Power Play

Headhunter Fiona Cherbak on why the electronic-game industry isn’t just for geeks, and how to trade in your analog gig for a digital one.

Who she is: Fiona Cherbak, senior recruiter,, a recruiting firm with a 10-year history in the game industry


Who she’s placed: Torrie Dorrell, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, North America, Sony Online Entertainment; Munir Haddad, director, business development, U.S., I-Play

The video-game industry job market is hot. Is it a geeks-only club?

For a long time, the game industry was very hesitant about nonplayers, and you will still hear current CEOs talk about marketing people as though they’re the enemy. However, in business development, sales, and marketing, we’re seeing an increasing trend toward hiring people from outside gaming who are not necessarily game players. Some of the brands have stagnated in the marketplace, and smart companies recognize that they need people coming in with consumer-goods backgrounds who have a big-picture idea of how to get into the global market.

A real hole where the game industry needs people is in market research. Traditionally, the industry hasn’t really utilized sophisticated analysis, and more companies are hiring in-house analysts to make better decisions about competitors and market positioning. They’re looking for people who can pull data from a variety of sources, do the number-crunching, and come up with good strategic estimates of where the company needs to go next.


During interviews, what trait do you find most striking?

Definitely a pioneering spirit. I can usually tell if candidates are adventurous by the risks they’ve taken with their career choices and if they’re able to convince me that they’re driven to be involved with the next new technologies.

Is the industry biased toward recruits in their twenties?

Ageism is a constant issue. I work hard to sell seasoned talent to companies that think — incorrectly — that in order for someone to create a product for a very young audience, they need to be that age or younger, too. The only way to deal with that perception is to challenge it.

Definitely consider leaving early parts of your history off your resume if it doesn’t seem essential. You shouldn’t be misleading, but put emphasis on what’s more current. Try not to use phrases like, “I have 20 years of experience.” And to protect your options in the future, be sure you make choices throughout your career that let you say, “I’ve been involved with many projects that were moneymakers and market makers at the right time, and I continue to do that.”


What’s the biggest misconception about the gaming life?

That it’s all fun and games. Whether intentional or not, the industry has been taking advantage of people’s passions about games and overworking them. Because of gaming’s project nature, an average workweek can be anywhere from 60 to 90 hours, and it has become a critical dilemma — and even a legal issue — in places.

Given that, are there still perks to a gaming career?

Your kids think you’re really cool.


About the author

Danielle Sacks is an award-winning journalist and a former senior writer at Fast Company magazine. She's chronicled some of the most provocative people in business, with seven cover stories that included profiles on J.Crew's Jenna Lyons, Malcolm Gladwell, and Chelsea Clinton