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Portfolio/Resume Review

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I've recently added two projects to my portfolio and was looking for feedback about the whole package. Any and all constructive feedback appreciated. I'm about to send another round of applications out, but have a little time to make alterations based on suggestions before I do. http://www.michaelhamilton.com

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Hello Michael. I didn't have a chance to view your resume, but you may want to think about fixing the introduction before anything else. That is going to be a huge impression to a potential employer and the grammar needs to be top notch.

For instance, this is one of the things I am referring to:
"who utilizes many of the modern language features where applicable naturally"

That doesn't sound right and may turn someone off. There are a few other places that sound a little odd too. I'm only pointing that out because that is one of the things that annoys me when I am looking through cover letters and resumes. When I get things like that I immediately add them to the bottom. I know that may sound bad, but when I give trainings, presentations, etc. grammar plays a huge role. There is nothing worse than feeling like an idiot when you have 500+ eyes focused on you!

From a quick glance everything else seems to be OK.

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Thanks for the feedback. Sometimes I get a little pedantic and I over-explain things. The wording was clunky and the meaning had to be deciphered when it should have been a quick and concise summary.

I have replaced the rambling intro with the following:
"I am a software developer interested in making high-quality video games. I completed a co-op workterm with Electronic Arts where I helped develop Need for Speed: Most Wanted. I am passionate about my craft and am always learning. This page presents my most polished solo projects."

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Overall both the web site and the PDF resume look pretty good.

On the web site, make your links more visible. It took me several minutes to find your resume.

I would move your library down below the games. Show me the most impressive thing first. I'm not impressed by some boring sprites wobbling on screen. I am much more impressed by being able to point-and-shoot, collect scores, show menus, animate clouds, and have multiple players of interacting avatars.

Otherwise your page itself looks reasonable. Assuming I get through the stack of resumes, decide yours is worth the effort, and actually check your web site, then it does give me everything I need to decide if you are capable of writing games.

The difficulty would be making it past that first hurdle: You must get the company to look at your web site.

Your profile is pretty good. It gives you some personality and tells me twice in the first line that you are a programmer.

Education is listed next. Why did you leave off the date? Omitting it makes me wonder even more than I otherwise would about your "Lead Programmer" job and how it relates to your career experience. Other than the CSSS, did you actually study any useful or interesting topics? Tell me what you excelled at, giving details of the projects and topics rather than useless things like course numbers and titles.

Your hobby projects shown on your web site are good, and in your case more significant to the job than your education. Move your education section down a bit. Are you a very recent graduate? If not, put it on the bottom. If so, move it to just before your work experience.

Skills and Activities needs changes. SHOW your experience, rather than TELL it.

Cut the Languages section.

You say "C++ (6 Years)". Years of experience means years of using it professionally, not in academics or hobby projects. I see only one year of C++ on paper. I see zero evidence of C. I can imagine PHP, SQL, javascript, and other stuff as part of your four-month web developer position, but not three year's worth.

If you really do have that experience you must be able to show it. Our HR people don't look for the language keywords specifically, they assume that if you are a programmer applying at a game company you know the language. They look for general terms like "game", "web", "online", but not languages. It is up to the team leadership to evaluate your actual competencies.

I don't care what books you read recently. Cut.

So now we're down to where the resume actually should start.

List your hobby projects in order of significance. If you are applying for a games company, PUT YOUR MOST GAME-RELATED PROJECTS FIRST.

First should be your map mod. It has measurable value (10th place of 13,000). I wouldn't say "in the top 20", instead say "tenth place of over 13,000" or something similar. Add some detail about what you actually did. Second should probably be your bejeweled bot, because it is completed. Again, add some useful detail for me to assess your skills. #3 should probably be your plug-in language. It is not game related, and it is better to finish off the list with something that is. Finally, list the framework for 2D physics, and details.

I don't see your completed games from the web site. Those should be prominent on your list of hobby projects.

After the details, I would give separate line that video, executable, and source code samples are at your web site.

Don't say "feel free to visit my web site" near the bottom. You want to make your descriptions so compelling that they absolutely must look at it.

That one section should take roughly 1/3 of your total space. It is your biggest selling point.

Your work experience details are fairly nice. They tell me what you did, your role in the teams, and relative competence. Good job on that.

Cut the name dropping. Mr Sikes was co-founder of Black Box, so he was probably your great-great-grandboss in the org chart. The only significant Mike Hamilton that shows up in Google is the University of Tennessee's athletic director. I don't care about either of them. It is you (and not them) that is asking for the job.

I'm concerned about "Lead Programmer" being so short of time, especially with no other significant job history. Why were you put in a leadership position when you apparently have less than one year of work experience? How many people did you lead on your team, and what was their experience? It makes a difference if you are leading a group of 2 college students, or leading a larger group of experienced developers. I'm guessing it was the former. Either way, give me some evidence that you actually have some leadership history, or drop the word "Lead" from the job title.

I'm also concerned about why you left in 2009. The coop student positions are obviously limited duration. A lead programmer ought to hold their job until fired or they have a better job in hand. They ought to be more likely to hold their jobs than their direct reports. This will come up in an interview, putting it on paper gives you a chance to explain rather than letting me guess.

Usually work is sorted by date. Your Squareflo job would be first, EA Black Box would be second, and University of Regina co-op would be last. I can understand the desire to put EA first since it is within games, but I don't think it is necessary. I wouldn't say it is BAD, but it did make me stop and think about why the dates looked odd.

The portfolio section is integrated earlier. Cut it.

References on request. Cut. That line's only purpose is to fill an otherwise empty area of page.

If you are still working I would add an "availability" note. When can you start work? If you are not working any more (after the Lead Programmer position) then it is implied that you can start immediately.

That's all I see in a quick pass.

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Wow, thank you very much. This is a pretty thorough run-down of things that I would not otherwise think of.

This is very sound advice and I'll begin implementing the changes right away. I'll post again when I feel I've done all I can.

To answer some of your questions with a brief and personal history:

My work with Squareflo was as lead programmer of a small team with 3 other web developers working with me. The company was basically a start-up and I was the first developer to do any projects for them, originally freelance work while attending University. The time I worked at Squareflo is a bit misleading because I've actually done work for them on and off over a period of 3 years, but Squareflo was only incorporated and really started up after I re-joined them more recently. Later, after my work-term at EA I spent some more time on my studies.

Health problems surfaced, however, and I had a very serious bout with sleep apnea (which had been coming on for a while) and a several month downtime as doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with me. I'm better now and back in action. This had the effect of nearly killing me and also of putting me behind in my university.

Because I have about 2.5 years of my university done I do not want to omit it, but I also do not want to put "not completed" and get an instant toss into the waste bin before my portfolio has even been glanced at. Any thoughts on this situation would be appreciated. I've ended many courses on excellent terms with my professors and can rely on a few university references if required. Maybe excluding the education section entirely would be prudent. I'm not really keen on going back to university, I don't feel that the value of the education is worth the cost at this point. If I hadn't had my issues with sleep apnea I would be finished by now, but it is hard to will myself to go back into a broken system when I've already seen how broken it is.

After resolving my health difficulties I got a full-time job with Squareflo which had shaped into an actual business in the time I was gone. They contacted me to come work for them because they knew I was good from my past work with them. I accepted the position and over the year and a half I worked there I developed a robust content management system, trained new staff, lead several projects, and completed a number of one-off websites. I am proud of my work at Squareflo and the people I worked with all support my efforts.

I left Squareflo because I do not want to do web development full time as a career. It may seem crazy to leave a job like that but I felt myself growing complacent and I need to stay focused on what I want to do. I left to take a bit of time off and do some freelance work while I started applying for jobs in the field of my choice. All of this said, it may be simpler to just drop the "lead" title which really isn't as significant for a small start-up even if it is technically accurate.

I will avoid the name drop, but I did work on projects directly chosen by Martin Sikes during my co-op and we talked over coffee about the work a number of times. I had no idea who he was at the time in terms of corporate structure. That said you are absolutely right that the work I did should stand on its own and name dropping is cheesy.

In terms of why I say (top 20) is that the stat fluctuates over time depending on release etc. If it is number 10 this month it may be number 11 next month or 12, or 9... It's hard to judge.

[Edited by - M2tM on February 17, 2010 7:23:54 PM]

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I've gone over and removed much of the cruft from my resume and made it much more project-oriented. I was kind of afraid of dedicating so much space on my resume to projects and then having a portfolio as well, but I really feel a lot happier with it in general. I needed to get into the correct mentality that this is primarily a tool to get people to go to my website.

I have, for now, removed the education section... I will probably put it back, but I'd like some feedback and direction in that way. Maybe just moving it to the bottom would suffice... It's kind of a tricky situation.

*EDIT: I was reading this thread and though I have less experience I've decided to put it back in, just at the bottom of my resume.

The updated (in progress) resume is here, I have not updated the download link yet on my portfolio.
Mostly Updated Resume

Changes to the portfolio were more superficial but important, I changed the order of projects as suggested and made a proper button for my resume download link so that it isn't so hidden within the text. I've also included a couple links to reviews people wrote in Czech of my game Dark Sky Fire as it was before I revisited it.


*EDIT: I was just going over the PDF and I realized there were some formatting issues that occurred in the conversion from google doc to .pdf for my resume. I've gone ahead and uploaded a corrected version.

[Edited by - M2tM on February 17, 2010 11:09:51 PM]

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I didn't have a chance to read your original version, but reading the version that is online now is pretty solid.

The one thing I would reinforce from frob's post is about your education.

Reading your resume, I assume you didn't finish your degree? It isn't clear to me.

Lastly, I still find your website overwhelming for the 15 second click-through I normally do when reviewing resumes. I think it would be better split into two columns, where the left side of the screen is your profile, and contact information, and the right side a scrolling list of the projects you've done. There simply isn't enough screen real estate for your contact information when it is at the top. I also find the colors and layout generally a bit over-the-top.

That said, if we were looking to hire entry-level engineers for gameplay I think you would pass the first cut for sure.

When it comes to interviews, be flexible about the areas that interest you but be sure to know what you like. There's nothing that kills the vibe of an interview when someone says, "What do you like the most about making games" and the candidate answers, "everything!". That doesn't help me understand how this candidate fits into the studio's long term development plan, which engineers he needs to mentor with, or whether there is suitable work for the individual's career growth. Think about it and have an answer; the last thing you or I want is to have you be unhappy in the job.

Best of luck with your job hunt!


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I love the way your web site looks this morning, except for one change.

The word is résumé not resume.

The button "Resume Download" makes me think that there is a download which was interrupted.

If the button said "Download Résumé" it makes me think I click to get your document.

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