Avoid The 'Shotgun' Approach When Applying For Jobs In Games

The games industry is extremely difficult to get into without a lot of experience and a few completed projects under your belt. Entry-level roles are far and few between and when an opportunity does pop up, applicants are willing to try anything just to be in the industry, let alone their ideal job. While it might seem OK to go for unrelated positions, it can seriously compromise your chances in the future.

This article was originally published on Lifehacker Australia.

Insomniac Games' HR recruiter Angela Baker has written about the company's recent hiring experiences, which involved the aforementioned scenario.

A position became available for a HR assistant and naturally, the developer got the recruitment ball rolling. Along with the usual assortment of applications came a great deal with completely the wrong skill set, but better suited for roles in actual games development. One could see any position at a games studio as a way to get a foot in the door. Sure, you might start out in HR, but you could use that as an opportunity to move into what you really want to do.

Unfortunately, for those that did attempt this strategy, it didn't impress Baker and if anything, it can damage one's chances to get a position at the company:

The worst offenders were guilty of what I'll kindly refer to as application SPAM. APP SPAM is applying for a job the candidate is not really interested in or qualified for ... just because you want to work in games, heck, just because you want to work at INSOMNIAC GAMES, doesn't mean you should apply to every position we have available. With a shotgun approach you're only going to end up shooting yourself in the foot!

She goes on to say that Insomniac effectively blacklists people who do this, putting their resumes aside for 12 months before it will consider the applicant again. Baker elaborates on this hard stance:

... This is what it looks like on our side of the fence... we are going to see that you applied for HR, and art, and animation, and programming — all just hoping to get your resume seen by someone — anyone. What it shows us is that you are confused and perhaps a spammer of resumes. Did you read the posting? Did you really think that your skills were a match for the job? I'm not talking about the people who apply for a gameplay programming spot and also apply for a mobile gameplay spot. These jobs are similar and clearly have some similar skills and knowledge overlap. I'm talking radically different skills for each job.

Baker ends by stating that when you apply for jobs, you should be a "sharpshooter", not a "shotgunner". Sure, explore as many avenues as you can when trying to get a break, but by the same token, don't jeopardise your future chances by making a mockery of the process.

How I Screwed Myself Out of a Job at Insomniac Games [Insomniac Games]

Image: Insomniac Games


    This is great advice.

    Continuing on from it, the shotgun approach doesn't work when applying to different companies, either. You need to take the time to learn about the company in question. Visit their website, check out their blog, don't just build a list of emails from an online directory and send them all exactly the same email.

    Particularly don't put all of the email addresses in the "To" field so that everyone can see just how lazy you were.

    And even if you get that right, triple-check who you've addressed the email to. I've had a couple of "Dear [completely different company], I'll do anything to work for you."

    Which reminds me: Don't beg, either. It costs us to bring someone on board, particularly an intern. It takes time and effort to set them up and check in on them, and we could be spending that time doing something genuinely productive.

    I don't want to know that you'll do anything, including back rubs and coffee fetching, just to get your foot in the door. I don't want back rubs, and I'm very particular about my coffee.

    What I do want to see is an example of the quality of your work. I want to know that you have talent, not just unguided passion. I don't want the person who has been sitting there dreaming of the games industry without putting any effort into developing their skills. If I get one more email that doesn't even have a resume attached, let alone a portfolio link, I'm going to go spare.

    But most importantly, to bring it around to my first point, visit my website before you email me. I am clearly one idiot playing with game creation in his spare time. I update my blog maybe once a year. I'm not going to be able to employ you in any capacity. I am willing to offer advice based on my previous experience as a professional in the industry, though, as are most other indie developers. We're a passionate bunch, and we like to share.

    Last edited 09/08/14 2:40 pm

      Yip. We are going through something similar after releasing our First Psm game. We are thrilled to get interest and feedback, but a part time 2 student indy studio unfortunatly can't hire all the artists/ animators and soundies that are interested, (let alone pay anyone off the earnings of a psm game).

      On a side note, if we were looking for someone, it would be for something specific. So I don't think this is harsh. It's the unfortunate reality. I wish we could hire everyone who's passionate, and I'm sure Insomniac would too, but we just can't.

      Last edited 09/08/14 4:53 pm

      Continuing on from it, the shotgun approach doesn't work when applying to different companies, either. You need to take the time to learn about the company in question. Visit their website, check out their blog, don't just build a list of emails from an online directory and send them all exactly the same email.

      I've heard this frequently but as someone on a job hunt for months now, I cannot stress enough how absurd this is in practice. There are hundreds, if no thousands of people applying to positions in your are of the expertise at the same time. No matter how good you are or think you are, there's an unknown amount of people that for one reason or other have more relevant skills, experience, or raw talent to the vacancy's requirements. In the end, doing nice things like extensive research on the company and carefully customised resumes in addition of super personalised cover letters and the such is only going to net you a few brownie points that will not push your comparatively average fit to the position over the people that are just perfect for it. Time spent like this is, in my opinion, better employed casting a wider net, applying to more jobs, in the hopes of finding the one that will believe that you are the right fit straight away.

        Yeah, I feel your pain. We've all had to do job hunting at one point or another.

        Resumes don't normally need to be adjusted, but if your email or cover letter is very obviously copy-pasted you'll probably end up doing more harm than good in your job search.

        It's not really about extensive research, it's just about having at least some idea who you're applying to and making the bare minimum effort to address their job criteria directly.

    I highly recommend clicking the link to the original post. There are some very insightful responses.

    Great read Kotaku.

    It's not really limited to the games industry. This is something you need to keep in mind for any job application.

    Yep, I've said this before and I'll keep saying it. I've been in the games industry 11 years and whenever a young guy or girl asks me how to get into it, I always tell them the same thing: Pick a discipline. Don't say "I can do anything, just hire me!", because that's the last thing they are looking for. Instead, choose what you want to do, focus on that, and blow them away with your application.

    Agreed that spamming every position available probably isn't the best idea, but this wasn't the case for me.
    I think choosing which positions you apply for is crucial - there is never going to be the 'perfect' position, and if there is, about a thousand more qualified people will apply for it.
    I initially got my foot in the door as an intern updating art asset spread sheets (if that doesn't sound like an ideal job, then I don't know what does haha)
    I now no longer update spread sheets (well, very rarely) have just over 5 years industry experience, 2 credits to my name and I love my job. If I kept waiting for the perfect position, I still don't think I would be in the industry.

    I will note though, that the intern position did loosely tie in with my goal role - don't apply for something like an I.T. support position if you're trying to become a concept artist

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