Creative Assembly's Alex Wright-Manning on how to attract talent that's not currently hunting for jobs

Why employment branding matters

[Alex Wright-Manning is Creative Assembly’s talent acquisition manager]

It’s been just over a year since Valve’s company handbook made its way onto the internet.

It’s a fantastic vision, cleverly conceived and artfully composed, and it generated considerable debate amongst the industry with its tales of flat organisational structures, multidisciplinary teams and employee empowerment.

Working in recruitment at one of UK development’s grande dames, what struck me most of all was a stylised solar system diagram towards the end of the handbook. This showed all the aspects of Valve’s development process orbiting around one celestial body. Hiring. For Valve, hiring well is the most important thing in the universe. I couldn’t agree more.

A games studio is not defined by its management structure, development practices or even its product output, but by its people, and it’s widely accepted throughout the industry that attracting the very best talent available into your organisation is vital to success.

In this intensely competitive climate, how do you ensure that your studio is able to attract, engage and retain high quality development staff?


Most recruitment traffic via advertising, agencies and social media will consist of people actually looking for a job, which of course is its purpose. These methods generally attract those candidates who are actively seeking a new role and have read that particular advertisement: at best around 10 per cent of the candidate pool.

This 10 per cent likely haven’t just applied for your role either, and in the case of agency applicants, it’s almost certain that you’ll be competing with several other organisations as the agent bids to maximise the potential of their highly sought after commodity.

So, how to attract the other 90 per cent of professionals who aren’t looking for a new job right now? Your star programmer, firmly ensconced at a triple-A studio, won’t think to visit your site for the latest jobs or follow your social media recruitment feeds, so chances are they’ll never be aware what a great place your studio is to work.

They’ll rebuff the advances of agents or internal recruiters, and will likely only have a set group of organisations that they’d consider applying to of their own accord. So the key is to be one of the studios that high-end talent will gravitate towards.

Marketing and branding product are vital areas for the games industry. But how often do you think about how your studio environment is branded and marketed? Your employer brand denotes your company’s reputation as an employer, as the image of your organisation as a ‘great place to work’. Get your employer branding right, and you’ll go a long way to becoming the industry’s most sought after professionals preferred choice when seeking a new job.

The most important aspect of employer branding internally is the employee value proposition, or EVP. This is used to define an organisation’s employment offering to attract, engage and retain talented candidates and employees.

What a job has to offer them in terms of the work itself, the work environment and the characteristics and values of the organisation, the EVP determines what an employee will deliver in terms of time, commitment, skills and expertise. Formulating an EVP requires some serious reflection on your company’s identity and it’s necessary to be brutally honest with yourself.


Firstly, you need to decide what your core offering is and focus on it. And no less important, also decide what you’re not. It’s no use selling your studio if what you claim to be is not what people experience in their jobs.
Secondly, decide what’s really important to your organisation and use this as the core of your EVP.

Although you don’t need an elaborate mission statement to define your values, you do need to know what you stand for as a business. Think about what you’re really passionate about and what shines through in everything you do.

Lastly, be different. A clear and unique EVP is the ideal way to stand out from your competitors, particularly in an industry such as games where they’re all doing pretty much the same thing! Talk to your existing staff to find out what it’s really like to work for you and take that as a starting point for developing your EVP.

[Interested in contributing your own article for Develop’s readers? We’re always on the lookout for industry-authored pieces on development-related topics. Email for more details.]

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