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  • Austin GDC 2007: What are Employers Looking for Now?

    [09.07.07]
    - GameCareerGuide.com staff
  • Brought to you by The Art Institute Online
    Austin Game Developers Conference 2007
    "What are Employers Looking for Now?"
    September 7, 2007

    Speakers:
    Robin McShaffry, Mary-Margaret.com
    Michael Nichols, THQ
    Jackie Shuler, Electronic Arts
    Patricia Bojorquez, Activision

    Robin McShaffry: Welcome. My name is Robin McShaffry and I am a founder and senior recruiter with Mary-Margaret.com, which is a game industry recruiting business.

    I have three illustrious panelists here with me today, and we are going to riff on hiring and what we are all looking for. So I hope you will get a lot of information out of this and I hope that you will have a good time; feel free to ask a lot of questions, but I am going to ask you all some questions first.

    How many of you are students? How many are not students but looking to break in? About the same number, okay. How many experienced game developers here? A few, okay. How many recruiters are in the room? Awesome. Pay attention to where those hands are. I know that just about every major company has probably got a representative or two in here, so pay attention.

    Like I said, my name is Robin, I'm going to pass the mic down and let everybody introduce themselves and we will start from there.

    Michael Nichols: Hey everybody, I'm Michael Nichols. I am a senior recruiter with THQ, and I've been recruiting about 17 years. Prior to THQ, I was with both EA and Activision, so I have been around the block a little bit. I'm just hoping this is going to be real beneficial for everybody here.

    Jackie Shuler: Hi, everyone. My name is Jackie Shuler, I'm senior manager of university relations at Electronic Arts. I've been in recruiting for about 11 years, and I am very excited to be here to answer any questions and hopefully give you guys some insight on how to get into the industry.

    Patricia Bojorquez: Hello, everyone. My name is Patricia Bojorquez and I'm the manager of university relations for Activision. I've been with Activision a little over a year and I have about 14 years of human resources and recruiting experience.

    RM: So, let's just start right at the top. We've been together, the four of us have been sitting and talking for the last half hour and we've kind of gone over some questions. We set some ground rules too, so if you ask us a question that falls outside our ground rules, we will all have to look at each other and say, "No, sorry, we're not going to answer that one."

    I will just throw this [first question] to the panel: How do you get the interview? What's happening with candidates these days, what really jumps out at you? What kind of recommendation makes you jump and go, "Right, I want to talk to that guy!"?

    MN: One of the things that we covered a lot in the room right before this was some of the presentation skills and kind of the business end of how to get a job and how to not get a job, and we will cover this in a little bit, the actual skills that you need from a game development standpoint. But there are a number of things that you can do to maximize your ability to get a job. One of those is that you need to really be prepared when you start talking to the company that you are coming to interview with. You need to know what games they have just released, where they're located -- there are a lot of ways that you can get nixed right out of the process and that is if you send in a cover letter that has typos on it. We all do a lot of cut and pasting, and I've seen cover letters where they will send it to me -- I work at THQ and I work with Vigil Games; and I will be reading through and will get to the very bottom and it will say, "And that is why I have always wanted to work at Blizzard." Do you guys have any stories like that?

    JS: Yeah, I think another thing that is really important, too, on your resume is to include those side projects. We really want to know what you have done. It's great to show that you have had a job, but show me the projects that you have worked on. Show me those technical skills that we look for. Show me those leadership skills and organizations that you have been a part of. Those are all those social skills that we look for in identifying talent. We want the total package. So it's really important to kind of put those things on your resume.

    PB: Just to add to it, make sure you are spellchecking your resume. We get a lot of resumes that come in with a lot of misspellings; we tend to not forward those on. Our hiring managers are going to look at them and they are just going to say, "No, I don't think so." Also, just to go back to what Jackie said: Soft skills are really important for us as well. We want to know that you can work in a team. Everything is team-based, so those are really important as well.

    RM: How many of you guys have personal or other kinds of web sites where you're showing your work, where you are showing your experience, showing your resume? Good job. If any of you didn't raise your hands, I expect you to be able to raise your hand by next week. Get a web site.

    JS: We want to see what you have done.

    RM: We want to see what you have done, we want to see what you got, and I know where you live, so I'm going to come check it out. But, with that said, on the web site thing, I have seen some pretty interesting web sites. Have you seen some interesting web sites? Don't put porn on your professional web site.

    MN: The thing about web sites, it's definitely a trend nowadays where we would rather just see a resume with a link to your online portfolio. Hard reels are going to get lost. It's too hard to kind of keep track of everything, so everybody that's really serious about it, make sure that you get an online portfolio and presence. And it's going to maximize your chances that way, too.

    JS: And when we are talking about online reels, we are clicking on it and in 20 seconds, pretty much, show me your best work -- in 20 seconds! We are not going to go through 10 minutes of reel work. We want to see the best thing that you've got in the first 20 seconds. Don't make us wait.

    RM: Don't make us click 10 times, either.

    JS: And then that will make me want to sit there and continue to watch it, within the first 20 seconds, if I haven't gotten anything, I am going to the next one.

    RM: The same applies for resumes. You've got 10 seconds. We could riff the whole hour just on resumes, honestly. Resumes: Put your name on it, right? Have you ever gotten a resume with no name on it? I have. It matters what you name the file. How many files do you have, how many emails do you get with resume.doc attached? Like, all of them. So use your name and your filename those kinds of things. Things that you think would be common sense, we are constantly having to drill that into people. What other kind of common sense pieces of really, really basic advice would you like to have?

    MN: I'd say, make it really easy and apparent when we look at your resume that, "Wow, this person really wants to do games." Have a list of the game projects that you worked on. If it's appropriate, have a list of the game development classes that you took. If you're in programming, have it so that we can have a way to look at your code samples or demo games that you have created or levels.

    PB: If you play games, list it. You like RPGs, whatever you like, first-person shooters, list it. We want to know if you play games. It is not a deal breaker, but it's important.

    RM: That's true, that's a good point. It's not a deal breaker. If you are not a gamer, that's okay. We know you also have valuable skills to bring to the table, even though you may not be the level 70 whatever in WoW, but it helps to be enthusiastic. It helps to sum up, to have done your homework, to know who you are applying to --

    JS:  -- to be passionate, whether it's passion for games, passion for technology, just be passionate as well.

    RM: Absolutely. Well, let's move on from that. Let's see, what else have we here? What sort of skills are in demand now? I think that is probably a good question that this group is going to want to know the answers to.

    JS: I love programmers. I'm always looking for programmers. Also technical artists, those individuals who act as firefighters. The technical artist is the bridge between a programmer and an artist ...

    RM: Jackie, can you talk a little bit more about technical artists? Can you tell us a little bit more about what that kind of job does and what it is?

    JS: Well, they can do several different things. We have several types of technical artists. We have technical artists that are writing, or that are doing plug-ins. They're basically providing tools or writing tools that help the artists and the programmers and make their jobs a lot easier. They do shader writing. They do research and development. It really just depends on the organization for what the technical artists will do.

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