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Hiring War 2020 – Game Industry Struggling to Fill Roles

19 Feb 2020

The following is a guest article by Marc Mencher, a game programmer gone GameRecruiter.

This is one of the most challenging hiring climates ever encountered! According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Right now there are ~ 1 million more available jobs than there are qualified candidates to fill them; meaning…

Anyone You Want to Hire is Already Happily Employed!

Historically the hardest-to-find workers used to be Game Programmers / Engineers but with such a tight labor market, most any position you seek to fill has become a challenge. Part of the shortage is the result of a robust economy, but the problem is exacerbated by the fact that not enough Generation Xers and Millennials are entering the workforce to replace the retiring Baby Boomer talent. There is a big gap, making it very challenging to find employees to hire for almost any job.

Adding to the challenge, game companies now find themselves competing against companies like Netflix, Google and other entities from a variety of industries because gamification remains a key to success for most software products.

The Talent Shortage is Impacting Profitability. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) – 83% of the companies they surveyed are having trouble filling their jobs. 1 in 4 CEOs said they were unable to pursue a market opportunity or have had to cancel or delay a strategic initiative because of talent challenges. 1 in 3 is concerned that the skills shortage will impact their company’s ability to innovate effectively.

How to Deal with the Talent Shortage

1.    Re-Imagine Your Hiring Process

Employers must adapt to the labor market’s shifting dynamics. One solution to combat the shortage of available talent is to become more personable, flexible and creative in the recruitment and on-boarding process.

Take a good look at your hiring process to determine if it’s broken or outdated. If your process was established under the assumption that 100 people want each of your advertised jobs, then most likely your system was set up to be automated, impersonal and that will not be effective in today’s hiring climate. No one wants to be treated like a number on a conveyor belt.

2.    Get Realistic

Get Realistic – These days you’re lucky if you have multiple candidates interested in your job. So stop treating them like they are a dime a dozen.

Educate Your Hiring Managers – Inform your hiring managers on the realities of today’s hiring climate. Encourage them to have realistic expectations. For example, the game industry is notoriously unstable, yet a hiring manager will expect someone to have long-term employment periods?

Unicorns Do Not Exist – Don’t over scope the job order. A position that is really 2 or 3 different positions mashed into one won’t get filled. Make sure the job can be filled in today’s market.

3.    Move Faster – Get Personal!

Google will do a telephone interview and hire the person on the spot. Electronic Arts and other game entities identify, interview and hire within 10 days!  That means you also need to move fast.

Stop requiring candidates to jump through hoops! Having folks take personality, IQ or skill qualification tests before even speaking with them, is off-putting, insulting, impersonal and most importantly, your competition is not doing this anymore. If you must test, then motivate the candidate by speaking with them and getting them enrolled in your company and vision BEFORE you ask them to test.

Speed Up the Interview and Hiring Process Act quickly when it comes to recruiting.  Respond to a resume submission within 24 to 48 hours and make a hire or not decision within days of the applicant’s date of contact. Moving quickly communicates that your company is organized. It also makes candidates feel special and important. Remember that your actions reflect not only for the position you are trying to fill today but also any future positions you may want to fill with the same talent at a later date.

Get Personal – No one wants to work for a machine – people want to work with people / be part of a team. While you may not be able to outbid the candidate’s current employer or your competitors’ financial offers. I bet you can compete on company culture and personality. Designing a world-class work environment ensures people will be knocking on your door.

4.    Invest In Your People

Many hiring managers expect candidates to match their job order 100%. They want the person they hire to be productive day one of employment. How about being open to exploring the job with candidates of varying backgrounds as inevitably you get turned on to a person, not a job requirement or a resume.

How about hiring someone who brings the foundation to be successful? It’s not realistic in this hiring climate to expect the folks you hire to be completely trained and ready to produce day one. Can’t find that PlayStation programmer who knows Unreal? Stop focusing on the buzzword PlayStation or Unreal and consider a programmer who has either created their own engine or has worked on multiple engines or obtained a BSCS degree therefore they know about Data Structures and Algorithms. Realize a programmer with a formal degree who knows the GNU compiler and can code in C++; this person should able to transition into Unreal or code on the PlayStation within a few weeks.

Offer job training and other personal enrichment options. How about a training program to improve the skills of new hires or refresh the skills of current employees? Offering personal development opportunities will put your company a cut above the competition and helps you not only attract talent but also hang onto existing talent. What about training existing employees to take on hard-to-fill positions?

5.    Realize the Hiring Process is a Sales Process – NOT a Buying Process

Companies must present themselves in a way, so that top talent want to buy into working for them. Even if you are the most desirable company to work for, there must be a match on many factors; culture, personality fit, chemistry between the team and supervisor, internal career growth opportunities, etc. It is a Sales Process from start to finish and must be treated as such to get the best talent.

The Interview is a Two-Way Street – The candidate is selling themselves and you must be selling why they should join your team? If you don’t motivate and excite the candidate, then why would they quit their current job and take your offer of employment?

6.    Get Assertive – Surgically Recruit

These days you can’t rely on a job ad to attract talent. Hire a third-party recruiting firm, like GameRecruiter that specializes in your market niche. As an internal recruiter, you may be limited on who you can approach and not wanting to be too assertive. However, the only way you will fill your open jobs is to research and customize an approach aimed at seemingly happily employed people who are not in active job-hunt mode and get them interested in exploring your company. Have a logical plan on who you would like to approach to fill your job and do the proper research so when you do reach out you have a compelling reason why someone should explore your team. I call this Surgical Recruitment.

7.    Offer Clever Perks

More money is nice and always welcome, but special touches help employees feel appreciated. It’s not only human centric, but it is good business when it comes to retaining employees. In addition to the standard Health Insurance, Vacation/Paid Time Off, Performance Bonuses, Paid Sick Days and 401(k), Retirement Plan and/or Pension, here are some other suggested perks:

  • Offering incentives, including vacation getaways.
  • Catering in meals or bringing in an ice cream truck every week.
  • Providing flex hours. If employees want to work 160 hours over three weeks instead of four, give them the fourth week off.
  • Incentivizing employees with rewards, such as time off after big projects are completed.
  • Picking up the tab for an employee having their taxes done or consultations with financial advisers.
  • Six days of paid volunteer time off a year. If they use all six, they receive a $1,000 grant to donate to a charity of their choice.
  • Three paid months of parental leave, plus an additional month of part-time hours.
  • A paid day off every other Friday.
  • An annual stipend to travel and stay in an Airbnb listing anywhere in the world.
  • $1,000 per year for student loan debt reimbursement.
  • Season ski passes and “snow days” to hit the slopes after a big snowfall.
  • A paid four-week sabbatical to pursue their creative talents after five years at the company.
  • Gym Membership or Wellness Programs.

Wrapping It Up

For sure this labor market will shift and not be so tilted in the employee’s favor, but when that will happen is anyone’s guess.

My advice to clients is to ensure you have a swift interview process with a focus on inspiring candidates in terms of the opportunity, the company and its vision for the future and be prepared to make fair and competitive offers. Also, keep recruiting after the acceptance and up until the time the candidate starts with your company. During the notice period, several employees should stay in touch with the candidate, reinforcing the excitement of them coming on board. This should be planned and coordinated. Keep them informed of company activity that would be of interest (i.e., landing a new key customer, other new hires, sharing fresh news that may have been publicly disseminated which may not be immediately noticed by your candidate, etc.). Invite them to company events, happy hours, etc. Give them a feeling of being dialed in before they actually start.



About the Author:

Marc Mencher is a Game Programmer gone GameRecruiter. He has worked in the Video Game Industry for over 25 years and released several games to market. Marc was one of the original founders of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA). He is the author of the book Get in the Game and a contributing author for Game Creation and Careers: Insider Secrets from Industry Experts. GameRecruiter focuses on filling unadvertised and strategically important Digital Entertainment positions of all flavors. To learn more visit: www.GameRecruiter.com and Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Mencher


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