So, you want a job?

Until I find a better place to put it, here is the collection of information I've gathered over the years relating to job placement, relating to the engineering world. The views and opinions expressed here are my own, and not vetted with any experience outside of my own anecdotal evidence, so take them with a grain of salt, and don't come back to me if you follow the advice and it fails, especially if you're not trying to become an engineer/developer.

What are employers looking for?

You'd think this one is obvious, "they're looking for someone to do the job". While that's true, it's not really the whole picture; many factors go into the decision to hire one candidate over another, and they usually all boil down to long-term risk. Though modern tech culture is increasingly resulting in employees staying on a project, or even within the same company, for barely 6 months at a time, companies want to hire employees they think will stick around for as long as possible. Each new hire for a company represents a salary being paid and no output being produced, until the employee is up to speed. Further, the productivity of surrounding employees is decreased, as they need to spend time transferring knowledge to the newbie. So, when being interviewed, candidates are often also evaluated for "is this someone who can fit into the group?" and "is this someone who is going to stick around for a while?"

In the case of fitting in, once again, companies plan for people to stick around, and one of the last things they want is to hire someone who cannot get along with the group, or worse, disrupts team stability. If you're exuding arrogance in the interview (and there is a line between confidence and arrogance), or if you are late without reason to the interview (and "traffic" is not a legitimate excuse, unless you want to come off as someone with no foresight), then there is a good chance that no matter how good you are, you will not be getting a callback. On a small tangent here, but do not name-drop during the interview; Super Employee Sam might have put in a good word for you, but you want to stand on your own merits, not appear to be grasping for Sam's coat-tails.

Another note on personality; if you are a 20-something yuppie that enjoys exploring the local urban nightlife, and you are interviewing for some distant suburban job with an average age in their 40's or 50's, you probably won't be getting a callback (and that is likely a good thing). For as vague as the "Generation X", "Generation Y", "Baby Boomers", and any other generational labels are, they do represent different people with different mindsets on how to run a company; if you are too far removed from the values of the majority of the workforce, you are going to find yourself butting heads more than you will be succeeding in "modernizing" the operation with newer methods.

On the note of location, make sure that the area the company is in, also matches the area you'd like to live in, or else be prepared to commute. Of course, there are situations where the company might be a perfect fit, but the location cannot be salvaged; Caterpillar in Peoria and Alcoa in Iowa are two companies that come to mind, that have a tough time hiring and retaining young, single employees that haven't settled yet, but can do a fair job with older, possibly married, people who don't mind living in nice, quiet, middle of nowhere.

This note is more for people applying for internships, but can apply more broadly. While intern work can often be done by a wide range of people, companies usually see those positions one of two ways: first, as temporary low-skill help, or as a path to train and groom future full-time employees. The companies that see interns as cheap help often are not good for people looking to start their career; frequently those positions have no upward mobility, usually because the company has low employee turnover, low growth, or both, which means it is unlikely a full-time position will open while the intern is employed. So, if you have already graduated, and are applying for internships, that could be the cause of many roadblocks; the company simply knowing that you will leave as soon as you find something full-time, because nothing is expected to open up internally.

Finally, companies are going to be looking to see if the job you are applying for, actually aligns with your interests. If you're a hardware engineer, and you're applying for a job that is going to be software heavy, then the company is likely to look the other way. If it appears that you're going to get bored or burned out on a job in a short amount of time, as can easily happen when there is a mismatch in your passion and actual job responsibilities, then the company isn't going to waste everyone's time by hiring you.


If you're reading this, you're probably sick of hearing about how crucial "networking" is to finding job opportunities, and ultimately landing a position. Unfortunately for you, that doesn't change the fact that yes, it is probably your greatest asset in moving up the ladder (or getting on the ladder in the first place). Anecdotal though it may be, in my 25 years on this planet, I've had 9 different jobs, and 7 of them I can attribute to knowing the right people.

Of course, going to networking sessions, often meetups where most of the people are also looking for jobs, are not the only way to network, and realistically should not be your primary means of networking, either. Maintaining friendships from college, meeting people through friends and family, and other, more natural, ways of meeting people are, in fact, networking.

One interesting route that I can personally attest to the effectiveness of: teaching. You might not be a teacher, or have had any aspirations to be one, but if you have an uncommon skill, you can teach it. Often that skill will be something you are passionate about, and if someone out there wants to learn about it, you have an immediate audience who you can network with, who will *want* to network with you. These people bring with them their own networks, and by association, other people who can help put you into the job you want.

Again, it is anecdotal evidence, but back in college, I was one of the early adopters of the Arduino platform, and began teaching it to fellow students in my free time. Eventually, I started teaching a handful of mechanical engineers working for a non-profit group on how to program Arduino, and I ended up being an advisor to them as they continued their project. Ultimately, I attracted the attention of the non-profit's CEO, who offered me my first technical internship, and later my first offer for full-time employment. I was not aiming to gain employment, or anything for that matter, from my teaching, but because it enabled me to meet people, and put me in touch with others who needed my skills, employment was the outcome.


If you go to most remaining book stores, you can find several, if not dozens, of books, all describing how to write "the perfect" resume. As someone who sits on the hiring line for the corporation I work for, I'll tell you what I'm looking for, as well as give tips.

Forget about "your Resume"

If you have only one resume, then you're doing it wrong. What you really want, is a single document that compiles and details everything noteworthy that you've done. This will serve as the "master" source of information for any resume you produce, and will not be sent out to anyone. Instead, you use this master document to produce a resume on-demand, when it needed, as tailored to the position as feasible. Does that sound like a bunch of extra effort? Sure does! However, if it results in you getting an interview, isn't it worth it?

A person should have three "classes" of resume:

The one-page "shotgun" resume

This is the resume that most people traditionally think of, it is one page, and tries to be as generic as possible, while getting across what you are able to do, and all in the span of a single typed side of a piece of paper. The use case for this resume is limited to job fairs, where there are companies present that you might not have heard of, but are looking for applicants.

The common wisdom for career fairs is, of course, research what companies will be there, tailor your resume and elevator pitch for those companies, and then go to them. What happens if you meet up with all the companies you desire before the fair ends? Certainly, the answer is not "leave early"! No, if you are serious about finding employment, seek out the smaller companies that you might not have heard of. That is why the recruiters are there! They exist at that fair to tell you why you should work for them, instead of Multinational Conglomerate Abc. However, as you are going into that interview cold, yet with an open mind, you need to be armed with as broad a resume as possible, while still keeping it to one page.

Eternally under construction
Last updated 2014-11-09
All content created by and Copyright © 2014 by Donald Ziems.

I'll probably set up a Creative Commons license for this in the future, or perhaps even GPL v3, but for now, All Rights Reserved.

All the information here is free for anyone to use, and you may distribute it with attribution and permission.

Of course, if you found any of the above to be helpful, feel free to send a milliBitcoin or two my way :) 17um17Q3AimjorxVDGaWwBjdjJH4kyiu7Z

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