Meet the Swords: JP & Leon

The Legend of Recruitment: Brand’s Awakening

Classic duos: Sonny & Cher, köttbullar & lingonsylt (meatballs & lingonberry jam for all you non-Swedes), Link & Zelda, JP & Leon. Liquid Swords’ TA-twosome may be less well-known than the Hero of Time and legendary ruler of Hyrule, but their quest is no less heroic: to find the very best talent out there in the video game industry. (OK, maybe a tiny bit less).

Like any hero’s tale, let’s start at the beginning and ask, what is TA or Talent Acquisition? “TA is identifying and attracting great people that align with the vision of Liquid Swords,” Leon starts us off. This seems simple enough, but we’re talking recruitment, so let’s mix in a few buzzwords for good effect. “It’s about adding ingredients to the dish and finding synergies,” JP serves up without hesitation.

Laughs aside, JP and Leon are much more than hot air and buzzwords. They’re working hard to carry the torch for a different kind of recruitment, one that speaks to the simplified, zero-nonsense Liquid Swords mantra. “We’re always thinking about the needs of the studio and the project,” Leon explains. “We work with hiring managers to identify these needs, which become roles and job ads. We then source the right candidate based on their skills and responsibilities, all the time ensuring they’re the right complement to the team and studio.”

“We appreciate interviews are time-consuming, as much for the candidate as the hiring manager,” JP adds. Part of his role is a first filter, before a formal interview stage, this saves time and energy for both parties. But it’s far from a passive role, “Quite the opposite,” he says, “It’s part of my expertise to pushback and challenge hiring managers, they need to meet the right people, but we also want them to be open-minded because there’s no perfect candidate.”

Fully on board with their pitch, we ask what’s interesting about talent acquisition at Liquid Swords. Leon gets to the core of it, explaining, “We’re halfway towards our growth ambition of 100 people, but our first game is still at the prototype stage. Those joining as we grow will be involved in the full lifecycle of the project – that’s unusual but exciting for this industry!”

While our studio is in great shape, at the time of writing this article the wider game industry is facing the looming enemy that is mass layoffs. We ask what is still good about an industry that seems forever on the naughty step for its poor working practices, sub-par treatment of staff, and failure to live up to hype. “There’s still so much innovation,” Leon reassures us, “Sure, there are the old vanguards, but in the last few months alone, I’ve seen a number of new, highly-innovative startup studios making noise.”

For our recruitment experts, the question is how studios can separate themselves from these broader criticisms and do things differently. “It comes down to branding.” Leon believes, “Public perception is increasingly at the forefront of people’s minds, and studios are waking up to this.” Every candidate that JP and Leon meet is left with an impression of Liquid Swords. Even if they aren’t successful in a process, “Their impression of us is crucial, word of mouth matters so much,” he concludes.

“Studios have started becoming more thoughtful about their recruitment. They’re moving away from overly lengthy recruitment processes, with unnecessary and often frustrating linger periods between contact,” JP explains. Of course, it’s still vital the process is sufficiently thorough for both the studio and the candidate to make well-informed decisions.

“At Liquid Swords, we’ve slimmed down our process and focused on internal recruitment training to ensure everyone at our studio gets the most out of interviews and knows how to use the time fairly and effectively,” adds Leon, proud of the initiatives he’s helped spearhead. “We’ve seen this in our candidate feedback, even those that haven’t been successful have commented positively about our processes, our openness, and our culture.”

Before we release our heroes on their next adventure, we try to farm a little of their recruiter EXP, and ask how to break into the games industry. “It’s so much more than simply loving games,” JP speaks from experience. “Always show more than tell,” Leon continues, “For artists or animators a great portfolio is always the best side dish to go with your CV. It can also be tough to find junior roles, particularly in Sweden, though this isn’t to say they don’t exist. The internship route can be great for getting a foot in the door and making crucial connections.”

A final rupee of knowledge from Leon, “We see a lot of entrants into the industry really focus on what’s in it for them, but remember a studio is nearly always hiring you to solve a problem. Read the job ad really carefully and think about what you offer and how that aligns with their needs.”

The central message we take away from our chat with JP and Leon is that the industry and how it recruits are changing. In recent years, revenue in games has grown enormously. No longer are games a fringe interest of the introverted; instead, they’re increasingly attracting talent from outside their traditional base because of the huge opportunities they offer. This creates its own new set of unique challenges and opportunities; ones that TA specialists, like JP and Leon, are helping studios navigate as they build teams, attract talent, and grow.