Resume Your Résumé

There’s been some interest expressed recently in what my résumé looks like, inspired at least in part with the fact that Paizo has job positions open, and I have managed to get hired by Paizo. That’s a fair point, and goodness knows I got help when I was first trying to put together a game-industry facing résumé, but before we discuss the subject at hand, I want to point a few things out.

First, I am not an expert, or even a talented amateur, on the subject of résumés. My advice is of the hardscrabble trial-and-error type, and even if you find it interesting I strongly, STRONGLY advise you also get some professional help. There are guides online, books on the subject, centers that offer free help in some cases—look for them and use them. We’re talking about your first impression for an opportunity that could change your life. The offhand commentary from a free gamer blog should NOT be your primary source of guidance.

Second, my résumé objectively has a horrible track record. Don’t get me wrong, I am THRLLED to be working for Paizo, Green Ronin, and Rite Publishing. But I applied for jobs at Paizo three times before I was hired. I applied for jobs with other game industry positions seventeen (I counted) times between my first game industry job at Wizards of the Cost and my current full-time position. Now those results may be typical—but they don’t point to my résumé being the ur-model with which all game industry jobs become attainable.

For the most part, people who hired me already knew me and had worked with me. I can’t express how important that is. If you want a full-time game industry job, you need to be getting published. Write on your own free blog if no one else will pay you. Reach out to tiny game publishers. Work cheap (but NEVER for free—if anyone is making money on your work, you need to be making money on it).

Third, this is my general “résumé for the game industry” advice. It’s not Paizo specific, following my suggestions does not assure you any special treatment in any current hiring situation, and there isn’t a test over it. This is my personal, experienced-based opinion, and nothing more.

Fourth, this is advice for a game designer/developer/editor type of position. If you are applying for human resources director, or accounting, or marketing, or some other professional position in a game company that isn’t making and polishing text for games? Ignore my advice. Those are jobs that require you to prove you can do THOSE jobs. Don’t apply to be a game industry accountant with a huge list o game credits. It’s worth noting you understand and enjoy games… but what you need to focus on for that is accounting.

So, with those notes in place, what does my résumé look like?

It Doesn’t Look Like A Character Sheet

Some readers are shocked I feel the need to say this, and others are shocked I am going to speak out against it. Yes, there was maybe a time when making a “cute” or “creative” résumé would get more attention and give you a leg up in hiring. That time was the 1980s. Now everyone assumes you “love games,” are “uniquely creative,” and “can bring fun and great ideas to your company.”

What they DON’T assume is that you can be professional, work in an office environment, and take things like formats and deadlines seriously. This is your first change to show them you can.

No bright orange paper. No unicorn doodles in the margins. No formatting your résumé to look like a character sheet, a set of wargames rules, a wanted poster, or anything other than a professional resume. Don’t use weird fonts, custom graphics, or flowcharts. Those cute ideas look great on your blog, as proof you are creative. They don’t look great on the des of a manager who has to find someone who can sit in a cube 40 hours a week and produce useable text and documentation.

Your résumé should be black ink on while paper (or background for electronic résumés), have headers for each section, and list things in concise, possibly bullet-pointed lists.

It Offers Simple Info, Not Complex Explanations

If you went to Clarion West in 2014, absolutely list that with education or experiences. DON’T go into great detail about who instructed you, who you sat next to, or what the name of the insold manuscript you created is. Yes, the person hiring may want to know those things. And you want them to want to know those things. You also want them to have to call your for an interview to learn those things, and you want to have neat things to say in that interview.

For your résumé? Just the facts, man.

It Excludes Irrelevant Info

No one needs to know your worked for Burger Clown from 2003 to 2007. Really, unless it speaks to your ability to make games, no one needs to know anything about your jobs from 2003 to 2007. If you were working at a library, museum, book bindery, archeological dig, computer lab, another publisher (of anything), or even a deadline-and-rules focused job, it’s worth mentioning.

Otherwise? Just skip it.

You can mark your employment history “Recent Employment” or “Key Job Experiences” or anything else you like that’s simple and factual if you want it to be clear you aren’t listing every job you’ve had your entire life. But useless info that doesn’t make you look like a better game industry employee is just more words they have to get through while looking for a reason to hire you.

This is ALSO true of education. If you have some college? Mention it. If not, and there’s nothing else there that you think will make a game industry manager want to hire you? Just skip the section entirely.

The game industry has everything from high school dropouts to M.I.T. graduates. Focus on the things that make you look good, no matter which end of that spectrum you’re on. And if at an interview stage someone asks you why you dropped out of school, “I was too busy playing games” isn’t a bad answer in THIS industry, despite sounding terrible for any other job.

It Includes Everything I Was Ever Paid to Write, Develop, Edit, or Consult On

Yep, everything. I have a Publication Credits section, after everything else, and it is pages and pages of credits. It’s arranged by type of credit (author, designer, developer, and so on), and then by year, and then by product. If I wasn’t the only person doing that job, I include a “with” note (“with JD Wiker and Jeff Grubb”). For series and magazine articles I sometimes compress them together with a note a full list is available. (Dragon magazine, various articles issues 251-355, full list available upon request).

Your credits are your REAL résumé for the game industry. If you have a blog? List it. Include the url, so a reader can go check out how brilliant you are. If you have 31 self-published credits each of which has sold 4 copies? List them. It’s proof you can finish something. If you have a wiki on game rules for DragonBurger, an obscure boardgame from 1993/ List it. It shows you have passion and the ability to organize information.

I try to keep a running list of everything I have credits in, so I don’t have to take 12 hours to compile them later. That’s what I say “resume you résumé,” because if you want a job in this industry, you should be working on your resume nonstop, a little at a time, every time you get a credit.

It Has Everything Else the Job Posting Calls For

Cover letter. Writing Sample. Whatever the job posting says to include, I include. This is your first chance to prove you can do what the people hiring you tell you to do. And that is WHY they are hiring you—to do what they say. Game industry jobs can be fun, but they ARE jobs.

Your résumé is your first chance to prove you understand that.

It’s Spell Checked, and My Wife Reads It

A typo in your résumé may not be a dealbreaker… but why risk it?

It Doesn’t End With a Link to My Patreon

Though honestly? Maybe it should. But my blog DEFINITELY should, because my patron’s support is how I manage the time to write things like this. If you found this useful and want to support more content like this? Please consider offering some support.

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About okcstephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the publisher and lead genius of Rogue Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps.

Posted on September 28, 2017, in Business of Games, Musings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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