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I asked gaming industry veteran Mary-Margaret Walker, CEO of game recruiting company Mary-Margaret Network, why finding the right people is such a challenge.
What are some of the specific issues game producers are facing when it comes to hiring?
The real problem is that the talent they are trying to hire is in shorter supply than they’ve been led to believe. It’s easy to think that hiring will be a snap because there are so many people seeking employment but in fact a much smaller group of those people are actually qualified. Also, many developers believe that simply because they make games, all candidates want to work for them. This is reinforced by the sheer number of unqualified resumes they receive.
What technical skills and experience levels are they looking for?
This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but if you read job descriptions, it’s close to reality: The highest demand is for software engineers (mobile, console, PC, web, online, game logic or graphics) with multiple years and titles already published and hailed as critical and financial successes under the latest technology. For the last few years and for the foreseeable future, the same criteria will apply to experienced designers — game designers and level designers — as well.
With the bar set that high, where do the companies look for those hard-to-find, qualified candidates?
The best place to find active candidates quickly is to first reach out through networks. Companies then follow up with the usual direct advertising and promotion. There will be a few potential hires who are an exact fit, and a small number of candidates who have all the required skills, but not the latest experience. The latter candidate will often show an incredible track record of picking up new technology developments and learning new platforms.
Can the employment gap be filled?
There are two ways to look at the problem. If you find someone who’s a great fit, the fastest way to overcome hiring issues is to be prepared to meet higher salary expectations and unusual requests for perks and benefits.
More importantly though, you need to look for similar skill sets and be ready to hire an experienced, yet not perfect candidate to get the position filled.
In my 20 years inside development studios and external recruiting, I have repeatedly seen a hiring manager spend six months searching for someone with the exact right background rather than hire a highly qualified candidate who has an impeccable background and can come up to speed on the new technology within two months. Making an almost-perfect hire is often the best option for the budget, the project schedule and the morale of the team.