How to approach entry-level roles: A panel discussion

Roles across Data Analytics, Software Engineering, Product Management and Business Analytics

INFORMS Chapter at the University of Illinois, Chicago hosted a panel discussion on “How to approach entry-level roles” with panelists across career pathways of Data Analytics, Software Engineering, Product Manager and Business Analytics

Pooja Sund — Director, Technology and Analytics, Microsoft

Jason Eilts — Software Development Manager, Amazon

Amani Konduru — Product Manager, PayPal

Monalisa Chati — Strategy & Business Operations Leader, ServiceNow

Every year, be it winter or summer, thousands of college grads enter the job market and navigate through the highs and lows. Be it internships or full-time, searching for an entry-level job can be quite the catch, we all know that. And in 2020, how can we not address the elephant in the room: the pandemic. The onsight of the recruiting season amidst the pandemic has opened up new challenges and opportunities for new grads to stand out for entry-level jobs. The conjecture around entry-level roles is in everyone’s mind and we heard that.

The class of 2021 might be walking into a hurricane but pandemic or not, preparing well for the roles definitely is the best way to land a new job.

In the 90 minutes of the insightful panel discussion, we asked our panelists questions on new grad roles, responsibilities, skills, how to prepare for the interviews, and what to expect this recruiting season. Post the event, INFORMS couldn’t wait but summarize and share the insights we heard from the panelists on questions submitted by our members and attendees

Q: Given that there are professionals with prior work experience in their home countries, there is a lot of confusion regarding whether to apply for a New grad role or an experienced hire position after completing their masters, what would your advice be regarding this dilemma?

A: Apply to a role that you feel matches your profile. Even a 70–80% skills match can land you an interview. Some of the points to keep in mind when applying for roles:

  • Definitely give a shot at applying. The worst case will be a rejection
  • Align your skills to the role and job description
  • List top 4–5 programming languages on your resume and your proficiency

Q: What are the important skills to add to your resume or to highlight in interviews (including soft skills) for a better chance of getting selected?

A: Catering your resume per the job description is the key. Include skills that are peripheral to the role. Other soft skills to highlight are:

  • Leadership
  • Affiliation to organizations
  • Volunteer work

Q: Could you briefly describe what the Interview stages and assessments are like and what platforms are commonly used and how to prepare for them? Like Code Signal, Coder Pad, Leet code, HackerRank, HireView, behavioral interview)

  • The process starts with a candidate submitting their application on the career website
  • Depending on the company, your resume may or may not pass through ATS
  • An ML algorithm processes your resume and if that passes the job description, you will be invited for a code assessment
  • Code Assessment are major filters in the recruiting process
  • If the code assessment goes fine, you will be invited for an interview with 3–4 hiring managers (including team matching, technical rounds, coding rounds)
  • There might be one behavioral interview as well

The recruiters assess the resume based on the company’s hiring principles: clarity, energy, success, leadership, contribution, and passion for the company, KPIs, ability to comprehend the bigger picture.

Q: How to get recruiters to notice our resume?

  • Build your personal brand
  • Ask for an informational interview while connecting with a recruiter
  • Showcase your character — the real YOU
  • Add leadership and affiliation positions to your profile
  • Emphasize what impact you have made in your previous roles and can make to the company
  • Use STAR — situation, task, action, result technique to propose your past experience

Q: How to follow up after the interviews to reaffirm interest and create a positive impact?

  • Be very sure to send a thank-you email after the interview
  • Narrate the interview loop
  • Ask for precise feedback in a follow-up email
  • Summarize your interview in the email with top highlights and a call-to-action
  • If you do not have the email ID, a LinkedIn message should be fine too

Q: After attending some conferences and events, several students apply for open positions but receive auto rejection emails within a day or two from applying for a job? Is there a reason why this happens and can this be circumvented?

A: The sole reason for automated rejection is the ATS. To avoid getting rejected, get referrals.

You can make a list of 10 roles from your dream companies and connect with employers there. Find your school alumni and build your network to get referrals.

Q: For folks graduating in May’21, when would be the right time to apply for new opportunities?

A: New positions open up in late-December to January 2021. If your school has career fairs starting from September, start preparing sooner.

That’s it from my end for this blog. Thank you for reading! I hope the insights from our panelists help in your job hunt. Do let me know what skills are you looking forward to adapting or avenues you are exploring in your journey?

**Event organized by INFORMS at UIC

INFORMS is an internationally known society that brings together professionals from the field of analytics, management science, and operations. The UIC INFORMS Chapter is a community of young and enthusiastic analysts, consultants, coders, and zealous members of the UIC Liautaud Graduate Business School community aspiring to contribute as professionals in the growing workforce.

I visualize data | Graduate Student from Chicago who writes blogs | Tech Speaker 🎤 | Dreamer!

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