Job Search Panel 2014

Job Search Panel 2014

On Monday 2014.09.08, we held our first alumni job search panel. Four recent graduates discussed their job search experience and the tools that Berkeley makes available for job seekers.

Check out the results and summary from the 2014 Alumni Careers Survey for some statistical data.

Panel Participants


Bell Lab (catalysis)

Looked into BP, Dupont, Exponent - petrochemicals, consulting, basic chemicals - all strictly industry.

Starting at Dupont in Wilmington, DE in an R&D position


Reimer (NMR)

Looked strictly outside area of research

Began searching in April/May

Starting at Intel in Portland, OR in a process engineering position

Interviewed at Dow in Freeport, TX; applied for interviews from companies that don't visit campus, but didn't get any

While a graduate student, did an internship at Schlumberger


Clark/Blanch (biocatalysis)

Did a postdoc with Clark Dec-May while searching for a job; looked at industry and postdocs

Now works at Bayer in Emeryville

Managed the two-body problem


Bell (catalysis)

Began interviewing last summer

Initially looked at Exxon and Dow; declined

Currently searching in the South Bay; managing the two-body problem

Getting An Interview

Recommendations and Referrals

Can your professor recommend you to a company that they have a relationship with? Can a friend or former coworker get your resume to their manager? This can help you cut through the corporate bureaucracy and greatly increase the chance of getting some kind of response.

Resumes, CVs, and Cover Letters

Prepare a CV, and prepare yourself to manually copy and paste your CV into a million company-specific online forms, all of which use a different format. Also prepare a resume, which should ideally be one page double-sided.

Never assume that an interviewer has actually read and remembered your CV and cover letter! Very often, it doesn't appear they've looked at it at all until the actual interview.

The cover letter is mostly a formality, but it may also be digitized and keyword searched. Make sure to draw clear parallels between the skills that the employer is interested in and your own skills and experiences.

Information Sessions

Take advantage of infosessions to get facetime with employees and greatly improve your chances of being interviewed! Infosessions are also valuable if you don't know much about a company—oftentimes they'll go into significantly more depth on the sorts of projects they're currently working on than any descriptions you might find online.

Prepare an 'elevator pitch' description of your project to use when you talk to recruiters at these events.

Online Job Search Resources

Sign up for Callisto today and start getting emails; this'll give you an opportunity to learn about job fairs and interviews so you understand the system. Companies have to pay to maintain their listings in Callisto, so it's generally more up-to-date than, say, LinkedIn or web postings, and all of the listings are for entry-level positions.

Sign up for LinkedIn today—many people get their jobs on LinkedIn, and virtually every recruiter will check you out on LinkedIn before or after your interviews. Make sure that you fill out the 'skills' section—recruiters pay LinkedIn to access and search this metadata, and they definitely identify candidates with skills that they desire with keyword searches.

Sign up for Glassdoor today—it has lots of company reviews and salary information written by employees.

Career Fairs

Attend the Fall Career Fair—it's on September 17-19, and it's the largest job fair at UC Berkeley. There is even a PhD-specific job fair.

Finding a Postdoc

Use your network to get a postdoc—contacting professors is next to impossible, so have your PI introduce you.

Interview Structure

Interviews are exhausting, especially on-site interviews. You won't have the time or the energy to apply and interview at a million different places—you'll easily be working 80 hours a week your last semester—so restrict your applications to places you are actually interested in.

Make sure to let you advisor know that you're interviewing—interviewers will often contact your advisor to get their recommendation, so it's less awkward if your advisor hears about this from you first. Some companies put a lot of weight on the professor's recommendation.

Always, always, always follow up with an email after an interview!

On-Campus Interviews

* 45-60 minutes, relatively formal

* usually start with ~5 minutes of informal chit-chat

* 10 minute presentation of your research

** prepare slides to show on a laptop

** bring paper backup of slides, anything you've published, graphics, etc

** with technical questions, usually stretches to 25 minutes

* the remainder is behavioral questions

** don't sound overly scripted!

** it's okay to think!

** it's okay to use non-school examples!

** look online to find lists of every behavioral interview question, ever

Consider interviewing for a big, general company—regardless of interest—just to get a sense for how these things run.

Practice with a friend and make sure that your presentation makes sense to a general scientific audience.

On-Site Interviews

Be prepared to be completely crushed by these things—you'll need to travel to the site, interview all day long, then fly back. Your mind and body will be completely shot at the end of them, especially if you have to travel far.

You'll interview with lots of different people and give a big presentation on your research.

You'll likely also go out to lunch and dinner with your interviewers, so you need to be 'on' the entire time you're there.

Other Advice

'''Figure out what you actually want to do!''' Don't just focus on getting any job—think about what your 'dream job' might look like. Have a general idea what you're looking for, and then be prepared to compromise on the specifics.

'''When to start looking?''' It's reasonable to start looking for a job when you have about a year left until your projected graduation. Keep in mind that many companies make a yearly trip to campus in the fall only; if you miss them, you'll have to wait until next year.

'''Tenuous graduation date?''' Companies, for the most part, understand this. Discuss with your advisor, set a target date, and try to make it happen. Give the recruiters a general idea and they can probably work with you. Keep in mind that large companies tend to be much more flexible on start date; small companies and startups generally want you to start immediately.

'''Do some volunteering'''—it can provide great context for answering behavioral interview questions on a subject other than your research.

'''Don't be surprised if a company doesn't respond'''—sometimes they'll let you know if you aren't what they're looking for, but more often they won't contact you at all. This is one of the reason why on-campus interviews are so useful!

Filing Fee Status

Allows you to continue working at Berkeley to finish your thesis, without your advisor needing to pay tuition.

May only be used for a single semester! Can't be teaching, taking classes, etc.

While on filing fee status, you lose Berkeley student benefits: health insurance, gym access, bus pass, etc.

(You can still elect to buy health insurance and have your PI reimburse you)

Extremely important that you get your thesis in on time—around the last day of the semester—or you run the risk of having to pay tuition and fees