I can’t get hired at a new video game job, what am I doing wrong?

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In this episode of Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, I answer a question from Paul N. who asks, “I was working full time for a small game company, but they closed and I was laid off. I’ve been looking for a new job ever since, but it’s been 18 months and it’s really starting to take an emotional toll. I’m smart, personable, creative and have numerous credits to my name, yet I always seem to come in second. So my question is, what the heck am I doing wrong?”

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What are the key steps in your job hunt?
  • How can you target and improve each step to improve your success?
  • Why could you still be overlooked for jobs, even if you’re doing everything right?

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 there. Welcome to the Game Industry Career Guide podcast. This is episode number 19. 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 Paul N. Paul emailed me to ask this: “I was working full-time for a small game company, but they closed and I was laid off. I’ve been looking for a new job ever since. But it’s been 18 months, and it’s really starting to take an emotional toll. I’m smart, personable, creative and have numerous credits to my name, yet I always seem to come in second. So my question is, what the heck am I doing wrong?”

Let’s get back on track

Paul, I feel your pain. Anybody who’s been laid off from a job knows that it can be frustrating and demoralizing, not to mention hard on your finances until you can find your next gig. But when the job search goes on for weeks or even months, it can really take a toll.

So today, I’m going to give you some advice that might give you a shot in the arm, and help you get your career back on track. And, by the way, this advice will apply equally well to anybody who’s trying to get their very first game job. So if you’re looking for jobs now or you will be soon, then this will be a good episode for you.

Start with a framework

Now, since I don’t know Paul personally, I can’t speak to what exactly he could change that would help him get a job faster. But I do have a framework that can help Paul, or anybody else, identify which step in the job hunting process is your weakest area, and then you can focus your efforts on improving in just that area to get better results.

One way to approach this is to ask yourself, is there a specific step in the interview process where you’re being turned down more often than others? If there is, then that’s the step where you’d want to focus your attention.

Any job hunt has these specific steps: finding a job opening, applying for jobs, interviewing for jobs, and lastly, getting hired. Let’s talk about how things could go wrong at any of these steps, and how we could fix them.

Problems with your job application?

Let’s talk about applying for jobs. If you’re applying for a lot of jobs but aren’t getting contacted by those companies, or you’re getting contacted only for them to tell you that they aren’t going to interview you, then what sorts of things could be going wrong here? The first thing to think about is, are you applying for jobs that fit your skill set?

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As you can imagine, an artist could apply for as many programming jobs as she wanted but she probably wouldn’t ever get contacted for an interview. That’s obvious. But it can be less obvious if say, a designer with a lot of mobile gaming experience applies for a game designer job for a company that makes browser-based games, would that be a good fit?

It’s hard to say. I think it would be reasonable to apply for that job, but it’s up to the company’s hiring managers to make the decision on whether you’re a fit. So if you’re applying for a lot of jobs but not getting contacted, double-check to make sure you’re mostly applying for jobs that seem to be a close match for the skills and experiences that are on your resume. A good rule of thumb is to apply for a job only if you seem to be a fit for about 80% of the requirements listed on the job description.

Problems with your resume?

That brings me to my second point, your resume. If you’re applying to a lot of jobs and not getting a call back, it’s possible that your resume isn’t doing a good job of explaining your experience or not doing a good job of selling the company on what you have to offer them as an employee. Consider doing a thoughtful overhaul of your resume. You can use advice that you find on career websites such as https://www.gameindustrycareerguide.com/jobhunt.

Problems with your interview?

The next step in the interview process, after applying, is when you get called in for an interview. Are you getting interviews, but then after the interview they’re not calling you back, or they’re calling to tell you that they aren’t going to move forward with your application? In that case, there are a few different things that could be going wrong.

The first is that you might need to polish up your interviewing skills. Now, there are a number of great articles and YouTube videos that can guide you on how to become a better interviewee. If you’ve never done any research on how to do a good interview, get on it, because there’s a lot of good advice out there.

But some of the main things to ask yourself might be, Am I doing a good job of communicating my skills and experience to the interviewers? Am I exuding a positive attitude, and a positive outlook on my life and my work? And lastly, am I leaving my interviewers with the sense that I’m a fun, friendly person that they’d want to have on their team?

A reality check

There’s another reason that you might be getting interviews but not getting job offers, and this one doesn’t have anything to do with your interviewing skills, but with your resume. If your resume is blustery or contains little white lies about your skills, or otherwise makes you look more talented and more experienced than you really are at this point in your career, then you might be getting interviews for jobs that you aren’t actually qualified for. You want to make sure that you put your best foot forward on your resume, but if you overstate yourself too much then you’ll be found out in the interview, and you won’t get the job, and it can be really embarrassing.

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A learning opportunity

Okay. The next step after applying for jobs and interviewing for jobs is getting hired for the job. Now, a lot of game studios like to hire new people as temporary workers or contract workers. It’s one way to make sure you can do the job well before they make the commitment to hire you full-time. Are you getting hired for contract work, but then you’re not getting converted to full-time? If that’s the case, then you should have a candid talk with some of the people you worked with on the team. Try to get insight into why the teams aren’t keeping you on board. Maybe it’s just because the teams no longer need somebody to do that job. That’s also a reason that companies use temp workers, because they might only need a worker for a few months. But maybe there’s something you can learn about your work style or your communication style, or some other aspect of your work that makes the team feel that you aren’t a long-term fit.

So reach out to some of the people on your team – hopefully, people that you have a good relationship with. Whether you do it by email or you schedule lunch or coffee with them, be open to their input and listen for any tips that you could use to improve the way you work, so that you’ll have a better chance of getting hired full-time in your next job.

Finding the right fit

That’s an overview of the job hunting process, with some tips you can use to increase your chances of success. But there’s another reason you might not be getting hired. You might not be doing anything wrong at all. You might just not have been a good fit for those specific companies that you’ve applied to. Sometimes it does take a while to find the right fit. Sometimes, timing is everything, and it’s just a matter of luck.

So be persistent. Keep looking for job openings that fit your skill set, and keep refining your resume, your interviewing skills, and your team skills. Hang in there, and you will get hired.

Thanks to Paul for the question. Paul, I’m rooting for you man, and I know that everybody listening to this podcast right now are rooting for you, too. Good luck with your search. Thanks everybody for hanging out with me today. Please help me spread the word about this podcast by sharing it with a couple of your friends. For more information and inspiration on getting a job and growing your career making video games, visit me at gameindustrycareerguide.com/jobhunt. I’m Jason W. Bay, and I’ll see you again next week, right here, on the Game Industry Career Guide podcast.

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