[Olga Novikova offers a selection of job-hunting tips for games industry hopefuls, giving hints on how to tackle resumes, cover letters, and phone interviews.]
Interested in switching careers and breaking into the gaming industry? Submitting a good cover letter can make a difference.
If you have worked in a different industry and are trying to break into gaming, submitting a cover letter along with a solid resume is your best bet. Without a cover letter your resume is going to look out of context and is likely to end up in the ‘not qualified' pile. You want to make sure that your cover letter fills in between the lines of your resume, tells a hiring manager a story, and alleviates any immediate concerns from looking at your resume. Here are five areas you should focus on to help you write your story.
1. Show your knowledge of the industry. Getting across that you are not a stranger to the gaming world will go a long way to establishing rapport with your prospective employer. Don't be shy about your ‘gaming' experience no matter how subtle- any connection matters. If you have been an avid gamer since childhood (and still have the original PlayStation in your garage), or have taken game design classes in college, make sure to talk about it. The gaming industry evolves at the speed of the wind, and the longer you have been following it, the more points you will score with the hiring manager. However, don't despair if you only recently discovered your passion for gaming. Talk about what sparked your interest and why it's important for you to be a part of it. Also, don't forget to mention if you are following any gaming blogs. Keeping up with the industry news shows dedication and passion; two important factors that will play in your favor.
2. Show that you understand the culture. Gaming companies, like many other companies in the tech space, pride themselves on having liberal work environments. Work schedules are flexible, teams often work in an open space layout, and people might get together to bounce creative ideas off each other at companywide brainstorm meetings. Many times, it's not uncommon to have rock band Tuesday, board game nights on Thursday, happy hour Fridays, and a ton of other activities all with the effort of building collaboration, inspiring innovation and nurturing creativity. However, having more freedom and flexibility also means less structure and more ambiguity. Therefore, it's important to show that you can thrive in this type of environment. So don't be shy about letting your personality come through in the cover letter. Make sure to stay professional and respectful, but if you get a smile out the hiring manager that certainly can't hurt your application!
3. Do the research on your dream company. Typically every company website has an ‘about us' section. Make sure to read up on the company history, its goals, its pain points and go-to market strategy. Then take your skills, knowledge and experience and show how you can bring value to the company. The goal is to position yourself as a valuable contributor and a necessary member of the company's future.
You also want to research any recent company news, new partnerships, office expansions, product releases etc. Putting in a sentence or two showing that you follow the company news will show your commitment to getting the job at your dream company.
4. and 5. Know what job you are applying for AND show that your skills are transferrable.These two points are closely related. First, give the job description a good read. Make sure that you have a good understanding of what the role entails and what kind of skills the candidate should have in order to be successful. Then connect your background and experience and show how your skills can be applied to the job you want. Focusing on your core skills outside of the environment in which you've learned them, and showing that they are transferrable will help validate your qualifications.
Following the above tips should tell the hiring manager a story about your dedication, knowledge and passion for the industry AND most importantly (if the points 4 and 5 are done right) also show that you are qualified for the job.
Every process of looking for a new job begins with updating your resume. For most of us that have been with the same company for a while, updating our resume as we take on new responsibilities and move up the career ladder isn't the first thing on our mind. If you've let that document fall by the way side, sitting down to update it can be a daunting task. However, it could also be a blessing. If you find yourself at a crossroads looking to make a jump into a different industry, this could give you a chance to start with the clean slate and formulate your resume with a new focus in mind. Here are five tips that will help you highlight applicable experience for the job you want.
1. State a clear objective. I know this may sound cliché, but unfortunately I've seen ‘objective statements' gone wrong way too many times. You only get to put so many words on one page, so use them wisely. If the statement does not add any value, or communicate a point, don't write it. The same rule applies to anything else you put on your resume.
There have also been an influx of less conventional resumes that don't even list an objective. With that said, if you are going to write one, make sure it's congruent with the rest of your resume and clearly states what job you are looking to pursue. Too many times I've seen a resume which looks something like this: Pursuing an ‘art position', while all experience on the resume is in ‘design', but the role the applicant is applying for is a ‘game producer'. Confused? So am I. If you're looking to change career tracks, be sure to acknowledge this fact and shore up the reason why your experience is relevant to your new career goal. Which leads to the next point:
2. Shine the light on relevant experience. Once you have your mind set on your next ideal job, go back to the first position on your resume and focus on the things you learned and skills you obtained that would be relevant to the job you want. For example, if you were a Product Manager at a small company and wore many hats and are now looking to pursue a job in analytics, don't shy away from listing any experience - no matter how small - that allowed you to gain exposure to the analytics field. If you've pulled data reports on your product's performance, dealt with numbers on a day-to-day basis and understand what ARPU stands for, write about it.
3. Show evidence of growth. At the end of the day it doesn't matter what job you are applying for, every hiring manager wants to see a growth pattern on your resume. Try to pick at least one responsibility, or a project you have worked on from each of the new positions you held that shows scope and impact which was considered a step up from the previous role. No matter what level of the position you are seeking, it is important to show your ability to grow within the organization.
4. Focus on achievements. Your resume is your one shot to put your best foot forward, so make sure that it communicates your true potential. The best way to get that across is to focus on outlining your accomplishments and not just a list of tasks and responsibilities. While it is good to know that you have been entrusted with certain tasks, it doesn't tell the hiring manager how well you have executed on them. Make sure to list at least two significant accomplishments for each of the positions you held. It could be projects that had high visibility, large scope and impact, or required an innovative approach.
I personally find the STAR method very effective in describing accomplishments. It involves four steps: defining the Situation or a problem that you were faced with, identifying the key Task, describing the Action you took to accomplish it, and summarizing the end Result. For example if you just list the following task: ‘Responsible for rolling out a new Marketing Campaign', it won't be nearly as effective as saying: ‘Developed and rolled out a new marketing campaign to address a decreasing number of new monthly users in the game. Within two months of roll out the number of new monthly users had increased by 40%'. At the end of the day the hiring manager is focused on your ability to achieve the desired end result, so make sure you focus on the business impact of your work.
5. Tell a story. After you have finished updating your resume, make sure that it tells a story of where you started, what you have accomplished along the way, and where you want to go next. Remember that the hiring manager can only see what's written on the resume and needs to be able to make sense of it without having you there to walk them through it.
If you're trying to break into gaming it's important to leverage all of your relevant experience. Here are 5 tips on how you can shine the light on the right skills, and avoid potential pitfalls during the phone interview.
When interviewing at a gaming company, you might take a less conservative approach as it comes to dress code (although in my opinion, wearing a nice suit never hurt anybody) but at the end of the day, every interview comes down to the same universal core mechanics of the interview process.
The goal of every candidate, whether applying for a Director of Engineering role or a Senior Artist position, is to convince the hiring manager that you are the best candidate for the job. Many companies will first conduct a phone interview before inviting you for an in-person meeting. Phone interviews don't typically last too long, so it's important to make a good impression in a short amount of time. Being a recruiter and speaking to a lot of candidates, I've come across some things done really well during the phone interview, and I've seen quite a few pitfalls. Here are 5 areas to focus on during the interview that if executed well, are likely to improve your odds of getting a call back.
1. Understand the role. Before you begin the interview, ask the hiring manager to give you a two minute overview of the position so that you can focus your responses to what the hiring manager is interested in hearing about, and not your whole work history. Listen carefully to what the hiring manager says. They will most likely share with you what is on top of their mind, which probably means that these are either specific pain points for them, or are the critical drivers for the role. Make sure to speak to the areas of your experience where you have showcased critical strengths and have successfully overcome similar pain points that the hiring manager has mentioned. This will tie the gap between your many years of wide spectrum experience, and the specific experience qualifying you for the role.
2. Leave no stone unturned. Don't just respond to questions but make sure that you understand the underlying reasons for why the questions are being asked. For example, the hiring manager asks you how many years of experience you have managing direct reports. Before you respond with ‘none', think about what other experience you have that is similar to the one of managing directs. If you were previously managing interns, held a leadership role on the project, taught leadership classes, were a personal coach, or were a part of the mentoring committee, all of these experiences communicate more or less the same thing and that is the ability to lead, mentor and grow (people) the team. Now imagine that all of this would have gone unnoticed if you had simply responded to the question with ‘none'.
On a similar note, let's say you are interviewing for a Game Producer role and have never previously managed a development team. When asked if you have previous experience managing a development team, don't immediately respond with: I've never done that. Instead, think of what experiences you do have that can compensate for the missing area. For example, think back to a time when you were a lead on the project, or needed to closely collaborate with your teammates to achieve a common objective. While it is not the same as managing a team of developers, you have most likely acquired skills that are also necessary for managing a team. To communicate your knowledge of the gaming space, talk about your passion for the industry. Definitely mention if you have been an avid gamer since childhood. In the end, you have leveraged two experiences that you do have-working with the team of peers towards achieving a common objective, and your knowledge of the gaming space-which together make up for your lack of direct experience managing a game development team.
3. Know your strengths and your weaknesses. Every professional, regardless of the fact that they are actively engaged in the job search or not, should know his EVP (employee value proposition). What is it that you bring to the table that is different from everybody else? This is your differentiator during the interview process. This is what is going to put a name AND a face to your applicant profile.
The importance of being aware of you weaknesses should also not be understated. Theoretically your weak areas are your opportunities for growth. And it may not be necessarily that you are notgood at something. It may be that you just didn't have an opportunity to grow that particular skill in the past. Either way, being aware of those areas will prevent you from getting blinded sided by the hiring manager when he brings them up during the interview process. At the end of the day, if the particular skill is not a crucial driver for the role, so long as you have a plan to address it and show the hiring manager that it is not going to become their problem, it should not disqualify you from the role.
Lastly, it is always helpful to take a close look at the job description before heading into the interview, and check off the areas that you think are a good fit with your experience and then mark off areas that could be a miss. Having an answer prepared for how you are going to make up for the missing ‘must haves' will improve your odds of getting a call back.
4. Be clear on your career goals. Before you start having a conversation with the hiring manager, you need to have a frank conversation with yourself. Determine the things that you enjoy doing in your current role, and what you'd rather never do again. Then take a few minutes and review your overall career history. Put those together and you should have a good summation of your ideal job, or the ideal next step. It may be that you have decided that after working for ten years as an individual contributor you would like to break into management and lead the next generation of talented engineers. Or your experience may be the opposite. You may decide that's time to get back to your roots in programming after ten years of managing a team and be more hands-on with a project. Whatever it is, YOU need to be clear on what you want. The hiring manager will always appreciate a candidate who is self-motivated and has a clear idea of the direction he wants to go in.
5. Evaluate if the role is right for you. All of the above points are based on the assumption that you want the job, and not just ANY job, but the specific job that you are interviewing for. At the end of the day, you can do your homework, come fully prepared for the interview, give all the right answers, really nail it and get the job. But as the adrenaline rush of the interview process fades off, you still have to come to work every day and be engaged and motivated to do it. If you haven't done the due diligence reflecting on your career goals and deciding whether or not this role is the next best step for you, you might find yourself in the position where nailing the interview process has overshadowed your true goal of getting your dream job.
Now that you've read up on my tips for how to write a killer cover letter and create a winning resume, hopefully you can use the lessons above to nail the phone interview, and land that dream job. Good luck!