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I am PhD student and I expect to be graduating in the next year or so. I frequently look at job opportunities to see what would be a good match for me. I recently found one at a large company, for which I think I would be a great match.

I would like to contact the HR department or the recruiter for this job. Ideally, I'd like to tell them that I would be very interested in such a job after my graduation. I am already a very good match for the qualifications (required or preferred). However, if I talk to someone now, I would take my time left at my PhD to orient my work patterns (without comprising my research, obviously) in order to perfect skills which they are specifically looking for, making me an even better match that I am now. I could just do that depending on what is posted, but I feel that having a first contact would be a great opportunity to learn more about the position and what it entails.

Is this acceptable? And if so, I'm not sure how to make it sound like they may benefit from this as much as I would.

  • How are you going to tailor your skills to match multiple positions at different companies? What the company you focused on chooses not to hire you? I think you have the wrong idea here: the kind of specific prep you're describing is not feasible in most industries and does not add enough real value to be worth it. – Lilienthal Apr 3 '17 at 8:52
  • What you can do is focus on a specific area of your industry in your studies and do some networking to get a sense of what skills employers look for in your field. That kind of networking is very common among high-performing students and a question about how that works can be on-topic here (and might even have been asked already). – Lilienthal Apr 3 '17 at 8:52
  • @Lilienthal What if I know specifically which job I am looking for? Or to be more precise, this job would be my ideal position once I graduate and I'd like to prepare for it ASAP – solalito Apr 3 '17 at 8:57
  • In that case my second question applies. It's a dangerous prospect to tie yourself to a particular position so far in advance and it runs counter to the whole idea of a general education. Still, any kind of prep would only be feasible from general answers to "what kind of experience/skills do you look for?" and never "what kind of software do you use?" or "what certificates should I earn before joining?". That would be weird and there's also the fact that graduates are expected to (be given the chance to) learn this stuff on the job. – Lilienthal Apr 3 '17 at 9:07
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    Heck, in most industries you'd be better off if you dropped out of your PhD to join the company right now. But note that we can't offer career advice here, only answers to more general questions. Your question is fine in that regard, though your scope hinges on defining what type of preparation you're looking to do. – Lilienthal Apr 3 '17 at 9:07
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I am also a PhD and worked for several years at research labs of a leading MNC. I do NOT think your idea/approach of having a contact several months before graduation to tailor your skills will work and it is not a good idea . Here is why:

  1. You will be mainly hired for your ability as a PhD (doing independent research), demonstrated ability of solving a tough problem and your domain expertise in certain area. It will not because of any tailored skills required by the company. Your profile as a PhD should ideally mean that you can learn any skill pretty fast.

  2. As a PhD you might have done lot of literature review and attended conferences. This should already give you a very good idea of what certain companies are focused on. My company and other research companies usually have a very good presence in most of the leading conferences. I have met lot of PhD students in such events and you should be doing that too. If at all you want to fine tune your skills as per any requirement, you can take hint from these events or reading their publications (journal papers, blogs, whitepapers, etc.). Any narrower focus than this will be useless according to me.

I would like to contact the HR department or the recruiter for this job.

  1. HR usually are not involved a lot in PhD specific roles because they cannot match the need and resume very well because of inherent complexity in both. Your first contact for interview will most likely be from a technical team member or a manager. Contacting HR will not be of any help to you. Developing a professional network with technical people in your field through linkedin or conferences might help.

  2. Getting a PhD and pursuing a corporate career is usually not the optimum career path anyway (in most cases but there are always exceptions!). Every PhD in my lab including myself felt at some point or other that they would have climbed corporate ladder faster if they would have not invested those critical 3-5 years in getting a PhD. (Although we almost say this as a joke.) My point is you are doing PhD for your passion for research and not for tailoring yourself to a company at this critical period where you should be focused on your dissertation and publications.

If your research quality is evident in your publications and your dissertation, you will surely land a good job either through your network or through your universities career centre or just by applying online on company's website.

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It's a good idea to reach out to them.

Having worked at a large company that did a lot of technical hiring (electrical engineers and similar in our case), we had a large academic recruiting wing that constantly went out to universities to recruit students, including grad students, and performed interviews and extended offers way in advance of graduation to "lock them in" early - and this was a competitive activity, we weren't the only ones, to get good talent you had to do this. So if you're a year before graduation, you are now prime for recruitment.

I think you're overthinking the "benefit" angle, to be honest when you're doing college recruiting you're just looking for talent and the ability to learn, with the expectation that no one knows anything actually relevant to the job (if they do it's a bonus). Grad students maybe should match a little more - "Hey, we have an RF job, that guy did his thesis on RF, get him now!" - but anything you're doing now has jack to do with what you'll be doing in a job, unless that job is "research for a university professor" anyway.

If you think it's a sweet job try to get it locked in early, then finish out your thesis. A little but of spare time figuring out what the company does will be more than enough "tailoring." It's not too early, I would active recruiting of you to start soon (well, depending on industry, I'm assuming it's not a Ph.D in history, but if it's anything STEM related).

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    "So if you're a year before graduation, you are now prime for recruitment." I am surprised at this comment. I have never seen anyone being hired that soon before the graduation. (may be exceptionally smart ones who are already well known in the community). Secondly, most PhD student cannot tell for sure if they will be graduating one year from now. Lot of things can change in that one year..Finally, these are fast changing times with lot of uncertainty in business and research funding. companies change their research focus and priorities very fast and often times one within one year. – PagMax Apr 3 '17 at 13:20
  • "but anything you're doing now has jack to do with what you'll be doing in a job". That I agree..first hand experience! – PagMax Apr 3 '17 at 14:16
  • If you don't graduate, then you have to delay or back out of the job offer, which is sad but that's life. The company wants to lock in the talent first so they expect some attrition. Also, again, companies change research focus but as a new Ph.D they are probably not hiring you for what you know - to be blunt you know some pointless thing you did a thesis on, which will at best be tangentially relevant to your work. – mxyzplk Apr 3 '17 at 16:44

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