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Your Guide to Software Engineering Internships

Atibhi Agrawal
SWE Intern at Morgan Stanley | Alum @google @grafana @hackerrank @RailsGirlsSoc @iiitb_official
Originally published at levelup.gitconnected.com ・5 min read

Namaste Folks 🙏 I'm Atibhi, a final semester student from India. I've done 7 internships in 5 years. A few months ago, I gave a talk on SWE internships. This blog post is based on my talk. I share whatever I've learnt over the past few years and a few things I wish I'd known sooner. In this post I'm going to cover the following :

  • How to build your skills.
  • How should a good resume look like?
  • Applying to internships.
  • Interviewing.

How To Build Your Skills

A caveat many students face is that they say they have nothing to put on their resume. Because of this, their resume does not get shortlisted for internships. As a consequence of no internships, they are unable to improve their resume. This thought process can become a vicious cycle and lead to demotivation. Side projects, interning with Professors and taking part in competitions are great ways of showing your passion and building your resume.


(Figure 1. Building your resume. Created by Atibhi Agrawal on Canva)


How Should a Good Resume Look Like?

📝 Must Read: How to write a great resume for software engineers

🔖 Some of my favourite resume templates: Link 1, Link 2, Link 3

My personal opinion is that a resume should be neat, single page and single-column. Keep a document where you jot down every single thing you think is worth mentioning. But do not list everything on your resume, list only relevant information on your resume. After making your resume, make sure to get it reviewed by a friend or on r/resumes.


Applying to Internships

The recruiting season for summer internships starts in July/August for big companies. For startups, recruiting begins in January/February. I would recommend applying early to be on the safer side. If you're planning to do an open-source internship like Google Summer of Code or Outreachy, start contributing to an organization of your choice by December.

Remember that you will not get replies from all the companies that you apply to. To maximize your chances, keep applying to as many companies as you can. During my third year of college, I applied to 200+ startups, got 6 interview chances and 3 offers. 

Applying through the website or careers page

angel. co is a great site for applying to startups. Careers page of various companies is another option. If you're applying to a startup, there is a high chance that you will get a response through the careers page. The chances are lower if you apply on the careers page of FAANG companies. A referral would be the way to go for large companies.

Asking for Referrals

Asking for referrals is a great way to get noticed at companies. But, a lot of students do not know what is the correct way to ask or whom to ask. Asking the correct people matters a lot. Here's the order in which you should reach out to people.

  1. Friends/classmates who interned at that company.
  2. College alumni who work at the company you want to work at.
  3. Friends of Friends.
  4. Random People.

A good DM also goes a long way and can be a make or break decision when someone is considering referring you. Some common mistakes are sloppy DMs, just a "Hello!" or asking someone to refer you for a role you're not a fit for. Shown below is how I request referrals from complete strangers. 😅

(Figure 2. Asking for referrals. Created by Atibhi Agrawal on Canva.)

Track Your Applications

It is very important to keep track of your applications. This way you can send reminders to people and track your progress. Use an excel sheet to keep track and pin it to your bookmarks bar!

(Figure 3. How I tracked applications on excel.)


Interviewing

Interviewing is the most important part of any application. 

Before the interview

  • Research the company and role.
  • Prepare an answer to "Tell me about yourself". 
  • Make sure you have your resume in front of yourself.
  • Prepare a few questions to ask the interviewer in the end.
  • Prepare for the technical aspect of the interview.

During the interview

  • Stay calm and be honest!

After the interview

  • Wait for updates 😶

I'm not going to deep dive into more details of interviewing. It is such a vast and important topic, it deserves a blog post of its own. Lots of wonderful people have already written blog posts. I'm going to list down some of my favourite ones in the resources section at the end.


Conclusion

Landing an internship is hard. You need a lot of patience and dedication. Don't be demotivated after facing rejections. The key is to learn from every rejection and improve. I wish you all the best in your journey! 

Feel free to comment if you need further guidance or DM me on Twitter. You can also reach me at atibhi.a@gmail.com 😄


Interview Preparation Resources


Discussion (2)

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nonyesixtus profile image
Nonye

Thanks

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vevi1 profile image
vevi1

Thank you.