video games of course. These could provide talking points during an interview, or even reveal unique traits about your personality.

What Not to Include

There are always a few things you don’t want to include, and while most of these should seem obvious, sometimes they can be easily overlooked.

  • Don’t make your resume longer than one page unless you have years of industry experience.
  • Keep everything relevant to the job you’re applying for.
  • Don’t use curse words or bad language.
  • Spell check, spell check, spell check! Grammar and spelling mistakes can make you look incompetent.
  • Don’t lie about anything, especially your experience!
  • Don’t take credit for anything you haven’t actually done.
  • Don’t claim to be a lead on a project if you weren’t or were the only person working in that area.
  • Don’t talk bad about your projects, teammates, or work experience.
  • Keep it short and simple, but don’t skip out on descriptions and clarity.

Cover Letters

Cover letters are a hugely important part of resumes, as this is the place where you can let your personality shine through. I wouldn’t recommend including a cover letter when you post your resume on your portfolio site, as you want to tailor your cover letter to the company you’re applying for. Instead of writing one generic cover letter, write a new, or at least slightly altered, one for each company you apply for. After all, no two companies are the same, and each job opening is going to be a little different. When writing your cover letter, you want to reveal bits of your personality, and let the specific company know of your skills and talents, especially soft skills.

How to Stand Out

In a sea full of other applicants, it’s important to try and make yourself stand out. The best way to do this is in your cover letter and/or objective; these sections allow your personality to shine through, which could give you the edge. You can also make yourself stand out in the actual resume, whether it’s through experience or awesome projects you’ve worked on, or even the skills you possess. For example, if you are applying for a level design position, and you have architecture skills or experience, this could boost your chances. It’s always good to have experience and skills in areas other than your area of expertise, i.e. design, programming, or art. Just remember not to paint yourself as a jack-of-all-trades and to not sound too cocky.

I’m still very new to resume writing, but this is what guided me through writing mine, and I hope it helps! If you’d like to add anything, or have additional comments, questions, or critiques, go ahead and let me know!

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