How to Get Hired at a Game Studio: Working with HR

BY Sarah Conn
Hi, I’m Sarah! In addition to making sure the office keeps running, rearranging people’s schedules so that we can make appointments with outside clients, and running the phones, I also operate as on-site HR for Filament Games. I deal with posting jobs, job applications, and constructing offer letters. For all you job seekers out there, here are some tips on how to interact with HR when they’re not just HR.

The thing you have to realize with small game studios (and many small companies!) is that oftentimes a few people wear a lot of hats. While I’m usually not the one screening the resumes as in other HR departments (our department leaders take a personal hand in these matters), here are some tips for you for engaging with the corporate side of the game studio.

Applications
It’s extremely important to actually read the requirements of the job application. If additional materials need to be attached, please do so! Otherwise your application will be immediately sent into the “Not a Fit” pile. If you’re a developer, engineer, or artist please remember to attach your portfolio - this can often make or break your application.

As I’m sure you’re aware, job hunting is a competitive market and not all contracts for our jobs are the same. Sometimes we will have two (or three, or four) very qualified applicants, but only one has the right “feel” for the job. If you don’t get the job, that doesn’t mean we toss your application out, though! A lot of people want to work at game studios and we want to foster that talent. Often times if another project comes along that makes the Hiring Manager go “aha!” they’ll reference back to a past applicant that wowed them.

How to make yourself stand out:
  • Have a well-done portfolio. A picture is a thousand words you won’t have to write. Showcase the best of your work and be sure to highlight pieces that apply to the job description
  • Write a good cover letter. Alison at AskAManager.org has great tips on how to concisely convey just how talented you are.
  • It might seem obvious, but be sure to highlight relevant work experience that applies to the job. Feel free to create a category of “Relevant Experience” where you give a spotlight to the jobs that you feel best show your experience. Other jobs can be relegated to a lower part of your resume.
  • List your accomplishments, not just job duties on your resume. It sounds a lot more impressive (and gives the Hiring Manager a better understanding of your skills) to read that you coded an entire game in your spare time while working two other jobs, for instance. This is more demonstrative than simply listing that you are “proficient in C#/Java/HTML/etc.”
  • Do your research - look at the company’s website and their social media. Make intelligent references to the work that they do, and don’t confuse them with any of the other many jobs for which you are applying!
Following Up
As someone who was constantly searching for a job three years after college, I found a lot of conflicting advice on following up. Before working on the HR side of things, I didn’t realize how long things take to process. Given people’s workloads, wait a week or two to follow up, especially for jobs that don’t have start dates attached to the job description, and please send emails. When it comes to the substance of that follow up, here’s a few things to keep in mind:
  • Calling and asking to speak to the Hiring Manager sounds like a great way to get your application across, but our Hiring Managers are also doing their daily work in addition to running a job search. If they want to reach out, they’ll call you!
  • If there was a software hiccup in the job application process, you can call to see if your application has gone through. However, you’ll also want to triple check your application for any errors. Calling the day you’ve submitted your application to see if you remembered to attach cover letter is a somewhat unflattering first impression!
  • Oftentimes, policy states that we cannot tell you where in the process we’re in, as our timelines for hiring are constantly changing. Sometimes we need people to start instantly and other times we can accept applicants leisurely. It depends on the project!
With so many applicants for every job, some companies don’t send notification letters to candidates who don’t make the cut. This practice is widely debated in the HR community, but Filament Games does try to notify to every candidate as to whether they got the job or not in a timely manner. In either case, please don’t take it personally, many people have a lot on their plate and prioritize due to their company’s culture.

Other Resources:
Get Hired: Tips for Getting a Job in the Game Industry
Interested to Employed: How to Get a Job at a Game Studio
How to Get Hired at a Game Studio: Game Engineer Edition

Have any more questions or comments about this topic? Ask them below and I’ll get back to you!