Internship Applications: Reflections of a CS Student

By this time, the majority of the major league players of the tech industry are in the process of finishing up recruitment season for their internship positions. Not only has Emmie Ohnuki successfully gone through two of these tumultuous recruitment seasons, but she has also managed to secure the coveted Google internship. Let’s hear some advice from this seasoned pro. 

Q: Can you tell us a little about why you chose to pursue computer science?

A: What appealed to me first was the creative aspect of coding. You can decide what type of software you want to build and what kind of features you want to include in it. Now, I’m more interested in the versatility of computer science. Almost every industry that exists needs the skills of a computer scientist, so it gives me the flexibility to work in various different fields.

Q: What does the application timeline look like for software engineer interns? 

A: Companies generally start posting their internship openings in September, so this is when you want to start applying. First, they will do a resume screen which looks at your experience and level of education. If you pass the resume screen, you will be sent a coding challenge which tests your problem-solving skills. After that is a series of phone and on-site interviews where your communication skills will be tested in conjunction with your technical skills. Then, the company decides whether to hire you or not.  laptop coding Photo by Christopher Gower from Unsplash

Q: What steps did you take to prepare for internship applications?

A: Prior to the start of recruitment, I made sure my resume was perfect. I reached out to several mentors and sought out advice on how to best present myself. I also did a lot of coding practice on Leetcode to prepare myself for coding challenges and technical interviews. 

Q: What is the hardest part of the application process?

A: It depends. For underclassmen, the hardest part is definitely getting past the resume screen. Oftentimes, companies will immediately reject applications for not having the correct graduation year. Many of them are only looking for juniors and seniors. However, for all candidates, the technical interviews can be pretty challenging. They test your problem-solving and thinking skills, so you really need to be prepared. 

Q: How do you think freshmen can best prepare themselves to be a competitive candidate?

A: Look for programs that cater specifically to underclassmen. Some companies run a separate internship program for freshmen and sophomores, which let underclassmen get the internship experience with the added bonus of it being a training program. Because they know you haven’t taken many upper-level courses yet, it’s important to demonstrate your passion and drive by listing interesting side projects you took on in your resume.  Brooke Cagle via Unsplash

Q: Were there any mistakes you made during the application process? 

A: At the beginning, I made the error of writing out a new cover letter for each position I applied for. This was extremely time consuming and took away from time I could have spent networking or sending in applications for other companies. Almost no one reads the cover letter, so unless the application explicitly asks for a cover letter, I wouldn’t waste my time. 

Q: Any last words of advice or encouragement for our readers? 

A: Don’t be afraid of rejection! Tons of companies will ghost you or reject you, but keep on applying to as many companies as possible. The more you get your resume out, the more likely it is that you’ll succeed. And at worst, even if you don’t get an internship this season, you will have a lot of invaluable experience that will be useful next year. 

Applying to internships can seem daunting, especially when it’s your first time. It’s important to do your research ahead of time so that you are prepared when facing recruiters. Upperclassmen and alumni are a great resource for advice and guidance as you navigate your career path.

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