Being Prepared part 4

Last week I told my first-year students that I will act as a hiring manager to interview them for the job so they need to be prepared. In the next class, I selected a student and interviewed him when the class was watching. To his surprise, I did not ask him to write code or answer technical questions but asking questions that some of them may not be expected. Even it was not a real interview, but the student seemed nervous.

I began: “Tell me what are your career goals?” The student looked surprised: “I do not know.” I told the class: “This is one of the questions that many of you are not prepared. But it is an important question as the hiring manager may ask more questions on what do you want to do with your career. This question will distinguish someone who only wants a job and someone who plans their future. This question will eliminate workers who just want to get a job for a short time then switch to another job for better pay. Since technical workers change job often, companies are now using this type of questions to eliminate “job switching” workers during the job interview.

I continued: “What do you want to do after working here for five years? The student hesitated: “I am not sure at this time.” I explained to the class: “I know some of you may not pay attention to your career plan but you need to answer this question. If you do not have a good explanation, you may not get a job. Even you do not see yourself as an ambitious person and only want to work as a software developer. You still need to explore your career and understand what types of job that you want to work.”

A student asked: “What would be the correct answer?” I explained: “That is why I ask all of you to develop a career plan with several steps toward your future career. A typical good answer such as “I want to combine my technical skills with my soft skills to work as a team leader or a project manager” or even simple answer such as “After five years of working experience, I want to lead a strong team to develop technically interesting work.” I noticed several students immediately write them down.

I continued with the interview: “Tell me what type of work do you want to do in my company?” Again the student seemed confused: “I want to work as a software developer.” I asked: “In what area? My company is large and there are many jobs in several areas.” He looked embarrassed: “Anything would be fine with me.” I told the class: “Before applying for any job, you must read the job description and know exactly what type of job that you want to do. You cannot put in the resume and hope that someone would hire you. In this highly competitive job market, you must be specific. Today having programming skill is NOT enough. Today having a degree is NOT enough, even it is a technical degree. You need to learn more about “Hot areas” such as Machine learning, Data science, Cybersecurity etc. That is why you must read more about the technology trends and the job market. Today, you are all students but after graduation, some of you will get a better job, and get paid more than others. There will be a big difference among you in positions and future career. It all depends on how well prepared you are and which high demand areas that you have selected. It is possible that the person sitting next to you might be getting paid a lot more than you, even he may not have a better grade. The fact is he is prepared but you are not.”


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University
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