Every week I get several emails and calls at Dutch Game Garden from people who are looking for a job or internship, or who need career advice. This is one of the reasons why we host a monthly Network Lunch. However, I felt the advice we give is useful for more people than visitors to our events. If you’re looking for a job or internship in the Dutch game industry, there are several ways to increase your chances of success. In this article, I’ll provide you with some tips and advice to help you on your way – of course, many of these tips are applicable to other countries as well.
This is part 2 in a series of how to find a job in the Dutch game industry. Check out part 1 here, where we focus on preparation and orientation.
Before applying to a job posting, do your homework. Know what games the company makes, what people work there, what technology they use, and what role you want to fulfill in their team. Also consider why the company needs your skills. If you don’t fit all the requirements (yet) that are listed in the job posting, apply anyway. Companies make a profile of the ideal candidate, but you might have some skills that they don’t know they want yet! It’s up to you to convince them that you can do the job. Even if you don’t get invited for an interview, they might put you on a list of potential candidates for another job opening in the future.
In case you are looking for an internship, be aware that a lot of companies are extremely busy. Making games is hard work, they have deadlines to meet, so their time is valuable. Training an intern takes time away from other things. Therefore, companies might not hire interns for a short period (less than 6 months) or for less than 40 hours a week.
When applying to a position, you should always write an application letter or email accompanied by your resume (cv) and, if applicable, portfolio. The employer’s job posting is a great guide for what employers want to see in candidates. Spend a few minutes decoding the job ad, then tailor your resume to fit the job requirements. Of course, this does not mean you should lie about your skills. For example, if the job requires leadership, make sure you list your experience and skills related to that. Even if you’re currently working in a different industry, the skills and experience you have may be directly applicable in games as well. Make sure you reflect that in your resume.
Your resume should include:
Your portfolio is important because a company generally wants to get an insight into how experienced you are, the way you work, and how fast you work. Don’t just show the result, but also the process, the context your work was made in, the people you worked with, the time it took you, what you learned, the choices you made and why you made them. A good portfolio has a lot of variation of small and big games, solo and team projects, sketches/demos and polished work. The hardest part of game development is finishing, so finishing a small project is way more valuable than plans and work-in-progress for a big, ambitious project. If you don’t have much to show, then you need to make more. Polishing is important, but also present it in a neat way: a nice, organized website or artbook will leave a good impression.
You need to have practical evidence of your skill and work on your portfolio. A lot of students don’t do this and focus all their time on their coursework. The reality is, a degree isn’t worth much when compared to an actual portfolio. A game studio isn’t interested in which courses you did in University, they want to see practical application of your skill. We often hear students complain that they don’t have the time to work on a portfolio, and then proceed to talk about the 300 hours they spent playing League of Legends. If you have time to play, you have time to work on a portfolio. A portfolio consisting solely of school projects doesn’t show your motivation and passion for this line of work.
Make sure your online portfolio is clean and easily navigable on both PC and mobile devices. This goes without saying, but please check your spelling and grammar. You’d be surprised how many resumes and portfolio websites I have seen with bad spelling and typo’s.
It’s important to write a unique letter for each position you’re applying for. People can immediately tell if they receive a template email, especially when the name of the company isn’t mentioned anywhere. Keep the email short and show your passion. Tell them what drives you, but be mindful of clichés – in pretty much every letter I’ve seen, people mention how much they love games and that they’ve been playing since they were 6 years old. This is not something special. Instead, focus on what it is about making games (or promoting them) that you like so much. What are your skills, what kind of work do you like, what is your work style, what role do you take in a team and what are your career goals?
When writing an application letter, always mention why you want to work at that specific company. What do you like most about their work and why do you think you would be a good fit? Try to link this to previous work experience to back up your claims.
The games industry is pretty informal, so you generally do not have to wear a suit for a job interview. Dress in clothes that make you feel comfortable and make sure they are clean. Of course, this may be different depending on country and company culture.
Be prepared for the interview. If you haven’t looked at the website or games of the company when you wrote your application, make sure to do it before your interview. Before the interview, make sure you know which company representatives are present and find out what their position in the company is. Take an active role in the conversation. Listen to what people are telling you and ask questions. Expect to answer questions about your portfolio, your work experience, the role you take when working in a team, etc. The people who are hiring you also like to assess whether you fit in the team and if they can have a nice conversation with you during lunches and other informal moments. It’s likely they will also ask you some personal questions, for instance about hobbies and interests. The conversation might continue with what you like about making games and what you would like to learn when you are hired. When you are talking about past experiences, whether it is school or past jobs, do not be negative about the people involved! When things didn’t work out, tell them what you have learned from the situation, what you did to solve an issue and what you would do in the future to avoid a similar situation.
Prepare some questions for the end of the interview. Ask about a typical working day, about the composition of the team or some other question that shows you are interested in the company. You may also ask about working hours, the proposed starting date, the further procedure of the job application or when you may expect they will inform you about their decision. As a follow-up after the interview (the next day or two), send the people you spoke with a thank you email and (if you are still interested in working with them) stress that it made you want to work at the company even more.
There are some specific things to pay attention to when you’re applying for an internship besides the things described above.
Finally, don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a job in the games industry straight away. Competition is tough and not everyone is able to make a living from it. Try to work on personal projects besides your day job, stay in touch with the industry by going to events, and be on the lookout for opportunities. If you need more information, you can find some resources below. Good luck!
This is part 2 in a series of how to find a job in the Dutch game industry. Click here to read part 1.
Special thanks to my colleagues Christel van Grinsven & Romy Halfweeg for their contributions to this article.