This feature was published in the Dec 2013 / Jan 2014 edition of Develop magazine, which is available through your browser and on iPad
It is also part of New Year, New Job 2014, our month-long guide to games recruitment. You can read more at www.develop-online.net/jobs2014.
Name: Emma Phillips
Title: HR Manager
Developer: Pitbull Studio
What differentiates Pitbull Studio from other developers?
The majority of what we do at Pitbull Studio is development work on Unreal Engine 4 – working with Epic Games to make sure that the engine and editor are world-leading. To that end, we’ve filled our studio with the best of the best. Our recruitment bar is much higher than most other studios because we’re hiring very experienced, highly skilled engineers to work with us.
How many staff are you currently looking to take on?
We don’t currently have a limit on intake. We’re hoping to grow to between 70 to 80 people by the end of 2014 – although we could hire more if the right people come to us.
I joined Pitbull in December 2012, and in that time our staff numbers have doubled. We’ve also opened two new studios – Guildford and Leamington Spa – and we’ve expanded our HQ in Sunderland. We’ve plenty of space to welcome new recruits.
We are predominantly looking for programmers to join any of our offices, and current vacancies can be found at www.pitbullstudio.co.uk/jobs.
What perks or privileges are available to staff at your studios?
Pitbull offer a fantastic benefits package. We have a company matched pension scheme, a tax-free bike scheme, a Death in Service policy, 25 days holiday per annum (plus bank holidays), a comprehensive private healthcare and childcare scheme and flexible working hours. Not to mention all the usual perks that seem par for the course in the industry, like a well-stocked drinks fridge and treats cupboard. We’re also a social bunch, and like to make the most of the nightlife Newcastle has to offer.
What should aspiring developers do with their CV to get to an interview?
We receive a lot of CVs, and it always surprises me how simple things such as spelling, grammar and formatting are overlooked.
The recent viral of Robby Leonardi’s interactive résumé shows how you can let your imagination and skills speak for themselves, but, of course, not everyone has the time to create a masterpiece like that.
The best advice I can give is to make sure you tailor your application to the role you’re interested in. This may sound obvious, but some people submit CVs that suggest they’re a jack-of-all-trades to cover every possible vacancy we have.
Our roles are very specific, and while programming boils down to core languages, mentioning experiences and projects that demonstrate you match the person specification will make you stand out from the crowd.
What advice would you give jobseekers for a successful interview at Pitbull?
We sometimes conduct our technical interviews via Skype, so it’s important to make sure you’re sat somewhere calm and quiet, ready for the interview at least 15 minutes beforehand. Above all, be yourself.
Put yourself forward as you would if you were working for us. Don’t be arrogant, don’t be quiet – just try to relax and enjoy the interview as much as you can. If you feel like nerves are getting the better of you remember to breathe deeply. We’re human too, and we’ve all been through the same process in the past.
Our best interviewees have been those who are enthusiastic about the prospect of working with us, who have done research about Pitbull, and who clearly know their stuff. This is not something you can prepare for by swotting up on C++ as you can’t second-guess exactly what will happen when the time comes.
One interviewee was so awesome our interviewer said in his feedback he felt he’d learned a lot himself during the hour and couldn’t wait to work with him. He’s our benchmark for interviews now.
Why should developers join when going indie and self-publishing has become so much more accessible?
Going indie seems to be very popular at the moment, but there are lots of people with a similar idea. Buoyed by the success of Candy Crush and the like it will be difficult to create a niche for yourself in a saturated marketplace.
In my opinion, it is better to work at a larger studio to hone your skills, and work in your spare time on your concept. Ideas unfortunately don’t pay the bills and self-publishing can be a costly affair. The industry is a fickle one, and not every game will sell like Grand Theft Auto V.
What’s different about the recruitment process at Pitbull and the impact you have on it?
As HR manager, I lead on the recruitment process in the company. My aim is to deal with all CVs promptly, as based on my own experience there is nothing worse than not hearing back after applying for a job. It has been commented on by recent candidates how unusual it is have interviews arranged so quickly, or to have been made offers within a day or so of interview. Because we don’t use recruitment agencies and handle everything in-house it cuts out the ‘middleman’. I deal with candidates from start to finish; I’m even the person who usually inducts them on their first day. It’s those personal touches that make us unique in the industry, and I hope that as we expand I can keep being as involved in the process. It’s a lovely feeling being able to offer someone a job.
The majority of our hires are through staff referral, or people who have applied to us directly through the website. It is more anonymous this way, especially if you’re employed by another games company. Social media is also another medium – I was hired via Twitter. All of our staff are well connected, and because of their enthusiasm for the work we do they encourage their peers to apply. Those who work for us are possibly better placed to assess a cultural fit than an agency who also works for our competitors. We’d much rather pay a bonus to an employee so they can buy a new console.
To read our other Recruiter Hot Seat articles about studios looking to hire, visit our archive.