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How to Land Your Dream CS Internship

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Posted on 11/05/2014

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In my last post, I talked about what you should be looking for in a dream CS internship. While that is incredibly important while on the job hunt, I figured it would be good to talk about how to land that dream job once you’ve found it.

There are four important points to keep in mind before heading into an interview with a company, and remembering these could mean the difference between getting the job and not.

(DISCLAIMER: This advice is all coming from my personal experience interviewing with many different companies over the past three years. I am not a hiring manager, so I cannot speak to that side of things.)

The Four Keys to Landing Your Dream CS Internship

Portrait_Crown#1 Be confident in yourself.

Typically, from what I have found, interviewers know that you’re a smart kid just because of where you go to school and what you put on your resume. They also would not have even taken the time to interview you if they didn’t think you are smart enough for the job, so take pride in that. Go into an interview with the thought that you’re smart enough to get the position.

This does not mean that you should go into an interview and be cocky. Remember, the people interviewing you have been in industry for many years (most likely) and are easily going to be smarter than you. When you act cocky, you’re almost guaranteed to not get the job.

So go in with a cool head, and be confident in yourself and what you have done thus far.

Portrait_Pencil#2 Take on personal projects.

Personal projects are huge! They show your interviewer that you love what you do enough to take free time away from video games or whatever else to better yourself as a programmer.

Also, interviewers are going to be way more interested in hearing about personal projects than about class projects (which they have probably heard before from other students in your area) for the same reason I just mentioned.

If you’re thinking to yourself right now, “I don’t have any personal projects! What do I do?!” the answer if fairly obvious. START ONE!

Not only is it going to be a huge talking point in an interview, you will learn a lot about yourself as well as what type of projects you enjoy working on. If your project doesn’t fit well into what the company does, still bring it up! When your personal projects get brought up in the interview, which they will, talk it up like it’s the coolest thing since sliced bread.

Portrait_SmileyFace#3 Show that you love what you do.

Your interviewers are typically going to have built systems/applications/etc. far more complex than anything you have ever touched while in your CS classes, but don’t let that stop you from talking about how cool the stuff is that you have worked on.

The best programmers out there are the ones who are hard to pull away from their computers because they love what they do so much, and companies always want more of that type of person.

Talk about every aspect of your projects, what you did and didn’t like about them, and why that is the case. The most important part about this facet of interviewing is that you need to not only be passionate, but you need look and sound passionate. Embrace your inner nerd about the cool web application or video game you built over the summer.

Portrait_Clover#4 Be prepared for the “X” factor.

If you have done all of the above, walk out of the interview with your head held high and cross your fingers. The last aspect of a great interview is the one that you have absolutely no control over. You have to get lucky.

Whether you believe in luck or not, there is definitely some “X” factor that takes part in this whole process. Luck plays a big part, especially when the company you are interviewing for interviews a lot of people. You may just get a question you are unprepared to answer, or maybe you and the interview just have clashing personalities, or possibly there’s even something as silly as the interviewer didn’t like the color of the shirt you wore.

It sounds dumb, but there have been plenty of interviews I have walked out of where I thought I did great and figured I had a really good shot but then got rejected. On the other hand, you may walk out and think “There is no way in hell I get this job,” and the next day you get an offer.

This is actually exactly what happened to me here at Windward. I was actually so convinced I wasn’t going to get the job that I accepted a job the next day working IT on campus, then I quit four hours into that job because I got a call with an offer.

Final Interviewing Tips

Portrait_PhoneGetting an internship is no easy process, and it takes a lot of hard work and practice. Never give up an opportunity to interview, even if it’s with a company you have no plans on working for, because until you have been through the process a number of times it is going to be nerve-wracking and stressful.

Finally, if you are like myself and love working with new technology, bring it up. Interviewers are normally out of touch with new technology and they like to hear about the new shiny toy that just came out. This is probably your only opportunity in an interview where you’re going to teach them about something, instead of the other way around.

Getting a Windward Internship

Are you looking for a CS internship? Be sure to check out the internship and career opportunities here at Windward.

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Author: Sean Callahan

Sean is a development intern at Windward as well as a senior at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is currently interested in Web-application development and has worked on various projects in that field. He takes every project he is involved in very seriously and always gives it his all. In his free time he enjoys playing video games with friends as well as getting outdoors. He also hopes to eventually get the opportunity to travel/work aboard before he graduates in the next year or two.

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