Disclaimer: I’m by no means an expert when it comes to job applications; I’ve been both successful and unsuccessful when applying for jobs. Both myself and various colleagues here at Codies have interviewed applicants to work on our respective teams and as a result we’ve seen many applications over the years. None of this information is guaranteed to get you “that dream job” but hopefully it will help to give you an idea of what, at least some people in this industry look for when assessing your cover letter and CV.
The Cover Letter
First and foremost is the cover letter, I’ve received everything from no cover letter at all to a 4 page document detailing everything said applicant has done from birth up to the moment they clicked “send”. Writing a cover letter that covers everything in your CV in very minute detail is not a good idea. Cover letters should be brief (a paragraph or two), address the employer and give a brief indication of why you wish to apply for the job. The cover letter doesn’t need to go into great detail about how when you were 8 years old, your grandmother bought you a copy of Colin McRae Rally on PlayStation 1 and you’ve been hooked on Codies games ever since. Instead focus on a few succinct points. Something along the lines of “I’m passionate about video games and motorsport and I believe my skill set and qualifications make me a great fit for the role of audio designer at Codemasters.”
Don’t you wish your CV was hot like me?
Brad – Silverstone GP weekend 2018
Much like the cover letter, I’ve received everything from a 1 page CV to mammoth 5 or 6 page submissions that go largely unread. Most industry professionals will agree that a CV should be around 1-2 pages long. In fact, the first point everybody in the Codies audio department mentioned when I asked what they look for in a CV was the length! Think of the person reading not only your CV but many others, they don’t want to be scouring through 5 pages of information to extract the core details. An overly long CV may actually damage your chances of getting an interview as it may be skimmed over just to get through it quickly or worse yet, the potential employee may simply sigh at the length and ignore it completely.
Jethro Dunn, Principle audio designer here at Codies adds:
“The last time we were hiring I had around 40 or 50 CVs to go through. I don’t want to be looking at that many CVs if they’re all 4 or 5 pages. Keep it to 2 pages maximum and only include relevant employment history and education and keep it simple”.
Jethro likes working here, he doesn’t like bad CVs. Don’t make Jethro angry.
Jethro – On location
So, let’s break down what you should be including and how you can be concise.
Generally I’d advise that you tailor a CV towards the type of job you are applying for. What do I mean by this? For example, now that I’ve worked in the games industry for over a decade I don’t really need to list every retail job I’ve worked at and my “very important” responsibilities I had during those roles. Does a prospective employer really need to know that not only could I gut and skin a salmon while on the fish counter but I was also trained to serve on checkouts and use the cardboard compactor safely? Think about how much relevant experience you have as you create your CV. If this is indeed your first job in the industry and your last job was a retail position that you held down for 8 years then add it. If you’ve worked as a developer already and you’ve had 7 menial jobs in supermarkets and pubs then feel free to leave them out all together or spare the reader every detail about your irrelevant skills.
Senior audio designer James Kneen comments:
“Especially when you’re in your advanced years you really don’t need to list every job you’ve ever had, just the most recent and relevant ones. Bullet points for the notable skills are also fine – the more concise the better”.
Write a good CV and you too could drink hot camels milk in Abu Dhabi.
James – Yas Marina F1 test session 2017
I’d also point out for comedic sake that James toyed with changing “advanced years” to “Past noon” or “twilight years” (He’s only 50).
I’d advise you hold work experience at a developer in higher regard than your bar job if you’re applying for further developer work. James Kneen and I previously mentored an audio intern and had advised him to apply for a QA job. After an afternoon of updating his CV we noticed he’d left off his work experience at Codemasters (his only relevant developer work). If you’re applying for a temporary QA job or a work experience placement and then return to retail or bar work, feel free to once again tailor your CV. A bar is going to be far more interested in your previous 2 years working at another bar than your knowledge of Jira, the difference between class 1 and class 3 bugs or that you know how to stream a build to an Xbox One dev kit.
This approach should also be taken into account when you decide what developers to apply for. As Codies dialogue producer Olly Johnson states:
“If you’re applying for a writing job at Naughty Dog then you probably want to work on a narrative driven experience and have an interest in storytelling and defining strong characters. You should have an encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema, literature, and storytelling techniques. If you’re applying for a job at Codemasters then you should know we are passionate about motorsport and want to contribute to representing the different racing types as realistically as possible, and to have a good understanding of racing terminology, and preferably be a keen racing gamer with plenty of opinions on the subject”.
Feel free to list any work experience you have completed but make sure it is relevant and not already superseded by more recent professional or relevant work. For example, my CV around the time I was graduating listed work experience I’d completed running the mixing desk at a local bar and a brief stint at a college working with the audio department. These were both relevant and at the time I’d had no better “professional” experience to list.
Short and sweet also applies to your education; by all means add all relevant qualifications but perhaps go easy on listing every GCSE and A level that you achieved. If your CV is light on actual relevant professional experience you could add more detailed information about the skills you picked up, performances organised or even a brief description of what your dissertation focused on. For example, when I was applying for my first role in the industry I added a few bullet points about the interactive live event I organised and performed in while at Uni. I also had a bullet point that mentioned the focus of my dissertation (how improving audio quality can subjectively lead to a perceived improvement in graphical quality). These were two relevant areas during my time at uni that would at least indicate to a developer that I have an interest in audio and video games and had actively been tailoring my final projects towards these areas.
David Gurney, audio designer on the F1 franchise adds:
“Don’t give high regard to menial qualifications if you’ve got a degree or masters. I’ve seen CVs that list individual GCSE results as bullet points and even elaborate on certain subjects by stating how well they’ve done.”
This is Dave, Dave writes good CV’s that’s why he now works with us instead of cleaning floors.
Dave – Silverstone GP weekend 2016
General content to avoid
There are a few things I find to be really overused in CVs, particularly word clouds or generalised sentences about how great you are. “I am a hard working individual who can work well as part of a team but is equally happy to work on solo tasks” is one of the classic personal statements. I’ve also seen word clouds with generic feel good phrases and positive descriptors about the applicant. Words like “motivated”, “hard working”, “creative”, “thoughtful”, “Resourceful”. It’s just a bit overdone and who would define themselves to an employer as anything but positive descriptors?
CVs also don’t need to detail every extracurricular activity you embark upon. Feel free to add a few bits about yourself but leave out the 20+ activities you take part in at your local church. I received a CV once that had a large paragraph stating that the applicant is involved in their local church community. The applicant had listed things like “part of the church band”, “very active at the local church”, “helps run church camping weekends”, “mentors and helps with church band members”. Not only were the majority of these points utterly redundant to the job they were applying for but the church section took up around a quarter of the CV.
Finally, don’t exaggerate or you will get caught out! Olly Johnson adds:
“I would always question details in your CV and cover letter to ensure you do really want to work for a company that deals in a racing and motorsport niche. Don’t overplay your interest in something, or your skill set and previous experience. Ultimately, a great CV should give us plenty of talking points to discuss in the interview phase, and not for it to feel like an interrogation. If you love writing… but have never watched an F1 race, it would always be better to say you are passionate about delivering great dialogue first and foremost, and that should you be given the chance, you would be keen to dig deep into any subject that was thrown your way. An honest answer always trumps even a slight fabrication”.
Olly likes to ruin cables, he does not like to ruin CVs though.
Olly – Not on location
As we’ve already covered you should prioritise both previous employment and education in terms of importance. Don’t have your GCSEs at the top of your CV, if your education is first and foremost on your CV then prioritise in terms of most recent, highest qualifications earned. A potential employer will be far more interested in your masters degree than the A you got in woodwork at GCSE.
Base the structure around relevance and experience, if you’ve never had a job in the industry (or any relevant work experience) then perhaps have your education at the top of your CV. This way an employer can quickly and easily see that you have a degree in your chosen field. On the other hand, if you’ve worked at Naughty Dog for a couple of years and perhaps done a year’s stint in QA at a small developer then have your professional experience at the top of your CV. You’ve already proved you are capable of working in the industry, make this obvious to your employer! Bury the retail job you had 10 years ago at the bottom of your employment section.
Check your links and details
Check all links and addresses then check them again. I’ve received links to show reels that either don’t work or ask for a login. I once reached out to one applicant to let them know a link didn’t work and we spent several emails back and forth trying to rectify why I couldn’t access the show reel. I’d imagine a lot of people (especially if they have a stack of good quality CVs to get through) may give up at this point and move on to the next applicant. Likewise check everything from your email address, website links and your name…yes, even your name! I received an application once that had a different name on the CV to the name the applicant had put in their email. Not only was I confused and had to clarify with the applicant but it’s also a good way for your application to get lost in the ether.
- Keep it short and sweet
- Include relevant details first and foremost
- Avoid exaggerating your talents or feigning interest in subjects
- Check all of your details
- 2 pages or less
In the next article we will go on to discuss the interview process.