Whether you are just getting started looking for your first game development job or are on your second or third job you can always improve on your interviewing skills to level up your career.
I have been working in the game industry for over 5 years now and have gotten 3 full time job offers as well as dozens of freelance contracts. The tips I am sharing with you here will help you sell yourself as a professional and an expert.
1. Do the Work
Before you can even land a job interview at an established studio, you will need your resume and portfolio to be in tip top shape. This means it can take months or even years before you are even able to get your foot in the door of the place you want to work.
For your portfolio, make sure you have at least one project that you consider 'finished' or ready for public access. This means that this is something that you are selling in mobile marketplaces or the Steam store. This shows that you are serious about your career and that game development is not just a hobby for you.
Game developers are very passionate and without a strong portfolio you will fail to make yourself stand out from the large crowd of applicants. You also need to try to have a variety of project types. For instance, I am a VR specialist and enthusiast, so most of the opportunities that come my way are VR related. However, my mobile experience from the past also opened doors that would not be open otherwise.
Although it wasn't my favorite medium, my mobile experiences helped me become a stronger candidate and even helped me get a job offer.
Once you have one or two projects completed and shipped you will be ready to set up your portfolio. For this you can use Wix, or a multitude of other websites. Build a free portfolio and post videos of your gameplay as well as links to access your project. This does not take long at all and will help you stand out from other developers who lack a centralized portfolio.
Make sure your resume only contains information pertaining to the position you want. If you are applying for a Unity development role, do not put skills such as Microsoft Word or Excel. Game development is a large field so you need to cover what kinds of games you have coded, what technologies you used and what are your specialties/favorite things to work on.
Once you have all of this on order it is only a matter of time before you start hearing back from places that you have applied. If you get no response for months on end, you will need to go back to the drawing board. Either your portfolio or resume will need an update or adjustment.
Congratulations! You now have an interview and are close to closing your first deal as a professional. Before you can do that, remember that there are other applicants who are also being interviewed and sometimes it doesn't matter how much you prepare, the game isn't over until you are sent an offer.
Different studios have different procedures but my experience has been to first have a talk with HR before meeting with the hiring manager. Passing the HR or recruiter interview should be simple, the real interview will occur with the team you will be working with. During the interview the interviewer will introduce himself and/or his or her colleagues. They will then ask a serious of technical and experiential questions to get a feel for if you are a good for their team.
Most applicants will try to talk as much as they can during interviews to try and sell themselves. The problem is that they try too hard. If this is your first job position as a software developer, you will feel the need to prove yourself. The truth is that the interviewers already saw your resume and experience. They already see you as someone who is able to get the job done. Instead, you should ask the interviewers what they are looking for and what kind of problems they face during development. If you keep talking about yourself and your own experiences you will come off as validation seeking. The opposite will be of more interest to the interviewers. They will get a chance to open up to you more about the candidate they are looking for and give you a shot at filling in the blanks with yourself.
Applying for jobs and getting interviews can be an exciting experience when you are first entering the job market, however it can also be frustrating. Sometimes you may have done everything perfectly in the interview, but another candidate has more relevant experience. The good thing is that you will naturally get better at interviews as you do more of them. Once you land that first interview, you will be at the last step before you finally land the job! Keep in mind, it's about the journey, not the destination. Once you finally do land that first job, you will still have other challenges awaiting you, so train your mind and body to be relentless and defiant.
3. Level Up
After working at your job for a while, or rotating through multiple jobs you will eventually hit a barrier in pay. The game industry is notorious for underpaying developers in comparison to other industries that require similar experiences and skills. For this reason I adjusted to being a freelancer and working as many hours as I wanted and charging clients what I felt I was worth. The overabundance of clients on Upwork, led me to become a fulltime freelancer online.
Usually I am messaged on LinkedIn or other platforms if there is a fulltime opportunity that matches my skillset available. The problem I often run into is that these opportunities are often locked to candidates that are unable to pass tests involving complex algorithms and data structures. As a game developer, these are often foreign to me so it will take extra time to learn the new concepts.
To get where you have never been you must do something you have never done.
Some similar coding exercises can be found on Codility and HackerRank. As a junior developer you should not need to worry about them but if you have some extra time or feel your work stagnating, they could definitely provide you with some fresh challenges that will pay you in the long run.
Written By Guri Waraich
Professional Game Programmer