job prospects based on competence?

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job prospects based on competence?

Postby rsrctnfrn » Sun Jan 22, 2012 6:17 am UTC

So i'm a chemical engineering senior, just wondering if anyone else is having this experience:

it seems to me that engineering job prospects should be proportional in some way to engineering competence, but from experience it seems more directly correlated to a student being able to say the right sorts of things to recruiters about themselves or something.. Some of the same students the recruiters seem to be fawning over are the ones who have no clue what they're doing in the lab or coursework! I've not done an internship (foolishly deciding that research is equivalent experience), and as a consequence it seems like none of the recruiters are interested in me.. I don't understand why the internship experience is so all-important, it doesn't seem to have helped these students learn to think like engineers.

full disclosure: i don't really want to do chemE anymore, i want to do materials research. but career fair at my school is next week, and career fair always bothers me because of this..
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Re: job prospects based on competence?

Postby KestrelLowing » Mon Jan 23, 2012 3:05 pm UTC

rsrctnfrn wrote:So i'm a chemical engineering senior, just wondering if anyone else is having this experience:

it seems to me that engineering job prospects should be proportional in some way to engineering competence, but from experience it seems more directly correlated to a student being able to say the right sorts of things to recruiters about themselves or something.. Some of the same students the recruiters seem to be fawning over are the ones who have no clue what they're doing in the lab or coursework! I've not done an internship (foolishly deciding that research is equivalent experience), and as a consequence it seems like none of the recruiters are interested in me.. I don't understand why the internship experience is so all-important, it doesn't seem to have helped these students learn to think like engineers.

full disclosure: i don't really want to do chemE anymore, i want to do materials research. but career fair at my school is next week, and career fair always bothers me because of this..


If there is one thing that I could drill into the heads of every single engineering major out there, it would be "internships are NOT optional".

Because you haven't had an internship, you actually don't realize the importance of it. You have never worked in a corporate environment. That alone, is a huge shift. You may be competent in course work, but many people are and being competent in course work doesn't mean you'll be competent with a real job. I know several people that have struggled with classes, but are amazing at the type of work given to them at their co-ops and internships. Those people are more valuable to companies than those with unproved work experience and a good GPA.

And welcome to the real world, where what you know, it not as important as how you demonstrate yourself. I know, it sucks - majorly. But that's just how it is.

However, you can try to help yourself out by demonstrating yourself slightly differently. First off, when you walk up to a company representative, make it feel like they would be lucky to get you. Don't be arrogant, just confident. You've said you've done research - play that up. Make sure you talk about the responsibilities you had and how you can take initiative. Research may not be quite equivalent experience, but it's certainly important, and you can certainly show how the skills you obtained while doing research will relate to work in the corporate world. Note that these skills are not technical skills unless you're applying for something that specifically needs that particular skill. Often when people hire for an entry level position, they aren't looking for specific skills, just the demonstration that you have the background (your degree), the ability to learn anything that needs to be learned, and the relevant 'soft skills' that will make you a good employee. Soft skills (people skills, organization, etc.) are the single most important thing to show when applying for jobs.

I know you're just feeling disillusioned, but it's ok. Go in there with your guns blazing showing how awesome all the skills you have are, and you'll be fine - even without internships.
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Re: job prospects based on competence?

Postby Zcorp » Mon Jan 23, 2012 6:35 pm UTC

rsrctnfrn wrote:So i'm a chemical engineering senior, just wondering if anyone else is having this experience:

it seems to me that engineering job prospects should be proportional in some way to engineering competence, but from experience it seems more directly correlated to a student being able to say the right sorts of things to recruiters about themselves or something.. Some of the same students the recruiters seem to be fawning over are the ones who have no clue what they're doing in the lab or coursework! I've not done an internship (foolishly deciding that research is equivalent experience), and as a consequence it seems like none of the recruiters are interested in me.. I don't understand why the internship experience is so all-important, it doesn't seem to have helped these students learn to think like engineers.

full disclosure: i don't really want to do chemE anymore, i want to do materials research. but career fair at my school is next week, and career fair always bothers me because of this..

The gate keepers of jobs are generally positions held be a 'people person' and these individuals frequently look for 'people that work well in groups.' Pretty much all of the best practices from HR departments and recruiters are ineffectual, but that does stop them from continuing those practices. To get past these gate keepers you need to put on the 'I love to and work well with others' and you need to demonstrate 'on job experience' hat and image regardless of the relevance to the position.

The other way past the gate keepers is networking. Which an internship is useful for as well. However, you don't need an internship to create that image nor build connections. You can choose to volunteer a few hours a week if you can't find one to get 'on job experience,' hopefully a good reference and maybe build some connections. You can also join hobby or competitive groups in your field to make connections. Or just generally put yourself in those working environments or around those working professionals. Your chances of getting a job jump significantly if people know you.
Last edited by Zcorp on Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:00 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: job prospects based on competence?

Postby cookiemobsta » Mon Jan 23, 2012 7:53 pm UTC

It does depend somewhat on the company. To get my current job I had to pass a logic test as well as a take home exam that was intended to take at least 10 hours. So some companies do hire based on competence.

But I agree, it is much more rare. Usually your ability to get a job is related to your ability to sell yourself, which would be an accurate predictor of performance if you were in a sales job but otherwise not so much.
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Re: job prospects based on competence?

Postby KestrelLowing » Tue Jan 24, 2012 2:32 am UTC

cookiemobsta wrote:It does depend somewhat on the company. To get my current job I had to pass a logic test as well as a take home exam that was intended to take at least 10 hours. So some companies do hire based on competence.

But I agree, it is much more rare. Usually your ability to get a job is related to your ability to sell yourself, which would be an accurate predictor of performance if you were in a sales job but otherwise not so much.


I also have to say that not everyone bases things solely on soft skills. For the internship I received this summer, the first round was soft skills and my resume (meet at the career fair - not really much else you can do with that). For the second step, I had an interview where they asked me mainly things about what I enjoyed and what I wanted to do, but they also asked a brain teaser as well as a simple dynamics problem (I'm in mechanical engineering). The third step was pretty much the same as the other interview, but with a different person and they didn't ask an engineering problem.

After that, the third step was a phone personality test deal - although this is where this company differs from most places. The fourth step was an onsite interview (highly unusual for internships - so this company in general is a bit different) where I had multiple interviews with most of the departments. I believe at this point that most were just seeing if I was (A) interested in their area and (B) if they thought I would work well in their group. One of these interviews, however, asked me many technical questions and brainteasers. It was actually a lot of fun. I'm actually working for the department that asked me all those technical questions, so evidently technical knowledge can be a considered.

So it's not the 100% dark picture I painted above...
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Re: job prospects based on competence?

Postby Chen » Tue Jan 24, 2012 2:51 pm UTC

Zcorp wrote:The gate keepers of jobs are generally positions held be a 'people person' and these individuals frequently look for 'people that work well in groups.' Pretty much all of the best practices from HR departments and recruiters are ineffectual, but that does stop them from continuing those practices. To get past these gate keepers you need to put on the 'I love to and work well with others' and you need to demonstrate 'on job experience' hat and image regardless of the relevance to the position.


Having people skills is almost always necessary in a job. Aside from some fairly corner cases, you're always going to be interacting with people. Those soft skills are very important. Being a genius who is terrible at communicating ideas and/or working with others is not something a company generally wants. Weeding those people out via their initial soft skills impression does tend to be a valid practice.

cookiemobsta wrote:It does depend somewhat on the company. To get my current job I had to pass a logic test as well as a take home exam that was intended to take at least 10 hours. So some companies do hire based on competence.

But I agree, it is much more rare. Usually your ability to get a job is related to your ability to sell yourself, which would be an accurate predictor of performance if you were in a sales job but otherwise not so much.


Most companies require competence in addition to soft skills. The soft skills may be what gets you noticed for that first interview, but after that you ALSO need to prove competence.
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