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Do video game studios ever consider hiring entry-level job applicants?

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In this episode of Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, I answer a question from Taylor, who asks “I am incredibly committed to my craft and improving at it, yet I am under the impression that when I apply for jobs, along with my application there may be 30+ talented artists who have been in the industry before. Do hiring managers occasionally consider candidates that have potential, despite not having the experience? Or do they only seriously consider ones that have industry experience?”

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How your entry-level salary fits into the game team’s hiring strategy
  • Why your passion and enthusiasm could be worth years of experience
  • The top 4 ways that a newbie can be even more valuable than a seasoned veteran

If you have a question you'd like to get answered on the podcast, leave a comment below or ask me anything here.

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Hello and welcome to the Game Industry Career Guide podcast. This is episode number 41. I’m Jason W. Bay from gameindustrycareerguide.com, and this is the podcast where I answer your questions about getting a job and growing your career making video games.

Today’s question is from Taylor, an artist who sent me an email to ask this: “I am incredibly committed to my craft and improving at it, yet I am under the impression that when I apply for jobs along with my application there may be 30+ talented artists who have been in the industry before. Do hiring managers occasionally consider candidates that have potential despite not having the experience, or do they only seriously consider ones that have industry experience?”

“Why would anybody hire me?”

I’m betting that Taylor’s question is also on the mind of a great many people starting their careers. Whether you’ve just graduated and you’re looking for your first job, or if you’re thinking about switching careers to work in video games for the first time, I’m sure you’ve asked yourself the same question. Why would anybody hire me when there are so many others that already have game industry experience? Why would they hire me when I’m not yet as good at the job as other applicants? Why would they take a risk and give me a shot rather than hire somebody with a successful track record?

Well, I’ve got some good news for you: Hiring managers in the game industry do look for entry-level applicants, and they do hire people who don’t have any professional experience. And it’s not even rare. It’s common. And there are some good reasons for it. So today, let’s talk about four common reasons why an art director, or a technical director, or any hiring manager might want to hire an entry-level applicant instead of somebody with prior game industry experience.

A bargain at twice the price

The first reason has to do with your price tag. As somebody who just starting out, your salary is most likely going to be lower than anybody with experience. An employee’s salary is the single biggest expense for most companies. Game teams typically have a set budget for what they want to spend on staff salaries as a whole, and so they try to get the most workers they can for that money, oftentimes by hiring a mix of people with a range of different experience levels, and, therefore, a mix of salaries. Sometimes it’s actually better for them to hire two entry-level artists, for example, rather than one experienced but expensive artist for the same cost.

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Enthusiasm is contagious

The second reason that a game studio might want to hire an entry-level worker is for your passion and enthusiasm. People who are new to the industry are often super fired up about their new jobs. They’ve been dreaming about making games for years (you know you have been), and it’s finally become a reality. Very few workers are as enthusiastic and motivated as a brand new game developer. So that’s why you can really shine. What you lack in experience, you can make up for in passion, intensity, and raw drive.

I know that when I was a new developer, I often worked many hours of overtime just because I was so excited about my job. I’m sure I did a lot more work at that time than even some of the more senior programmers that were on my team. Now compare that to somebody who’s a lot more experienced but maybe has started to get a little bit jaded. Even though a 10-year industry veteran may be more skilled than you, sometimes those veterans get cranky, and sometimes they just start phoning it in and not doing a great job. More than once, I’ve seen a brand new hire code circles around a seasoned veteran. Sometimes the newbies end up being the real rock stars on the team. So show those hiring managers that you’re passionate and enthusiastic, because enthusiasm can go a long way towards landing you that first job in the game industry.

A blank slate

That leads into the third reason that you might get hired over an industry veteran. You don’t come with a bunch of emotional baggage. As a hiring manager, I love it that new grads don’t come into the door with any preconceptions about how they should work, or how they should interact with a team, or how they should be managed. They’re just a lot more open to trying new things and they’re less cranky when they don’t get to do things their way.

As an example, I once knew a very senior engineer who rewrote a major development tool from scratch just because he didn’t like the way the code was architected. Now, of course, he didn’t tell anybody he was doing that because we would have told him to stop. I mean, he knew he shouldn’t be doing it, but he just did it anyway. And it ended up wasting several weeks of time, and we actually had to slip some of our dates. Now compared to the hassles of working with veteran developers like that, that can be inflexible and opinionated, working with entry-level developers that are open to new ideas is a very attractive alternative for hiring managers.

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New dogs with new tricks

The last reason we should talk about is that entry-level workers are often more up to speed on current technologies and techniques than the more senior game developers are. It’s like that saying about teaching old dogs new tricks. It’s true that a 10-year gaming veteran does have 10 years of experience over you, but it’s also been 10 years since they were in school and it may have been 10 years since they really got out of their comfort zone and tried something new. When somebody’s been doing the same job for a long time, it’s common for them to get into a rut in doing things the same way they’ve always done them. So when you come along and apply for a job with your head chock-full of the latest technologies and techniques, that can be a real breath of fresh air for a game team.

More valuable than you think

So there’s four compelling reasons why you might actually be a more attractive job applicant than some other more experienced people who might be applying for the same jobs. When you’re applying and interviewing, be sure to show your passion, show that you’re open to new ideas and eager to adapt to new ways of doing things at that company, and build interest by talking about the cutting edge tools and techniques that you’ve been using at school, tools that your more senior competition can only look at and say, “Nah, I’d rather do things the way that I’ve always done them.”

Thanks a whole lot to Taylor for emailing that question, and thank you for spending time with me today. It was great to have you with me. If you enjoyed the podcast then please help me out by spreading the word. You can write a review on iTunes or just share it on social media. I’d appreciate it. For more information and inspiration on getting a job and growing your career making video games, visit me at gameindustrycareerguide.com. I’m Jason W. Bay, and I’ll see you again next week right here on the Game Industry Career Guide podcast.

Read my new book!

Making games for a living is an incredibly rewarding career, but it’s hard to break in unless you have insider knowledge. This book levels the playing field.

READ: Start Your Video Game Career

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2 comments on “Do video game studios ever consider hiring entry-level job applicants?
  1. Indigo says:

    I found this to be very detailed and helpful but I do have a question about taking a job in a position you don’t want just to get your foot in the door. I’ve had many teachers and other people tell me that taking a QA job or a 2D job is a good idea just to get in. But I know that I really wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much as a 3D position. But it’s pretty hard to find a 3D position. So I’m not sure what to do. Any advice would be great. Thanks.

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