I should start this post with this is entirely from my own perspective and my own experience, and by no means should this be taken as gospel, as other opinions may vary. I also assume that many others have written similar articles, however over the last year especially, I have received a lot of poor applications that, with a little advice, could have been so much better. I'm also a Creative Director, so some of my opinions may be more applicable to Creative Jobs, as appose to Technical or other business areas.
This post is dedicated to the passionate and talented individuals who are:
- Striving to find their dream job in Games and make their stamp on this exciting industry, and
- Victims of the ridiculous ‘lay-off’ mentality of this industry, and by no fault of their own, find themselves looking for alternative employment.
YOUR Window of Opportunity
This may sound obvious but this is YOUR first chance to make an impression. It's YOUR chance to sell yourself to an individual / company and prove to them that YOU are better equipped for the role than possibly hundreds of others that have applied for the same position.
Note the over-emphasised 'YOU' there... that's because YOU are writing this... NOT your Mother, and not your University Lecturer! I'm not saying don't take other people's advice, but make sure that it is YOU telling YOUR story, and not some generic template.
Be straight to the point and unique! Don't waffle (as they say here in the UK); don't use ten words when one will do. Not only does this make it easier to digest, but it also gives you more room to say other things. I generally don't like to see CVs that are more than 2 sides of A4.
Keep the format simple. I remember receiving a small pretty box in the post. In the box was a folded print-format CV and a Kit-Kat (chocolate candy if you don’t have it in the US). I ate the Kit-Kat, but the CV wasn't very good so I threw it a way. Now of course I still remember this, but I remember it because of the trouble the individual must have gone to, yet I still wish that the individual would have put the time into writing a good CV, as appose to hiding everything with a pretty box and chocolate. If you're going to go that far, make sure you can back it up with the basics!
Links! If there’s a reference to something, add the link! This includes your Blog, your Twitter account, previous company websites, game downloads, Youtube videos, whatever! Just make it as easy as possible for the reader to find your stuff!
Humour! Most people I’ve met in games have a sense of humour. Not always to my taste granted, but everyone is an individual. Don't go overboard with humour, but definitely try to reflect a positive personality in your CV. The reader needs to feel like they would have fun working with you!
As above, Form Follows Function (the 3 F's) - the CV needs to be incredibly easy to digest, allowing the reader to quickly find the information that is relevant to them. In general, I like the following structure spread across two pages:
- Lead with title, contact details (including website, blog, twitter etc.)
- Personal Description / Statement / About Me / Profile
- Skills List
- Previous Game Titles / Accolades / Accomplishments (inc. links to downloads / websites)
- Employment History (also include career milestones / accomplishments)
- Personal Interests
The first few lines of your CV. State your name (how you like to be referred to!). If your name is Dave Smith, please don't put 'David William Smith Esq'! (Unless of course you're being funny)
Add a very short one line 'slogan', how you may be described in the industry, that also gets across immediately what it is you do.
A reader at this stage does not need to know your full postal address, but they DO need to have an idea of your location. If you're willing to move to a new city for the job, find out where they are and add that, and then when you get to interview, explain you're in the process of moving.
Add a mobile number and EXPECT a call! That means if you're applying for a job and they have your mobile number, make sure you answer said calls with enthusiasm and confidence, and NOT like you just rolled out of bed. I myself like to speak to people on the phone before inviting them in to the studio - it gives me a heads up, even if it’s just to arrange a time and date.
Social Networks and Blogs - make sure you have at least one social network that you use regularly, and make sure there are posts regarding games. It doesn’t have to be industry stuff… just games stuff. Most modern games have built-in social networking functionality... use it! It gives employers the impression you're obsessed with gaming and you like to share your passion.
Portfolio – this can be a Blog site, a YouTube Channel, a Facebook page… it doesn’t matter. If you’ve done work, link to it. These days there is no excuse to not having an online presence.
First off, this short section does not NEED to be called 'About Me' or 'Profile' or 'Personal Statement' - again, make it original. Some examples may be:
- In a nutshell
- A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...
It doesn't matter really. Just capture the attention of the reader!
This section should be one or two short paragraphs, probably no more than approx. 10 lines. In this section you want to quickly get across the following:
- Your personality
- Your professional standpoint
- Your career highlights
- What you're looking for and where you want to be
The way the paragraph reads also shows your personality. Don't come across boring... if your paragraph read 'I like this... I also like this... I worked on this... I want to do this...' then writing is probably not your strong point, so ask someone to help reword your initial efforts. Nothing wrong with asking for help providing it tells the right story about you.
This section is probably going to be the MOST original part of your CV too! Many other people will have the same skills, will have worked at the same type of places, have the same qualifications, etc. So it is this simple paragraph that makes you totally unique!
Also think of this section as a summary of the rest of your CV... Mention anything you're especially proud of, or if there's a title you worked on (even as just a tester) then name drop it.
Lastly mention what you're looking for and what you want to be doing. This SHOULD be unique to the position you're applying for! If you're applying to Blizzard, please don’t say you want to work for a small Indie Studio!
This is literally a simple list of skills, exactly what it says. It will be different depending on the type of job, but consider programming languages, frameworks, software applications, talents, etc. Also suggest labelling each in terms of 'beginner', 'intermediate', 'advanced' etc. I once received a CV that tagged their own skills as 'Level 2', 'Level 5' etc. (nice little touch).
Also, don’t forget skills such as client-facing, writing, marketing etc. I was once in an interview with someone applying for a 3D Artist position that also had experience in managing an e-commerce site, which included things like social networking and advertising analytics. For an indie studio these are great skills to have (as there are always times you have to get your hands dirty with other roles).
Previous Titles and Accolades
Admittedly, if you're early in your career there may not be many titles under your belt. If there are really only one or two smaller titles, I’d be tempted to leave out this section and include the titles elsewhere in the CV.
But don't JUST include official published titles. If you've worked on your own stuff (and its good) put it in. If you've worked on your own stuff and it’s not online, get it online and put it in. I hired a guy once who spent the majority of his final year working on 'Portal-esque' game on his OWN. It was amazing to see what could be done by one person with little commercial experience.
Start with the most recent first. Don't use words like '...a small studio by the name of...’. Simply state the name of the studio. If the reader hasn’t heard of them, at least you're not helping them believe they're small-time.
Next to each company, state your milestones and your greatest achievements. Make each of your responsibilities sound like it was essential to making the project a success... even if you were Game Testing, that game doesn't make it to market without YOU testing that game! You were an essential part of that team!
Unless you are fresh out of University I'd advise leaving off 'shelf-stacking at Walmart'. I agree it shows commitment that you are hungry for work, however there are hundreds of studios out there that are willing to offer work experience for free for a few weeks here and there. If you need the cash, then find something a bit more relevant to your career, like working as an office junior. At least it's a similar environment.
Education / Qualifications
Personally I’m less focused on this part of the CV, but there are many companies that insist on a degree-level of education. Keep it short and simple, and don’t forget any other qualifications you may have outside of the traditional tiered education system.
If you haven't already covered this in your initial Profile, mention a few things that you like to get up to outside of work. At this stage we'll assume you like to socialize with friends and have a drink, so please DON'T mention that.
We'll also assume you like to play video games (one would hope), so don't simply mention 'Playing Video Games'. As someone passionate for games, I want to know what floats your boat, which games do you like to play, which do you remember the most, what genres etc. You're not going to be hired or fired for this, but it's nice to know you're gaming archetypes.
Also it's nice to know that you're not a slave to the screen, desk or couch. Let them know what you do to keep fit, or at least keep your heart pumping :o)
You don’t have to include these, but state that 'references are available upon request'. Make sure you have two professionals lined up and prepared to receive requests as well. Nobody will give you a bad reference, but they CAN decline to give them!
Over the years I’ve received hundreds of Word Documents, PDFs, pieces of art, 3D CVs, CDs, DVDs, USB drives, cardboard boxes and more. So much effort has been made in grabbing the individual's attention.
However, I’ll run the risk of making a paradoxical statement (as a Creative Director) - unless you're a Graphic Designer, please stick to Word / PDF CVs! There's nothing worse (within context) than receiving a CV that has had a lot of effort put in, but the font is too small, or the line spacing is too close, or the spacing between sections is off. If you're not being employed for your design and layout skills, please keep it simple.
Within word, feel free to choose different colours, or layouts. Make sure colours are not too intense, but make sure there is enough contrast against the LIGHT background... NEVER use a dark background with light text! Keep it simple. Also I’d suggest keeping things left aligned or justified. Again, it's easier to read. Only place things centred if it’s for a very specific reason.
Use columns for lists. If there's comfortably enough space, place your longer lists into two or three columns, giving you more space below, in order for you to fit more information onto two pages.
Keep it A4. Most readers will want to print it at some point... yes, even in this digital age. Make it easy for them to do so, and don't rinse all their ink from their printer!
Don't be Afraid to be Different
This is easier said than done. You really want the job right, and you don't want to screw it up? However a lot of the time, with this mentality, you can come across nervous, or generic.
But trust me; don't be afraid to take the odd little risk by showing your personality.
Don't be arrogant or obnoxious. Just be confident in your own passion, talent, skills, obsession... whatever your UNIQUE SELLING POINT is, capitalize on it.
Also, the interview is just as much for you, as it is for the studio. Go into the application process genuinely interested in the company and what they do, and what they've done. You need to make sure that the role and the people there are the right fit for YOU. Are you going to be HAPPY there?!
If you write a CV, email, or attend an interview with that attitude, you're already half way to the job offer.
And remember… if you disregard everything else… remember in video games, you already have something in common with the person you’re speaking to… VIDEO GAMES!
So I hope this was helpful to anyone writing a games industry related CV. Please remember this is my own opinion, so do NOT do anything that you are not comfortable doing. I would not wish to be responsible for anyone not receiving their dream job out there, because they thought I was suggesting to act like a clown in an interview :o)
But I hope this inspires and offers a slightly different perspective to what you may already know / think / believe.
And may I wish all those currently applying for new positions out there the very best of luck!
Thanks for reading.