Job Interview Process

When should students start preparing or planning for internship or job interviews?

Matt: I started preparing a week or two before I found out that I had an interview.  However, this depends on the student.  Some people are very good at telling stories and explaining things, so they would be fine with a week preparation.  If someone wants to be extremely prepared for the interviews, I would get the books for coding interviews and start reading them the summer before junior year.  This would allow the student to come into junior year ready to crush coding interviews.

Zach: I took a slightly different approach. I decided not to prepare that much at all because I believed all of my experiences thus far should defined my capabilities as a programmer, so I might as well rely on them to obtain an internship.

How should students prepare or plan for these interviews?

Matt: The best way to prepare for the interview is to practice.  I would spend time with a family member practicing behavioral questions.  For coding interviews, doing a little preparation each day until the person feels comfortable answering any question is a great way to prepare.

Zach: I mainly prepared for the behavioral questions that I expected to receive. What I found was, even though I had established specific memories I could draw from, during the interview I ended up thinking of better examples on the spot that directly related to the questions asked. When I was asked technical questions, usually I was sufficiently prepared to make a good attempt. A few times I had to be honest with the interviewer and say that I was not knowledgeable on the topic.

What resources should students consider? Books? Career Services? Student groups?

Matt: There are so many resources that students can consider.  There is the book Cracking the Coding interview, which is an extremely helpful resource.  There is also pramp.com (and https://www.interviewcake.com/), which is a free mock coding interview done online.  Another way to practice difficult coding problems is the website spoj.com, where it gives problems that are similar to a coding contest. As for resources at Notre Dame, there is the Career Center.  The Career Center is useful for resume reviews and mock behavioral interviews.  ACM holds some coding interview workshops, which are helpful.  There are also websites (glassdoor.com, http://www.careercup.com/page?pid=coding-interview-questions, etc…) that give previous questions for interviews for companies.  People will post a question they received and from which company they received it.  The author of the post will also say how they resulted in the interview process.

Zach: As far as preparation, I would suggest relying on the things you have learned! Career services can definitely be helpful when searching for a position that interests you, especially if you favor a certain location. Also, career services and student groups provide mock interviews that can help ease the nerves when you step into the real thing.

 

What extracurricular activities should students consider?

Matt: Extracurricular activities could include App Club, ACM, and other Computing clubs. These would all help in computing related interviews. Something that has become a big part of the application process is giving links to a github profile, or a personal website with projects that have been worked on. Companies like Apple and Google want to know that your passion is coding because you’ll work as hard as you can and will enjoy the work more. Another activity would be to get a job on campus that relates to behavioral questions.  I currently work on campus and the position is customer service driven, which will be extremely helpful in future interviews. 

Zach: I think all students should take part in a least one extracurricular activity that involves community service. I believe volunteering experiences are always beneficial to draw on during behavioral interviews. You will encounter many team related scenarios and problem solving situations. In addition, I would suggest joining any clubs that relate to your passions. Companies seem to be intrigued by individuals who are always in pursuit of their passions.

 

How can students take advantage of networking and alumni relationships?

Matt: It is very easy to take advantage of the alumni relationships.  Notre Dame has an incredibly network.  One way is to contact the department head, and ask him or her if they have any contacts with alumni.  Another way is to connect to people through LinkedIn.  I haven’t had any negative response from Alumni that I’ve talked to.  Everyone wants to help you, or at least give you his or her knowledge that should help you.  There is an Alumni Group on LinkedIn that people are constantly asking for people in several different industries.

Zach: I agree with Matt, Notre Dame has a well established network in all industries and LinkedIn is also a great resource. On LinkedIn, develop your profile to accurately and thoroughly depict your experiences relevant to the jobs you are seeking. Always be professional on LinkedIn, there are other platforms (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) for your memes and funny videos. Also, take advantage of family connections if you have them. There is nothing wrong with establishing relationships with your parents’ friends if they have experience or connections within the industry of your choice.

 

How should students approach negotiations or contracts? Are there any pitfalls they should look out for?

Matt: Majority of the time, salaries are standard for first year jobs.  There isn’t much room for negotiation, even if the person has a better job offer from a competing company companies.  The only way that someone is able to negotiate in a big company that has standard salaries for first year employees is if the person comes up with a business argument saying why they should be paid more.

Zach: I do not particularly like monetary negotiations. I personally would not accept or pursue a job where I didn’t feel like my value was being appreciated. I want to work for people who can see my worth by putting effort into their interview process and showing their desire to learn as much about me as they can. When that happens, I think better employer-employee relationships are formed and compensation follows appropriately.

 

Miscellaneous!

Matt: Looking back on the whole process, I wish I would have known how much outside projects were considered.  I had multiple opportunities to do a project with a friend that could have been ideal talking points in an interview.  Another thing I wish I would have known is how much work experience is considered.  I’m part of the 3-2 Engineering program, so I repeated my junior year, and was fortunate enough to get an internship both summers.  My first internship was 3 days a week, and I was basically running errands most of the time.  However, interviewers almost always asked about that work experience.

Zach: (Cliché alert) Pursue your passions and don’t chase an impressive salary. Being passionate about what you do as a profession will be worth more than big checks. Also, there is great value in the benefits provided by companies to their employees. Know the benefits, question the benefits, examine the benefits – they do carry monetary value that can go easily overlooked.

 

Authors: Zachary LeBlanc and Matt McKenzie

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