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Moving beyond your network: How to avoid recruitment chaos in the early days of studio life

Moving beyond your network: How to avoid recruitment chaos in the early days of studio life

Matt Hood is Senior Talent Acquisition Manager at Wooga.

Hiring can be difficult. Often times it’s a delicate, lengthy process but ensuring a positive experience for candidates can have a big impact on the way employees both past, present and future view your studio.

Before joining Wooga as a recruiter last year I worked at a number of games developers and saw first hand how an ill-conceived recruitment strategy can cause a lot of problems for developers looking to expand their team.

In this post I want to offer a little advice to smaller developers who might not have the experience in the nitty gritty of HR work and who are looking to welcome the first new employees to their team.

The first steps

In those early days of establishing your studio you probably won’t have too much trouble finding your first employees.

Typically, this small, trustworthy group is made up of ex-colleagues, friends or friends of friends you’ve sourced from your network – but that can only take you so far. The next, much more difficult, step is transitioning to a broader recruitment strategy and that can be daunting.

The first piece of advice I’d offer is to understand your requirements. Who do you need? An Engineer? Okay, what should their skillset look like? Should they specialise in Unity? Or, Unreal?

Spend time thinking about your game, map out the different stages of development and try to work out, as best as you can at this early stage, what you’ll need and when.

With that list in hand, the next step is getting your house in order; polish that website and get those jobs online!

The first piece of advice I’d offer is to understand your requirements. Who do you need? What should their skillset look like?

As you don’t yet have a dedicated recruiter yet you also need to decide how you’re going to manage all those applications and what the recruitment process should look like.

The best advice I can give here is don’t rush to incorporate a tool. Start simple. Sort applications out via email (careers@yourgamecompany.com) and decide early on who will be responsible for that task.

It’s usually a Team Lead or a Producer, although bear in mind that while leads tend to evaluate applications faster you also run the risk of distracting them from their work on the game.

Creating a good experience

Before you get going with interviews, it’s best to first settle on a format; try to establish how many rounds of interviews there will be, how long you would like them to last and who should meet the candidates.

If you are able to establish this process early, get it to work and keep it working, you will save a lot of time in the long run.

Additionally, remember to reply to every candidate who applies. Employer branding is built from day one and if you get known as a company that doesn’t reply or reject properly it can tally up.

Putting that effort in to make sure your website is polished also pays off during this process as interested candidates start to do a little more research. Don’t worry about creating your own set of company values, as a lot of books might tell you, just be clear on your mission and vision for what you want to achieve.

Employer branding is built from day one and if you get known as a company that doesn’t reply or reject properly it can tally up.

You want people who can invest into that mission and the adventure, not necessarily the benefits - it’s normal that they come a little later with a bit of success.

On the jobs page itself, only post the openings you have available. Don’t feel the need to include an option for people to send prospective CVs as they can become somewhat of a time sink.

Making yourself known

The next step, and a relatively crucial one, is actually making candidates aware you’re hiring. The simplest and most effective way is advertising.

There are a number of cost effective solutions available for games, general websites with reach (i.e Glassdoor/Indeed) that when combined with posts on social media and LinkedIn can be really effective tools.

The second method is to use agencies – shocker, I know. It’s almost a given in the games industry. When working with agencies you should strive for quality over quantity.

While it may seem like a good idea to work with 20 agencies (it happens), you’ll probably end up receiving a whole host of candidates that aren’t a match.

Instead, take the time to meet with agencies at conferences or events and try to understand their services. Decide on a few (three is usually a good bet) and see them as partners rather than tools.

A lot of agencies also have value added services for small companies that could be of benefit, such as helping with references and conducting forms of interviews. Lastly, it almost goes without saying but it bears repeating: agencies are there to make money, so be relatively vigilant in your negotiations.

The next step

Once you have your agencies on board, your postings online and applications coming in you will be close to scaling up and moving on to the next step in this process, which is likely hiring a recruiter.

I’ll talk more about that, as well as introducing tools and systems in a future article.

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