At this stage, you have developed a network, and now it is time to utilize that network to begin your formal job hunt. Your demo is ready, your résumé polished, and your references are in order. You are ready to respond quickly to a potential employer's requests after your resume has been submitted.
"A targeted campaign is the only effective way of job hunting."
"If you are in school, finish your degree and then start job hunting. If you're already working in the industry, don't start a new job hunt while in the final crunch mode of product release. Rather, finish your project, take a few days off, and then start the job hunt. Not being fresh for interviews will reflect negatively on you."
RESPONDING TO CLASSIFIED ADS AND ONLINE JOB BOARDS OR POSTINGS
Submitting your resume via a job ad or posting is not encouraged. Rather, classified ads and job postings should be used as a way of identifying a possible job to pursue. Not only do they inform you of a potential opportunity today, but they can provide you with juicy leads for the near future. If a company has advertised the need for a new Art Director, Lead Game Designer, Executive Producer, Producer, or Creative Director, you can bet these new people will want to hire their own staff. This is a clue for a job you could position yourself to interview for before HR even knows of the open spot. Several weeks after seeing a manager type spot advertised, call the company and find out who they hired for the job. Or pay attention to the announcements you read in the trade publications on people moving to new jobs. Send that person an email congratulating him on his new position and ask if he will need to round out his team with someone with your skill set.
Job ads should be used as a tool to focus your job hunting efforts. The odds of winning the lottery are about on par with the odds of getting even just an interview when utilizing a standard résumé submitted along with thousands of other lazy job hunters.
That harsh bit of advice notwithstanding, job ads are a fact of the job-search life and cannot be ignored. And, like the lottery, people actually do win on occasion.
Where to Find Game Industry Job Ads
The local newspaper's classified section may actually have a game job advertised, particularly if you pick a paper in an area of the country that has a larger game community, like San Jose, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, or Seattle. You'll see game jobs listed, for example, in the San Jose Mercury News and the Austin Chronicle. There are also a host of online job boards for people with some game industry experience. A simple search for "game jobs" on Google, Yahoo!, or other search engines should bring up a wealth of sites featuring game job ads. As this is a techno-savvy market, game companies rely heavily on advertising open jobs directly on the company web site. Useful online trade magazines like GIGnews.com and Gamasutra also feature job postings. Ads are also found in print trade publications such as Game Developer magazine.
Use the information learned from these job postings and then go directly to the web site of the advertising company, network with the community you have created from your prior company research, or check industry publications. Is this company actually a viable employer for you? Does it fit your job criteria? Does it make games or have projects you can get excited about? Better yet, if you could create your own job within this company, what position would it be? Educate yourself on this company. If it turns out not to be a viable option for you, input the data you have uncovered into your database. This information may become very useful in the future.
Based on your research, if the company seems like an approachable target, you must formulate your employment approach. What you could accomplish as a member of this company's team is a very effective job hunting theme to build upon. Formulate accomplishments that might be of interest to this company. Focus the way you will approach and sell yourself.
If you are compelled to answer that job ad, at least try to do it in a way that tips the odds in your favor:
If submitting to an ad, posting, or even an open job listed on the game company's web site, be sure to mention how you were tipped off to the job so HR can gauge the effectiveness of their efforts.
Customize your résumé and email cover by utilizing as many of the buzzwords from the job posting as possible.
Utilize news articles, PR releases, and any other information you can uncover to help target your approach.
Don't ever lie about your experience, but skew it the best you can toward the company's needs.
When responding to job postings, avoid boring introduction emails. Refer to a job order number if it is given. Go the extra mile and make your introduction interesting. Potentially thousands of people may respond to that job ad. Just imagine how many cover emails start off with "To Whom It May Concern." Try something with a bit more zest. Be different. Try to stand out from the crowd even in your introduction emails.
I'm the Producer You Seek!
- Seven Games Brought to Market (PC, PS2, and XBox)
- Managed a budget of $7 Million and a Staff of 30
- Internal and External Team Management
My experience exactly mirrors your needs! I caught your job post on GIGnews.com. Please consider me for your open Producer position.
Snail mail and fax are available but not typically used when job-hunting in the game industry. Not having email access casts immediate doubt on whether you have the actual ability to function in the 21st century, let alone participate in the development of a complex and advanced state of the art game development project. When submitting a résumé via fax or snail mail, you convey antiquated competence. Hotmail and services like it are free. Get an email address and a web site for displaying your demo.
Submitting your résumé via a next day delivery service can be utilized if you're trying for attention, but is probably a better technique only if used on a specific hiring manager. They don't often get next day mail so it has a better impact when used appropriately. Human Resources, on the other hand, gets résumés submitted this way all the time. Just like "To Whom It May Concern" letters, they tend to get ignored.
DON'T LOSE CONTROL OF WHO HAS YOUR RESUME
I would be very cautious about sending my résumé blindly to a job ad not knowing who is receiving it. This is not a job hunting game we are playing here. If a company is serious about hiring, what reason could it have to hide its company name? Therefore, it is a safe assumption that if the job ad does not identify the company who is hiring, a third party, like a recruiting firm, placed the job ad. Some third-party employment services don't operate in a professional manner. After they get a copy of your résumé without talking to you or asking permission, they will blast it out to the world. Mass mailing produces horrible results! The employment service will not have any better response than you would.
I am not saying all third-party employment services operate this way. What I am saying is just like hiring a doctor or lawyer, you must interview and consider carefully who you trust to team with you on your job search. A partner who does not share information and just blasts your résumé out does not have your career and specific job search in mind. Avoid these firms!
Luckily, there are some awesome recruiters focused in the games market. If you think you have enough experience to be represented by one, take the time to research and interview a few firms before selecting one to team with. For more pointers on working with recruiters, check out Chapter 14, "Working with Recruiters." If you absolutely must respond to an ad that does not reveal the company, at least take some precautions. Briefly describe how you fit for the job, but only provide your name and contact telephone number or email address. Let whoever is behind the curtain reveal himself to you. Then, you can make a logical decision with full information if you wish to release your résumé and information.
CREATIVE AND WACKY WAYS TO GET ATTENTION
Hiring managers talk to dozens of qualified applicants for one position. To be successful in this market, you must discern ways to get noticed and be remembered. More importantly, you must figure out a way to demonstrate your creativity in an industry where creativity is paramount!
Don't lose sight of the fact that you walk a narrow line between standing out and being offensive or an annoyance. Luckily, this is an industry that, due to its creative nature, allows some latitude to operate within.
Here are some attention getting techniques:
Start a newsletter and distribute it to the 100 most influential people in the game industry. You do not need to go crazya half page well-laid out article will work. Feature programming tips and techniques if you are a software engineer. How about 3D Studio Max short cuts for creating animations for the Artists? If you are a Game Designer, outline the successful elements that make a hit game. Marketing gurus can demonstrate your stuff with an article on clever PR techniques. Producers might try writing articles about keeping the creative vision during the development process or noting tips for maintaining development schedules. How about ideas on managing outside third-party developers?
Attach a yellow post-it note to the face of your resume simply stating, "I am the Game Designer you seek! I can prove it! Call me at (800) 779-3334."
Send a humorous card with your resume inside it.
After an interview, send a telegram stating, "I want the job!!"
A Marketing person might redesign the packaging of one of the products the company you are approaching already has on the market. Or, get on the company web page and design a box for an upcoming title.
A Programmer could consider an AVI or a brief snapshot or video of some of the scenes programmed for products already developed. No experience in the industry? Then get to work! Create a simple game and submit the game for review. How about creating a technical quiz that covers hot technical areas like 3D Graphics, Game AI/Logic, Win95, PSX, or N64 development? Answer the questions to the quiz and submit this to the VP of Engineering along with your resume. Or, once a day for three days, email the VP of Engineering some sort of compelling technical roadblock issue with the solution to the problem. On the fourth day, admit you're the culprit in an email with your résumé and request for interview. (Don't forget to send Human Resources a copy.) During the interview, consider bringing "props" such as sample code.
Along with the résumé, a Producer might send a page of rave reviews on the games already released to market. Or, try using endorsements from other employees, industry leaders, or clients. Here is a sample of what one Executive Producer, Sanjay Balakrishnan, sends out with his résumé (note that the names of the persons quoted, along with their titles and company affiliation, have been removed here for confidentiality):
-Excellent Problem Solver, "Sanjay is very creative and always looking for a way to solve any problem that arises, whether in a client negotiation, management situation or simple resource efficiency. He is very good at responding to short notice tasks and rallying his team to complete them on time. He takes tasks seriously and owns them completely. Once a goal is identified, he has excellent focus and drive achieving it." - <Name, title, company>
-Dynamic Motivational Leadership. "Sanjay has brought professional managerial techniques to the Simulations Division, a group that was in trouble before his arrival. The change has been dramatic in terms of morale and the quality of employees that have been attracted to the group. Sanjay's communication skills are excellent and his treatment of people, while firm, is even handed and fair." - <Name, title, company>
-Proven Entrepreneurial Drive. "Mr. Balakrishnan deserves a large part of the credit for seeing Hesware, in only its second year, grow to $13 million annual sales and secure $4.5 million in venture funding, with Microsoft Corp. as a principal investor. He has strength of character, is entrepreneurial, creative, and works hard." - <Name, title, company>
-Software Pioneer and Innovator. "Sanjay Balakrishnan, founder of Hesware, could be called the Wernher von Braun of educational software for home computers. The firm has managed to achieve lift-off into what is essentially the first mass market for 'edutainment' software." - Infoworld Magazine, 1984
-Focus on Quality, "Balakrishnan is a serious, experienced software industry professional who cares deeply about the quality of products and marketing." - <Name, title, company>
TARGETED JOB HUNT CAMPAIGN
Go to the targeted list you created when you started the networking phase of your job hunt. If you successfully spent the time networking, you already have your target list of companies to approach and specific names of people you uncovered during your research and networking efforts. Focus on your top ten companies. Create a cover email that is specifically targeted to each of your targets.
FOLLOW UP BY TELEPHONE, NOT JUST EMAIL
The most important step in a targeted campaign is to follow up by telephone. If you did not get a response to your cover email, call and request an interview.
"Don't rely on email only when following up. Personal contact is the most effective way to network and to job hunt."
Sure, leave a voice mail messageonce. If there is still no response a few days later, call again; but don't leave voice mail, just keep calling until your target answers the telephone. Directly ask your target for an interview or obtain an active job lead from her at another game company. Minimally, if you obtain no information or an interview request from your target, you have permission to email her from time to time.
Stay in touch. This is not a wasted activity. Yes, you are "forcing" a relationship that is very one-sided; some people just take a little more coaxing before they feel comfortable sharing data, and when they finally do, they could be very useful. Code these targets in your database as a "Keep In Touch" and schedule yourself every three months or so to connect either by leaving a brief voice mail message saying hello, by email, or even by mailing a card. Always remind your target who you are, updating her on your job hunt or a current development project, if you're employed. It's a good idea to maintain your network for future opportunities.
Although your target may be saying "no" today, or ignoring you altogether, tomorrow always brings another day and another opportunity to use your target for obtaining job leads and networking.
"Many people try to avoid the telephone because it's just plain scary and uncomfortable to call a stranger and sell yourself. I am a professional 'phone jockey' and even I feel hesitation when making a call to a stranger. Acknowledge your fear and do it anyway! Do you want to end up flipping burgers as a career? You said you were determined to live your dream of being a game professional? Then push yourself! Don't allow fear to immobilize you!"
One very helpful technique to ease fears is to prepare yourself ahead of time. Create a telephone script similar to your one-minute pitch used during your networking phase. Before ever calling anyone, plan out the purpose for the connection and work out how you might accomplish it. After the conversation, rate yourself on how well you performed. Did you obtain your goal? If not, what happened during the telephone conversation that prevented it? Alter your approach for the next target. Self-evaluation is important. Keep calling people and keep honing your skill on the telephone. Practice makes perfect!
Reaching your target person on the telephone can be a challenge, especially if he has a secretary blocking the way. One function of a secretary is to screen calls. Don't ever let a secretary know you're a job hunter, revealing this will get your call transferred to HR. Usually, an authoritative voice, in a businesslike manner, gets your call past the secretary. If you're pressed for a reason for your call, tell the assistant, "We set an appointment to speak today," "She is expecting my call," or "I told him I would call today at 11:45 a.m." You did tell your target in your cover email that you would follow up on a certain day and time, so you're not lying here, just don't reveal the entire purpose of the call. After you have reached your target on the telephone, make sure you're effective. You have only limited time to sell yourself, so be careful what you say.