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ALEXIS: Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Open World. Today we have the pleasure of interviewing Emily Scahill, head of Client Success and key member of the Skillsearch games team. With a background in HR wizardry and people charm, she’s not just a pro at ensuring client happiness, she’s also a founding member of the Skillsearch Dungeons & Dragons Society, and more recently, a brainiac on the Skillsearch quiz team. Emily is the go-to guru for client satisfaction, keeping their game studio partners grinning from ear to ear throughout their relationship. Emily, thank you so much for joining us, and thanks to my two co-hosts as well.
EMILY: No problem at all, it’s lovely to be here.
MELISA: Hey everybody!
EMILY: Thanks for having me.
MELISA: Thank you, Emily.
ALEXIS: Let’s jump right into the questions. So I’d first like to know if you could describe your role in the recruitment process within the video game industry and if it differs somehow from other industries. You take it from wherever you want, the question. The floor is all yours.
EMILY: Sure, thanks. Myself and the wider team at Skillsearch partnered with video game studios and also interactive studios to help them find the best candidates for their positions who will ultimately be happy there long term with the culture and everything else that comes with being in a job, whether that’s experience, skills, etc. We really partner with studios so we provide lots of training and advice on processes and EDI, and on how to create an amazing candidate experience as well as just sort of bringing the expertise to any given role, so, what they’re likely to be able to find in the market in terms of candidate talent and skills and the salaries that go with that. So, yeah, that’s kind of what we do, and in terms of how it differs from other industries, I think it’s the creativity, really, within video games that’s kind of the major thing. People have their kind of “passion” projects and sometimes, not always, but sometimes they will take a lower salary because they just love the project or they might be offered the best salary they could ever get but still not really be interested in it because they’re not… the project doesn’t spark…
ALEXIS: The passion is not there.
EMILY: Yeah, exactly. So, that’s kind of one of the main things. And then I think as well studio culture is a big thing for this industry. It has a higher percentage of people with neurodivergent diagnoses than other industries, so, more autism, more ADHD, as an example. Having an environment that’s inclusive and welcoming of that, it can be a big factor. And I’d say remote working is a big one because it’s an industry where you can. The opinion varies wildly on this topic, and I’m sure a lot of people would be happy to get into a debate about this. But a lot of studios, or some studios, think that, certainly a lot of candidates think that these jobs can be done remotely. So, that’s a big factor. That’s often high on the list of desirables for candidates in this industry. So, I think those are the kinds of areas where it can differ, on the whole, a lot from other industries.
LARA: I love to have you in this interview, honestly, because 2023 was a year of a lot of layoffs. It was something that impacted the industry in general. So, it was hard to see, when you entered LinkedIn, all these heartbreaking posts and everything. Having you here to give this fresh perspective on how we can help, on how we can make things easier for applicants. So, I wanted to ask, for individuals aspiring to join the video game industry, what advice or tips would you give them to stand out in their applications and interviews? And what are the key qualities or skills you look for when recruiting for positions in the video game industry?
EMILY: Yes, I mean, this is where it can be very similar to other industries. Any well-designed job should have a job description with the requirements for that role. So, that’s where we always look at the job description, we talk with the studio, we find out what is required for any given role. I think some of the skills that maybe people don’t always realize, or might not necessarily be highlighted on the job description, but ultimately will be the difference between success and failure, are things like communication skills, the soft skills. You can know everything there is to know about game design or programming, but if you annoy everyone around you, or you’re rude to everyone around you, you’ll get nowhere very fast. So, making sure you can work with people, and be a team player, and communicate well, and set boundaries, and manage expectations. All those kinds of things are areas where people need to keep an eye on or develop.
MELISA: So interesting what you just said, because in previous interviews we asked managers from studios, they said the same things, how much they value those soft skills. So, now hearing it from you as well, from the recruitment process. How do you usually say those things? How can people present themselves with these soft skills? Or how is it part of the recruitment process that you can evaluate a person in those regards?
EMILY: Well, it varies a lot. Different studios will take different approaches to how they assess these things. Hopefully every studio will go through each point on their person specification and their job description and make sure that’s covered at some point during the selection process. But it’s about kind of being friendly and personable at interviews, listening, basic things, like not interrupting people. I’m sure we’re all guilty of it now and then by accident but apologizing if you do, that sort of thing. Just basics like that and then it may be that you’ll have sort of… an interview where you meet different members of the teams and thinking about how you tailor your approach to different team members and really that again comes back often a lot to listening to what it is they’re looking for and responding to that.
ALEXIS: Yeah, that’s very interesting. So, any advice that you could give to professionals to prepare for potential job uncertainties. Lara was talking about the layoffs or the deflation that 2023 had with the working, with the jobs in the video game industry. So, how can people prepare themselves for potential job uncertainties? Do you have any recommendations or any methods that people can prepare?
EMILY: I think it really varies, and, yeah, obviously, as you’ve pointed out, it has been, sadly, a really unfortunate time. Let’s hope this year is a bit different and not at all like last year.
ALEXIS: I’m hopeful.
EMILY: Yeah, I’m hopeful, we’ll see. So yeah, I think it depends on your goals. Obviously, if you are someone who’s just kind of recently got into the industry and you desperately want to stay in the industry and continue building out your experience there, make sure you make a good impression on those you’re working with now. It’s your existing network who can be a huge asset if you are put in a position where you’re no longer employed. Yeah, just being good to those around you, making a good impression and kind of making sure you keep your CV and your LinkedIn profile up to date. You might want to make notes as you go throughout the year just now and then, on things you’ve achieved, if you can write down any metrics or even if it’s not numbers, things that happened as a result of the work that you’ve done, that will make it much easier if you then have to suddenly write a CV or update your LinkedIn profile. So, kind of keeping a rolling record of that. It doesn’t have to be a very great detail but all of that stuff you might thank yourself for. If you find yourself in that position, you’d be a bit less daunted. I would say, if you’re someone, however, who maybe is at a later stage in their career or has a family and so can’t really afford to hold fast to the video games industry, no matter what happens, it’s worth considering where else you might want to spread your wings. The interactive industry is also an option as well as many others. So, you might want to move into that space where VR is being used for things like training in more corporate environments, those sorts of things, those industries might not be struggling quite so much. So, yeah, you could kind of spread out. And just because you leave the industry, it doesn’t mean that you can never come back. You’re never going to lose that experience that you’ve already got. It’s not going anywhere.
ALEXIS: That’s true.
EMILY: You’ll always be able to point back to it. So, don’t be afraid to have a bit of a change. You might even find it’s a nice, welcomed change and you learn a lot of new things.
MELISA: Good advice. And, I mean, I was curious. Do you think, in your experience, have you seen, that’s an important thing, networking and building industry connections for these types of challenges, like shop changes? How important do you think that is? And do you have any advice on effective networking strategies for the people listening?
EMILY: Yeah 100% networking is a huge factor, whether you do that online, via connecting with people on LinkedIn or joining Discord communities or finding local groups, there’s sites like Eventbrite and Meetup where they have game dev communities, potentially, in your local area of people who are meeting up to discuss different topics. That and your existing network can be a huge factor in getting a job. I’d say, and this applies also to people who are looking to break into the industry. There are hundreds of applicants for some of these jobs, particularly the entry level ones, and even some of the more senior ones. So, it’s thinking about how you would stand out from the crowd if a hiring manager has five minutes, if that, to spend on your CV, how are they going to remember you? What’s going to make you stand out? If you’ve met them at an event or online, just sent a little message just to say, “Hi, I really like your studio, I love what you’re doing.” Those things can be a huge factor. And not only that, but talking about LinkedIn in particular, what you see in your newsfeed and who sees your newsfeed, your posts in their feed is affected by how close of a connection you are. You’ve got first degree and second and third-degree connections and then people who are out of your network and you’re not going to see posts from people who aren’t within your network or your first-degree connections. So, interacting with people on there, in that space, will make your name popping up, will make your name stick in their head a bit more. So, when they see your CV they’ll go, “Oh, I recognize that name.” But also it’s affecting their feed and making sure their news, their job posts, and their updates are in your feed so you can be one of the first people to reach out. They’re kind of huge things. And going back to your earlier question about how you can prepare for layoffs and redundancies, there are a couple of other things you can do, like looking at job descriptions for your current role or roles you might be looking to move into, if you find yourself in that situation. And seeing if there are any common skills gaps that are coming up again and again. Is there a particular language or a particular bit of experience you don’t have that’s coming up time and time again that you could potentially either do a little bit of training in online now or speak with your manager to see if they can help give you experience in that area. Those are also extra things you can do. So, if you, hopefully you don’t, but if you do find yourself in that situation, you feel a bit more confident.
LARA: Thank you so much, that’s really interesting, honestly. I know we’ve been talking about this, people getting these uncertainties in their everyday lives. So, I was asking, can you recall a specific instance where an application stood up for you? And what strategies or recommendations can you offer to those that are looking to upgrade or get advancements within the industry?
EMILY: Yeah, so it really varies depending on the role. That’s, I think, why recruitment agencies are often set up, or at least our agency is set up with each consultant specializing in their own area, whether that’s design and production, engineering, art and animation, etcetera, because you kind of need that expertise for what’s required for each different role. So yeah, tailoring your CV, I recommend reaching out to a recruiter to kind of get that bespoken specific advice but I think there are kind of basic, clear principles. I generally make sure it’s nice and clear and well laid out and well-spaced. Some people have incredible experience or are even quite senior and you look at their CV and you think, “How have you…?” “How is your CV like this? It looks terrible.” “I’m sure there’s lots of great experience that you’ve got but this hurts my eyes.”
ALEXIS: It’s something that you have to actively get done. That’s why, to come back to another one of your replies, LinkedIn upkeep and CV upkeep are things that you need to save some time on your calendar to get it done, right? Otherwise you can be the most senior, most expert person in your role but your CV is gonna look the same as it was 10 years ago.
EMILY: Yeah, absolutely, 100%. So, yeah, it’s things like making sure it’s nice and cleanly spaced, it’s got coherent formatting, it doesn’t have fluorescent colors and things like that. Color is fine, as long as it’s nice and readable. It’s probably no more than two pages. Again, it comes back to that point of a hiring manager getting hundreds of applications a day, and they’ve got a very small amount of time you can spend on reading your CV. So, you don’t want to bury the lead right at the end, four pages deep, try and keep it concise right down to the highlights, your achievements and things like that, those are really key. And if you’re in a creative role, such as an art role, make sure you link to your portfolio or your website, those things are really key. Link to your LinkedIn so you can add more detail there if there really are things that you think, “Oh, I just I really want to include this but I can’t fit it in the two pages.” Think of your LinkedIn as an appendix to your CV or your resume. You can add stuff there and embellish and make sure there are clear things, like your location. It doesn’t need to include your full address and stuff like that, or your date of birth or your picture, even. It’s not about trying to get your identity stolen, it’s about making sure you’ve got the basic information that we need to know. Okay, where is this person located? Can they commute? Are they interested in commuting? Or are they only looking for remote work? And all those kinds of basic details are really, really key. And don’t forget that kind of paragraph at the top, as well as your experience, a little paragraph that’s just about you, what makes you tick, what are you interested in, and a couple of sentences summarizing your experience overall. Again, brevity is key, but it can be a nice, easy way to get a summary of your experience and you as a person.
ALEXIS: I love that. I love it. It’s to take notes, for everyone watching or listening or reading.
LARA: I was about to start taking notes, honestly. I was like, “Oh my god, this is so interesting.” This is really good advice. Thank you.
ALEXIS: Thank you so much, Emily. I wanted to change the topic for a little bit because we’re talking about video game industry, video game industry, video game industry. So, I have a two-part question that is directly about video games. So, I want to know what you’ve been playing recently that you just can’t get enough of or that you would like to play, and if you have any game that you’re really looking forward to in 2024.
EMILY: Far too many things. Take your time. Too many uncompleted at the moment.
ALEXIS: Oh, god, don’t get me started on uncompleted games.
LARA: We don’t talk about those, they are still hunting me, honestly. They are looking at me right now like, “What are you doing?” I just want to uninstall it. I know.
MELISA: You get new games and these uncompleted games are looking at you like…
LARA: Yes, they are like… “Yeah, yeah, hi.”
ALEXIS: Every new game that pops in is like, “Oh yeah, welcome.”
LARA: Yeah, yeah. No, yeah.
EMILY: I’m actually like, “Stop, stop releasing games. It’s too much, it’s too many, I want to play.”
MELISA: Oh, yeah, yeah.
EMILY: It’s funny, I did a little post today, I’m not affiliated with IGN in any way I should say, but I over the Christmas break discovered that if you go to the IGN website and register, you can log the games that you’re playing at the moment under like playing or taking a break, or on your backlog of games, or once you’ve quit, and I was like, “Oh my god, I can actually remember what it is I’m halfway through.”
ALEXIS: You can have that information uploaded at the IGN website?
EMILY: Yes, you just go on. You write it down, yeah. And then you just search for the game. So, like I’m playing Pikmin 4 at the moment and then you just click on the game and you go to “Add to library,” or something and then you can put it under “Playing” or on “Taking a break” or “Quit.” It’s really, really good. I was like oh I can finally now not have all this information in my brain I could just put it in this thing.
ALEXIS: But that’s an interesting way to also have interaction on the website, right? That’s smart, really. Go, IGN.
EMILY: Yeah, it’s very smart, very clever. I wonder if they’re using the data behind that for anything. That’s interesting.
LARA: I’m sure they are, yeah.
ALEXIS: Being the type of website that they are, I’m seeing it the best way possible, right? They are doing a great job at it.
EMILY: Yeah, but yeah, I’m playing Pikmin 4, Dredge, I’m still trying to finish God of War Ragnarök. Too many things, Diablo 4, I think.
ALEXIS: That’s never ending, right? Diablo 4, with every season. It keeps getting better, that’s the good news.
EMILY: I know there’s a main campaign I still haven’t finished, and beyond that, I’ve heard some things.
ALEXIS: No, but the main campaign alone is worth it, so take it.
ALEXIS: And is there a game that you’re looking for in 2024 that is just like a first day of pre-purchase?
EMILY: Not that I can think of off the top of my head, but there are still games from 2023 that I haven’t even started, like Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. And I want to play The Expanse: A Telltale game. So yeah, I’m sure there will be more coming up that I’m just like: “No!”
LARA: I hope you enjoy it, that’s the only thing I’m going to say because Tears of the Kingdom for me was… I mean, I got this huge statue of the dragon so it was…
EMILY: It must have made an impact.
LARA: Yeah, 100%!
ALEXIS: Well, no one asked, but for me, I want to say it anyways. For me personally, I’m waiting for the next Final Fantasy VII Remake game, that’s coming out in February, and the Silent Hill 2 Remake. I want to get scared again. I mean, thank you Konami. Thank you for hearing my years and years of asking for another Silent Hill game. So, everyone, Emily, thank you so much for being a part of Open World. Thank you so much for every input, every advice. Thank you, Lara, Meli, for being a part of this show all throughout the year and this date of 2024. And to you on the other side of the screen, of your headpiece, or if you’re reading on the other side of the screen, thank you so much. We’ll be seeing you next time in another episode of Open World. Bye, everyone, thank you.
LARA: Bye-bye, thank you.
MELISA: Thank you.