I recently completed my post-Swarthmore job search and have been very fortunate to receive a few offers. There are quite a few things that I wish I had known and, thus, would like to share some resources that I have found along the way.
My experiences have been primarily applying for software engineer positions and I have interviewed at various sized companies, from small startups (around 10 people) to established tech companies. I hope some of those resources can be helpful to you and also encourage you to seek out the advice of others.
Regarding my resume, I personally found tips from careercup very helpful. I initially used Microsoft Word to create my resume but found editing and controlling precise spacing between columns frustrating. Thus, I used a resume template in Latex and it made future spacing and formatting much easier and smoother. I have published a resume template to overleaf based on my own and it is derived from a latex resume template moderncv. Plus, you will get some cool points for typesetting your resume with Latex.
A resume for technical positions should highlight technical and programming projects. They can be in-class or side projects. If you have time to attend hackathons, they are a great way to get projects under your belt. During the interview process, it would be a plus for interviewers to view any functional projects you’ve built. However, the more important part is being able to explain the purpose and technology of your project clearly to the interviewer so that you can show your initiative and understanding of its underlying technicality.
Applying for Jobs
I found the LinkedIn alumni page very helpful in showing general trends, such as geographic location and professional category, of Swarthmore alumni. The Alumni Directory allowed me to find alumni’s current occupations and majors they graduated with. In addition, I could reach specific alumni directly through their email.
During my junior year internship search, I was mass sending out my internship applications to all companies on intern.supply. I received only rejections and silence from all of them. Not a single company contacted me for a potential interview. I later learned that it is almost impossible to get noticed without a referral without already having a tech brand on my resume.
Looking for referrals turned out to be more helpful. Since I hardly knew anyone in the tech industry, I turned to the Swarthmore College alumni directory to reach out to alumni directly. Moreover, Swarthmore alumni have been amazingly responsive and helpful to me in my job search. Almost all of the companies I interviewed with were through Swat alumni, and many offered to share career advice with me. So, not only did I gain important referrals in my job search, I also gained precious friendships and mentorships along the way.
I would also like to emphasize that as desperate as you may be for a referral, the mentorship aspect of getting to know alumni is extremely valuable. Since they likely are more experienced in the software engineering industry, the perspectives they offer may be more important than a referral opportunity. For instance, one alum shared the caveats of working at their company, which I wouldn’t have known otherwise. Also, even if an opportunity at an alum’s company doesn’t work out, they may be able to connect you to their friends.
All the companies I interviewed with had at least one round of technical interviews where you have to code on the spot while explaining your thought process to an engineer. Technical interviews aren’t intuitive to many, including myself (interesting read: Why Technical Hiring Is Broken,) and they can be intimidating at first. The comforting news is that technical interviews get easier with practice.
I found the structure of chapters in Cracking the Coding Interview and Elements of Programming Interviews helpful in targeting specific types of problems. Leetcode is a free website with hundreds of practice coding questions that can offer more variation.
Practice Mock Interviews
- Glassdoor (learn more about company cultures and others’ interview experiences)
I also found doing practice interviews with an actual person extremely helpful. Luckily, there are resources online that connect you with others for interview practice. Interviewers from interviewing.io tend to be engineers from various tech companies who may be interested in calibrating their interview questions. You will have the option to learn their email after the interview and a few interviewers actually became my mentors. In addition, if you score above a certain percentile in interviewing.io platform, you will be able to apply for jobs posted under its platform.
At Pramp, the interviewers tend to be job-seeking peers like you who are practicing algorithmic interview questions. I found this to be a low-pressure way to schedule real-time practice interviews with peers.
- Ten Rules for Negotiating a Job Offer
- How Not to Bomb Your Offer Negotiation
- Visadoor (look up how much companies pay their H1B employees since such information is public)
There are a lot of job opportunities in tech right now, and hopefully you’ll reach this stage after some interviews. The first two links have almost become the bible for negotiating compensation. It almost never hurts to negotiate and so always negotiate. More well-known tech companies tend to have the most difficult interviews, so if you get an offer, you have more leverage in negotiating. I also found the negotiation period to be the perfect time to reach out to individuals within the company, such as my potential manager and the SVP of engineering. Since the recruiter’s goal is to get you to sign, they will be more than happy to connect you to people within the company. Hopefully your internal referral from earlier in the process would shed light on company life as well.
- Interview resources
- Tech Interview Handboook
- Topcoder resources
- Coursera Algorithm Course Part 1 and Part 2
These are based on my personal experience and please take them with a grain of salt. Please let me know if you have any questions and I would be happy to help. In addition, feel free to connect me on LinkedIn.