Job Hunting Log Book: How I landed a Position at Volvo Cars Graduate Program
(Photo: my favorite MatchBox car – white early-1990s Volvo 480 + ADAMS/Car and CFD simulation superimposed.)
I landed a position at Volvo Car’s Graduate Program.
Today I would like to share my experience, shining some light on job hunting in Sweden.
Warning: Very LONG blog! But hey! you guys liked my blog on the Application Process to Msc. Automotive Engineering…
%% Gimmy’s Job Hunting Log Book %%
Part 1 – My Story
It was not a spontaneous thought that I wanted to work for Volvo. My email can trace this goal back to 2012.
Tip #1: If you want to stay in Sweden after you graduate, list a few ‘dream’ employers
I tried to look for an internship through IAESTE, but nothing could be found. They never responded… oh well, I found a summer job elsewhere.
2014 was the final year of my bachelors studies and a pivoting point in my career. Does this sound like you?
I did several internships at an Oil & Gas company called Fluor. They paid extremely well, but the job was not very interesting.
I wanted to work for an OEM (i.e. a company that designs and builds cars, not suppliers that only make parts for cars). Since there was no “OEM” in Canada, my options were limited. I half-heartedly applied to Toyota Manufacturing, which is located 30 mins outside my university in Cambridge, Ontario. During the Fall of 2013, I tried applying to the Volvo Cars Mechanical Engineering Graduate position. But DENIED.
Part 2 – Failed Attempts
Your story probably sounds similar…. While most of my classmates opted for Full-Time position, I decided to leave my comfortable life behind. I moved to Sweden.
I often receive emails regarding probability of finding “Part-Time jobs” in Sweden. I can only say it is very rare. It is a function of chance. But you have to be pro-active! Borrowing words from laws of economics, we have an infinite demand for part time jobs, but only limited supply.
Part 3 – CHALMERS
Why did I choose Chalmers instead of KTH?
(besides getting free BIC pens)
I wanted to work for Volvo. Studying in Gothenburg would give me Home Ice Advantage, < Swedish studying at a school that is in the backyard of Volvo would offer some degree of competitive advantages
Tip #2: if you want to work for Volvo Cars, CEVT, NEVs or something automotive. Study in Gothenburg! You have to move here sooner or later anyways.
I still think so. At Chalmers, we often receive such “Case Study” invitations from local companies, including Volvo Cars.
Of course, as soon as my phone beeped I stamped my name on the sign up list…
The result was… discouraging…
Summer internships are also just as rare… Such “Sorry” emails are a familiar sight… no surprises!
Tip #3: Don’t be discouraged! Don’t simply delete the “Unfortunately you are not selected” emails. Analyze what went wrong!
Frankly, by early autumn of 2015 I was quite discouraged. It seemed that my Scandinavian Conquest has fallen short of my expected yield.
My experience in Chalmers Formula Student was not exactly something to brag about in interviews either…
We built an all-electric racecar…
I watched my teammates present all the technical knowledges at the competition in Germany… instead, I took picture, like this one, uploaded on Instagram, and used the appropriate hashtags. That was my responsibility!
I had to do a lot of trivial tasks… packing the truck for competition, unloading the truck, making coffee for visitors before presentations, making sure everyone is well fed, checking if the tent leaks, dealing with complaints about leaking tents… (and why am I paying tuition for this?!?!?!)
I thought it was the biggest waste of time. I hated this.
I had to stop being so negative.
Tip#4: B!tch job helps build patience and develop tolerance. After all, it was all the social media knowledge that helped me land the job at Volvo!
Part 4 – Cover Letter
1st November: application period for Volvo Car graduate program begins.
Do you ever feel this way? You have a good looking resume, but you don’t know what to write in your cover letter?
Cover letter was my greatest enemy!
We were told that over 2000 applicants have applied for the 15 Graudate Program positions. Out of the 15, there were only three “engineering” positions.
How do I get noticed?!
How do I write effectively? How do I create a “hook” and catch the eye of a recruiter?
%% Networking with previous/current Volvo Car Graduate Program members
“Networking networking networking!” I hate that buzzword. It is not all about shaking hands and sending Linked-In invitations.
I accidentally met Chetan Kotur, a former Volvo Graduate Program graduate, at a Volvo Company presentation at Volvo Ocean Race in Göteborg in June 2015 (yes, it was another one of those mass emails distributed to all Chalmers students. Of course I signed up ASAP). We chatted for a while. He gave me some points when I asked for his success recipe.
Tip #5: Take notes! You will forget your good ideas!
Let me translate my notes for you. In your cover letter, illuminate these points:
Chetan is very passionate about cars. Show your passion! He worked at a local car garage. It is important to present yourself as a responsible, yet “fun person”. Imagine if you have to work with someone 40 hours per week and that guy is an ass? No body wants that! He mentored kids in Brazil and found it rewarding. You are a new grad! Show employers “what you have learned”!
Tip #7: attend various company events. Be curious!
At a Chalmers Formula Student presentations, I ran into another U of Waterloo alumni, who is taking part in the 2015 VCC Graduate program. His story: “he was a lead in the KTH Formula Student team. At a career fair, he went up to Volvo asking for sponsorship money for their car. Instead he landed an interview…”
Was he lucky? or… did the recruiter saw his genuine interest in cars?
To be brutally honest, I spent many hours on my cover letter. I wrote one, perfected it, then ripped it up.
- Two paragraphs. No one has time to read your epic essay. KISS (keep it short stupid).
- First paragraph: why do you want to work for this company
- Second paragraph: why should the company select you & PICK YOUR STRONGEST UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION!!!!!!! Just one!
- I changed my tone. Stop being so whinny – “begging for a job”. I decided to “offer something” to Volvo instead of asking “for something”
- I asked one successful applicant, and she wrote something “cheesy” – a family history of Volvos. It was an “unconventional” piece about “her story so-far” with Volvos.
- Another girl (for a different job) attached a YouTube link to something “new” and “original” she tried to bake recently… and how this leads to her “creativity”, “interest in new things”.
Tip #8: think outside the box. Dare to use other mediums.
I saw Volvo Cars Facebook career’s page is disorganised and not generating waves of “likes”. From my experience as a blogger here + my Instagram/Facebook work during Chalmers Formula Student, I performed a benchmark comparison against “Audi careers” page and offered the hiring manager some insights. This was my “slapshot” (it helps to know some hockey terminologies. After all, ice hockey is one of the most popular sports in Sweden. Zlatan remains the most popular)
“I hope you found my suggestions constructive. In return, I sincerely hope to land an opportunity at VCC, giving me a chance to make more improvements.”
Next day I got a call. Bingo!
%% another example
Part 5 – Interviews
Make sure your resume is in .pdf. I put a photo in mine. Some HR say Yay, some say Nay. Make sure it is a good photo. Not a “selfie”!
… where did step 3 go?
The intelligence test was quite stressful. You have to solve 30+ problems in 45 mins.
I was surprised by the wide geographical spread of the candidates.
My competitors were: A Delft solar car team lead, a Mechanical Engineering student from Portugal, a French Engineer with oversea experiences in Asia.
Other competitors: a Greek girl studying in KTH, a Swede from KTH, two Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship ladies, a Czech law student studying in London with background in Engineering, a guy from Milan, who did I forget…?
You can read Raghu’s tips on interviewing here.
I always bring a short presentation to the interview. 8 slides. Just pictures to show what I have done… 1 Picture = 1000 Words.
Tip #9: don’t wear a tie in your interview.
I am glad I listened to my girlfriend. I was much more relaxed without a noose around my neck. None of the hiring managers wore a tie. Apparently tie is out of date, just like boxers…
Part 6 – Outlook @ Volvo Cars & Beyond
I admit this job opening was extra competitive. But I knew very clearly that finding a job in Sweden would be an uphill battle. I don’t speak Swedish and I am not as talented as the local students (which is why I am studying in Sweden).
On a general note:
- Volvo Cars and AB Volvo are the biggest engineering employers in Göteborg region.
- New grads usually start working at Volvo through consultant companies. After a year of being a consultant, they typically make a switch over to being a full-time Volvo employee.
- CEVT is a booming company. I am currently writing my thesis there. I really like the company. If I didn’t receive the offer from Volvo Cars, I would definitely try to stay in CEVT.
People often email me asking what are the possibilities of finding a job locally afterwards. My answer is: job opportunities are ample, you just have to work hard/work smart and earn it.
I took some risk moving to Sweden. I am glad my plan worked out.
Thanks for reading such a long blog.
I wish you luck!