Thoughts on Finding Software Engineering Internships and Interviewing

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Starting Out

The one hesitance I have with trying to offer advice is the fact that there’s a lot of luck and external variables involved in the process, and people end up with wildly varying results. I personally got really lucky and had a lot of things going my way. I go to UT Austin, and the fact that it has a well-regarded computer science program has definitely helped. Some people are given interviews for certain companies and some aren’t due to factors out of their control. Interviews themselves can also feel like a coinflip of whether you get a nice interviewer and are able to answer a question that you’ve likely just seen the first time. So expect variance, and recognize that outcomes may not go your way in the short term, but things are bound to pan out well in the long run if you follow best practices.

Applying

When it comes to applying for positions, if you’re committed to landing one then you have to send out a bunch of applications to maximize your chances. Apply early! While positions open up year round and it’s feasible to get offers in the months right leading up to the summer, many of them start opening up ridiculously early and it’s possible start getting offers by September or earlier, with most offers usually being extended some time around November, right before winter break. Here’s a list of positions already open for summer 2022. I’d advise that you keep an eye out for summer positions starting from June/July, and always try to be one of the first applicants to a position. This will significantly increase your chances of getting a response, especially for more competitive positions.

Sankey diagram of summer internship applications

The Interview Process

The interview process generally consists of 3 steps: online assessment (you complete an online coding test on a website that takes usually around an hour on a website such as hackerrank), phone interview (usually an hour long coding interview with an engineer), and final round/onsite (typically 2–3 hours and involves 1–2 more interviews with engineers and meeting a hiring manager).

Data structures and algorithms are important for interviews!

Post-Interview

So at this point you’ve sent out your application, prepared diligently, and did the interview. Now it’s simply time to wait. Be patient and expect to hear back within a week or so. If you don’t hear anything by then, I’d recommend sending a quick follow-up email to your recruiter.

My Experience During Junior Year

My own summer internship search for 2021 started off quite slow as I didn’t get any responses early on. I spent a weekend in late August applying to countless positions. I began to feel a bit hopeless but didn’t realize that most companies would take at least 3–4 weeks to get back to me, and so responses started trickling in by mid to late September.

  1. I could see myself making an impact due to there given the size of the engineering team and the small internship class size, of which I was the only one working on DevOps.
  2. At the time there was still a possibility floating in the air of it taking place in-person at NYC, which is a cool place to be.
  3. I believe in optimizing for learning when it comes to choosing positions. Having spent most of my time working on more customer-facing features and typical full-stack shenanigans at my current role, I thought this was a good chance to expand my skills as an engineer and explore a role in infrastructure. Frankly, I don’t have much experience in this area, but am excited to learn and grow a bunch in the near future.
  1. They provide opportunities to learn from extremely capable and ambitious engineers
  2. I find the product spaces super interesting

Closing Thoughts

In general, getting offers is like rolling a snowball, and momentum can be an important factor. Once you gain momentum by starting to interview and land your first offer, you become more confident and are able to use those offers to land even better ones. I recommend reading this article which has great insight into this snowball effect. This principle definitely held true when I applied to my fall and spring internships because I was already comfortable with interviewing due to my prep for the summer. I also listed my upcoming internships on my resume when I applied for the fall and spring because I wanted to show that I’d be able to take what I learned at the previous internships to show up as an even better performer.

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