One of the biggest topics that we see being talked about all the time is how do you get into big tech companies? So to answer this we decided to reach out to students who have climbed this mountain! In this blog post we will share the secrets from four students who interned at Google or Microsoft.
First up lets talk Google. For input here we had Janice Liu and Harris Shadmany sharing their experiences.
To start, lets discuss applying. Students are always asking is it better to apply in person, online or elsewhere? For this question there are differing answers from Janice and Harris. Janice received an interview applying online while Harris received his interview from applying online as well, but his application was through a referral link. In our opinion, this is definitely the best method to use when applying to any job. Did you know that being referred means that you are 4x more likely to be hired. How exactly do you get a referral? This is something that we discuss in our previous post titled 8 Tips On Landing Your First Role In Software Development.
Next, lets talk about interviewing. This is something everyone dreads right? For good reason, Harriss’ tip here is to
prepare rigorously. You want to solidify your fundamentals with 6.006 from MIT OCW and then do lots of LeetCode. Focus on graphs and data structures. Last, do lots of mock interviews focusing on communication and writing clean code. This is just as important as getting the answer right.Harris
For those interested in the course mentioned, here is the link. Also while not mentioned, Cracking the Coding Interview is another great resource to follow for technical interviews.
One thing that I believe doesn’t get asked enough by students is how do you differentiate yourself. When asked this question Janice responded with,
demonstrating technical interest is extremely important whether that is through side projects, taking cs classes and explaining what you have accomplished, or through extra curricular.Janice
You can see how important those side project are when it comes to standing out from everyone else. One of the important things from that tip as well is to do those extra curriculars. One of the biggest recommendations that I give students is to join the board of your favorite org. As a student the best thing you can do is to get as much facetime as you can with company recruiters and being on the board of an org is a really good way of doing that.
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Next up lets talk about Microsoft. Sharing their insights here are Charles and Javier.
What worked for Charles was directly applying online. I believe that with this method you have to have experience on your resume and with that experience you can add in the ever important keywords. If you need help with adding keywords to your resume, check out this blog.
Javiers experience differs from Charles’. Javier shares that while he did apply online, it was as easy as applying and getting an interview.
Talking to the Microsoft recruiter for the University of Texas over time enabled me to build familiarity, present myself as a good candidate, and provide an avenue to enter talks about recruitment whenever each application cycle came along. I applied online through the Microsoft careers site. However, my previous relationship talking and working with the UT Austin Microsoft recruiter definitely made my application stick out of the bunch!Javier
Javiers method is the recommended approach in my opinion. Building rapport over a period of time with a recruiter shows them not only your growth as a student but also that you are motivated to work for their company. If you were going on a date with someone, would you accept the first person that came up to you and said ‘will you marry me?’ No right? Same principle applies here. Build a relationship with a recruiter and a company and when the time is right, apply!
So youve built the relationship, applied, and got your interview. Now its time to prepare and ace that interview.
For this part, Charles mentions that he
learned the concepts of Data Structures and Algorithms on my own because I hadn’t taken that class yet at school and I started practicing problems using resources such as Leetcode and Cracking the Coding Interview. I also checked Glassdoor for sample questions and they were pretty accurate at least in my experience. I also practiced answering behavioral questions and questions about my resume. I used the “STAR” method for every behavioral questionCharles
Going on Glassdoor and checking out the answer to typical questions is something that I dont see being mentioned very much, but, it is the smart thing to do! There are other platforms other than Glassdoor that provide this as well such as Blind, InterviewBit, and Zippia for the behavioral. Using the “STAR” method is also something interesting here that does not get mentioned often.
STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is a method you can use when being asked behavioral questions. For examples of using the STAR method, check out this blog post.
For Javiers perspective, he mentions that its not just about grinding Leetcode but also knowing your previous projects is helpful.
I prepared for my first interview by reviewing my projects and past experience to make sure I was well prepared to talk in depth about anything on my resume. There’s no use listing a project or experience on your resume if you can’t speak to its importance, or why you highlighted it as part of your career!Javier
As noted before though, knowing your projects is only half the battle.
I made sure to lock-down my programming fundamentals by reviewing concepts like Big-O complexity, sorting and searching algorithms, and doing plenty of practice problems on Leetcode.Javier
As with most tech interviews today, knowing your data structures and practicing problems is key in passing an interview. One thing to note though, I have heard from multiple sources that Microsoft looks at a candidate holistically. Meaning, that they are not just focused on the technical piece, but on the behavioral piece as well. They want to make sure that you are the right type of candidate for the position.
How do you differentiate yourself from constant stream of candidates that Microsoft gets? From Charles’ perspective his tips are to start early and build often.
I started doing tech stuff early; I took CS and Engineering classes in my high school, and so coming into college, I had a little bit of programming experience. I also worked on simple projects like a small personal website or a console application just to have something to show on my resume that I’m passionate about CS.Charles
Starting early means that you have a leg up on those that come into school with no programming experience and give yourself more time and experience with a certain language or tool.
Didnt start programming until college? Thats ok! Everyone has their own path to success and with the tips given here, you can be successful as well.
We first would like to thank our guests Charles, Harris, Janice, and Javier for sharing their insights for this post! One of the last things wed like to mention here is that if you do not get into these big companies, on your first go around that is ok. Harris actually mentions that
there’s a lot of luck involved. I’d been rejected by Google like three times before this. It’s better to cast a wide net and work hard. Then, it will always work out.Harris
Have other tips to share or have questions for Charles and Javier, comment below! Be sure to also sign up for our newsletter where we send you internship and entry level job postings that don’t require 5+ years of experience.