How to Prepare to Find a Job in Industry

by Stanley J. Benkoski

Daniel H. Wagner Associates

January 6, 1995

(This is an edited version of a talk presented by Stanley J. Benkoski, of Daniel H. Wagner Associates, on Friday, January 6, 1995 at the San Francisco Joint Mathematics Meetings. It was edited by the author based on a recording of the talk. Text of the slides has been added.)

Thank you Sam. Also, many thanks to the Committee on the Profession for inviting me to give this presentation.

Let me begin by saying that there are many ways to find a job in industry and any one hour presentation can only begin to cover a small part of the topic. What I hope to talk about tonight are some of my insights about the process of finding a job in industry.

The target audience for this presentation is a second year graduate student in Mathematics. (I would also suggest that any graduate student, or undergraduate student, or faculty member will also find some useful information in this presentation. In the case of a faculty member, this information would be useful in assisting students in finding a job in industry or in simply finding out what type of mathematics is done in industry.)

One of the key comments I wish to make tonight is that finding a job in industry requires preparation. It would be unrealistic to finish high school, work for eight years in industry, and then expect to find a position as an assistant professor. It is just as unrealistic to finish high school, spend eight years in graduate school, and then expect to get a job in industry. My goal is to present some ideas about how to prepare to find a job in industry.

There are two major components to this presentation. The first part of the presentation is about general principles and philosophy. It is very important to understand the differences between industry and academics -- especially those that might impact your ability to find a job. Preparing for a career in industry is not just a series of steps but, more importantly, it involves a change in perception of yourself and your career. This part of the presentation is the most important by far. The second part contains a few very specific ideas about what can be done to start the process of preparing for a job in industry. In the time we have available tonight, I will only be able cover a small part of the material that would be applicable. However, I will attempt to present the information that is most important.

I need to mention one other thing that is very ironic. The Committee on the Profession invited me to give this presentation last summer. Since that time I have decided to make a career transition and as of January 1, I am working less than half time for my company and seeking a job in the teaching profession. This task (of finding a teaching position after 22 years in industry) seems at least as daunting as the task that I will talk about tonight.




I must admit that this slide is a paraphrase of a quotation from Bobby Knight, the basketball coach at Indiana University. He said that he met a lot of basketball players that wanted to win but he recruited those who wanted to prepare to win. I would guess most graduate students would certainly like to have the option of either rejecting or accepting a job in industry. It's a lot harder to prepare to get to that position. Some of the preparations are difficult. Not surprisingly, most of the this is not taught in graduate school.



  • Why bother to prepare?

  • How is industry different from academics?

  • How to prepare?

There are three major parts to this presentation. First is a discussion of why one should bother to prepare for a job in industry. In some cases, it is simply a matter of survival. Currently, the academic job market is extremely competitive. Working in industry may look more attractive than the unemployment line or another one year post-doctorate position. More than that, I believe that there are some very interesting and important mathematical problems in industry. Addressing these problems can be a rewarding career even when the academic opportunities are better than they are today. In the second part, we will discuss how industry is different from academics. This is important because it will help you determine if you are really interested in a career in industry and help you in understanding how a career in industry is different from a career in academics. (I would like to mention that I will use the word industry to refer to government, industry, business -- anything outside academics. I prefer not to use the word nonacademics because it is such a negative word.) The third part of the presentation will discuss specific steps to prepare for a career in industry.


  • Tough job market
    • Supply vs. Demand
      • Demand: 800 new doctorates per year for the next 10 to 15 years
      • Supply: 1202 in 1992-93; 1059 in 1993-94 [UPDATE: 1226 in 1994-95]
    • 14.2% of new doctorates unemployed (Sept. 1994) [UPDATE: 14.7% of new doctorates in September, 1995]
  • Financial
    • \$52,500 per annum in industry (93-94 new doctorates) [UPDATE: \$56,800 for 94-95 new doctorates]
  • Government funding changes

Why bother? There are many statistics that clearly indicate that it is a very tough academic job market out there. Supply and demand are a problem. The AMS Task Force on Employment estimates that for the next ten to fifteen years, there will be demand for 800 new doctorates each year in academics and industry put together. We do not know what the supply will be, but we do know what it was the last two years. In the 92-93 academic year it was 1,202 and last year (93-94) it was 1,059. This is a large imbalance and it's been that way a while. I must tell you that the number of 1,059 new Ph.D.'s last year is a deceiving number because most of the decrease from 1,202 to 1,059 was in fields like statistics and operations research. Also, the data from the same survey indicates that as of September 1994, 14.2% of the new doctorates were unemployed. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a lot of those who were listed as employed were underemployed in post-doctorate positions or remained at their university after receipt of the Ph.D. because they could not find a good position.

The data from the salary survey indicate that for those who did get a job in industry in 1993-94, their average salary is \$52,500 per annum. This is certainly an incentive to consider industry.

There have been many predictions made in the past about the future prospects for Ph.D. mathematicians and most of them have turned out to be incorrect. Clearly, there are market forces at work and this imbalance in supply and demand will eventually correct itself. However, I do believe there are some systemic changes occurring that will continue to make this a difficult problem. There are three I want to mention briefly. First, the "new world order" means many things. One thing it means is that public financing of scientific investigations into topics related to national defense is decreasing and will continue to decrease. This trend will directly impact both academics and industry. Second, are the changes in retirement laws in this country. Forced retirements are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Past estimates of the future job market for mathematicians have often stressed how many academic mathematicians would reach "retirement age" in the 90's. This process would provide a steady stream of openings in academics. This situation has changed. The third systemic change is the trend toward global competitiveness. This trend has forced some very significant changes in the industries in this country. (For example, there is a rapidly growing industry in India to write software that is out-sourced from U.S. companies.) Companies are under tremendous pressure to compete in a marketplace that is both broader and deeper. For many companies this translates to becoming "leaner and meaner." This trend will put greater pressure on those activities that do not contribute directly to the bottom line. Mathematics may be perceived as one of those activities. It should be noted that this last trend is a two-sided coin. There are some pundits who argue that such competition should be a great boost for Mathematics since it is a discipline that can help industry to do things faster, cheaper, better, etc.. It is not clear that industry views Mathematics as such an activity.


WHY BOTHER? (Continued)
  • Interesting Work in Industry

  • Opportunities
    • Financial
    • Human Genome Project
    • Super Computing
    • Numerical Analysis
    • Manufacturing

I will contend that there is a mountain of very interesting mathematical work in industry. I would not stand up here today and try to show you how to prepare to get a job in road construction. I do not think that's a worthwhile endeavor, but there are some very interesting mathematical problems and some interesting jobs for people with mathematical talent. The opportunities come in a variety of fields and a few are indicated on this slide. Financial applications are receiving a lot of attention right now. The default in Orange County is the last in a string of events. One financial application is the development of mathematical models to manage risk. There is a tremendous thrust in financial institutions and banks across this country and around the world. They are looking at some fairly sophisticated mathematical techniques, they need help, and they know it.

The Human Genome Project is a well-funded life-science project and buried in all that biochemistry are some really difficult, unsolved mathematical problems. Supercomputing is another area where there are some opportunities. The recent problem with the Pentium chip is an interesting example. If you worked for IBM or Intel and you knew what the error was in the chip, then how would you determine the probability that an individual user would experience an error? Obviously, IBM and Intel disagree in their analyses, so there is room for improvement. (It should be noted that it was a number theorist who identified and brought this problem public.)

There are numerous opportunities in manufacturing. Intelligent manufacturing is a trend of the future.





  • Produce Theorems and Publish



  • Solve Problems

    • Faster
    • Cheaper
    • More Accurately

I would like to use the next couple of slides to talk about the differences between working in academics and working in industry. Understanding this will greatly enhance your ability to prepare for a career in industry. The fundamental difference is simple. In academics, they will hire you if they believe you are smart. Can you prove theorems and publish and maybe teach? In industry, they will hire you if they believe you can be useful. This is a fundamental difference that you must understand in order to successfully prepare for a career in industry.

When you walk in to talk to someone in industry, your instinct will be to talk about all the excellent mathematics you have done and how important your thesis results are. However, the person you are talking to wants to know how you will help him and his company. How can you help them solve problems and do things faster, cheaper, more accurately, better than the competition, etc.? That's his focus. You need to think the same way.


Academic Industry
Alone Groups
Academic Environment Business Environment
Proofs Solutions
Complete Generality Specific Problem
Interact with Mathematicians           Interact with all Kinds
Select Problem Assigned Problems
Smart Useful
Research Applications
Typed Page Computer Program
Specialist Generalist
Self-Paced Deadlines

This slide presents a comparison of the work environments at academics and industry. This is presented for two reasons. First, you need to decide if you really want to pursue a career in industry. Just as only some people are cut out to be mathematics professors, only some people are cut out to work industry. Second, the better you understand the industrial work environment, the better you will be at presenting your self as someone who could make a contribution. This slide presents a line-by-line comparison of academics and industry. In academics, it is the case that most of the time the fundamental work is done alone. (Andrew Wiles would probably back me up on this one.) Industry places a much, much greater emphasis on groups. Mathematicians are required to work with a number of people. You cannot sit at your desk with a terminal or with a piece of paper and pencil and solve the problems. You can do part of it but you cannot complete it. The "solution" must be implemented before the problem is solved.

The cultures are fundamentally different. The academic environment has a certain pace. You get to set a large part of that pace. In industry, your boss, your coworkers, and clients have a substantial input in your schedule.

The environments are different in many ways. In academics, the emphasis is on proofs. In industry, the emphasis is on solutions. Avner Friedman and Paul Davis talked about this on Wednesday night when they discussed the results of the SIAM survey of industrial Mathematicians. Many of those surveyed commented that in industry they do not spend half their time honing the last 5% of the solution. If you can give us 90% of the solution today, we will take it. This is often better than a 100% solution three months from now.

If you solve a problem in academics, then you look for complete generality. Industry does not care about complete generality. They only have one set of assumptions. They want the specific problem solved, then they have a list of other ones they want you to solve.

The next item is either an advantage or a disadvantage. In academia, you mostly interact with mathematicians. In industry, you mostly interact with people who are not mathematicians. They are not as mathematically sophisticated as you are. You must learn to communicate with them and express what you are doing so they can understand it.

One of the biggest differences between academics and industry is the freedom to select the problem. In academics, if you want to go to your office tomorrow and work on the Riemann hypothesis, then you can do that. You could do that for the rest of your life if you chose. In industry, somebody will hand you the problem. It will not be yours to choose. Hopefully, most of the problems will be interesting.

In academics, the primary product you will be asked to produce is a printed page. It is something that is published. In industry, the final product is almost always a computer program. The mathematical algorithm is not sufficient. The problem is not solved until it is implemented as software and it can be used to solve the problem.

In academics, the primary path to advancement is to specialize in one area. Your goal is to become a recognized expert in a particular field. In industry, you must be a generalist. You must be able to address whatever problem rolls through the door, take it, and do something with it.

Industry is driven by externally imposed deadlines. Solutions are required by close-of-business on Friday. Academic research requires a tremendous self-discipline because there are very few external deadlines.



  • The Job Search Paradigm
  • The Hiring Paradigm
  • Steps to Begin Preparation

    *Preparation is not accomplished by attending this lecture

The remainder of our discussion will address these three things: the job search paradigm; the hiring paradigm; and the steps to begin preparation. I want to stress that attending this talk is not preparation. Preparation for a career in industry is not something you get out of a book or a lecture. It's something you have to go out and do.



  • The Jigsaw Puzzle

  • The Team of Explorers

I have come to believe that the academic community views the job search process as a jigsaw puzzle. The academic community views an applicant as a jigsaw-puzzle piece. One little corner of the piece may be that the applicant is proficient in PDE's and ODE's. Another corner is the applicant's teaching experience. The applicant's C.V. is a detailed description of the size and shape of the puzzle piece. Both the applicant and the college hiring committee view the applicant as a puzzle piece and they both view the available position as a jigsaw puzzle with one or more pieces missing. If the applicant piece fits one of the gaps in the puzzle, then the applicant will be hired.

This paradigm was dramatically demonstrated when I was in the Help Room for job applicants earlier today. A woman applicant sat down and asked for help with her resume. As I read her resume, I realized that her background was a very good fit with a position that I had learned about yesterday. I had met a friend of mine who is on the faculty at a mid-western university. He told me that they were looking for someone with a Bachelor's Degree in Science (not Mathematics), a Doctorate in Mathematics Education, and three years experience teaching high school. He stated that his university believed that there were only twenty people in this country who fit this description and that they expect sixteen of them to apply. (These details are not exact in order to protect the identity of the university.) I told the woman about this opportunity and suggested that she contact this individual. She said, " Oh no. I only have two years of high school experience and three summers at a junior high school." She went on to say that she did not meet the requirements and would not contact that university. Her puzzle piece was not an exact fit.

What happens in industry is more like getting together a group of explorers to go across the Amazon jungle. You can anticipate some of the techniques and skills that will be needed. However, you also know that many unexpected events will occur and you want a team that can cope with anything. This leads to a search for a team that has specific individual skills plus the ability to learn and adapt. You need people that can build a fire, put rocks in the stream, navigate, etc. The team must be able to figure out how to do things that no one can anticipate. The jungle and the jigsaw puzzle are fundamentally different views of this hiring process. It is very important to understand this difference when applying for a job in industry.


  • Can

  • Will

  • Fit

It is also important to understand the basic hiring paradigm for industry. (Some of this applies to academics also.) There are three main questions that the decision maker is asking himself. Can you do the job? Will you do the job? Do you fit into the culture and organization? You need to put yourself in the shoes of that hiring manager. How do you show to him that you can do the job, you will do the job, and that you fit in their culture?


If the prospective employer believes that you

  • Can do the job

  • Will do the job

  • Fit into the corporate culture

Then you will be offered the job

If the prospective employer believes you can and will do the job and you will fit in the corporate culture, there is a very high probability you will be offered the job.

There is a time line to this process. When a company begins to consider an applicant, 40% of the focus is on whether the applicant can do the job, 40% is on whether the applicant will do the job, and 20% is on the fit. This is the weighting that is used to decide which applicants will be invited for an interview. For the interview, the weighting changes dramatically. At this point, the company wants to make sure that you can and will do the job. However, the focus shifts primarily to fit. Is this applicant someone we want to have in our organization? It is about fit. I will not go into this in detail, but once you get to the interview, then your focus is on fit. At this point, you must prepare for this interview by doing the research to find out about the company and the people who work there. How do they work? What do they do? What are the backgrounds of the people who work there? What qualities are they looking for in the applicant they will hire?


    How does a Ph.D. Mathematician convince an industrial employer that he/she can and will do the job?

This puts the problem fairly succinctly. How does a Ph.D. mathematician convince the industrial employer that he/she can and will do the job? The rest of this presentation will address this particular problem.


  • Experience
    • Part Time
    • Summer

  • Knowledge
    • Industrial Mathematicians
    • Printed Material
    • Academic Courses/Programs
    • SIAM

  • Skills
    • Academic Courses

This process starts with three areas. The first, and most important, is experience. The best way to convince somebody you can and will do a job is have experience doing that job. A little bit paradoxical but it is true. Later, we will talk about how to go about trying to get experience. The next is knowledge. If you have knowledge about what is done in industry and how it is done, then that will make it easier for you to convince an employer that you can and will do the job. The last area is skills. If you have a set of skills that can be used in industry, then this is further evidence that you can and will.


  • Academic Courses
    • Computer Science
      • C++
      • Fortran
    • Numerical Analysis
    • Statistics
    • Modeling and Simulation
    • Operations Research
    • Biology
    • Economics/Finance
    • Engineering
    • Business

We will go through these in reverse order. At the top of the skills' list (and so important that it should probably be on a slide by itself) is Computer Science. Almost every industrial job involves a lot of work with computers and software. At the current time, the most important language for industry is C++. There are other courses listed here that can also be useful. I want to note the suggestion that business courses may also be useful. (Remember that you are trying to demonstrate an interest in industry.) I would recommend one or more of the quantitative courses.


  • Industrial Mathematicians
    • Peter Castro
    • James Crowley
    • Paul Davis
    • Avner Friedman
    • Sam Rankin
    • Professors from your Department

Knowledge of what is being done in industry is important. One can read about such things but a great way to learn is to talk to industrial mathematicians. Presented here is a very short list of some names of industrial mathematicians. You should know every one on this list and many more. If you left here today and got in an elevator with Peter Castro, then you should be able to have a conversation with him about what he does and ask him about industrial mathematics.

Another source of information may be professors from your university. Have you asked anyone in your department if they know anyone who has worked in industry or consulted? You may be very surprised to discover that there are some excellent sources of information right in your own back yard.


KNOWLEDGE (Continued)
  • Printed Material
    • Fortune
    • Wall Street Journal
    • Mathematics in Industrial Problems by A. Friedman
    • Scientific Issues in Intelligent Manufacturing by J. Chandra
    • Mathematical Sciences, Technology, and Economic Competitiveness by
      National Research Council
    • SIAM Mathematics in Industry Report by Paul Davis
    • SIAM Journals
      • SIAM News
      • SIAM Review
    • Science
    • Journal of Operations Research
    • Operations Research

Another source of knowledge is printed material. My favorite on this list is the Wall Street Journal. If you intend to talk to somebody in business, then you want to know about business. This is the bible for the business community of this country. In addition, it is very well written. There is a lot of information in this paper that will help you prepare to find a job in industry.

Friedman's book is an excellent source of applied math problems. The SIAM Journals and SIAM News are very informative. In the last year, there have been terrific articles in SIAM News. There was one early this year on using linear programming methods to determine credit collection strategies. The problem addressed was the allocation of resources to maximize the amount collected from over-due accounts. The article did not go into a lot of technical detail but it did provide a setting for mathematics in industry. Also this year, there was a two-part series on mathematics in finance that included some of the important models. It is a terrific newspaper to read and any graduate level mathematician can read it from cover to cover. The other material on the list is also useful and there are many, many others.

(Note by the author added during editing: On November 13, 1995, The SIAM Report on Mathematics in Industry was released. This is an excellent report and should be read by all mathematicians.)


KNOWLEDGE (Continued)
  • Academic Courses/Programs
    • Clemson University
    • Georgia Institute of Technology
    • George Washington University
    • Harvey Mudd College
    • North Carolina State University
    • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
    • Suny-Potsdam
    • Suny-Stony Brook
    • University of Minnesota (IMA)
    • Washington State University
    • Worcester Polytechnic Institute

This is a list of schools that have established relationships with industry. There are probably others. If you are at one of these schools, you ought to find out what your institution is doing. If you are not, then locate someone who is and find out what that institution is doing.


KNOWLEDGE (Continued)


Let me ask for a show of hands. How many of you out there belong either to the AMS or the MAA? Just raise your hand. How many of you belong to SIAM? Maybe one-fourth of those that belong to the other societies. If you are sincerely interested in a job in industry or applied mathematics, it might behoove you to belong to SIAM. SIAM is an excellent source of information about mathematics in industry.




A very, very effective tool to learn about mathematics in industry is a consult interview or informational interview.




The concept is pretty simple. Interview someone involved in industrial mathematics and find out what his or her organization does. How is mathematics used in industry?


  • Determine what mathematicians do in industry

  • Obtain referrals to other mathematicians in industry

There are two goals for a consult interview. First, find out how mathematics is used in one organization. Second, obtain referrals to other mathematicians in industry. When you obtain such referrals, follow up and contact those individuals. This will build up your knowledge base. You will start to know people who are industrial mathematicians. That is an important step forward.


  • Locate Someone Involved in Industrial Mathematics
  • Research
  • Write Consult Letter
  • Follow up with Phone Call
  • Prepare for Interview
  • Consult Interview
  • Follow up

How does the consult interview process work? First, you must locate someone involved in industrial mathematics. (We will discuss one way to do that in a minute.) Second, you must do some research about that individual's company to determine what the company does and, as far as possible, what the individual does. Third, you write a letter asking for a consult interview. Fourth, you follow up with a phone call. Fifth, you prepare for the interview. Sixth, you do the consult interview. Note that the word consult is emphasized here. It is very important that you stay focused on the two goals of a consult interview. It is not a job interview. Do not try to impress the interviewer with your skills and abilities. Listen very carefully and asks questions until you understand how mathematics is used in that organization. At the end of the interview, ask if that individual would give you the names of other individuals that you could contact. Seventh, follow up by writing a thank you letter and contacting the referrals. We will discuss each of these steps.



  • Professors

  • Network
    • Professional Associations

  • AMS Member Directory

How do you generate names of industrial mathematicians? Talk to your professors. They may know someone who works in industry or who consults to industry. Contact them for a consult interview. Use your network. Talk to everybody you know. Professional associations are helpful here. The AMS Member Directory is an excellent resource.


AMS Member Directory
The 1994-95 List Contains:
  • Members listed by institutional affiliations by city

  • 8477 SIAM members

The 1994 Members List contains members listed by geographical area and institutional affiliation. You can use this resource to look up the cities near you. Members are listed by organization. If they are not working for a university, they probably are not doing academics. In that book are 8,477 SIAM members.


11 Companies with mathematicians

107 Mathematicians associated with an industry

53 Mathematicians with a Dallas address and without any institutional association

20 of those 53 have company addresses
Back in April, I went to the University of North Texas to give an invited talk. Before I went, I opened up the AMS Member Directory. There were 11 companies in the greater Dallas area that had members of the AMS, MAA, or SIAM listed under their company names. There were a total of 107 mathematicians listed who were associated with an industry. In addition to the 107, there were 53 mathematicians with a Dallas address without any institution mentioned. For those 53, a check of the addresses in the body of the AMS Member Directory indicates that 20 of them gave a company address.


    Chief Scientist-- Interphase
    President-- Northwest Oil
    Advisory Staff-- Tandem Computers
    Benefit Consultant-- Franklin & Barnes
    Programmer Analyst-- DAL Software Inc.
    Sr. Software Eng.-- E-Systems
    Sys Engineer-- EDS
    Res. Analyst-- City of Dallas
    Supvr-- FAA
    Programmer-- Neiman Marcus
    Sr. Engineer-- Xontech
    Support Corp & Sys Admin-- Barbknecht & Tait
    Manager Simulation Support-- Harris CSD
    Actuary-- Wyatt Co.
    Deputy Chief Eng.-- Supercomputing Super Collider
    Programmer & Analyst-- Intervoice Inc.
    Software Engineer-- Paradigm Simulation, Inc.
    President-- Constructive Solutions
    Vice President-- CNET, Inc.
    Chair-- Salinon Corp.

Here is a list of the job titles and companies of those 20 individuals. Based on this information, this is an interesting group of people. I would like to talk to any of these people about what they do. There is a programmer who works for Neiman Marcus; a supervisor for the FAA; a research analyst for the city of Dallas; and a programmer and analyst for Intervoice, Inc. Any of these people would be well worthwhile to interview.


    • Student
    • School
    • Learn about opportunities for mathematicians in industry
    • AMS Member Directory
    • Other
    • DON'T SAY "Please call..."

This is the outline of the contents of the consult letter. Introduce yourself as a graduate student and mention the school you attend. State that your objective is to learn more about mathematics in industry. Mention how you obtained the individual's name and specifically ask for twenty minutes to learn more about what mathematicians do in industry.





In the follow up phone call, refer to the letter and ask if there is a time when you can get together for a twenty minute discussion. (This follow-up phone call should be made within one week of the date that the individual receives your letter.) If the individual says that is not possible, ask if you can do it over the phone. (Right then if necessary or possibly later if you can arrange it.) Twenty minutes is not much to ask. Many of these people will be sympathetic to you, because they are mathematicians and they went through graduate school as you did.


    • Library
    • Newspaper
    • Company

    • What are the primary services and/or products?

A significant amount of preparation is required before the interview. Find out all you can about the company. Do some research at the library. Many newspapers are on-line and you can search by the company name. Call the company directly. Ask for copies of company brochures and stockholder reports. As a minimum, you should know the company's primary services and/or products.




  • Arrive on time
  • Dress like you are serious
  • Listen and ask questions
    • Taking notes is OK
  • If appropriate, ask if they hire for summer or part-time
  • Ask for referrals to other companies or individuals
  • Offer to leave after 20 minutes
  • Thank you

In terms of your attitude and appearance, you should treat the consult interview as if it is a job interview. Arrive on time. Wear a coat and tie. Listen and ask questions. Taking notes is appropriate. You are there to gather information. How do they use mathematics? What kind of mathematics do they use?

At the end of the interview, ask for referrals to other companies or individuals. At the twenty minute mark, you should offer to leave since that was the commitment that you had requested. Stay beyond that time only if it is absolutely clear that the individual would like to talk longer. You always want to err on the side of leaving too early rather than too late. Express sincere thanks when you leave.




Follow up after this interview in two ways. First, write a thank you letter to this person. Second, contact the referrals by sending them a letter requesting consult interviews.




As of three days ago, this was the end of the prepared presentation. On Wednesday, I assisted for two hours in the Help Room here that was set up at the Employment Register. After seeing those resumes, I decided that I would add a short discussion about resumes. Two comments should be made before this discussion begins. First, the small amount of information that we will discuss here is not a full course in resume preparation. There are numerous books about this subject. Obviously, we will only scratch the surface. Second, while the resume is important, it is overrated as a job search tool. It is especially overrated by those who view job search as a jigsaw puzzle. These individuals attempt to list every possible accomplishment in the hope that they will match the job qualifications. A resume is advertising. It is not a list of your life work. It is advertising to get the person interested in finding out more. Your objective is to convince the reader that you can and will do the job.

You want to aim for one page. You can spill over to two but that's it. A good one page resume is very, very hard to do.

The studies that have been done indicate that when the decision maker picks up a resume, he or she will look at it for less than two minutes. In fact, you can probably count on about one minute. This is what makes writing a resume so difficult to write. What can you put on the first page that will make the reader start to believe that you can and will do the job?

One small word of advice. Always be accurate. If a prospective employer discovers that you inflated your resume, your chances for a job are nil.




There are a number of different formats you can use for an industrial resume. Reverse chronological, functional, achievement, and situational are some of the standard formats. These descriptions are pretty much self explanatory. My personal preference is the reverse chronological. The important point here is to select a structure for the resume. In particular, a resume is not a C. V. (A C. V. is almost always too long and puts the wrong information first.) It is probably a good idea to list your education last.


    • High Quality Paper
    • White or Off-White
    • Less than 25 words
  • PARS

Here is a guideline for an outline for a resume. It is conservatively professional. The paper is white or off-white and a good quality bond. It is not a photocopy. The header should contain your name, address, and telephone number. Next is a statement of your job objective and it is customized to reflect the particular job that you are seeking. Right below the objective is a short paragraph that summarizes your qualifications for the job.

The next three items constitute the body of your resume. A very important concept is a PAR. This stands for problem, action, and result. You want to try to examine your achievements and then express each of them as a problem, an action, and then a result. The ability to solve a problem and to achieve a positive result is a valuable skill in industry and structuring your resume as a series of PARs is an excellent technique. In stating the result part of a PAR, you want to quantify the result as much as possible. Concrete expressions of results are impressive and are remembered. For example, stating that you were rated in the top 10% of graduate teaching assistants by student evaluations is much more impressive than stating that you were a good teacher. Quantify everything that you can.

The PARs are followed by work experience and education.

Looking for a job in industry is a very difficult process. You are being asked to do something that is foreign to almost all your experience and education. You have been in academics since you were in kindergarten and now you are trying to find a job in industry. You have not been taught how to do this. A lot of your efforts will be trial and error. Maybe that is the best way to learn. Simply go out and try. There are some very interesting and exciting jobs in industry. The prize is worth the effort.