The Coop Process: Interviews & Employment Stats

Note: This article is hosted here for archival purposes only. It does not necessarily represent the values of the Iron Warrior or Waterloo Engineering Society in the present day.

According to CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce), our economy is slowly recovering from the recession of 2007-2009. It is expected that the economy will experience better growth in the first half of the year (in the words of Financial Post, it will “roar like a lion”), but decelerate in the second half.

This slight boom is from the stimulus package given to corporations last year and the predicted deceleration in the latter half of the year will be due to the possible withdrawal of the package. Currently, the unemployment rate in Canada sits at 8.5% and does not show any change. Also, corporations are more likely to be focusing on repairing damages in this atmosphere than working on advancements.

For University of Waterloo co-op students, it means that those of us working in the Spring term might be successful in acquiring a job, while the students on a co-op term during Fall will have a harder time. In these delicate times, it is crucial that the entire cycle of co-op is dealt with carefully; particularly the interview cycle, as the bulk of the process depends on it.

The entire process of co-op can prove to be rough, even after you have gone through it several times. Searching for the most suitable jobs and customizing your resume to fit their criteria is tedious and frustrating, but necessary. The ranking cycle of the co-op process is the easiest part, provided you get the job you wanted. Interviews are the most crucial and stressful part of this process.

The worst of it is that, for engineering students, the interviews always seem to fall during the midterm weeks. I once had about 5 interviews during the midterm week (nicknamed ‘hell week’, for these very reasons). The combined tension of interviews and midterms created one of the most embarrassing interviewing experiences for me. When asked what my favourite website was by an interviewer, my mind blanked for a good five minutes and came up with the Weather Network (my only excuse is that it was the last website I went on).

With hindsight bias, I can come up with a dozen answers that could have made me seem both creative and knowledgeable in worldly affairs. It is with this hindsight bias that I write this article. Dear reader, do not repeat my mistake. When preparing for an interview, focus on more than the obvious questions. Know yourself and your resume inside out and write down some suitable answers in case queries about your personality pop up.

Career Services has a really good, extremely detailed PDF document, called Interview Skills, to help prepare you for an interview. This document can be found at http://www.careerservices.uwaterloo.ca/resources/InterviewSkills.pdf

The CECS website does have good interview tips, but they mostly focus on the general areas such knowing your resume and the company you are applying for. Google ‘Interview Skills’ and go through the top three sites that appear. These tips are beneficial, but they won’t help you add that finishing touch to the much coveted interview.

When preparing for that very important interview, it is helpful to practice it out with a friend. Go over your resume and think of possible questions that could be asked with regards to the position. Also, when researching the company, do not just read the About Us page. Pay attention to the specific projects they are working on and new developments. Mentioning this type of information is a good way to win brownie points with the interviewer.

Sometimes, the interview may be going downhill before you even step into the room. Employers have been known to cut a 45 minute interview to 5 minutes once they have made their decision. There have also been cases where employers have shown up half an hour late and when they have referred to the wrong resume when asking questions. Do not let this deter you from preparing thoroughly for them.

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