Our Jobs In Games special, in association with OPM, has already looked at creating a succinct CV, but in the development world there's something else to consider.
Leading recruitment agency OPM offers advice on why more effort should be put into a winning demo reel or portfolio.
DEMO WORK – SOMETIMES MORE IMPORTANT THAN A CV
by Jon Norfolk, Catherine Cope and Max Hurd
A demo reel or portfolio is probably the single most important part of an application for a creative position, whether it's Artist, Animator or Designer.
Most managers will open a demo reel/portfolio and assess the work before even thinking of opening a CV because if the work is not meeting their expectations then usually the candidate’s history quickly becomes irrelevant.
So it’s a good idea to ask yourself, “what do I need to do to stand out?” and “what should I do to avoid rejection?” From our years of experience and client feedback, below is what we think you should seriously consider when constructing your demo reel or portfolio:
Send a folder of JPGs of your best work related to the position. Remember, managers are strapped for time so sending a website link not only looks lazy but means the reviewer will have to navigate around your website which may or may not contain pieces of work that don’t best represent your skills such as works in progress or work you did ten years ago. Also, through the years we’ve seen a few examples of work with an ‘adult theme’. We appreciate this may have been good in that industry – unfortunately it doesn’t do too well in games.
A tailored portfolio will show initiative and demonstrate you thought about what you specifically wanted to send to them. Sending character art for an environment art position would not be smart unless the job description asks for it.
Don't send everything. Quality over quantity – you want to demonstrate you can do the job better than anyone else but this doesn’t mean you have to send them everything you have ever dreamt about. Usually 10 to 20 JPGs of your best work related to the position will be enough to gauge your suitability and remember once you get past the application stage, you have their undivided attention to show them any additional work.
A demo reel is the most important part of your application, so have your best most recent animations at the beginning and make the reel no longer than two minutes. It is important to remember that the first ten to 20 seconds will determine if the viewer will watch on or not.
Think about who you are targeting – is it games? Is it film? A games studio will want to see related animation like cycle animations and attack sequences, whereas a films studio will be more interested in scene performances.
Submit relevant examples of design documentation, level designs, scripting or even mod examples (depending on your level of experience) to support your application. Your work can either be work form your published titles (with permission from your employer) or a or personal project This does not necessarily need to be entire design document or game – relevant extracts will suffice. Don’t send a 200-page document; employers just don’t have time to read them.
Personal projects are the way forward for programming applications. You are up against a large number of graduates all vying for the same thing, to get on that first rung of the career ladder.
While your University projects are important it is better to have demo from any ‘hobbyist’ coding you may have done. A lot of graduates have websites and all they show is their project work but a) this is what most of your colleagues will be sending in and b) it is unclear when showing group project work what part you were actually responsible for.
Keep the file size down, make sure all links and files actually work and try and show variety in your work.