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Location, Location, Location

Originally appeared in "The Games Game" column on IGDA.org. The IGDA website was massively redesigned in 2013, making old columns unavailable, so select columns are now being reposted here on an as-needed basis. This article originally appeared in July 2010.

Dear Tom,

I just don't understand this "location, location, location" thing you keep hammering into us. Why on earth would a game company not want to hire a perfectly good (if yet untried) candidate who happens to live in another city or state? It doesn't make any sense to me. do I really have to move to the area I'm applying in before the interview? And if so, why?
Seems to me that if I move pre-emptively, I face the danger of not getting hired (and having to move again), and I've made myself vulnerable and more desperate to get hired, making me at a disadvantage (they can sense all that and make me a lowball offer 'cause I'm in a bind). I'm willing to relocate, but to move without a job lined up is like jumping off a cliff without knowing what's at the bottom. I need somebody to give me a shot.

Untried

--

Dear Untried,

In your view, you are "a perfectly good candidate," but in an employer's view, you're less desirable than someone with an equivalent resume who lives locally already. The local candidate can come in for an interview at a moment's notice, and if hired, the local candidate can begin work immediately (or as soon as he's given notice to his previous employer).

It's not a matter of your being "willing to relocate," even if you will pay for your own move. Willingness to relocate is a given. You wouldn't be sending in your resume if you weren't. It's a matter of experience. I'm coming back to that phrase you used: "a perfectly good candidate." An employer will gladly interview and hire an experienced applicant who lives in another city or state. But a raw (as you say, "untried") candidate is another matter entirely. Too much trouble for a low probability of success. A company has to interview twenty applicants in order to find the right person for an opening. It's a lot easier if those twenty are all local.

You are unwilling to take a risk. You want the other party to take all the risk. Game companies are not in it to give people "a shot." You have to prove to them that hiring you is smart, not risky. And what you said about being vulnerable and desperate after moving -- the thing is, you can fix that with a good plan. Take whatever work you can right where you are. Live frugally, save money. Work on games in your spare time. Don't move until you're ready. You're ready when you've saved enough money and your resume and portfolio are awesome. If you don't have enough money to move, and your resume and portfolio don't show you to be better than nineteen other candidates, then you shouldn't make the move yet. Who knows, during the time you level-up your bankbook and resume, somebody might come along and open a studio in your hometown, and then you wouldn't even have to move.


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