Well … the past couple of months have definitely been really busy. Second-year ECE has been quite a challenge. Looking at the bright side, there are just 2 more months of school left (thank god). One of my main objectives this year was to land a Software Engineering Internship for the summer.
The journey to secure a job started way back in September 2019. I remember one of the first jobs I ever applied to was Microsoft’s Explore Program. During Frosh Week, a Frosh leader who was helping out with me told me about her summer experience working at Microsoft and encouraged me to apply. I instantly went to the Sandford Fleming Computer lab and applied. I had low expectations since it was Microsoft. Eventually, 2 months into the school year I get an email saying that I was selected for an interview. I prepared every day leading up to the interview and even bought 2 books called Cracking the Coding Interview, and Cracking the PM Interview. What was the result of the interview? I completely bombed it 😅😬.
Although this gave me some hope to keep applying, I got many rejection emails. Every day I woke up to many rejection emails from December – February. It was not until late December where I started to get more interviews. I spent lots of time every day applying for many jobs. I ended up applying to over 140+ jobs. I got 7 interviews and only 1 offer. It was definitely not easy because summer is also known to be the more competitive term to get a Co-op position.
Some Things I Did To Maximize My Chances of an Offer
Almost all of the positions I applied to were either Software Engineering/Developer positions.
Where did I apply?
The following are approximations
As you can see, 60% of the jobs I applied were through U of T resources. The CLN and ESIP portals made it easy to apply to many jobs in one sitting.
Resume and Cover Letter
My resume and cover letter were probably the most crucial part of the entire job hunt. I spent lots of time iterating my resume and cover letter to perfection. I had multiple upper years take a look at them. Many times when I thought my resume was perfect, an upper-year did not think so.
I’m not a resume god or anything, but a few things I have noticed with resumes:
- Keep it one page
- Short, concise, to the point
- Don’t be scared to put some things about yourself (interviewers asked me about the interests I listed on my resume)
- Bolding words = ‘overpowered’
- Include hyperlinks for projects, websites, and etc.
For the cover letter, everyone has their own spin on it. Some create brand new cover letters for each employer and some reuse cover letters while changing the company name. If your letter is generic to the point where it is obvious that you have sent the same letter to all of your applications or is poorly written, it can make things worse.
Preparing for The Interview
The first thing I do when I know that I have an upcoming interview is that I search other Co-op students who are working or have worked at the company from U of T. If no one from U of T has worked at the company, I usually just message a few of the employees who appear in the search result.
This allowed me to get more a grasp of how the company internally operates. Some information I received was really helpful to talk about in the interview.
Interviewer: Why would you like to work at X?
Me: Well, other than the _______ you guys do, I found the company culture to be the perfect match to me. I took some time to talk to the previous Co-op students who have worked at your company and got really great feedback. One thing that was common between the students’ feedback was that the opportunities to grow are endless here, especially due to the fact that interns get to work on actual projects. The opportunities to grow and your managers are the two most pivotal things that impact your career direction and general work enjoyment. I think X really excels in these categories which is why I would love to work here.
‘Studying’ the Company
Messaging people on LinkedIn is great and all, but some core company values are hard to get without actually researching the company. I like to make a new note on my iPad of the company that I have an interview with. I then research the company and write down things I can connect with or talk about during the interview.
Some things I wrote notes about:
- Events that the Co-op’s get to experience at the company
- Hackathons, tech talks, socials
- Blogs other employers or Co-ops have written about their experiences at the company
- I usually search: X Co-op Experience Medium Blog
- Gives extra insight into some of their experiences
- I usually search: X Co-op Experience Medium Blog
- General company values, mission, and views
- Ex: In the picture above I wrote about the 5 key areas of focus
This was also a great way to show the interviewer that you did your homework and are genuinely interested in working there.
An example of this can help in the interview:
Interviewer: Can you describe a time where you showed leadership?
Me: Yeah of course! To begin with, I was always into sports. In particular, I played soccer for 10ish years and still continue to play. I was fortunately lucky enough to be the captain of my team for the past 3 years. Being captain of the soccer team allows me to show leadership by organizing a group of 11 players on the soccer field. Without this captaincy role, the team is very disorganized as seen by some of our results. In addition, this captaincy position allows me to accelerate the growth of the team thus providing a high performing team. I know that X really values these traits as shown in the 5 key areas of focus.
Checking glassdoor for previous questions
After studying the company, you want to study for the technical/behavioral questions that will be asked in the interview. The best way to do this is by checking glassdoor. Many people that have interviewed for the same position you are interviewing for have posted their interview experiences and which questions they got asked. You can just go through these and make a google doc with all the questions. Many times, I got a very similar question to the ones that were on glassdoor (was not always the case).
To maximize the chances of an offer, I practiced a bit of LeetCode. Most of the questions are pretty tricky, but I tried to do the ones with a bit of a learning curve and that were not impossible for me to solve. You know what they say, “A LeetCode a day keeps the unemployment away“.
The Actual Interview
You can expect to receive 1-3 rounds of interviews (depends on how competitive the job is). In my experience, most of my interviews were 2 rounds (mostly because I failed all of them 😅). Interviews will usually have 3 components: introduction, resume review, behavioral/technical questions.
The way I prepared was by having my roommate mock interview me (shoutout to Anthony). Since he’s in Computer Science, it was more like a real interview for a Software Engineering position. This really helped boost my interview performances as I noticed myself more confident to answer the interviewers’ questions.
So Where am I working this Summer? 🤔
I am pleased to announce that I will be working at Manulife as a Software Engineering Intern. Manulife was actually one of my top choices for the summer and I am happy that I received an offer from them.
If you are also working in Toronto or nearby and would like to get a coffee or a bite to eat, I am always happy to meet new people!