6 questions not to ask a company at a Hackathon, and then 3 you should

Things not to ask us:

1. So, what do you do?

There are two iterations of this question and the vagueness is my biggest issue with the question. 90% of the time the question is actually intended as: “I opted out of doing any research before coming your table for a free T-shirt, so, what does your company do?” Great, summing up one of the world’s largest financial institutions that is over 200 years old is super easy to do, thanks for this opportunity.

The other 10% of the time, this is actually a reasonable (yet, still vague) question about what do I do. I genuinely would love to tell you what I do, because I am passionate about my role, my impact, and my team. This should not be a sneaky way to find out if I am actually in tech or just a recruiter. Either way, I am there trying to give you a job, open doors, and give you a phenomenal opportunities. Please, avoid sticking your foot in your mouth before we get started.

2. Do you really hire freshman or are you just trying to get people to apply?

First, a question for you: “Are you really trying to get a job with that bad of an attitude?” We are looking to hire talented, passionate, dynamic, technical people. Can you, as a freshman, pass our interview process consisting of a phone screening, HackerRank test, pair programming interview, and a group behavioral interview? Then, YES, that’s amazing, we want to hire you. That is ridiculously impressive. So, to be transparent, we are not proactively ruling out hiring freshman. Rather, they are often just not experienced enough to get through our interview. In some cases, seniors aren’t either.

3. What do you have for [insert random major]?

This, at a surface level, is not a bad question. I totally get what you’re going for, but I am not prepared to know how your major explicitly applies to what my company has to offer. What are you interested in, why did you pick that major? Give me a little more to work with and I will be happy to discuss potential opportunities — even if we might not be them. Be confident and articulate your diverse background — diversity breeds innovation. Everyone is looking for innovation.

4. Are you a recruiter? *in a condescending tone*

Yes, part of why I am here is to recruit you to come work for us. No, my functional title doesn’t have recruiter in it. Yes, this question is better than question 1, but obnoxiously more curt and possibly aggressively rude. Great news though, I am not a recruiter so I am not personally offended, but I was recruited by a recruiter who was much more than just a recruiter. She helped me network, she made sure I knew what I was getting into when I started, and she was downright amazing. A recruiter is arguably more valuable to you than I am, so please don’t act like it’s beneath you to speak to them.

5. How do I get that [points to some swag that I am currently wearing]?

If you see something that everyone else has but isn’t on our table anymore, ask! There is a huge chance we haven’t had time to pull out more. But the clothes I am currently wearing are not available. For some reason, I don’t think HR would love that. It is honestly just really awkward to attempt to explain something that should be self-explanatory.

6. “ ”

Please. Don’t just stare at me. In this rare occasion, even though I am an extreme extrovert, I am out of words. My team and I are speaking to hundreds of good candidates and I don’t want to just word vomit on you. Let me know how I can make this experience valuable to you.


Things to ask us:

1. Can I just have a t-shirt?

Honestly, yes. That’s what they are there for, if you don’t care about anything I have to say, don’t make me say it. If you are going to wear it, it is advertisement for us at the cost of a t-shirt — we are into that.

2. I am interested in X, how do you guys do x?

Awesome, this is great. I might not be able to answer your question but someone at our table should be able to. I would be happy to connect you. Or, if I’ve had all my coffee for the day, would tell you about as much as possible. Be specific about what you are interested in. If I am passionately answering a question, I would love a passionate listener.

3. What does an internship / Leadership Development / full time look like in your company?

YAS. Personally, I think you’re killing it. Ask me about my day in the office, how is our culture, will you fit. THAT is what I am here for — I love my job, let me tell you why.


Disclaimer: We are forgiving people, we will still hire you if you ask these questions. It would just be highly recommended that you make this experience better for us all and we can get you the info you are looking for.