I started preparing for my job search the summer before my senior year in college by researching jobs and working on my resume. I found out that my university’s career services department offered free resume writing and reviewing sessions, so I signed up for the free sessions at the beginning of my senior year. They gave me great feedback on how to improve the look, style and content of my resume. I also had trusted advisors, who worked in my university’s School of Engineering department, review my resume and give me feedback. I never took any feedback personally, resume writing was something that was completely unfamiliar to me, and I was grateful for any and all advice I could get. An engineering student organization offered sessions on how to interview and tips for job hunting, so I attended these sessions too because I was determined to find a good job before graduation.
I registered for my university’s engineering and science career fair and for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) national conference and career fair. I placed my resume online on the SWE website before the conference, and several companies contacted me before the conference to schedule interviews with me during the conference. The career fairs took place towards the end of the fall semester during my senior year and I was as prepared as I could be: I had polished my resume and printed at least 50 copies to hand out at the fair (hey, I didn’t want to run out!), I practiced a quick introduction about myself and answers to common interview questions, and I bought a new professional suit and shoes.
I confidently walked the aisles of the career fair shaking hands with the people at each booth, smiling while introducing myself to them and handing over my resume. A couple of companies looked at my resume and asked me to come back at a later scheduled time for an initial interview. Other companies said they would review my resume and contact me later for a phone interview. In my experience, it was the companies who immediately asked me to come to an interview or had pre-scheduled interviews with me which resulted in job offers.
The initial interviews were casual at the career fair, and the interviewers usually wanted to get to know my personality and go over the information on my resume. I knew my resume front to back so I was able to confidently talk about my internships, senior design project, and my engineering organization leadership experience, which were the key highlights of my resume.
After the initial interview, I was told I would be contacted within a week if I was selected for an on-site in-person interview. I attended one out-of-town on-site interview. I was flown into the city and put up in a hotel and taken out to eat. It was all so exciting, but nerve-wrecking too for a young college student who rarely travelled. The interview on-site was more of the getting-to-know-you questions, but they did ask a few tough technical and behavioral questions which had me sweating.
The goal of the behavioral questions were to help the interviewers learn about my interpersonal skills. The technical questions focused on what I learned in school and in my internships, so they would ask me to explain my major projects with technical detail. In the problem solving questions the interviewers wanted me to think through my problem solving process out loud by answering questions about abstract difficult situations. I learned for my interview practice sessions to use real-life examples whenever possible while answering the interview questions.
I also interviewed with a few local companies. I never felt like I did really great after the interviews, even if I had. I always obsessed over wondering if I said the right thing, especially on the behavioral and problem solving questions, which seemed more open-ended and abstract to me. One of my least favorite questions is, “How do you deal with ambiguity?”… ummm… think of something… anything… this interview question is ambiguous, use that as an example… lol, wait no don’t laugh out loud in an interview…can I just go home now? Now that I’ve been in the workforce I have plenty of good answers to that question. But straight out of school I’d rarely even heard the word ambiguity used in a sentence before, so that question always caught me off-guard.
In the end, my hard work and preparation paid off. I had two great engineering job offers to choose between by the end of the first semester of my senior year. I was going to start my last semester of college with a job already lined up, and it was a great feeling!
How did you find your first job? Did you face any tough interview questions?
Check back for my next post on my first job and why I left it after just seven months.