How to Attract a Recent CS Grad
There’s not much debate that Computer Science is currently one of the most desirable degrees to have outside of college. In an article written by Forbes Magazine, an undergraduate, master’s or doctorate’s degree in the field of Computer Science is one of the top degrees to obtain to get hired right after school.
I am fortunate enough to have a strong interest in the field and to have studied it throughout my undergraduate career at school. On May 6th, 2016 I received my Bachelor’s of Science degree in Computer Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Myself and a large number of my peers walked across the stage with a sure answer to what our next step in life will be. For me, it was to start my career as a Software Engineer at AlphaSights. But this decision didn’t come at random; I didn’t just pull a name out of a hat and call it at that. The decision came after months of interviews and determining what attracted me towards a company and what turned me away. This blog is about my experiences during these interviews and what things I specifically looked for when deciding between companies I got offers from.
My fall semester of senior year consisted of a lot of interviews and applying to jobs. Some experiences were great and others were awful. Together with my previous internships, I learned a lot about what I wanted in a company and what, in an interview, could turn me off from wanting to be a part of that team. So if you conduct interviews, start taking notes.
I started interviewing for full-time positions by the end of August 2015 (before I even started my last year of college). This was unheard of for my friends in other majors but pretty common for my peers. Between recruiters emailing me via LinkedIn and the several Computer Science specific career fairs my school offered, my fall semester of senior year was packed with interviews. From my experience, companies I met at career fairs were a lot more memorable than one’s I merely applied to online. It’s a lot more personable and you can connect with a recruiter right on the spot who can get you excited about the company.
“The interviews that are the most memorable to me are the ones that touch on more of a personal level.”
Before I get into my positive interview experiences, I’d like to start off with the ones that are memorable in a bad way. Yes, a part of this will be me venting about some of the terrible interview habits people have but it also taught me a lot about the types of teams I don’t want to be a part of. So here are my two tips of wisdom to any interviewers out there:
Don’t show up late: When I show up for an interview, I’m always set up and ready to go on-time. So having me wait by my computer or in a conference room for 20–30 minutes is unprofessional and has happened one too many times. I don’t care if you’re in a meeting with the President of the United States, a simple email saying that you’ll be late would suffice. Remember that we are college students and it’s not always easy to take an hour or two out of our days to interview when there is always a test or project in our foreseeable future. So please show up on time.
The length of the interview: I can’t stress this enough. I do understand how important it is to know who you are hiring and whether he or she will be a good fit for the job. That being said, from my experience 3–4 hour interviews (which are sometimes just technical, might I add) may be a bit excessive. Breaking these interviews into 1–2 hours each would be a lot more tolerable and less stressful. I had one experience where I went through a series of phone interviews until I was finally called in for an on-site interview. At the office, I met with all four software engineering teams who barely touched upon my prior experiences. Each team was just eager to ask me one technical question that was expected to take 45 minutes to answer before they sent me on their way. I barely had time to ask one question before the next team would come in to do it all over again. Coming out of that interview, the last thought I had about the company was how I was confined in a small conference room for four hours while getting grilled with tough technical questions. Not a fun day for me and I lost a lot of interest in the company due to it.
The interviews that are the most memorable to me are the ones that touch on more of a personal level. It is great when interviewers are able to connect with things that I have done in the past and get me excited about what the company does and their aspirations. I’m not going to want to take the job if the interviewer isn’t passionate about what he or she does at the company or seems unsure of where the company is heading. It’s also important for interviewers to express how I’d be able to contribute to not only the team but to the company. It’s a good feeling to know that the work I’ll be doing will impact the company immediately and not go unnoticed.
Deciding Between Companies
Once the interview process is finally over, the companies that are interested in pursuing me will send out their offers. For me, these are the things that I look for when weighing my options (ordered by importance):
My impact with the company and room for growth: I briefly touched upon this but I’d like to expand a little farther. In my previous internships, I couldn’t help but feel insignificant. Yes, I know I was just an intern for 3 months at these companies. But the work I did was only acknowledged by the ten people on my team and nobody more. This had to do with the size of the companies I previously worked for. There were so many engineers it would be nearly impossible for me to know every engineer and their role in the company. I only knew the people on my team and that’s it. Then I would look up and feel like the team is just a small piece of the company. It’s intimidating and unenjoyable when that’s the case. So I would lean towards a company where my role on the team is more significant. A role that had room to grow throughout the years and even one where I could make a difference on my very first day.
Languages and frameworks: Everybody has their reasoning for using certain frameworks and languages. I’m always excited to hear about the reasoning companies have for what they chose and why. This being said there are some companies (some I have worked with in the past ...) that are stuck in the stone age. So does the team make an effort to keep up with the latest and greatest or do they live in their own tech world? Is there room for new development or will my job be bug fixing their legacy code day in and day out? These are very important questions that I consider.
The people: This consists of two parts. The first is the interview conversation. If all we talked about is technical questions and I feel like I don’t know who the interviewers are or who the engineering team consists of, then I’ll be slightly turned off to the company. On the other hand, If I enjoyed the talk with each interviewer and felt like I learned who everybody is, then I already feel like I’m part of the team which makes the transition to a new company more welcoming.
The second part is related to my onsite interview and the people around the office. Are people smiling and enjoying themselves at work or do most people seem uptight and mind their own business? This may be a hard question to answer during my time walking to and from a conference room but it’s very important to find out since this will be the environment I will be exposed to five days a week.
The work environment: Similar idea to the one above, this is the place I’ll be spending 40–60 hours every week at, the last thing I want is for it to be unenjoyable. So when I walk into an office for an onsite interview and I see rows of cubicles and a smelly kitchen, the company is already less appealing to me. Open space, open desks, games (ping pong tables, etc), team events and friendly people are all very important to me. It tells me a lot about the company’s culture and employee mindset.
So why did I choose AlphaSights?
I first considered joining the team when I saw them at my school’s career fair in September 2015. I spoke with their technical recruiter who got me excited about the team. He talked about what the company does and how the engineering team is such an important part of the business. He also explained the technology and stack that the team uses and the crushing days the team does every other Friday which is devoted to developing the tools they use, the infrastructure and the team. He also gave me a clear understanding of the fun culture the company has as a whole and how the office encourages this.
The interview process was very straightforward and non-intrusive. The process contained three video interviews that lasted no more than one hour and one on-site interview in their New York City office. The interviewers made me feel very confident that I would play a significant role on the team (even as a new joiner) and that there would be lots of room from growth. They talked about their technology and stack:
They talked about their culture and team trips:
They even talked about me. Everyone who interviewed me was very interested in my past experiences and wanted to learn a lot about my passions and where I saw myself in the future. After my onsite interview, they even let me have a snack with a couple of the engineers on the team where I got to ask questions and really hear about what it was like to be an engineer for the company and what their daily lives looked like.
AlphaSights fulfilled all of the criteria I was looking for in a company and I felt confident with my decision to start my career with them.
Michael Rabie joined AlphaSights in July 2016 and serves as a Software Engineer on the Search and Discovery Team.