The number of applications we get is usually inversely proportional to the experience level needed for the position. Entry-level positions get huge numbers, while super experienced roles get very few. The type of role also varies a lot - QA and design applicants are legion, while rarities like engine programmer or technical artist are often unicorns. My current employer is well-known in the AAA franchise space so we tend to get a lot more applications than the studios I’ve worked for with less notoriety.
The percentage of applicants who manage to get past the initial contact - a callback from a recruiter - is, in my experience, usually between 0 and 25% for entry level positions. An [informal twitter poll of my followers] corroborated my experience. We have a lot of applicants, it’s quite easy to pass on one when you have a hundred more resumes to look at.
As for whether early birds have an advantage, the answer is yes. If you’ve read my [game career FAQ], you’ll probably remember that when we’re hiring, we’re looking for someone who can [do the work]. If we find a candidate that we believe will be able to do the work, we will try to hire that candidate and the position will be filled. This means that, if we have two equally-qualified candidates and one of them submits weeks or months before the other, the earlier candidate will likely be hired.
This only applies to candidates that can present a compelling case to hire them, however. If a candidate can’t convince us they can do the work, it won’t really matter how early or late they apply - they won’t get an offer. I’ve never gone back to candidates we’ve rejected to give them a second chance. If I wait around a bit, I’ll get a brand new batch of candidates to evaluate.
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