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Applying For A Job: Please Do It RIGHT.
by Alan Wilson on 01/08/10 12:00:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutraís community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Let me start with the shameless plug: we are recruiting. Yay, Tripwire! A good way to start 2010. Come and work in Roswell, Georgia - go look us up on the job postings here on Gamasutra. Hot summers, a genuine 4 seasons, Fall in the mountains to rival any in the country, studio on the up - what more could anyone ask for?

Trouble is, the answer seems to be "jobs for nothing". And it has really got under my skin, so I'm going to rant.

Before I do, to all those great applicants we have had over the last few days - thank you. Keep them coming. Some great applicants, with great skills and great portfolios. The applications have been well presented, the portfolios are easy to find and look through. Very professional, very much the kind of people we were hoping to find. We'll be getting back to you.

Now, the rant. For the love of all that is sensible, will everyone else PLEASE start thinking about how they do their job applications? I am ranting because I tend to skip-read everything that comes in, although the relevant heads of department here will actually look through properly and make the decisions.

There are quite enough sites (including this one) that hand out advice to job-seekers, so that I shouldn't need to launch in. But the catalogue of crap, stupidity and lack of thought that has turned up in amongst the good is staggering. In no order of irritation or priority:

[Note: no, I am not quoting from any recent job applications. I am paraphrasing, to protect the dim.]

1. As a colleague pointed out recently, please make it seem like you care who we are, you have done the most basic research (www.tripwireinteractive.com - how hard is that??). Like, make the application to US, not some generic blurb you have sent out 100 times already. It helps if you give the impression you want to work for Tripwire, rather than "your studio". Name a game of ours you like (or can find the title of on our website) rather than "your games". Make an effort, FFS.

2. Don't babble on and talk utter crap. Don't try and get clever. "You need winners and I am a winner!". Just... NO. No-one is going to go "wow, he is SO right!" All we do is cringe, toss the application and move on. Keep it brief and to the point. I know I babble on for pages - but NOT in a job application.

3. Read the job post and take note of it. Please. Our job postings state that you need to have the relevant legals in place to be able to work in Roswell, GA. So don't apply if you can't. Look what people are asking you to tell them and ACTUALLY TELL THEM! They want to know about salary? Tell them. They want a list of Wii games you have worked on? Tell them.

4. There is a "2-second rule". If your application doesn't get my attention (for the RIGHT reasons) in the first few seconds, I am going to move swiftly on. So, above all else, make sure that the things I want to know about are hit right up front. Easy to read, too, please. "I am an environmental artist with 5 years experience in Unreal Engine-based games" works. "I love to play games and have always dreamt of doing cool stuff" does NOT.

5. Talking of making it easy: resume, portfolio, anything else should just be a click away, if not included in the email. "Go to my website and click on resume and then download and then...". No, I don't have the time. Don't make it hard for me to find out more. If you've got my interest, don't throw it away again!

6. On the basics: spell-check. The "F7" key in MS-Word/Outlook. Use it. It is your friend. It is one of those teenie things that helps to stpo you looking really sputid

To sum up a good application: write a relevant and brief email that is directed to the company with jobs. Do a quick bit of research first and personalize just a touch. Read the job posting and hit the key elements in the beginning of the email. Tell me the things I want to know quickly, concisely and without a pile of b/s wrapped around it. Attach relevant documents or link directly to them. Portfolio well organized, just a click away.

[For those of you trying to break into the industry for the first time: I KNOW it is bloody hard. Same rules apply, though - make the application shine!]

And to all those of you writing job applications that go straight in the trash: look, YOU aren't going to get a job with idiot job applications. Unless you are want a job that requires an idiot. And you know what? You are probably getting in the way of all the great talent out there by cluttering the place up. Oh - and NO - your "extraordinary talent" will NOT shine through a crap job application. Believe it or not, one of the key attributes is PROFESSIONALISM. Try and it achieve it in your job applications and people WILL take you more seriously.

"My application technique is great - this doesn't apply to me!" You think? How many interviews are you getting? If the answer is "lots", then you are probably right. If in doubt, here's an idea: look back at your last job application and see what you told them in the first few seconds of reading. Here is the key thing - we're all busy. Those of us recruiting are too.

Imagine you have 3 deadlines looming, someone yelling tech questions from the next office and you have a hangover. Does your application immediately say "Hey - this guy looks like a good fit for us?" If not, why not? Work on it until it does, in those first few sentences. And then do the same every single time you answer a job posting on this site or any other.

This was supposed to be a short rant but, like all good rants, it got carried away under its own head of steam. Take THAT as a warning too. Keep it short and sweet. Make it obvious that you tick lots of the required boxes, without making it an effort for me to see that and you will be huge step towards the job you want.

Oh - and good luck with the job hunting!


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Comments


Daniel Martinez
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With all due respect, asking a person how much they want for salary is a loaded question and should be avoided whenever possible. There is no "right" answer for "desired salary" only a range of what is ridiculously low, what is absurdly high and the sweet spot in between. Why are employers so hell-bent on asking about desired salary? Nintendo does the same thing and it just rubs me the wrong way.



If a person answers frankly and you had a different offer on the table which caused you to no longer consider them, you might have just lost a potential star candidate just because of a guessing game of figures and that's just sad.



So what is a good H.R. director to do? Give people a ballpark range of how much you are willing to pay for their role instead of putting them in the hot seat, that's much better H.R. At least that way, they'll have a general expectation. Plus, giving salary ranges attracts more talent and since when was more talent a bad thing? I'm aware discussing personal income is taboo in U.S. culture, but why? We'll talk about anything but how much we make is too personal. Perhaps we're afraid of being judged on income, and that's just sad.



Anyway, go against the grain, ignore the taboo. Make offers and if they bite, good, and if they don't, there's plenty of smart fish in the talent pool. Best of luck Alan Wilson & Tripwire! Btw I really respect your candor and bluntness.

Morgan Ramsay
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Assuming an employer is hiring quality employees, the salary question should never be posed before the candidate is informed about the position. An employer soliciting bids with applications would indicate that the employer is shopping around for the best price. The price is especially important to struggling firms and units facing financial pressure. Experienced job seekers typically shy away from casting calls or at least shoot back, "How can I price a job you've told me so little about?"



Sometimes what would otherwise be great questions are posed too early or too late in the hiring process as a result of inexperience, too. Many assume the hiring manager or interviewer is the process expert, which might be the case when HR is involved, but junior employees are often appointed to the task because nobody else wants the responsibility. Job seekers who are aware that these negotiations, from the pitch to the signing, have such nuances would fare better for themselves.

Alan Wilson
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Employers ask about salary for a number of reasons. One of the key ones is simple: there are people who are simply more expensive than we can afford to pay. We don't want to get through the whole process, only to find out that someone is currently being paid way higher than we can afford. We ask about the individuals' salary requirements - not what they think the job itself is worth. The simplest way to answer is to tell us what you are currently earning. We're not soliciting "bids" - we are soliciting information. And if you really don't want to tell us what you earn up front - just tell us that, too. We don't put up a salary range because we are a small company filling a small number of posts - if a truly exceptional candidate (with salary to match) comes up, we're likely to change our own goals so we can grab an exceptional talent and expand our own capabilities!

J awee
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Great article! However, I think your answer is kind of a cop out. If you ask what is your current/last salary, that's one thing. Requirements is way more ephemeral than that, and requires a reasonable knowledge of "your town". Pulling 80k in Los Angeles is not the same as pulling 80k in Roswell, and asking people to make that judgement call about what is or isn't reasonable or comparable is a bit unfair. I agree with Daniel and Morgan - I think there are better questions that will get you an idea of what you can expect if/when you make an offer. And if you decide the individual is unreasonable at that point, well, that's just further insight into their head.

Damien Lavizzo
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Writing a mildly condescending post about what you're looking for in an application - let alone expecting someone to work for you - is a sure fire way to get less people interested in working for you.



I work for one of the biggest companies in the world, and I say that not to brag but to qualify my statements. I've watched the way that they do things, and one thing they are big on is putting everything up front. They tell you your salary or wage almost as soon as you get in the door, and make sure that you're ok with everything before progressing. Since they've been in business for almost 60 years now, I'd like to imagine that how they do things is how I would do things if I were in charge of hiring for a top-tier company.



Asking people their desired salary is a way to set not them up for failure, but yourself. It's a question that causes far more headaches for everyone involved than it alleviates. I understand that you guys are a smaller company, and don't have the clout or the volume of quality applicants to "dictate terms". However, there are still ways of going about the hiring process that make it seem less "inorganic" for everyone involved. Further, asking "desired salary", to my mind, makes me think that you're looking for that highly skilled, desperate worker who's going to put "35k a year" in that box simply because he has a family to feed. It also puts me immediately on the defensive when and if I get to the interview process - I'm now in "negotiation mode", since you already have a figure out of me and I haven't even spoken with someone at the company yet. The interview becomes "proving I'm worth that figure you have written down" rather than "introducing myself and skills to the company".



As to the generic quality of applications - I tend to disagree here. If you specifically don't like to see that on applications, that's fine. But there are hundreds of education institutions out there teaching students that in this market you need to diversify and get your name out there in as many places as you possibly can, so you're swimming against the tide here.



Lastly, a lot of the information in your post is good, but I had a hard time getting to it because of the aforementioned tone of condescension. If I were seeking a job in the industry, not much in this post would entice me to check out your company as opposed to some of the larger companies closer to the heart of the industry. Some of this even sounds like whining - how is it the applicants problem that you have a hangover while trying to do your job?

Alex Rybakov
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Alan, it seems that you already have very efficient process for filtering out bad candidates based on a poor quality of their cover letter / resume. Having early rejection is important because it keeps your hiring process cost efficient. So you should be proud that you have this early rejection filter.



The only thing I don't quite get is the goal of the article. Are you afraid that you are filtering out too many candidates and some of them are potentially good? But in general hiring a bad guy causes more damage to the company than rejecting a good guy. Or do you think that some hypothetical bad candidate who (after reading your article) learned to use spell checker will suddenly become acceptable?

Clay Patrick
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Wow too much time on all your hands! She he what ever may have had too much to drink the night before but i think in general it was triing to help. It's too hard out here to heep up a bunch of attacts like this come on people this is tough and who needs comments back like that hey good luck with these attitudes. I think it was just triing to help!

Joshua McDonald
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I like what Damien said about the compan putting the approximate salary for the position up front, rather than asking the applicant to engage in a guessing game.



I've often been told that I should ask for a high salary because it shows what I believe I'm worth, but the problem is that the amount I think I'm worth and the amount I'm willing to work for are usually two different numbers. I don't know if the interviewer is looking for a rockstar or for cheap labor, and I've had times where I needed a job and was perfectly willing to be that cheap labor, even if I thought I was worth a lot more. Basically, I just have to throw out a number and hope that I correctly guessed what the employer was looking for.



I've always liked job postings that give a rough, negotiable salary because I can save both me and the employer time when it's too little or when it's high enough that I know I'm underqualified. Or at the very least, let me know the expected salary early in the interview.

Timothy Ryan
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If the primary concern of an employer is keeping the salaries low (so much so that they want to know salary expectation in the cover letter) is that really the kind of company anyone wants to work for? Get real.



I'm not saying Tripwire does this, but what gets me p.o.'d lately is the amount of effort employers are asking applicants to make before they even get the interview. I'm talking tests, questionnaires, etc that take days or more to complete. It's one thing to ask that of those who are on the "call" list, it's quite another to ask that of every single applicant who sends their resume in. These people are looking for work, and the potential employer is asking them to do days of work for free just to get their resume forwarded for review.

Alan Wilson
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Tim,



I agree (I think). Keep the damn process simple. We don't mess around with anything approaching "tests" until we have people face-to-face in the office on the whole. I can't see the point of asking everyone to do it - no-one is going to take the time to assess hundreds of tests anyway!



On the salary: our aim isn't to keep salaries low. We ask the question primarily to filter out those we simply can't afford. While we would love to employ someone with 20 years experience on triple-A titles, they are likely to have salary expectations we just can't meet. No point in paying everyone "low" - they'll just want to leave again!



Alex,



The goal of the article was just a rant. If there was any "aim" to it, it is to get people to think a little more about their damn job applications and stop spewing crap at employers. I'm not saying employers don't spout utter bollocks - but I was aiming at people LOOKING for jobs. Hopefully someone who has seen the similar garbage spewed out by people offering jobs can do a blog on that, too :)

Damien Lavizzo
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Alan,



I understand where you specifically are coming from on your salary expectations, and it's a good place for your thought process to be in. However, for the vast number of applicants out there who are NOT you, and haven't had the luxury of experience as a casting director, they have no idea what you want to see in that box. Opinions - as you've seen - range wildly from "shoot for the moon so you have more wiggle room later" to "lowball it just to get the interview and push higher" to "put a median salary in there even if you can't afford to work for that much". It's all over the place. As I have to do so many times, I have to point at Blizzard. They do not ask for a desired salary. They tell you what they will be paying you, take-or-leave. The company I work for does the same. They have very little interest in what you think you should be making. They have far greater interest in what they think they should pay you based on the needs and requirements of the position they're offering you - and more often than not, they are in a better position to assess what the position is worth than a lone job-seeker is. As a company, you're in a far more advantageous position - you have so many figures that the job-seeker doesn't, and can place a value on that position far more easily.



Also, you're underestimating the market if you think there are people out there with 20 years of experience that aren't willing to work on the cheap, especially right now. I work alongside a gentleman who isn't making much more than I am, and has worked previously on big-budget Hollywood movies and used to live in Beverly Hills, and took this job simply because they would provide him stability.



I know this is much ado about a very small part of the process, but it's something that bothers me every time I see it, because I know the frustration and nerve-wracking it caused me when I was younger.

Eric Scharf
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Tim,



I will drop you a line tomorrow to catch up.



Alan,



It is on my to-do list of 11 backlogged blog entries. I have seen plenty of similar application efforts - separate from salary discussions, but I will write one up.



Damien,



Please share for which company you and your gentleman friend work. "Stability" sounds great to anyone in this economy, regardless of industry.



No backtracking, now. Share, share, share. :)

Damien Lavizzo
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The Walt Disney Company

Eric Scharf
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Thanks, Damien.

Damien Lavizzo
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Ha, not exactly in the gaming industry, but it's peripheral! We do Flash games! Those are important!

Daniel Martinez
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Indeed, the salary question caused a bit of a discussion. It's better to avoid it altogether and state how much you are willing to pay so no one has their bubble burst or no one is unexpectedly surprised.

Paul Hope
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Be upfront with how much the employer can afford to pay.



That way candidates at the highest affordable skill set level will apply.



Otherwise, resources will be wasted in the screening of many different applications at unknown salary expectations.



Good luck with the search.

andre bobbitt
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I am a job seeker looking to break into the industry who is college educated in Game Art and Design but with very little "real world" experience so when I get the dreaded salary question I honestly cringe. I know what I want in my head (especially reflecting on what I spent for my schooling) and I know most companies if not all want the highest quality for the least amount (this is business) and that doesn't always line up. For the life of me I simply can not figure out why it makes more sense to ask the desired salary rather then say: "This is the position and this is the range we are willing to pay based on your experience/skillset, etc.."To me it would aleviate 2 things A)as a job seeker if the range doesn't match my expectations I simply wouldn't apply and B) as a recruiter I wouldn't need to bother weeding through the applicants who are wanting too much. On that note I've worked for large companies in the computer industry like AT&T and DELL and their salary ranges were always upfront so that no one was wasting their time applying for/interviewing for a position that ultimately was doomed not to workout because the employeer waited until the end of the interview process to talk about money. I've been in that position and it really just reinforced my belief that salary should be made known upfront in the process. I think depending on the company/project/location/benefits and several other factors someone with "20 years experience" would take a job paying less then they've made in the past if the other said factors align for them. So to that extent it seems like the process you're currently using (and I realize this is but 1 part of many but it appears to be the central topic in the bulk of the responses to this post ) doesn't give your company enough credit for being a place people want to work nor does it give your applicant's the benefit of the doubt in that if an applicant views tripwireinteractive as a nice place to work etc those things can make up for a lower then expected salary. Anyway, nice article otherwise, I found a lot of what was said from a recruiter's perspective to echo course work I'm currently taking while working on my MBA.

dex ter
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@Andre



Another tip for you.

Use the " return key " sometimes

And keep it short

Mark Harris
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Game Developer magazine does an annual salary survey and those results are widely available. Throw it into Google and research that before you submit a salary figure. Also realize that a good number of game jobs are in the high cost state of CA, so if you're applying here in GA you may want to adjust down a bit. Atlanta is an expensive town, but not nearly as bad as L.A. Regardless, if you think about it a bit you can come up with a figure that isn't prohibitive.



Oh, and for the record, Alan isn't nearly as taciturn as he sounds in his rant article.

Alan Wilson
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Firstly, thanks for all the comments. We'll look at the whole issue of putting up salary ranges in future - seems to be an interesting sticking point. A quick look on the 51 Art jobs here on Gamasutra shows not a single one giving a salary range (or at least not readily visible). Interesting...



And for Andre: salary is always a hard one when you are trying to break in. The competition at that level is so fierce that companies can get away with paying not very much at all. Which can lead to other problems, but that is another rant entirely!



Ok - which Mark Harris is that :) ? You must have heard me babble on somewhere... And Atlanta (Roswell) is a damn site cheaper than San Jose - especially real estate. Another reason the salary thing is a minefield is that people just look at the numbers and go "I must work in California - I'll earn more". What they forget is that the salary may be larger - but they will have less cash to spend, because the cost of housing is so much higher (like for like).

Mark Harris
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We had a small chat at Siege last fall about breaking into the industry and carrying over PM skills, etc etc. I'm just glad I didn't have to hand over a cover letter at the time, I'm afraid you would have given me honest criticism, and my ego is a fragile thing. :p



The sad thing for the CA crowd is that Roswell is an upscale area and a nice community but home prices are still only 50% or less of what my cousins in LA and Santa Cruz are looking at. Of course, my brother is in East Nowhere, Iowa and home prices there are less than most cars driving around Alpharetta!



Salary is a complicated issue, and as I mentioned, taking any salary info from Game Dev or anywhere needs to be balanced with the COL in this specific area vs. the higher cost metros.

Alan Wilson
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Ah - yes, I do actually remember :) And I can also feel a blog coming on - on the subject of "real" earnings. I live in Roswell, but a lot of our guys live in the surrounding areas and can pick up big houses for not very large amounts of money. I mean, Woodstock is a whole 10-15 minutes commute! But some people just feel that they have to work on the coast.

Morgan Ramsay
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"But some people just feel that they have to work on the coast."



Understandable. The last figure I saw puts more than half of the U.S. video games industry in and between the three major hubs in California: San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. While developers earn (and spend) more here, they also have more access to the big-three entertainment trades. Other hubs include Boston, Austin, and to lesser extents, New York and Seattle.

Alan Wilson
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Half the US video games industry - and well over 50% of the US redundancies and lay-offs of the last 12 months. Negative growth, as companies like Ubisoft forcus on areas where the costs are far lower and the tax breaks far better - what was the figure they are talking about in the last few days for Ubi in Canada - well over 1000 new jobs? How many "major studios" on the coast taking a caning from the large corporates that own them? Georgia may be small in game industry terms - but some of the best tax incentives in the country and a bunch of studios/businesses all growing... anyone want to take bets on how much of the industry will still be in California in 5 years time?

Morgan Ramsay
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"Anyone want to take bets on how much of the industry will still be in California in 5 years time?"



Having never been a doom-and-gloomer, I'd wager that still over half of the industry will be located in California within five years. California has historically dominated state economic rankings in the areas of technology/innovation and access to capital, which is critical to entrepreneurship. California also continues to lead in several critical sectors of the U.S. economy, such as agriculture, and is a major influence on the domestic policies of other states.



Stating that Georgia has "some of the best tax incentives in the country" is somewhat misleading given that only 1/5 of states actually offer such incentives. Nevertheless, I've heard that incentives for California video-game companies are in the works, but more than tax incentives is necessary to grow a sector. California is attractive to new and established companies for many other reasons.



However, while as a California resident I like to see business in my state flourish, I'm interested in the growth of the U.S. industry as a whole. Georgia is certainly playing a vital role, but I think the overtaking of California, by any domestic or foreign player, within five years is far-fetched.

Daniel Martinez
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I hate the coast, especially Los Angeles. It's crowded, it's expensive, and there's too much pretending going on. I'll happily trade you.


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