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, while for some it is quite literally a blank canvass right now. If that's you, you're not alone!
Drawing on five years' experience partnering with some of the biggest, smallest and most interesting Games & Interactive studios in the world as a recruitment supplier, 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 the we should be a bit more formal/black and white/plain old boring than we feel. You'll be pleased to know that's not the case in the real world; the games world!
My advice here is to search games industry specific articles on CV writing and noting what feels best suited to you. At least you'll 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!
Here's an excellent example of somebody that used creativity to stand out for the better:
This goes for your hobbies too. 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.
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 to want to know more and arrange a conversation with you. Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, has made good work of fitting her entire CV onto one page (as seen below), really demonstrating creative and aesthetically pleasant ways of maximising the use of space.
4: Know (And Spoon Feed) Your Audience
Firstly, ask yourself who will see your CV as a part of the application process. There is a high chance that before your CV makes it to the hiring manager it will go through other departments such as the HR of big companies, or external recruitment agencies such as Skillsearch. In which case it's very likely that they will not 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, as Marissa has to indicate her language skills above, or perhaps map it out on a table, as below:
5: Keep it Relevant
If it's at all possible I would suggest avoiding your paper round at 14 years old, or your recent stint as a ‘Sandwich Artist' at Subway. 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 to keep it relevant is by telling 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 let us know what software you used to create what we're looking at.
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 not glitchy.
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!