Tips & Tricks: A Guide to Job Hunting

As some of you might already know, I will be graduating from the University of Advancing Technology at the end of April. While my upcoming graduation is very exciting, it is also rather nerve-racking, since it means the job hunt has begun. This post will act as a guide for fellow game development job-seekers, based on what I have heard and read from industry professionals and my professors, as well as what I am currently doing. Keep in mind that this is my first time applying for positions as a game and/or level designer, so I’m certainly no expert. If you have any questions or additional suggestions, please leave a comment below.

 

Preparation

Before you even think about applying anywhere, you need to be prepared. This means you should have an updated (updated being the key word) resume/CV, portfolio, and LinkedIn. If these are not kept the most up-to-date, how will potential employers know what you have to offer? The portfolio is probably the most difficult, as it should only contain your best work. To ensure that you have a great portfolio, you need some good feedback, so ask around, first to friends and fellow students (if you’re a student), and then to professors and anyone you might know who is working, or has worked, in the industry. Solid critiques will only improve the quality of your work and how you showcase it, so listen carefully to any advice you’re given regarding your work. Furthermore, you should take a look at other portfolios that are similar to yours; you might find that someone has something you wouldn’t have even thought to include. As for your resume, you might need to find some outside help to make sure it looks good. If you’re still in school, they should have a career adviser to help you with this, but you can also check with friends and family. Your LinkedIn account should be the easiest to keep updated, but it’s also pretty easy to forget about. I like to check mine every month to make sure everything is accurate.

 

Networking

This is another important thing to do before actually applying. If you’re starting to look for a job, you should already know how to network, so I won’t go into that. There are a few key events that you should be attending that provide prime networking opportunities, including, but certainly not limited to, the Game Developers Conference, your local IGDA chapter meetings, game jams, etc. GDC is a great place to make new contacts, but it also boasts a career pavilion for help with job hunting. The career pavilion is similar to the expo hall, where various companies are featured at booths; at each booth, you can usually find several recruiters for that company. Talk to these recruiters, network with them, especially if you’re looking for a job. Ask them questions about the open position you’re interested in and what kinds of things they look for in their candidates. If possible, try to set up a meeting with the lead of whatever position you’re looking to apply to. 

 

Scouting

Now that you’re prepared to apply for jobs and you’ve networked, it’s time to start scouting. I break this into several steps, and it all starts with the job search. Start looking for openings for positions you are a) interested in, and b) qualified for. If you don’t have any experience yet, keep an eye out for entry-level positions. Not sure where to find job openings? There are a ton of resources online, including recruiters, company web sites, Twitter (search using #GameJobs), LinkedIn, and other web sites, such as Gamasutra Jobs and EDGE Jobs, just to name a few.

When searching for open positions, you’re going to want to make a list of openings. I’ve put together a simple spreadsheet that has the following information for each job opening, so that I can keep track of everything more easily:

  • Company Name (Example: Gearbox)
  • Position Name (Example: Environment Artist)
  • Location (Useful for relocation)
  • Qualifications (To help you remember what you need to apply)
  • Additional Requirements (Anything optional or desired to help you apply)
  • Link (So you can easily find it again)
  • Applied To? (Yes if you’ve already sent an application for this position)

By keeping an organized list like this, I’ve found it much easier to keep track of everything, and it makes the application process a bit smoother, since all of your information is in one place.
 
The next step for scouting is to research each company before applying. You want to understand which companies make which games, and know about those games. If you haven’t played any games made by a particular company, go out and try them. You aren’t going to get hired at a company if you don’t know what they do and have never played their games. Some companies even require experience playing their games. For example, if you apply for a position at Riot Games, you need to have a League of Legends account at level fifteen or higher, in most cases. Doing your research beforehand can also help you be more prepared if you land an interview, and can help you tailor your portfolio and cover letter to that specific company. Once again, the simplest way to keep track of all this information is to write it into a spreadsheet for quick reference. And don’t just stop at researching what the company does; look into their culture, what it’s like to work there, and what kinds of benefits they offer. After researching, don’t just let that information sit there: study it! The more you know, the better prepared you will be, both for the application and the possible interview.

Applications

You know where you’re going to apply, and you’ve done your research on them, so it looks like it’s finally time to apply. That application button probably looks really enticing by now, but don’t click it just yet! Read over the job posting a few more times, and treat it like a checklist on what you should have ready to go. Do you meet all of the qualifications for the position? Do you have work in your portfolio that is similar to the company’s style? Have you written a cover letter specifically for this position? If you answered no to any of those questions, take a step back and put the time into preparing or finishing them up. If you have everything ready to go, then you can click that apply button! Some companies utilize online application forms, while others simply ask that you send them an email with your portfolio, resume, and cover letter attached. If you are sending them an email, be sure to use the appropriate heading (they usually have a specific heading listed on the job opening), and actually write something in the subject area. If you just send in an email with attachments, but don’t say anything in the email, it’s going to feel impersonal, which could get your work overlooked. Treat your email like a cover letter, but keep it short and to the point. Furthermore, if the job posting states that you need to include specific information, such as a desired salary, be sure to do so.

The Next Steps

After you have sent out your application, next comes the waiting game. You need to wait for them to contact you, so keep an eye on your email and phone. You do not want to pester anyone about your application, since that just makes you appear needy, but if you don’t hear anything for several weeks, it’s usually alright to send a follow-up email. If you do this, keep it short and sweet; they likely have a lot of emails to go through, so make the most of their time. Some companies respond fairly quickly, while others take a lot longer, so don’t get your hopes down if you haven’t heard back yet. Remember that these are busy people, and they are working as fast as they can.
Different companies have different responses, but the most common come in the form of emails and phone calls. Most companies schedule phone interviews if they like your work, and, depending on the type of position, you may have to complete a skills test. The skills test is given to check your ability to complete given work, show your creativity, and exercise time management, since most of these tests have a specific time period they must be completed in. Skills tests are common practice for artists, but some companies have them for other disciplines, as well. If all that goes well, you may get invited to an in-person interview, which is intended to perform a final evaluation and determine if you would fit well in the company culture. Below are a few helpful links that provide tips for the art test and both types of interviews:
Thank you for reading, and good luck in your search! I hope that I was able to help you out, and if you have any additional suggestions, questions, or comments, feel free to leave a reply below.
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