For the past few years we at Skillsearch have been regular speakers at various universities around the UK which offer degrees in Computer Science, and other games industry related academia. Predictably we often find that attendees are particularly interested in the ‘CV writing’ section of the talk! Everybody knows the importance of having a good CV when looking for a new job and for some it is quite literally a blank canvass. If that’s you, you’re not alone!
Drawing on five years’ experience working with Games & Interactive across the world, here are my best tips on what you can do to get noticed in the games industry.
1: Keep an Open Mind
I mean this in terms of who you are listening to for advice (myself included!). If you’re at the early stages of your career you may have received CV advice from an in-house guidance expert at your university. It’s worth considering that whilst very useful these people are offering generic advice to a high volume of students who are all looking to break into different industries. The result of that, in a nutshell, usually leaves us with the feeling we should be a bit more formal/black and white/plain old boring than we want to be. You’ll be pleased to know that’s not the case in the real world; especially the games world!
My advice here is to search for games industry specific articles on CV writing, noting what feels best suited to you. At least you can know that the advice provided on games outlets will be relevant to you.
2: Express Yourself
Kookier than your average? Great! Make sure that razzmatazz is not wasted.
Nobody works in the games industry because they just ‘fell into it’; we’re all here because we share a love of it! That goes for me, you and your future employers, so if you’ve got a fun idea as a way to stand out from the crowd then there’s a good chance they’ll appreciate that too – go for it!
This goes for your hobbies as well. We have witnessed occasions where people have pipped their competition to the post because they shared a love cosplay, LARPing and even Jaws 2 (that’s right, specifically 2 – don’t ask) with the interviewer.
Here’s an excellent example of somebody that used creativity to stand out for the better:
You want to make sure that your employer is a good fit - so show them who you are!
3: The Page Number Debate
In short, your CV shouldn’t really be any longer than a couple of pages, maximum 3 for the more experienced among you. Remember, you have various other platforms to flaunt your feathers, and prospective employers will be looking at them. Your CV is simply a summary of you. A summary good enough to make people want to know more and arrange a conversation with you. Marissa Mayer, ex-CEO of Yahoo, has made good work of fitting her entire CV onto one page demonstrating creative and aesthetically pleasant ways of maximising the use of space.
4: Know (And Spoon Feed) Your Audience
Ask yourself - who will see my CV as a part of the application process? You need to show off your wonderful skills but there is a high chance that before your details make it to the hiring manager you will go through other departments such as the HR of big companies, or external recruitment agencies. Which means you need to be prepared for the reader not to have the level of technical understanding that you or the hiring manager has.
It’s also worth considering how many CVs these people see on a daily basis. So what can you do to make sure you pass this phase? Simply make it as clear as possible.
Particularly when it comes to the software you know and use best. You could favour a ‘star rating’ format or perhaps map it out on a table? Get creative and make that information catch their eye and easy to read.
5: Keep it Relevant
If it’s at all possible I would suggest avoiding explaining in detail about your paper round duties at 14 years old, or your recent stint as a ‘Sandwich Artist’ at Subway. Tell the company what they want to know! Every word doesn’t need to be dripping in game development but I would try to keep it as game-centric as your experience allows. Even if you’ve been an Assistant in Game, it at least demonstrates your desire to be in a game related environment.
Another way is to tell us all the great things you enjoy doing within the community. Whether it’s attending Game Jams, workshops, expos, streaming on Twitch, having a gamer blog or moderating a forum. It indicates who you are as a person and how you eat, breath and sleep games.
6: Include Projects
This is so important. Employers love to see what projects you’ve worked on and what your responsibilities were on them. Give us as much detail on that as possible. This might be a chance to refer us to your website where we can go through all of your previous work. Always make sure you specify which software you used to create what we’re looking at too!
7: Show Me Where You Are
Make your online presence immediately clear, and link us to it all. From your website/portfolio to your LinkedIn profile - and make sure your Twitter is employer-friendly too
A bug bearer of mine (and everybody else’s) is that 80% of the time job seekers I speak with tell me their websites/portfolios ‘needs a bit of updating’. Invest that time! What an opportunity to be in the 20% of people who can instantly demonstrate their ability to finish a job they started. Make sure all of your work is up to date, and if it’s a game it’s important to make sure it’s playable and shows off what you can do.
8: Don’t bother lying
Don’t put yourself under undue pressure by telling porkies. There is a thin line between embellishment and putting yourself into a sticky situation where’re you’re likely to come unstuck! My advice would be to avoid at all costs.
Remember, all of this is just the opinion of one person. My biggest tip is to consider all the advice that is available, and do what you feel best suits your personality!
I’m always more than happy to offer free advice to anybody that would like a second opinion on their CV or website etc. Please feel free to get in touch if you think I can help!
Best of luck, job seekers!