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Get Your Dream Job: 5 Secrets to Writing a Killer Cover Letter
by Olga Novikova on 04/29/13 12:01:00 pm   Featured Blogs

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


Interested in switching careers and breaking into the gaming industry? Submitting a good cover letter can make a difference.

If you have worked in a different industry and are trying to break into gaming, submitting a cover letter along with a solid resume is your best bet. Without a cover letter your resume is going to look out of context and is likely to end up in the ‘not qualified’ pile. You want to make sure that your cover letter fills in between the lines of your resume, tells a hiring manager a story, and alleviates any immediate concerns from looking at your resume. Here are five areas you should focus on to help you write your story.

1. Show your knowledge of the industry. Getting across that you are not a stranger to the gaming world will go a long way to establishing rapport with your prospective employer. Don’t be shy about your ‘gaming’ experience no matter how subtle- any connection matters. If you have been an avid gamer since childhood (and still have the original PlayStation in your garage), or have taken game design classes in college, make sure to talk about it. The gaming industry evolves at the speed of the wind, and the longer you have been following it, the more points you will score with the hiring manager. However, don’t despair if you only recently discovered your passion for gaming. Talk about what sparked your interest and why it’s important for you to be a part of it. Also, don’t forget to mention if you are following any gaming blogs. Keeping up with the industry news shows dedication and passion; two important factors that will play in your favor.

2. Show that you understand the culture. Gaming companies, like many other companies in the tech space, pride themselves on having liberal work environments. Work schedules are flexible, teams often work in an open space layout, and people might get together to bounce creative ideas off each other at companywide brainstorm meetings. Many times, it’s not uncommon to have rock band Tuesday, board game nights on Thursday, happy hour Fridays, and a ton of other activities all with the effort of building collaboration, inspiring innovation and nurturing creativity. However, having more freedom and flexibility also means less structure and more ambiguity. Therefore, it’s important to show that you can thrive in this type of environment. So don’t be shy about letting your personality come through in the cover letter. Make sure to stay professional and respectful, but if you get a smile out the hiring manager that certainly can’t hurt your application!

3. Do the research on your dream company. Typically every company website has an ‘about us’ section. Make sure to read up on the company history, its goals, its pain points and go-to market strategy. Then take your skills, knowledge and experience and show how you can bring value to the company. The goal is to position yourself as a valuable contributor and a necessary member of the company’s future.

You also want to research any recent company news, new partnerships, office expansions, product releases etc. Putting in a sentence or two showing that you follow the company news will show your commitment to getting the job at your dream company.

4. and 5. Know what job you are applying for AND show that your skills are transferrable. These two points are closely related. First, give the job description a good read. Make sure that you have a good understanding of what the role entails and what kind of skills the candidate should have in order to be successful. Then connect your background and experience and show how your skills can be applied to the job you want. Focusing on your core skills outside of the environment in which you’ve learned them, and showing that they are transferrable will help validate your qualifications. 

Following the above tips should tell the hiring manager a story about your dedication, knowledge and passion for the industry AND most importantly (if the points 4 and 5 are done right) also show that you are qualified for the job. 

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Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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I'll say this: I've never read the cover letter of anyone, nor have I ever had any indication than mines were ever read. Sometimes I wonder if cover letters arent some sort of practical joke gone wrong, played on us by career counselors.

Ps: I *dont* work in HR.

Christian Nutt
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I've hired before and I definitely read them. Then again, I'm always hiring writers. =P

Kelly Kleider
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I wouldn't say I ignore them, but I don't pay much attention to them. A lot of places have on-line submission of resumes etc... so there's no room for anything more than 1/2 a tweet.

"I am looking for employment as an artist in the game industr"

Eric Schwarz
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In other news, water is wet and the sun came up this morning. I'm not saying these suggestions are invalid or anything, but I'm pretty sure they teach this in junior high school career studies. As others have said I'm also not sure your cover letter is going to make or break anything provided you don't do anything stupid (like insulting the person you're applying to).

Raphael Alexis
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Let's assume you're in HR, you are to go through a mountain of applications.
What is it you look at the moment you ...look at one? Right, the CL.

If it says what every other CL out there says, namely the same thing you'll find at the top of their CV, that they are highly motivated individuals who like to work hard and get paid low who always wanted to work at your place..... well, it goes pretty much off the heap.
There's nothing less interesting than standard hackneyed sayings.

If, however, you were to go by what Olga advises you to do, you might actually catch the HR fellow's attention. That in itself doesn't really do anything but make him/her take a look at your resume, portfolio or whatever references you sent.

You can (maybe not easily, but you can) demonstrate your skills and/or knowledge in but a few sentences, you'll want to target that HR person and reflect that you have something in common with the company you apply to - and that you have something they actually want.

Now all this is somewhat common knowledge you'd think, but considering how many plain and boring and incomplete and contradictory applications I've come across so far ( and I bet every HR person has ) prove this theory wrong... well I guess it's worth mentioning these golden rules again every once in a while :)

Ah... and this one is for free:

Rule Nr. 6: Don't Suck Up To Whomever You Apply To (too much)!

Unless you're convinced that the ability to suck up to someone is a major qualification... don't overdo it. Really, very few people want mindless slaves around when they can get a polite individual instead.
Sentences like "I've been watching your stock rating, it's been falling but I am so sure you guys will accomplish everything you want to that I did not only pour all my money into buying shares and cheer you on from the sidelines but decided that working with you is also the greatest thing to do!" ....brrr... seriously, that's just.... you really don't wanna do that.

Olga Novikova
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I appreciate everyone’s comments. In my opinion a well written cover letter always stands out from the crowd. As far as this advice being self-evident, perhaps that’s true for some. Although I have come across a fair share of cover letters that don’t add any value. Those are either standard templates that are sent to every company the candidate is applying to, or as Raphael has mentioned, simply restate what’s already written in the resume.

The idea behind the blog was that a cover letter should be used as a tool to communicate to the hiring manager information that is above and beyond of what is written in the resume. Imagine if you have been given two minutes to give your elevator pitch to the hiring manager explaining why you are the best candidate for the job, what would you say? Now, because not everyone gets that kind of an opportunity, the cover letter is one way to get your point across to the hiring manager. If the cover letter starts a frank conversation, I don’t see why a hiring manager wouldn’t want to continue it.

Kirtan Bhatt
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This was so helpful, thank you!