Career Development Interview Advice The Job Search The Resume

How to Break into the Game Industry: Advice from an Expert Recruiter

Interview with Laura Lashua: Expert Recruiter
Laura Lashua has 33 years of recruiting experience and 13 of those years have been solely for the game industry.  She is the founder of Vertex Search & Consulting based in Washington, a well-known and often used recruiting firm among the largest game publishers and developers in the world.  With Laura’s experience and reputation, any advice she has for students based on her “insider” information should be seen as gold!  After interviewing Laura, she provided some excellent information I thought students should know.  Here it is paraphrased for your sponge-like minds to soak up and use so you don’t make the same mistakes everyone else makes:

Advice on Resumes
Laura says the biggest mistake a person can make when submitting a resume is delivering a resume that is unfocused.  She says your resume needs custom tailoring towards the specific position for which you are applying.  Laura recommends a ½ page cover letter that very specifically communicates how the candidate meets the needs for the job.  She says, resumes should be concise, solely focusing on communicating the fit for the position.

Advice on Interviews
Laura says that many candidates she works with do not think of the first interview as a sales pitch.  Rather, candidates focus on what the employer can offer them and this is a huge mistake.  When you are interviewing, your entire strategy and focus should be on persuasively communicating why you are the best candidate for the position.  Laura says you should thoroughly research the company and know as much as humanly possible about their background, their products, their financials, press releases, etc. and that you should play their games so you can talk about them.  She points out that employers will often ask questions such as, “What would you have done differently?”  If you haven’t actually done your research or played their products, you won’t offer an intelligent response.  Additionally, Laura says one of the most common mistakes candidates make is that they don’t show enthusiasm.  You need to show enthusiasm, smile, and be excited to interview for the opportunity.  Employers want someone who wants the job.  Laura also says that you must have a focused portfolio or you won’t be considered.  She says even if you’re going for a position that doesn’t traditionally require a portfolio such as a Producer or a marketing position, having a presentation, a proposal, or some other demonstrations of your work are great sales tools that will always help.

Advice on How to Stand Out Among Competition
Having recruited for the top game companies across the globe, Laura has witnessed what makes candidates stand out.  Laura says the best candidates are always knowledgeable of the latest technologies and have experimented with them or used them.  They constantly do research to stay in tune with the latest and greatest because this industry changes rapidly.  She also says the best candidates are individuals who have a solid work history.  Laura says she sees a lot of “Job hoppers” and that this reflects poorly on a candidate.  She says this problem is most present among younger candidates who tend to “job hop” more than older candidates.  In the game industry, experience is so much of a requirement that Laura says if you get a job in the industry, even if it isn’t your dream job, you should try to stay there for at least 2 years.  Laura jokingly says “companies want a candidate who will stay so long, they will die with them.”  Although she laughed when she said it, Laura was pointing out the importance of experience and how it demonstrates dependability and loyalty.  A “Job hopper” is a risky choice for a company because it indicates the candidate could potentially leave at a moment’s notice or that the candidate doesn’t really know what they want; both are negative signs.

Final Pieces of Advice from Laura
When I asked Laura where she sees most of the job opportunity for the game industry, from 13 years of observation, Laura says the hot spots for opportunity are in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Boston.  Students need to know this because moving to one of these hot spots is likely necessary to find opportunity in the game industry.  Laura says that candidates who don’t have much experience in the game industry need to make the most of networking opportunities such as attending the Game Developer’s Conference and maximizing the use of LinkedIn.  Another “inside” tip Laura suggested was that college graduates should use Google and type the name of the game company you’re interested in and the words “University Recruiter” after it to find the university recruiter for that company.  The search will likely yield the recruiter’s name.  Why is this a good strategy?  Because you will help them find you, the candidate, without them having to pay a fee to a staffing service to find a candidate.  Laura also recommended learning as much as you can about social networking, and mobile games, not just focusing on console games.  In fact, Laura says that mobile games and social networking applications are the future and currently represent very profitable areas for the game industry despite the struggling economy.  This means candidates who focus in these areas will likely have more opportunity with the increased focus in these profitable areas.  Lastly, Laura said it can take 6 months to find a job, even for the most experienced candidate who is highly active in their job search.  What does that mean? It means you’ll have to plan and start searching for a job, at least 6 months ahead of the time you’ll want to have it.

Finally, getting your foot in the door is more difficult with a Recruiter such as Laura.  The reason is students typically don’t have adequate experience and companies hire Recruiters like Laura to find niche experience.  Recruiters must deliver candidates that fit the needs of the employer if they want to satisfy their customers and inexperienced recent graduates don’t typically offer what Recruiters need to find for their clients.  Often, however, Laura talks to new graduates, reviews their resumes and then 2 years later, she represents them after they have gained a couple years of experience.

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