Aaron Burtle

The Interview Process is it’s Own Game

When I first was accepted to UW CSE I thought my job search was over. For some reason I had just assumed that once you were accepted into a highly ranked Computer Science program that all you needed to do was display this fact on your resume and wait for the jobs to come rolling in. I didn’t apply early, I didn’t review leetcode, I didn’t look for referals. The extent of my job searching efforts was going to the CSE career fair with a stack of resumes. October came and went with no responses. As did November, December, and by January, I realized that simply being in a highly ranked CSE program with a good GPA simply wasn’t enough.

The interview process is its own game.

The first move in this game is actually getting interviews. To do that you need a solid resume that doesn’t just demonstrate you go to a respected school, but that you have relevant experience and projects which will help you to stand out among the many incredibly talented individuals seeking employment in our field. Have people with experience in getting interviews or granting interviews review your resume and give you advice. Iterate on your resume and go back to get more advice. There are a lot of resources at UW CSE to help you put together a respectable resume, use them. Once you have a respectable resume, the key is to apply early. Recruiters have numbers to fill, and at the start of the recruiting season they haven’t filled anything. This makes you seem more competitive the earlier in the process you are noticed. Apply early. And apply to every single position that you would be willing to entertain an offer from. All of them. Make a template for cover letters that allows you to add minimal details for faster applications. Apply to the places that require the least additional information along with your resume first. Get as many applications in with your respectable resume as quickly as possible, with 1 exception. Referrals. If you can get a referral, it is worth a small delay in application date in order to apply along with a referral. This is generally going to be someone that currently works at said company, but can also come from former employees/recruiters. Referrals are as good as gold, use them when you can.

Once you’ve applied, you likely won’t be getting interviews immediately. You will most likely have to complete coding challenges before being scheduled for an interview. This are going to be leetcode easy or medium in most cases, although some of the most competitive places will give you leetcode hards. The only way to get good at these is to practice. In order to practice you need a decent understanding of data structures and algorithms, so take CSE 332 and CSE 421 as soon as you can. And practice, practice, practice.

Once you’ve passed coding challenges, the interviews will start rolling in. You should have canned responses for the most common behavioral questions; Tell me about a time that you faced a challenge with one of your co-workers or peers, and how you were able to over come it? These questions can be found online. Practice your answers. The technical interviews will be very similar to the coding challenges. Leetcode mediums are most common now. Practice solving these problems on leetcode entirely out loud before you start coding. Finish the solution verbally, out loud, and then start writing it up ON A WHITEBOARD. Once you’ve finished the problem on a whiteboard, only put your answer into leetcode to check. You will be solving these problems on whiteboards after first vocalizing your solution in the interview, so that’s how you should practice.

Once you’ve got the ability to verbally solve leetcode mediums and write your solutions up on a whiteboard, once you’ve got a solid resume that would catch the eye of any recruiter, once you’ve realized you need to apply early in the recruiting season, and you can crush those coding challenges early and often. Then, you have mastered the game, and jobs offers will start coming in.

Then it is time to negotiate, but I leave that for another day.

Good luck!

Tags:

Academics – Computer Engineering / Class of 2020
Interests – Tech, Data, Gaming
Identities – he/him, Student with a Disability, Student Veteran, Transfer Student