Actually useful tips for the UT CNS Career Fair

Thanks to my buddy Prad for contributing a TON to this list.

You’ll find these tips most applicable if you study Computer Science and are seeking a software engineer internship.

  • The career fair layout is like a spiral that ends up on the floor of the stadium. The larger booths tend to be on the floor, so they tend to be owned by larger companies who choose to afford it, sometimes popular ones. My tactic was to arrive early and start at the center (after some “practice”, see next) then work my way out of the spiral.
  • “Practice” on the companies you don’t really want to work for, but who knows, you might not get offers from anyone you originally wanted to work for and have to settle, but you might end up liking it a lot and learn a ton anyway.
  • The larger “sexier” companies often have the lowest ROI during the career fair. (“HI NICE to meEt you apply online”) If you really want to work at BIG 4 get a referral from the millions of alumni that work there. Meanwhile some of the smaller companies that do just as if not more interesting work may give you an interview just based on your interactions at career fair.
  • I’ve actually heard a company say that they were turned off by students that said they wanted to work on machine learning/data science. Even if you’re actually capable of typing import tensorflow as tf, tread carefully because a lot of students did this in 2015 and the claim of this skill became trivialized. And if you’re talking to a 3-person to-do list startup, what data do you think they could they possibly use ML on? Obviously don’t falsify your preferences if you’re adamant about working on ML/DS.
  • Try to do even a minimum amount of research into what a company does before talking to them, it makes you stand out. Even better is to prepare questions specific to a company’s product or business, as it signals that A) you did your research, and B) you care about more than just the tech. It will be something they remember you by. Also nice question-types if you can hold down a conversation about it: “How is your build infra? How often are engineers expected to write tests?”
  • Getting asked technical questions is within the realm of possibility! Bloomberg might do this. It’s typically a low bar though, something about resolving hash map collisions.
  • Look your best, unfortunately how you look is a big part of the impression you make. Business casual leaning towards casual. Well-fitting and clean, wrinkle-free clothes. The Internet is your friend if you want to learn how to dress well.
“You know, this candidate smelled good.” Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
  • Smell good, I know it’s Texas and it’s in September but if you smell bad nobody is going to want to talk to you much less help you get an internship/job. Breath mints and deodorant are your friends.
  • Don’t be desperate, people will think something is wrong with you and that recommending you is a bad idea. Make sure you don’t seem cocky but competent.
  • Have a 30-sec elevator pitch ready, this will be your first impression. Make sure it stands out. “i am [REDACTED] and I’ll be a rising junior this summer. I did full-stack dev in Python and JavaScript for a B2B SaaS company in Austin last summer, and most recently won an award at a hackathon in San Francisco for a graph visualization of 18000 text messages analyzed for sentiment. My interests mostly lie in backend API design and data modeling, but I’ve done some frontend work before.”
  • Countersignal. If you’re fantastic, wear athletic clothing. They’ll think you’re an elite coder. (joke)
  • If your friend referred you before career fair, MENTION this to the recruiter and they will PRIORITIZE you for an ON-CAMPUS INTERVIEW. (“Hey you know my friend `${props.name}`? They referred me the other day, was wondering if y’all got that??”)
  • On a similar note, I’ve seen situations where a friend applied online and got a referral shortly after, but got rejected online before the referral was processed. Unless it’s part of the protocol, don’t apply online if you’re getting a referral.
  • Follow up with your recruiters and email addresses IN THE NEXT 2–3 DAYS. Preferably night of. Make a meaningful subject line. “The one who made a Kanye chatbot” (one I actually used was “UT Career Fair follow-up (I love Python!)” though that probably isn’t very unique anymore)
  • If you know the recruiters’ names, look them up on LinkedIn and find out something y’all might have in common. Be tactful not creepy.
  • Apparently shit like this works too? But try not to bring the average interestingness of the CS/eng crowd down to the point that recruiters find smOOth, bright, THICC paper interesting.
  • Don’t assume women are recruiters and not engineers, and also have a good eye for who might be able to advocate for your resume — if you’re a bit awkward but you’re able to talk about something brilliant you’ve done, an engineer may be able to see through the awkwardness— I’ve been in situations where I believed that if I hadn’t talked to this one person, my resume would’ve ended up in the discard pile.
  • This touches more on choosing an offer and is out of the intended scope, but location is beneficial in some aspects for “mobility” or “optionality”. If I had picked an offer with a more established company outside of the Bay Area, I would not have had as much exposure to networking events exclusively for interns in the area…such as Techfair (which I didn’t attend, but other friends did) or random unicorn startup networking nights.
  • Embrace serendipity. There was a long-ass line for this company and I didn’t realize that there was a line (gap for the hallway) when I started giving my elevator pitch to the engineer — who ended up being my mentor at that company the following summer. I had the choice to walk away embarrassed, or go to the back of the line, and I had a great summer from the latter.
  • Don’t tie your self-worth to how many interviews you get. Much of career fair is signaling and many people are good at that but can’t actually code.
  • If you followed all of this advice and got a lot of interviews, a spreadsheet like below might be worth the investment (names redacted). Funnelize your career and find out this season’s conversion rate, iterate and figure out the best strategy for next season using machine learning algos.
  • If this helped, donate 5% of your intern salary to the Rainier and Prad fund and 10% of it to the Against Malaria Foundation, or just follow @rainieratx and @Prad_PL on Twitter :)

Made with ❤

software engineer • more at rainier.io/blog • literally GPT-2 sponcon • Texas '18ish ➡️ SF

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