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  • On Target Meet the specialist who is a top scorer when recruiting for the electronic games industry. INTERVIEWER MAGAZINE 4 MAY 2000

    On Target Meet the specialist who is a top scorer when recruiting for the electronic games industry.

    The fun and dynamic world of niche recruiter David Smith.

    The electronic games industry has come a long way since Space Invaders. Ed Beesley meets a recruiter in this dynamic niche market.

    Imagine the perfect mix of work and play. Now think of the dream job for a recruiter who is mad about electronic games. David Smith, managing director of Wimbledon based Interactive Selection, occupies just such a job which he describes as “fun, dynamic and extremely exciting”.

    Interactive Selection (IS) was established in 1996 and regards itself as the market leader in executive search and recruitment for the games and interactive entertainment industry. IS also claims to have the most experienced consultants, and is the only games-based recruiter in the Recruitment and Employment Confederation.

    The electronic games industry has changed a lot since its formative stages in the Space Invaders-led 1980s. Even though the games have only been around for about 20 years, the industry has grown into a multi-billion pound business, with Britain as one of its leaders. The market is so lucrative that the latest addition to the games console market – the Microsoft X-Box, the software giants competitor to Sony’s PlayStation and Nintendo’s N64 – had a development budget of $4 billion.

    As consoles and games become more advanced, development costs increase. Companies are constantly required to expand and re-invent their development teams and that’s where IS has managed to help nearly every publisher and developer in the industry worldwide.

    “There are probably no more than 12 recruitment consultants across the whole games industry, unless, of course, you begin to move across the whole of the new media industry,” explained Mr. Smith.

    “The consultants who work for me have a minimum of three to four years’ experience of recruiting within the games market, and that is the sort of experience that means we can be at the forefront of our field”.

    Mr. Smith started off his professional life as a chartered accountant working within publishing and retail but the transition to recruitment was lucky. “When IS was launched, there was a real recruitment opportunity in the industry.

    “I had dealt with many accountancy recruitment firms in my time as an accountant, and I felt that our emergence as a company was going to be different. It was, and I had to start everything from scratch. Like all software companies, I started my business from my bedroom!”

    The situation now is very different. Mr. Smith’s company now has offices in Wimbledon, Leicester, Northampton, London and associates working for them in the US. There is also a possibility of expanding into Australia. “Recruitment within this industry does tend to be different as nobody is really prepared to keep close to the establishment,” he says. “But the surprising thing is that recruitment of this type has never been very high profile, which is even more surprising bearing in mind the massive amount of money that it generates”.

    Interactive Selection’s clients include companies such as Sega, Sony, Electronic Arts, Lego and Microsoft. But how does the company manage to maintain such a strong client base (over 600) when it refuses to advertise?

    “We are constantly dedicated to finding the best opportunities for our candidates and we are happy to help anyone as we want to maintain our excellent reputation. Word of mouth is essential for good business in any industry but especially where we are, as we have to deliver a quality service. Not doing so would severely blacken that reputation and we could no longer operate,” says Mr. Smith.

    “The games industry is already bigger than Hollywood, growing at 25 per cent a year compared with 10 per cent in the film industry. The result is that there simply aren’t the staff available to meet the demand”.

    Technical, creative, production, sales, marketing and buying positions are always wanted as well as senior positions, served through IS’s executive search service.

    “We are constantly aware of exactly who is recruiting at any one point in time across the US, the UK and Western Europe. The British games market is probably the best in the world, but there is a big demand in the US for people with UK games development experience. UK people can get jobs in the US without many problems although it is hard to get people from the US to come here. The standard of living and the wages that are paid over there are so much better than UK firms are prepared to offer.

    “At the most senior level, the companies we work for don’t want to spend money on top level executive search fees so we look for the long term client relationship.”

    So what drives the people IS recruit? “It’s important to remember that people in the games industry do it not for the money but because they love it. For example, technical support staff will have a typical day of around 10am to 10pm, with half days at the weekends, and games developers will work from around 10/11 am until around 3am.”

    And Mr. Smith’s motivation? “I’m in it because it’s fun, dynamic and, most importantly, it’s extremely exciting – I wouldn’t change what I do for the world”.

    Article written by Ed Beesley and reproduced by kind permission of Interviewer magazine, 4 May 2000 Interviewer is published by Inside Communications Ltd. Tel: 020 7772 8300
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