Job-Hunting Advice from Human Resources Professionals
There were two main points that I took away that were advertised as part of the event. First, “required skills” means “required skills!” Read the job description carefully (including fine print at the bottom), and be honest with yourself. Do you have the skills required for this job? What classes or other experiences can prove that you’ve built these skills? Recruiters know that valuable skills can be learned outside of the classroom these days. Thus, Coursera-type experiences, a Github profile, and other portfolio-type material can make you more attractive on the job market. Moreover, emerging technologies (e.g., Hadoop) are often self-taught or otherwise learned informally. If you did any kind of independent learning and gained real skills relevant to the job application, include it! Don’t omit it just because it wasn’t learned in a class you took. Second, the panel helped me understand that it is imperative to add technical terms/keywords to your resume. At times, HR personnel can search automatically the text of resumes. Capitalize on this technology by incorporating keywords in your skills section that speak specifically to your field. Again, don’t over-inflate; if it’s in your resume, you'd better be able to talk about it in the interview.
Another theme was salary negotiation. Since we’re all coming straight from graduate school, the salary may be hard to negotiate. Nevertheless, keep in mind that your first point of contact may be the recruiter (who finds candidates for hire) who is somewhat of a firewall between you and the hiring manager (who hires a candidate). You can discuss salary ranges with industry recruiters (or schools!), but do some research and try to understand how to do this carefully. In negotiating your salary, you can potentially ask for a small bump, but have a reason. For example, you learn while interviewing that you’ll need to travel or work on weekends. The recruiter now has a reason that s/he can take to the hiring manager to request the increase. Don’t say you need between $x and $y just because that’s what you found on Glassdoor. And what if you prefer ABC, Inc. but the offer from XYZ, Inc. pays a few thousand more? Remember: salary isn’t everything. A slightly higher salary can’t always make up for dissatisfaction you might have with other aspects of the job. Besides the job description itself, you should consider benefits, colleagues, commute, living costs, bonuses, 401k match, opportunity for advancement, etc.
Ph.D. candidate, Statistical Science
Gary Larson is a Ph.D. candidate in statistical science. Prior to graduate school, Gary worked as an actuarial analyst and pension consultant in Charlotte, NC and Shanghai, China.