Summary of the Berkeley PhD Career Fair: Part 1

About a month ago, Berkeley hosted a career fair specifically aimed at PhD students.  A variety of companies including tech start-ups, established tech companies, non-profits, bio-tech companies,
Two of the BA team attended.  We wanted to share some of the resources we discovered and advice we received, as well as some of our impressions of the career fair itself.  If you didn’t get a chance to go, you can still take advantage of the resources available to you.  Today’s post will provide a summary of those resources and advice for how to talk to companies.
Career Center Resources

– Check out ‘Careers Beyond the Academy’, which is part of Career Center website

– Industrial Liaison Program (ILP)

– CareerMail specific to PhDs sent out once every other week – sign up!

– Career center appointments

  • 45 minute appointments (full)
  • 15 minute resume sessions

– Profile on Callisto: Major, degree level, graduation date

  • Callisto will ask your major.  What you enter limits what jobs you can see, but you can change your major so as not to be limited.  Just because a company thinks that a particular major will give them the skill set they’re looking for, doesn’t mean that that is the only major that has that skill set.
  • Vault: has resources for specific jobs, interview types, etc.

– On-Campus Recruiting (OCR): Companies are on campus at the Career Center on various dates

  • Pre-Select: Companies choose from applications to see who they want to interview
  • If pre-selected, employers will help you to make your application stronger
  • Early deadlines for all OCR jobs
  • Changes daily – check often

– Callisto: currently has ~6200 jobs listed

  • queries like ‘writing’ return hundreds of jobs
  • Use Callisto to generate a broader list of possibilities – maybe you’ll find jobs you didn’t know existed
  • Vary search criteria to see what is out there
  • Create job search agent that will look on a weekly basis
  • Companies in Callisto often have real contact information, which can be used as an avenue into the organization even if the job listed isn’t the right one e.g. for an undergrad
  • Business Library also has resources



– Interviews require preparation

  •  Do not go into an interview without knowing about the company
  • Not something you can go into unprepared and wing it

– Talk to recruiter

  • What is it they really struggle to find?
  • What experience have they had with PhDs?

– Help interviewer envision you as a productive member of their team

– Formulate stories about experiences and practice saying them out loud



– You’re used to writing a CV for academic/PI-type job

  • With a CV, you want to answer: How productive have you been?

– Resumes are different

  • A resume should answer: What experience do you bring? Are your skills relevant to the job?


– What does the resume tell the employer about you?

– First 2/3 of page essential

  • 3 second test: Give your resume to someone else, take it back after 3 seconds, and then ask them what they retained.

– Resume can be 2 pages, but second page won’t matter if first page doesn’t grab attention

– Aim for a high signal:noise ratio in resume

– Make sure the resume reflects and is tailored to the job description

  • Use the same language that is in the job description.
  • This is not plagiarism, it is what employers are looking for.

– Employers want a sense that you’ve done something similar before

  • They don’t hire “smart and able to learn”

– Use evocative phrases that accurately reflect duties, e.g. editorial assistant instead of GSR

– Use the language of the field you’re applying to

  • This shows that you’re conversant in the field even if you’ve never been employed in that field

– Don’t describe the substance of the work without telling what abstract value or hard skills this experience demonstrates

  • Eg, ‘demonstrated leadership: organized Beyond Academia conference’

– Make a master resume file:

  • 3-4 pages of everything done since high school (really everything)
  • This file can then be used when building resumes tailored to specific jobs or companies

– Never write ‘PhD Candidate’, instead write ‘PhD: expected (date)’


– If resume is not formatted correctly, it won’t be reviewed

– White space is powerful, so be sure to strongly edit

– Use bolding and indents selectively

  • Find something that reflects you in terms of formatting e.g. if you don’t like bolding, don’t use it
  • Look up “Functional” vs. “Chronological” format, decide which better shows your strengths

– Font no smaller than 10 pts

– “Creativity is rarely a virtue”


General advice

– Emphasize the collaborative nature of research – academics do know how to work with others

– Try to connect with someone who has an advanced degree or is in your area of expertise

– Think of HR as allies rather than people to get past:

  • Ask for advice
  • Part of their job is to make your application good/better

– Review LinkedIn profile and Google results

– LinkedIn:

  • Show your trajectory forward rather than where you are
  • Have a photo