4 Steps To Landing Any Top Tech Internship

Getting that shiny new Google, Snapchat, Airbnb, or in my case — Uber and Apple — internship is hard. Real hard. Especially when it’s your first internship, you have only a few mediocre apps (if at all) to show for yourself, and you don’t go to an Ivy League school or equivalent. But just like starting your first startup, or trying to break into almost any scene for that matter, there’s a methodical way to do it that doesn’t just bank on luck. In the case of top tech internships, it’s all about proving passion, sticking out from the crowd, and a whole lot of hustle.

Of course, you can go the traditional routes. You can apply online or attend your school’s career fair. But that’s what everyone else is doing. And doing what everyone else is doing is exactly how NOT to get noticed.

So, how DO you get noticed?

Place yourself in situations where you’re the anomaly, not the norm. And make it personal. That means NOT going to career fairs where you’re literally just another face in a crowd of students with practically the same background as you. And that ESPECIALLY means not just submitting your resume online, unless it’s impressive as hell and speaks for itself (If there’s enough interest, I’ll write about how to make a kickass resume with zero experience).

So without further ado, here’s a surefire way to get to at least the interview stage at any top tech company:

Step 1: Find out which hackathons they’ll be sponsoring and apply.

Hackathons are modern-day career fairs. The best tech companies know that hackathons are where you find the brightest, most passionate engineering students. After all, you must be pretty passionate if your idea of fun is spending a weekend building an app from scratch and sleeping on cold concrete floors in a room full of engineers with questionable hygiene.

What most students aren’t aware of is that most hackathons will cover your travel expenses.

Wait, what?

That’s right. You can get paid to travel around the world and meet some of the brightest engineers and tech recruiters out there. If you’re good, you might even make some money.

To find these hackathons, go to https://mlh.io/, look at the sponsors for upcoming hackathons, and start applying. You’re a beginner? No problem. The hackathon community is all about learning and welcoming beginners with open arms.

Step 2: Tailor your project and form a relationship.

So you sent out 20 applications, and maybe got accepted into a few hackathons. Great. This is where the real hustle begins.

Once you’re at a hackathon, there typically will be a period of time at the outset when you walk around and learn about the APIs that the sponsors have to offer. But that’s not what you’re here for. Talk to the recruiters and engineers of the companies you’re interested in and start forming relationships. Maybe jam on project ideas, ask them about their APIs, or simply introduce yourself to them. The point is this: Get them to know you exist.

When the hacking begins, pick a project related to the company you’re interested in. I wanted an internship at Uber, so at Hack@Brown I built an on-demand tour guide app using the Uber API. Throughout the hackathon, talk to these companies frequently and let them know what you’re building. Form a personal relationship with them — maybe ask them for help every once in awhile.

Most of the hackers won’t do this. And most of the engineering mentors and recruiters there are bored as hell. They WANT you to talk to them. Just by repeatedly talking to the same recruiters, you’ll be remembered in a positive way when all is said and done.

Step 3: Make your ask.

At the end of the hackathon, regardless of which judges you’re selected to present to, go up to the recruiter/engineer you’ve been talking to and ask if they’d like to hear your pitch/see what you built. Ten times out of ten, they’ll say yes.

At this point, they know who you are, they’ve seen firsthand how you work in a fast-paced environment, and they know you’ve got hustle. This is when you make your ask.

Ask the recruiter about internship opportunities and get their contact information. Follow up with them the same night. By this point, you’re almost sure to get invited for an interview.

Step 4: Seal the deal.

Congrats! You got an interview! Now what? I won’t go into detail here, as there’s already tons of guides for nailing interviews (tl;dr — read Cracking the Coding Interview).

After your first name-brand internship, getting internship #2 and #3 is a whole lot easier — it’s just #1 that takes creativity. Follow these steps and you’ll be golden.

Need help creating a rockstar resume? Let me know by sharing this post — if there’s enough interest I’ll share a few tactics I’ve learned to build a killer resume with zero experience. Follow me on Twitter (@iamryannorton) to stay updated.

P.S. Want to work together? My startup presscleaners.com is hiring full-time engineers. Ping me at ryan@presscleaners.com.