Guide to Research Park (v1.0)
Why Did We Make This?
We created this guide to address the growing interest in Research Park and the companies within. Recently, there has been an increased interest in all aspects of Research Park, from working there to internships, and even attending various sponsored events. However, getting involved may seem daunting at some times for students. This guide is to help anyone navigate the internship process, as well as offer advice to hopefully landing an opportunity at Research Park!
Feel free to reach out to us at any time if you have any questions:
Monica Para 🦝 - I recently graduated with a degree in CS + Advertising at the University of Illinois and am currently a software engineer on a trading team. My past experiences lie in event marketing and teaching students computing fundamentals through Kode With Klossy and UIUC’s CS 124 course.
David An ✍🏻 - I recently graduated with a degree in Mathematics at the University of Illinois and also currently work as a software engineer as well! I have past experience in creating material directed towards undergraduate recruiting and early stage careers. I am passionate about online branding, creating communities around different ideas and digital storytelling.
We’re currently working on a new project CareersPrep.io, with a goal of providing high quality career resources targeted towards undergraduates and early career people. Feel free to reach out if you want to contribute or wanna check it out :))
We would want to thank everyone who has helped us navigate our own journeys to Research Park from the organizers of the Research Park Career Fair and representatives from various companies that helped us through our recruiting journey in different forms such as offering invaluable career and personal advice.
Please note that all opinions expressed in this guide are from our personal experience, not necessarily those of Research Park or our current employers
What is Research Park?
Research Park is a technology hub for corporate research and development operations and startup companies. In Research Park, there are over 120 companies employing everyone from students to full-time professionals
Opportunities in Research Park aren’t just limited to the big-name tech companies that are there as well. Research Park also offers many in-house opportunities for your creative endeavors as well. From COZAD, the iVenture accelerator, as well as EnterpriseWorks, there are countless resources for your creative spirit.
Since Research Park is different from traditional companies, its hiring process is different from traditional companies as well. Most of the time, Research Park hires year-round but has different “hiring sessions” where a majority of the hiring is done.
As for these hiring sessions, expect them to be similar to the schedules of your traditional internships. Most times, the interview process moves pretty fast as well (usually around a month or two from turning in the initial application).
- July-August: Fall recruiting cycle
- September-November: Spring recruiting cycle
- December-Early Spring: Summer recruiting cycle
Types of Internships
In addition to that, Research Park offers a variety of internships as well. People frequently have misconceptions that Research Park is limited specifically to STEM majors. However, that is not the case. There are a variety of roles for all sorts of majors. While the traditional SWE, ECE, and Data Science jobs are highly sought after, that isn’t all that companies want.
Companies frequently look for everything from business operations interns to graphic design interns to researchers as well. The only limit is yourself!
Events in Research Park
Research Park has many different events for prospective students who are looking for internships. When one thinks of these events, usually two main categories come to mind: networking events and career fairs.
Near the beginning of every year during the fall, there is the notorious Research Park Block Party. This event boils down to being a mixer between various companies in an informal setting. In 2021, almost 700 students attended with over 10 companies present as well! Here, this place is an amazing opportunity to interact with companies in a casual setting all while learning more about their projects.
Personally, I had the experience of being able to attend the Research Park Block Party. I thought that it was a very insightful process of being able to mingle with people at different companies. In addition to that, the energy was amazing seeing so many different people there.
Finally, there is a plethora of events not related to jobs but still offer valuable opportunities to network and learn more about the industry. Those are the User Groups that take place on a weekly basis on various days of the week.
User Groups are sessions (usually an hour-long) in which speakers from the industry come in and speak about their careers
Over the summer, I recently attended the Data Science User Group where a Principal Data Scientist at a biotech company came in to talk about data-aided drug discovery. While the free food was nice, what was even better was being able to talk to the speakers in person afterward. I was able to directly talk to him and get some of my questions answered about working in the data science industry as well as vertical movement in my career.
I also had the opportunity to attend the Research Park career fairs. What makes this career fair different is that it is solely Research Park companies attending it. At this event, it was packed as well with over 500 students and 10+ companies attending.
Think of the Research Park Career Fair as your actual career fair; so when you come to them, make sure you are bringing your resumes and A-game
In all, Research Park and EnterpriseWorks do a wonderful job of setting up events and opportunities for you to develop both personally and professionally. Making the most out of these events is probably the best way to increase your chances of success!
Navigating the Recruiting Process
This process is pretty standard, where you go on the Research Park Job Board and apply to any position you are interested in. Depending on the company, they will either want you to: email your resume/cover letter to the recruiter or apply on their company’s respective job board. However, some companies may require you to apply directly, i.e. there is no job board app but instead, you may have to directly email or get a referral. Also, some companies may also hire exclusively from job fairs as well.
If you are an international student and require sponsorship, make sure to check the job posting or reach out to the site director if they provide sponsorship before you apply.
When applying on job boards, a good tool to use is Simplify (https://simplify.jobs/) which is a Chrome extension that lets you apply with ease without having to input all the manual information all the time.
As mentioned earlier, the application is standard where they would your personal information and submit a resume. Depending on the company, they may want you to complete a technical assessment as part of their screening phase.
A good tip of advice to get past that screening phase is to tailor your resume to the role you are applying to. Normally what I would do with a job posting is look at the job requirements, copy and paste the Required and Preferred Qualifications from the posting on a Google Doc and highlight the key points from that posting and tailor my resume to showcase those specific skills to recruiters reviewing my application. In all, you want to tailor your experience to that specific role you’re interested in and don’t spam apply everywhere if you are serious about landing a job at that company.
Here is an example of what I mean below:
Here is a Full Stack SWE Intern job posting from AGCO. What I did was copy-paste what type of applicant they’re looking for and the skills needed. From there, I tailor my resume to showcase experience in Frontend, APIs, and Databases which you can highlight from courses, previous projects, etc from your resume.
Now, say this is the first internship you are applying to, and only had experience with web development through your CS classes. Some good classes that cover these skills are - CS411 (Database Systems), CS409 (Web Programming), and CS340 (Computer Systems) - which luckily you took all of them and learned a lot from! Assuming your only experience in full-stack came from taking those classes and working on some side projects with the tools you learned in the classroom, you are more than qualified for the job posting as you have experience in backend, frontend, and API development and can describe the projects you’ve worked on that covered those skills in your resume/application.
This is just one example of how you would want to tailor your resume to a job posting.
Resumes and Cover Letters
The resume itself has one importance: to capture the attention of someone giving a 10-second glance over it.
During heavy recruiting seasons, site directors are looking at upwards of 200-300 resumes in a season. How you present yourself is key to success here. While there are countless different guides out there to craft the best resume, here are some pointers for our local Research Park.
- The site directors here are extremely familiar with the classes here (i.e. CS225 or CS374) In some cases where listing courses isn’t a good practice, it’s not a bad idea to list them in a “relevant courses” section on your resume.
- Recruiters here are more lenient and understanding towards your experience—hence a great place to find your first internship is at Research Park. The best way to stand out is to include any relevant work or side projects in that position.
- Quantify your achievements!! You want to emphasize the importance of your projects and the process in those projects. The most important part here is being able to demonstrate your potential to bring value to the company. In addition to that, companies also look for things that pertain to their business. For example, demonstrating an interest in smart farming would be appropriate when applying for positions in AgTech. You want to fit yourself into the company’s mission.
Remember, you are advertising YOUR potential to deliver results and increase value for the company.
As for cover letters, the current trend appears for cover letters to be fading out with resumes replacing them. If you do not have any strong feelings about a particular position, don’t make a cover letter as it also has the chance to hurt you as well. Unless a company specifically requests it, do not spend time writing a cover letter. Your resume is the main attraction!
Tackling the Interviews
So you landed an interview with a Research Park Company? Awesome! Now how do you prepare?
The format of your interviews is different for each company, but you should really do your homework and ask the recruiter what the format of the interview is like if they haven’t told you which shows that you are taking initiative and demonstrating interest to the recruiters in that company. Furthermore, it does not hurt to reach out to your peers or people on Linkedin who have been through the recruiting process for that company for advice on the process.
Most of the interviews we’ve conducted in various of Research Park companies are a mixture of behavioral and technical questions. Ideally, these companies want to see how you communicate your thoughts, take ownership, and gauge overall fit in their company.
For behavioral interviews, you should look at your resume and pick 1 - 2 experiences you are proud of to talk about during the behavioral interview. Bonus points if you incorporate STAR method and do some homework researching what the company does and its company values. You are your own advocate in this case. Make sure to always relate back to company key values (read their values). After all, it’s you who is interviewing for a job/intern position.
For technical interviews, interviewers want to see how you are able to approach a problem and see your problem-solving skills. You don’t need to be 100% correct on your solution, as long as you communicate your thought process with the interviewer is what matters. You would typically get questions on data structure algorithms and concepts on object-oriented programming which you would see in CS225. To prepare for technical interviews, we highly recommend this guide that was written by CS225 course staff: https://tinyurl.com/cs-interview-prep
Typically, interviews in Research Park don’t tend to be the traditional ones seen in larger companies. Most of them lean towards the abbreviated version of the full technical interview as well. However, take that with a grain of salt as your mileage may vary.
Finding an internship or research opportunity may seem very daunting. But no matter what happens, you can persevere through it. Sure it may be 5, 10, or 50 applications until you land something, but your hard work will bear fruits eventually.
Don’t give up!! You are your own advocate in these positions. During this time, make sure to bring out the best in yourself and make yourself shine. You always want to put yourself in a positive light here. Bring your best and brightest projects/skills and just go all for it. Don’t shy away from a position if you feel unqualified. Apply!! It won’t ever hurt you and you miss all of the shots you don’t take. However, decisions are sometimes made outside of your control—it’s never 100% dependent on your interview process. There’s always an element of luck here; maybe you did get it but an internal transfer made your position obsolete.
Sometimes if you want to hear about what working at a company is like or the interview process, it never hurts to reach out (especially on Linkedin) to current interns and full-timers for a 20-25 minute chat about their experiences.
An example of reaching out to someone on Linkedin:
Hi [INTERN NAME], My name is [NAME] and I noticed you’re interning at [COMPANY] as a [ROLE]. I would love to set up a 20-minute call (or message on here) to discuss your journey and any general advice you have for me as I want to pursue [ROLE]. Thank you!
Personally, I love to share what it has been like working as an intern as well as helping others get to this position as well. You will find that interns and full-timers alike would be willing to help you out and give any advice you may ask for!
As the recruiting season creeps upon us, we wish you the best in future endeavors!
Index of Research Park Companies
A list of companies in Research Park can be found in the directory below:
Job Application Chrome Extension: https://simplify.jobs/
Research Park Tenant Directory: https://researchpark.illinois.edu/tenant-directory/
Resume Template: https://www.overleaf.com/latex/templates/jakes-resume/syzfjbzwjncs
Personal Branding: https://sosp22.com/branding
Interview Prep: https://tinyurl.com/cs-interview-prep
STAR Method (for behavioral interviews): https://www.themuse.com/advice/star-interview-method
Research and Skills: https://davidzhongtai.com/posts/firstsem/
Contributing to this guide
Feel free to make comments on this document or reach out to the authors of this guide (as mentioned at the beginning of the guide)