FEATURE: Games Career Advice

James Batchelor
FEATURE: Games Career Advice

The games industry is changing, and with it the jobs market.

Publishers struggle if they depend only on boxed titles – now they need teams to handle downloads. Meanwhile, development studios must look into self-publishing and the expertise that requires.

Every company is trying to adapt to the evolution of gaming. And this makes both applying for jobs and recruiting new talent much more challenging.Applicants face an increasingly competitive landscape where a covering letter and a smart CV are not enough – now they have to show off their abilities before even stepping into the interview room. And a growing skill shortage means it is tougher than ever for companies to find the people they need.

MCV has called on recruiters to share their advice to applicants trying to get started in the games industry’s most competitive sectors, as well as tips to ensure potential employers secure the talent they are looking for.

HOW TO GET A JOB IN… PR & PUBLISHING

The last?12 months saw a dramatic increase in the number of publishers looking to recruit additional staff, according to jobs agencies. “This in itself shows the industry is finding it’s feet again,” says Aardvark Swift’s senior recruitment consultant for publishing Danny Johnson. “Expansion into the digital world will provide plenty of opportunities in 2012. Couple that with an increase in casual games start-ups, and this year promises to be the strongest for some time.”

Agencies report that publishers are currently focused on taking their brands online and into social media, so anyone with the relevant skills will be more valuable than ever. Publishers also want to handle their PR?needs themselves.

Change-Job’s CEO Monica Crisp explains: “Companies are seeing the value of having an in-house PR team rather than an agency, as this helps them cut costs. They are looking for people with established PR contacts and SEO skills.”

Naturally, previous experience is still king but publishers are aware that this isn’t always available. OPM Response owner Kim Adcock observes that new ideas are just as important.

“Our industry has always pushed the boundaries so it needs to find entrepreneurial, intelligent, focused and above all commercially astute people to shape its future,” she says.

Datascope’s management consultant Malsara Thorne warns there are “very few opportunities” in games PR and publishing for new graduates, but it is still worth trying.

While many companies may have internal HR departments, recruitment agencies urge them not to underestimate the benefits of using their services – unsurprsingly.

“If you want to recruit, use an agency – they are usually more efficient, have a wide pool of candidates and are cost effective,” says Thorne. “And we recommend on a one-to-one basis. That way you will gain commitment and they will go the extra mile.

“Also, be wary of attempting to recruit via LinkedIn. If you approach candidates, they have the upper hand and you have to tempt them financially. This has been proven to gradually inflate salaries by applying an upward pressure on the remuneration of existing staff.”

HOW TO GET A JOB IN… DEVELOPMENT

2011 may have seen the closure of big studios such as Bizarre Creations, Black Rock and Team Bondi, but there are more opportunities than ever at smaller developers. Some established studios are even stepping up their search for new hires.

“The development sector is tough to break into,” warns Aardvark Swift’s senior recruitment consultant Hollie Heraghty. “Companies are often looking for people who have proven experience of working with specific platforms – with deadlines approaching, it can often be difficult for teams to dedicate time to bring someone else up to speed. Therefore, you need to make yourself valuable from day one. This means having the transferable skills. 

“To give yourself the best chance of finding a job within a creative industry you must have either a demo or a portfolio.“

However, Change-Job’s Monica Crisp stresses that applicants must ensure their portfolio is relevant to the role they are interested in. 

“We get a lot of irrelevant art portfolios – one was a bunch of kettle designs,” she laughs. “The key is ‘if in doubt, leave it out’. Companies just are not interested in what else you can do – their time is precious and you only have one chance to make a first impression.”

Given the burgeoning development communities in countries like the US and Canada, UK studios cannot afford to miss out on star applicants.

“There are good people on the job market, but there is still strong competition internationally – if you see somebody you like, be decisive or risk losing out,” says Aardvark Swift director Colin Walsh. 

Datascope’s senior consultant Alex Wright-Manning adds: “The development job market is a double-edged sword: there is an ever increasing need for highly-skilled programmers all over the world but due to this high demand there are rarely enough experienced professionals to go around.

“For studios looking to hire this year, it’ll be tougher than ever. Even the big guys can suffer when demand outstrips supply.”

HOW TO GET A JOB IN… ONLINE & MOBILE TECHNOLOGY

With?smartphones, tablets and browsers expected to become increasingly important to gaming, now is the perfect time to take the plunge.

“This is a really thriving sector – it’s well worth getting into,” says Datascope MD Julien Hofer.

“You need to be bright, creative and find it easy to pick up a new language. It is better to have the aptitude and learn the skill. The other way round won’t work.“

Specialmove’s head of recruitment Matthew Hill adds: “The overall employment market is radically different today due to the growth in online and mobile gaming. 

“There are zero barriers to entry. Any quality graduate should make a game on their own or as part of a team and publish it on iOS, Android or online. Crack open the champagne if it’s the next Angry Birds.” 

HOW TO CRAFT A WINNING CV

* A CV is assessed in one minute. Be concise – two pages is ideal.

* Create one focused on the games industry. Speak about your interest in the sector and your transferable skills.

* HR people will seek specific key skills and if they don’t see them, you will get overlooked.

* Make the employment section relevant to the role you’re applying for.

* Don’t just rewrite the job specifications in your CV. Equally, don’t send the same CV to every employer.

* Don’t assume the reader knows the companies you’ve worked for. Add a company profile.

* If your CV features social media links, be professional on those sites. Companies will be checking you out.

* Always spell and grammar check your document.

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Tags: Recruitment , games , jobs , video , advice , appointments , careers

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