By Karina Wiener
A common question I’ve heard students ask lately is how to best go about getting their resumes read in big recruiting industries such as tech, engineering, or business. Fords are worried that their resumes will be overshadowed by students from schools like UPenn, Harvard, and Yale.
This question came up yet again at last week’s career chat with Will Moss ’05 who has lots of insight into this issue, seeing as he majored in computer science at Haverford before it was even a major, yet he somehow managed to work at FactSet, intern at Google, create the “Bump” app, and finally end up as a software engineer on the application infrastructure team at Airbnb.
Here’s some advice and reassurance Will gave students regarding breaking into the industry:
- Go to the alumni directory, type in the name of the company you are applying to and there’s likely to be someone from Haverford working at that company in some capacity. Reach out and ask to chat! Remember that they’re doing you a favor by talking to you so be respectful of their time and be sure to thank them.
- Use Haverford as an advantage. A liberal arts education teaches you to problem solve: you know how to react and change. Additionally, the alumni network at Haverford actually means something, so use it!
- Don’t be afraid to pester the HR recruiter…
- The only difference between the courses at Haverford and those at big universities is that big universities have software engineering classes. However, most of what you do in a software engineering class is build something yourself, but you can do that without the class! Go through the process to see what it takes to actually make something, even if it’s simple, and put that on your resume–it demonstrates technical curiosity and you automatically gain experience.
- Once you get an internship in industry, keep in touch with the people who you work with. There is a high turnover rate in tech (as well as in business and finance), so there’s a good chance that the people you work with will end up at other companies and can put in a good word for you there! It’s all about opening as many doors as possible.
- The only hard part is the first step, but once your foot is in the door and you’re at your first interview, it doesn’t matter what school you went to or what it says on your resume. This goes for international students too–if you made it as far as the interview then the rest is up to you, it doesn’t matter what your citizenship status is.
He also discussed some tips for the interview itself:
- Use glassdoor.com or some other search engine to look up past interview questions from the companies you’re interviewing at.
- Be aware that once you’re on site, you’ll often be asked to answer questions on a whiteboard, not just a computer screen.
- Make people realize that you are capable of contributing right away. This field relies on fast-paced output, so it’s important to show that you can push things out quickly. When you’re answering technical interview questions, don’t try to look for the most creative way to solve it, look for the most logical, direct way to get it done quickly and efficiently.
- Interview in the language you’ll do best in in a fixed amount of time.
- Startups are looking for potential and pragmatism: they want people who can get things done, contribute as soon as possible, and hit the ground running.
- This may sound obvious, but make sure that once you have gotten the interview or the job, you perform well! It’s important to make contacts as you go and to uphold the reputation of those who recommended you.
Finally, Will laid out the interview process for Airbnb specifically, and suggested other start up tech companies have a similar process. If you’re interested in applying to Airbnb or something similar, here’s what you need to know:
- You’ll have an initial phone screen with a recruiter which is mainly to make sure you’re not insane.
- Next, you have 1-2 technical phone screens in which you have a shared screen with the interviewer and they observe as you solve a problem by coding. For this portion, you choose what language you code in–use the language you’re most comfortable with, not the most impressive.
- Then, if it’s a full time job you’re applying for, they’ll fly you out to their site location and you’ll have 3 more coding interviews. If it’s an internship you’re applying for, they will not fly you out but you’ll be interviewed again with harder questions.
- Airbnb specifically does a “core value” interview which tests for your cultural fit, and to see that you care about the product.
- Airbnb will then get back to you within 48 hours with a resopnse.
- You need at least 2 industry internships to work full time at Airbnb, and you need at least one industry internship to get an internship at Airbnb.
- You don’t necessarily need a PhD or a masters unless you want to teach. In industry, there are other ways to open doors.
- A resume referral doesn’t help much at startups unless you actually worked with the person referring you and they truly know you.
Will is an active alum and although he can’t get you hired at Airbnb, he’s happy to chat about his experiences at Airbnb as well as his time at FactSet, Google, and creating the “Bump” App.