Having almost finished my first semester in my new major, Computer Science/Business Administration, it’s that time where everyone is already looking for internships. The process has been different because of Zoom of course, but the recruiting process took me by surprise, so here’s what I’ve learned.
Apply early: Unlike with college apps where they wait to look at all the candidates at once, some internships have rolling applications, so the earlier you apply, the more likely it is you get the job. This usually happens around August/September so it’s a lot to do at the beginning of the year but you’ll thank yourself later.
Getting to know the companies: It’s USC so companies are coming all the time. Sign up for Trojan Talks, go to orgs for your major that have companies coming and learn about what’s out there. In CS, it’s very easy to focus on the big players like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, but there are so many other places that are hiring and will give you experience, so keep your mind, and your options open.
Prep: Practicing what you know is the go-to. Most interviews ask about strings and arrays in the more basic interviews and linked lists and hash tables/functions in more complicated ones. All these data structures let you solve the problems so make sure you know how they work. Don’t be intimidated if you don’t know the latter structures, the recruiters know what class you’ve taken and will have some idea of what you’ve seen in class. Just be confident in what you know and try your best.
Interviewing: For CS this is by far the most intimidating area. I’ve had my fair share of good and bad interviews so here’s what I’ve learned. It’s okay to not know everything. They’re hiring an intern that they can teach and help grow into an ideal software developer. It’s not okay to not try. When you get a problem you don’t know how to solve. you still want to communicate to the interviewer the knowledge you know about CS and talk through the problem out loud. We are going to be software engineers, after all, so they want to know how you think. You can even ask for questions or hints! (don’t do it too much but if you’re genuinely stuck it can keep the interview moving.
I’m still going through the interview process as of right now! It’s not always the best and can be tiring, but I’ve seen people who have been in my shoes get through the interviews and get jobs. And if things don’t turn out how I wanted, it’s a great learning experience for next year so I know what’s coming and I’ll be 10x more prepared.