Monday, May 09, 2011

Resumes to Interviews to offers-Part 1

When I told my friends, that I got an offer from Intel, there was visible happiness in their tone and faces. It was more so because I was one of the last in my batch to get an offer after a long waiting period. Since I have some interlude before joining the company, I thought of writing a post on job search.

 There are different kinds of students who look for a job in different disciplines and different market situations. However, there could be a few guidelines that can be common to all of them. I decided to put together this post because I thought it was prudent to do so before I forget what I went through during the job search. For those who are specifically in VLSI specialization, please see the follow-up posts for some interview questions that I faced.

Now, Resume is the first and important step in the job search. You do not have to really worry too much regarding many of the myths running around about these. There are people who vehemently oppose anything more than 1 page in a resume. It actually depends on the requirements for a particular position and what the general mentality of the people in a particular company is. If the position focusses on a specific subset in your discipline (for eg, digital electronics and related knowledge in electrical engineering), then you can exclude your other projects and coursework details (in this example analog related ones) from the resume(in which case the whole thing is called a C.V and edited version, the resume ). However, my personal experience as well as observation of my friends tells me that no one is bothered much if you give a 2 page resume. Many of us had 2 page resumes and did not fail to get calls from atleast 2 employers like Intel, Microchip, Marvell, Qualcomm, Apple, AMD, freescale semiconductors, Maxim etc. Don't get scared if someone suggests a top to bottom revamping of your resume. There are as many opinions on this as are people. Ask a couple of people and your own self about the clarity and content. If satisfied, go ahead.

Having an objective in a resume is optional. If you have one, then try to make it not too specific or too general. Another thing that most people make fuss about is references. There are mostly 3 categories of people when it comes to this. Some of them actually list down their 3 or 4 references with contact information in the resume itself. This has its own pros and cons. It shows that you are well-planned and confident but wastes that much of your resume space. Others just include one line "References available on request" . This is a better way because, it mentions about references but does not occupy space. I come under the third category of people who do not write anything about references at all in their resume. This option worked for me at least (I got 2 offers) and is advised by some experts too.

It is imperative that you talk to your references before listing them out on the resume. It is quite important to choose the references properly as they can make or break your offer in many cases. See this for an interesting tip.
 Professors(from both undergraduate and graduate colleges), collegues during part-time job, internship mentors could be possible references for RCGs. Every candidate should be careful in choosing someone who will surely talk positive things about them.

As for as the rest of the resume , the format should be neat and not too cluttered. Bullet points are helpful as the attention span of anyone and especially hiring managers and assistants are very short in the current era. List your skillset (relevant softwares, operating systems, instruments etc that are relevant). For many positions, the resumes are searched for key-words. So, just remember that including words like oscilloscope, digital multimeter etc can also help at times.

Listing relevant courses also helps to some extent. I have observed that it is especially helpful in a job fair, where this list itself can actually impress a potential employer. They know that RCGs rely heavily on coursework compared to experience and hence this is the base to build on. I had listed just the course names. However, one of my friends suggested that it will be even better to briefly indicate the important things that has been covered in the course(I know this sounds crazy because it is difficult to compress all that here but let me give an example). If I list computer architecture as one of the courses, then I can probably say things like assembly language programming, caches, pipelining, dynamic scheduling, Tomasulo algorithm, branch prediction, multi-threading, simplescalar, superscalar, virtual memories etc. or a subset of these key words. In fact this can be done for the most important areas that are required for the job.

After listing your experience in the reverse chronological order(for RCGs it could be internships done during undergraduation and graduation) list the college projects. Do not list too many of them. 5 to 7 would be a reasonable number. Give a brief description of what was actually achieved in each project/internship. List down the tool used to accomplish these tasks alongside. If your internship is little more than 2 years old and you do not remember all intricate details, then I would really encourage you to sit down and think about all the key concepts that were involved in the work. When I submitted my resume to Fujitsu in a job fair, the recruiter there saw my resume and was interested in it. She was looking for verification and design engineers. She went through the resume and asked me to explain my internship experience. When I was describing it, through certain questions she understood that I had worked on something that is exactly what she was looking for. However, I was careless enough not to mention it in the resume. Therefore right keywords can make a lot of difference.

After the projects, I listed out my extra-curricular activities and I would suggest the same to anyone else too. However, if you are hard-pressed for space already, then you can skip this one. This section helps sometimes in behavioral rounds which is often a detested round for many candidates.


I actually just have a concise message for candidates who apply to any kind of position, internship, full-time fresh grads or full-time experienced. A third party recruiter succinctly words what should be done.....

Though what she says is mostly true, I would ask you to apply to all jobs online in addition to  contacting recruiters directly. This is just to ensure that we keep all options wide open.
Ensure that you apply to as many companies as you can get access to. Though I personally had little success getting calls from any small company, my friends did get such calls. Use social networking sites and any other good way of networking. It sounds(and IS) opportunistic but that is precisely what one has to do if one has to land in a job. (It is imperative for International students as they do not have many benefits of greencard holders or citizens in the US). "Resume pushing" as it is popularly called, is the most important activity in the pre-interview stage of your job search. My personal experience (as far as engineering is concerned) tells me that more than 85 to 90% of all interview calls are through such references.

To be continued in Part 2.....

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