Job Experience Is Very Important


Johanne Wibroe, leader of Sweco Denmark’s Water department. Until October 1, last year, when Sweco was bought out, the company was named Grontmij A/S.

When hiring a newly graduated engineer, what do you look for?
It really means a lot to me if I can see that the applicant has had a relevant student job, because then I know that they are familiar with the business. When I was a student at DTU, I had a student job, and that experience convinced me that I wanted to become an advisor, and that I wanted to work with groundwater. The company intervened and taught me a great deal, because, at that time, DTU’s research facility was not really up-to-date.

What is most important to you: grades or the résumé?
Of course, a high professional level matters a lot, and grades may partly convey this, but the numbers say nothing about, for instance, how much you worked while studying, or if you were involved in some sort of initiative, organization, etc. Also, the numbers do not reveal how you will perform in a workplace, when you go out into the real world. Here, you’ll have to find time for your job as well as your family and hobbies. Therefore, it’s nice if you can show, through your résumé, that you can handle this. Some grades may be more important than others; for instance, if a specific professional skill, such as hydraulic modeling, is relevant for a job, your grade should reflect your abilities.

Will good grades get you a steady job?
I wouldn’t say that. We look for independent, self-sufficient, and highly professional graduates. You have to have ambition and personality; so, a lot of different candidates may be qualified. We look for the candidates who are go-getters and who understand that we cooperate with each other and with our clients.

Is it important to graduate on time?
No, not if you have spent your time in an internship or a student job. In that case, you will have built up a network for your thesis and have had the opportunity to do case-studies in the real world, etc. I think all the recently graduated engineers in my department have worked as student assistants or have had student jobs. It’s a good symbiosis.

How relevant are stays abroad for you?
That depends on the position, but, depending on the market, a candidate’s linguistic skills may prove useful. Stays abroad signal a thirst for adventure, but if you are the type of person who spends their free time sailing around the world, that might give me the same impression. I don’t really know if you learned something or just enjoyed yourself, when you spent a semester in Singapore.

What is most important?
A student job, high grades, or job experience? That depends on the position in question. For instance, you may have produced a thesis on a topic that interests us. In that case, of course, the grade matters. In general, it really helps if you have cooperated with a company. We really value job experience, because if you didn’t even have a job during your years at high school, we have to start at the very beginning and teach you what it means to work and have a responsibility to clients and colleagues.

Will having a child ruin your career?
If you had children while still a student, your small children will require your attention, when you start working. If not, you can go full speed ahead, yet there will come a time for you to take a break and go on maternity/paternity leave. Generally, I think you should have children when you want to. Most of us do become parents, and the business world will have to deal with this. There are no general rules, but of course I will take the entire profile into consideration, if a candidate needs to be able to go to Sri Lanka on a short notice. But, as I have said: if we are interested in a candidate, we’ll take a look at the department’s composition. Do we have the different profiles?