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HoozitWhatzit

Advice for programmer trying to "break in"

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That is, I'm seeking advice. I've got a CS degree, 7 years of C++ programming experience, and a 3D game demo written in DirectX 8 that I'm almost finished with. I've set up my own portfolio website to make it easier for employers to get info about me. Yet, a recruiter told me today that I don't have much of a chance landing a programming job in a game company at the moment, thanks to the depressed economy and fierce competition. Sheesh! I hope he's wrong, but.....? I haven't lost hope yet; I'm just starting my job search, actually. Can anyone give me any advice about how to reach employers in this industry? Is it better to work with headhunters/recruiters or just send resumes directly to a company? How can I improve my presentation to them? Thanks in advance for any pointers. Before I start the mass resume-launching, I'd appreciate any advice I can get. --Neil. ---------------------- Check out my game demo and resume at www.fivestory.com/projects/game. [edited by - HoozitWhatzit on November 5, 2002 3:02:17 AM]

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Recruiters are funny things. When you don''t have any industry experiance they are filled with gloom and doom, and when you do have industry experiance they are filled hope and job offers. There is only one recruiter I know of that actually gives you the honest bottom line, and he''s the owner of V Search.

So I wouldn''t put much weight in what any recruiter tells you. A recruiter makes money off of the "sale" of you to a company. Now they get standard ammount for doing this no matter the experiance level of the person. So from the company''s perspective, they don''t want to pay a recruiter to come up with people with no industry experiance. If they wanted this type of person they could''ve easily placed an ad in the newspaper and saved themselves some money. And from the recruiters perspective if they give a company a list of "recruits" that have no industry experiance the company is most likely not going to do buisness with them in the future.

So you are better off searching sites like www.gamejobs.com and the like looking for jobs than you are going to a recruiter.

As for what company''s look for, that''s completely dependant on the company. I''d suspect that your one 3d demo isn''t going to cut it. You should have a nice demo made/tweaked specifically for the type of company your applying to. For instance if you want a job at EA Sports your better off doing a football style demo than a FPS. You should also change your cover letter and resume for each company as well. Target specific abilities/qualities that you have that you feel will be beneficial to that specific company you are applying to. Keep in mind that most HR departments in companies talk to each other so they can tell if you''ve sent out the same thing to every game company in the area.

Another helpful thing is to send a thank you card each time you''ve been in contact with someone from the company on the phone or in person. Never wait more than 3 days to send the thank you, or it''s too late.

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Thanks for the tips about recruiters. When you describe it from their perspective, it makes perfect sense! I'll focus my efforts on answering specific job postings myself--and I'll tailor each resume/cover letter individually as you suggested.

This may be a stupid question, but do you think it makes a difference whether I send resumes/cover letters by e-mail (as Word attachments) or in hardcopy form (on nice resume paper)? Few companies clarify which they would rather see.

Thanks again,
--Neil.



----------------------
Check out my game demo and resume at
www.fivestory.com/projects/game.

[edited by - HoozitWhatzit on November 5, 2002 12:03:37 PM]

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Guest Anonymous Poster
It''s really hard now a days to make the decision about how to send your resume. Most large companies will take your mailed resume and scan it into their resume database and do searches for keywords that match the current job opening they have. So if it''s a large company I don''t see anything wrong with sending it to them in digital format as it will most likely end up in that format anyhow. For smaller companies I''d suggest mailing them a hard copy. These companies typically need to go over each resume independantly so it''s good to try to set yourself apart here. But keep in mind that using fancy fonts and the like makes things hard to read, and sometimes makes it hard for OCR software to understand when it gets scanned in to a computer so becareful what type of font/paper you use. Marbelized paper will cause havok with OCR software, as will cursive fonts.

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I''d have to completely disagree with AP about having a demo suited to that company. Companies want to see experience and motivation. They don''t care whether you''ve done what they do a lot. Why would EA sports want to hire someone who''s made a football game to program Madden 2004? They want to hire someone who is a good programmer without any preconceived notions of what is the best way to do it. Their way is better, and they''re not afraid to tell you so. You don''t the industry experience and they do. Yes, it''s an arrogant attitude, but it''s all too often true.

Having any COMPLETED project is so much more important than having a demo tailored to the company you want to work for. Even if you did have a football demo, it''s entirely possible that they''d want to put you on their NHL 2003 team instead. Think about it. Would that look good for you to apply with a football demo when the position they have open is for hockey? Probably not. They''ll assume that you want to do football and go on to the next guy who made a hockey demo. It''s totally hit or miss.

A generic 3D demo is better IMHO. Don''t give up. If you''ve got 7 years of programming experience, you should be fine. Go through a few headhunters, but don''t go to ones who want money from you. If they get paid by the company after the fact, then you''ll be in much better hands. I went through a headhunter like that once and got a job 60 miles closer to home, paying over $20,000 more per year than I was already making. Talk about a sweet deal. But if they''re getting paid before finding you a job, they''re not going to work as hard for you because they already have the money.

And don''t be afraid to look on your own in addition to having the headhunter look for you. As for emailed vs. printed resume, it might seem pushy, but do both. You''re more likely to have someone get back to you. Most of the resumes you send will be greeted with a generic ''thanks, we just threw it in the stack of other resumes, we''ll call if we need you'' reply. Sending more than one shouldn''t hurt you. I wouldn''t send more though. There''s a difference between aggressive and pushy.

Good luck, and don''t let anyone tell you what you can and can''t do, especially a recruiter.


Looking for an honest video game publisher? Visit www.gamethoughts.com

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Thanks for the advice, all of you.

As a side note, I received an e-mail from a recruiter today recommending very strongly that I NOT use a recruiter''s services in this stage of my career. He said that it could very possibly damage my chances of getting any job at all.

His reasoning: recruiters generally deal with candidates with 2+ years of industry experience and, on top of that, they generally have 12 month exclusivity contracts with their clients.

Meaning: if a recruiter were to give my resume to a game company for a position that I am unlikely to get hired for, then that company won''t be able to hire me at any time over the next 12 months for ANY position without paying this recruiter a service fee.

This e-mail described a dire scenario where a recruiter sends my resume to every company in a particular region, effectively "locking me out" of that region for 12 months...

Is there any truth to this?

Thanks,
--Neil.

----------------------
Check out my game demo and resume at
www.fivestory.com/projects/game.

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Neil,

I bet we used the same recruiter, because the person who I spoke with said the same thing- that it would be damaging to use a recruiter at this stage of the career.

Anyways, I''m a 3rd year student, so I don''t know that much about getting a job, but I did get a taste of things in finding an internship in the game industry so I''ll give you my take on things... I think the recruiter was correct in what he told you. I mean, first of all, if a company is investing the time and effort to use a recruiting service then it''s probably because they''re hoping to find someone with a lot of experience. Plus I believe the recruiters charge a fee if you hire one of their people they found for you, so why would they charge for a new graduate?

Personally, what I''d say is that you should just try aiming for as many companies as you can. There are some lists of companies available if you look around on the net. Do a really thorough search and I''d suggest try finding some smaller companies, not just companies like Acclaim or Blizzard which are going to be ultra-competitive. So, just make a huge list with a mix of say, maybe 50% small companies, 35% medium companies, and 15% big companies. Out of this list, pick a few companies that you are really interested, and make sure you do a super job in applying to those.

If you''re new I think that obviously the thing you have going against you is lack of experience. So, the things you should focus on are your demo, the areas which you have knowledge in, your grades in school, and also you should make sure to come off as enthusiastic and friendly. Personally I believe enthusiasm and willingness (plus abililty) to learn new things, count for a lot, because obviously they''re not going to expect you to come in knowing everything. Be totally honest too, I think they would appreciate it if you''re direct. You don''t want to seem like you''re hiding something or trying to just tell them what they want to hear.

About the actual process of applying to companies... I''m definitely NOT that knowledgeable but here''s my opinion (you can take it with a grain of salt). Send an e-mail with a short "cover letter" telling a bit about who you are, what you''re looking for (be specific), and what you feel you can offer to the company. Attach the resume in Word format. The resume should be simply formatted (use no more than two fonts, perhaps a serif font for most of the text and a sans serif format for headers). In the resume, include the most relevant sections toward the top. So definitely your past education and GPA should be included. Personal experience and accomplishments too. If your work history isn''t that big, then put it lower on the resume, since the companies would probably focus more on the grades and personal experiences you have. Also I would suggest having several people proofread your resume.

For large companies, I would suggest only attaching the resume, because probably they don''t want to deal with attachments. (For example one company specifically told me NO ZIPS). For smaller companies where they may have the time to check out your demo, I would suggest including that if the filesize is less than 2MB, else give a link. In addition to e-mailing your resume, you may want to also actually send the resume by snail-mail as well, just to the companies you''re really interested in. It may help to show your enthusiasm and motivation.

Anyways here''s what happened to me hehe... I applied to a bunch of companies hoping to get an internship. Immediately I got a few responses saying things like "Sorry, we are not ready to hire yet, but try contacting us again closer to summer". Then, I got an e-mail from a small company in Cali, from the technical director. He said he''d give me a call some time. So I did some research on the company.. I found out it was very new (and not very well known) but the founders had amazing credentials, and the 1 game they had made was seriously one of the best games I''ve ever played (although sadly it isn''t very well-known).

Well to make a long story short, he called me and things worked out, so I got the internship! Well, anyways I think I got it more out of luck and because the technical director is an awesome guy more than anything else =) I''m not that experienced, and there are certainly people much smarter than I am. It''s just that I spent a lot of time applying to companies and I tried to really look carefully to find those "unknown" companies who aren''t getting flooded with a million resumes a day. Also, I didn''t only apply to companies who had job postings. Some companies (especially smaller ones) may not be actively looking for someone to fill a job, but maybe if you contact them and they''re impressed by you, they will hire you. Like I said, that''s more likely to work at smaller companies. Large companies may be... well, "snobby" if you apply to a job which they''re not looking for. They can afford to be snobby, since they can pick and choose from a gazillion applicants hehe.

Just keep applying, even if all you did was 3-4 companies a day, it would add up to a lot over time. Even if a bunch of companies reject you, I''m sure that you will be able to find a good job if you are persistent.

Best of luck!

Raj

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Thanks, Raj, that''s really helpful advice. I was going to just focus on companies that had actual job postings listed, but I think I''m going to take your advice and send unsolicited resumes to companies that look interesting (and promising).

BTW, I notice you''re in Illinois--a fellow Midwesterner, I see! (I''m in Kansas City, and I used to live in Chicago.)

--Neil.

----------------------
Check out my game demo and resume at
www.fivestory.com/projects/game.

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I went through the same deal straight afer school and it was pretty crazy. For what it''s worth, I agree with what everyone has said here. Send resumes to companies without job listings and avoid headhunters (for the reasons already listed). To add my two cents:

Go to Gamespot, go to their list of game reviews and previews, and on each game''s page, there is a link to the developer''s website. Some games may not have one listed but most do. I found that this was a great way to find smaller name developers.

Try to be ready for a phone interview at any time. Try to research a company before you send the resume. Because that phone interview can come at any time and some companies will do an elaborate interview right there. Once I sent in a resume at 9AM and one hour later, I got an interview call asking me about the company, some technical questions, etc.

Know your demo inside out. If you coded it, they''ll expect you to be an expert on what you did. Be ready to answer questions about the technical stuff you did. The more impressive your demo is, the harder they''ll probably scrutinize your knowledge about it.

About creating demos tailored to the company: If your existing demo is polished enough, and you find a company you really want to join, and they have a moddable game, why not create a small mod with their game? Or even just a user-created map? It''s one thing to say you are willing to learn their tech but another thing to show them something you''ve created using it.

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