7

I am graduate student pursuing my masters. In the summer between my college and graduate school, I interned at a very famous company and worked on an extremely fancy sounding project. The internship and project dealt with one of the most advanced topics in my field and that combined with the name of the company made it sounded extremely impressive. But in reality the project/internship wasn't that great. Despite the impressive headline, it was actually a very simple implementation of an advanced technology.

And this is where the problems start. Although I have made no false claims or used hyperboles in regard to the project done, the recruiters and interviewers seem to miss over the fine print. They take one look at the headline and assume that I am at the very top of my field and ask questions of the appropriate levels. It is very tough to manage their expectations as when I am unable to answer some of them, it leaves a bad taste in their mouth and I can see their excitement change to disappointment. This has lead to a string of internship/full-time job rejections.

My friends who have applied for similar positions in similar companies have not faced the same issue, as their interviews start at a basic level before advancing, allowing them to successfully answer more of their questions.The dilemma I face is that while the internship-project makes my resume stand out and clear the initial barriers, it does a bad job at managing expectations.

I don't know how to deal with this. The only possible solution I see is that I remove the same. Please help me out if you have any better, more appropriate alternatives. Any input will be appreciated.

6

I've been in a similar position having worked at NASA during my undergrad. I advise against taking off the internship, because the internship makes you standout from other candidates and it's a great conversation starter. Even now, many, many years later after NASA, I still have interviewers interested in hearing about my work there. However, it does sometimes give interviewers an unrealistic expectation of my knowledge though, but I see that as them reflecting their own ignorance, not mine.

It's important to remember that interviewers ask you detailed questions about your project, because they want to know your level of contribution during your internship. Don't undersell yourself. A "simple implementation of an advanced technology" might have been only simple to someone with your knowledge. An interviewer may ask detailed questions on other parts of the project or the company purely out of their own curiosity, but it's important to be honest with what you do and do not know as part of your internship.

Happy job hunting!

2

I wouldn't remove the entry. Can you make the project name, or your position, sound a little less impressive?

(Yeah, I know, what's less impressive than "intern"?)

If you give us some idea of how your resume entry read (omitting the company name), we may be able to give you some suggestions.

2

I would also say I agree with Shawn here, if you could 'tone it down a bit' then that sounds like a great way to perhaps get recruiters & interviewers to 'treat it properly' (even though they're expected to do that). (I would add this as a comment, but I don't have enough points to comment yet!)

You could of course just do a test without it on the CV for a few interviews :), you're going to be doing many of those going forward (most of us create small tweaked versions to see what works and what doesn't... it's a bit of an effort vs potential reward balance though... I'm also a big fan of say linkedin streamlining the creation of CV's), and this problem will also lessen as you add more experience to it.

Considering you're a graduate student, you probably don't have much else to make up for removing the internship completely right? (and it would feel like taking a big hit to your 'perceived value'.)

I can't speak for everyone, and everyone's 'story' & walk of life will be somewhat different, but treat your CV like a minimax game, where you make small tweaks to try and optimize how recruiters perceive you & not give you the difficult questions up front. Since a failure early makes your failure:success ratio look terrible, and giving someone a simpler question after a difficult one seems... awkward? (thinking from the recruiters perspective, they must've felt like they misjudged you, and that they made a mistake... and that the simplest remedy is to just move on to another candidate).

Consider other ways to "downplay" yourself for this as well (This sounds really bad to say as "advice" here...but obviously don't downplay yourself too much either!, and not in a bad way... it could be that it's all fine, and it's 'just the way those interviews went', and other ones will take a different route). You also have cover letters & mails to tweak your impression.

Again, more info is of course helpful, but I understand if you want to remain anonymous too!, so I've tried to keep this... 'generic-advicey' :p

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.