How to Land Your Dream Job After Graduate School?

Step 4: Apply to jobs and leverage your network

By this step, you have done your research and identified several jobs that interest you. Most PhD's end up with one or two job offers - not because they are unsuitable for a large span of positions, but rather companies are also highly selective in who they choose as candidates. Furthermore, you probably do not have a lot of time to be the "best candidate" for every job possible, so make sure that you have narrowed down your search to the most promising ones. Here are some steps to maximize success during the job application process:

  • When you find a promising job opportunity, be sure to:

    • Create a 1-page cover letter that highlights the your skills. You can achieve this by selectively choosing the projects that closely relates to the position. Be sure to create a new cover letter for each job description - this is where your PhD-obtained writing skills shine!

    • Refine your 2-page resume (or CV if academic track). Be sure that there are no typos. If your school has career services, take advantage of those services to screen your resume for any errors. Make sure to tailor the resume towards the job description.

    • If possible, find a connection within the company! The easiest way to leverage your connections is to ask your connection to let the hiring manager know of your name. You can say something like:

      Insert_Name_Here, I found a job in your company that I am really interested in (Insert_Link_to_Job). Could you possibly let the hiring manager know of my name? I would very much appreciate it, thanks so much!"

      By doing so, the hiring manager could easily pick out your application out of the many and decide whether or not to give you an interview. By having a connection with someone in the company, you increase your chances of getting your application reviewed. Otherwise, your application may never be reviewed by the hiring manager and even pre-screened by artificial intelligence or human resources.

  • Make sure to send your application in on time and wait for a response. In the meantime, you can continue reaching out to folks in the team and see whether the team environment matches your expectation. The timeline for a response depends on the company. For companies that I had some connection with a team member, the wait-time was about 1-2 weeks. If you send in a cold application, the response may span between a couple of days to months. Of the 58 job applications that I sent out in 2020-2021:

    • The average response time was 49 days.

    • 62% responded (i.e. 38% of job applications did not receive any response, so expect to be ghosted sometimes).

    • 75% of the follow-up phone interviews with the hiring manager are due to informational interviews.