Midnight Hub is a Swedish indie studio run by former Mojang and Paradox developers. Right now we're hard at work with our story-driven mystery game Lake Ridden. Feel free to reach out on Twitter if you got any questions, or why not leave a comment on this post? : )
For the past years I have applied for a fair share of jobs in the games industry, as well as been sitting on the other end of the table, judging CVs and browsing links to portfolios (both situations are equally challenging but in completely different ways!).
Malin Hedström at Arrowhead Games recently published a great blog post about the do’s and don’ts on how to showcase your portfolio as a programmer, designer, artist or audio designer. I recommend you check out her piece for more info on that topic.
Here I will offer some quick and easy pointers on how to approach your first meeting with the company of your dreams, after you polished your kick-ass portfolio and tracked down a job opening!
Please remember that the following list are from my point of view, feel free to disagree with me in the comments! Or perhaps I forgot something obvious?
Early screen shots of Lake Ridden, before we changed our art style.
1. Read The Job Application. Then Read It Again!
It’s important to know what the studio is looking for. If you know what they need you’ll be better equipped to highlight relevant experience and create a better edge for marketing yourself towards them (more on that later)!
Remember this, the requirements listed for the job are usually a bit of a fantasy. This would be the absolute dream candidate. The chances are that the company might very well be interested in you even if you only have great Photoshop skills, notexcellent as the opening lists. There’s usually a bit of a wiggle room, and surprisingly many developers lack a bit of self esteem. If you meet five of seven requirements, just take a shot and apply. Perhaps you lack something listed, but get a chance to blow them away once you get assigned that art test!
2. Make It A Win-Win!
I’ve read many applications where the person states what a great next step this job will be for them. This might be true, but when you say things like “I’m pretty sure this position will be the perfect next step for me to learn even more”, what the companies hear are “I want to use you guys as the next step on my career ladder”. Doesn’t sound so sexy, right? What you need to do is to present this as a win-win opportunity between you and the company. What strengths and skills can you offer the team? How can you contribute? And what are you hoping to learn from them in return? Game companies are usually looking for someone to cooperate with, team members who can both learn but that also contribute to the body of knowledge within the company! Don’t (only) ask what the company can do for you, ask what you can do for the company!
3. No Walls of Text
Time to apply for that job! Always avoid big, dense walls of text when communicating. This applies both to emails and almost always to portfolios as well. Make every word matter. When we’re busy reading dozens of personal letters and CVs we are not going to have time to read the story of your life. Keep it short, informative and positive. Get to the point. I recommend you keep the personal letter to no more than half the size of a A4.
4. Always Spellchek
Let’s look at that short, sweet email you’re ready to fire away. We always do our best to judge you based on your portfolio work, but if we get a badly written application with a lot of sloppy spelling errors it’s hard to see past that. It just comes across as unprofessional. Affected with dyslexia myself I know spelling can be a hassle, but Google really got awesome spell checking and you can always ask someone to read your resume, portfolio, CV and first email for you!
5. Follow Up
So, you sent them an email ahead of deadline and made sure your portfolio was top notch! Time has passed and a week later the company still haven’t responded. Don’t panic, companies usually like to “batch up” applicants and go through them all at once if possible, then get back to them. If a week or more has passed since application closed, and still not a sound, send them a friendly reminder. Sometimes people actually forget to reply to emails or things fall between the cracks.
6. If You Happen To Run Late For The Interview
Congratulations, the company wants to schedule an interview with you! Always make sure to get the phone number if possible to someone at the company who’s responsible for scheduling the interview, and remember to include yours in the email verifying the time and place as well. This way you can easily text or call if you get delayed or get lost on your way there. Sometimes trains do break down or a gang of violent monkeys attacking the bus will slow you down, and it’s not nice to keep your future colleagues waiting without a VERY GOOD reason. Being late on your first real meeting (Skype or face-to-face) with the company might very well cost you that job.
7. Do Your Homework!
I once showed up at an interview for a big games company without having played even one of their major titles. When they asked me which of their games I liked the best and why, the whole situation turned super awkward. Not researching the company before you meet (or even apply to them) is a waste of time, both for you and them. Always play 2-3 of their titles and read up on the company history. If you’re able to point out specific things you liked or things that could be designed differently it shows that you care. Impress them! And then it’s your turn to ask questions, fire off a few of these darlings to make them sweat a bit.
8. After The Meeting
Great job! You survived the interview! It’s a good idea to send an email saying thanks for the opportunity and also to ask any questions you might forgot to ask during the meeting. Some companies have quite the process when screening for new hires, so chances are you’ll be called for more than one interview, depending on the role. When I was interviewed for King I went through a total of six or seven interviews, lunches, coffees and was flown to Stockholm for two additional meetings.
9. Time To Show Them What You Got
You got the job! Congratulations! This is where the fun begins! I recommend you read this great post by J.T. O’Donnell on how to tackle the first 90 days of your new job! It’s packed with hacks on how to avoid common beginner’s mistakes. Remember that it takes time to get into the flow. As a rule of thumb: don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions, and try to listen more than you speak. All smart people I know constantly ask a lot of questions.
If you did not get the job there’s still things you can do to make a good impression. Always thank the company for letting you know you did not make the cut. Ask them politely if they are able to state any particular reason or point out a skill you could improve. Getting that feedback for your next job application could make all the difference!
10. Find The Hidden Opportunities!
If the company of your dreams aren’t listing the need for someone like you on their page it doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t looking! A lot of recruitment (perhaps the majority) is hidden and takes place inside the company or through networks of former colleagues. Sometimes the company has recognized the need for a certain person with certain skills, but due to lack of time they might not have posted the opening on their page. A lot of companies also accept unspecified applications. So be brave, just go for it, send them a friendly email with a link to your portfolio, present it as a win-win situation and who knows, you might land the job of your dreams!
Sara & The Team