It is very important that you behave professionally when interviewing for internships, co-ops, and jobs. Not only do you want to present yourself in the best possible way, but don’t forget that you also indirectly represent Point Park University and the impression you make reflects back on the IT Program, and the University in general. So what does it mean to behave professionally? Here are a few pointers:
- Be polite in your communication. Use the appropriate salutation and closing. Divide your communication into paragraphs, be clear on your message, and certainly don’t write it as if you’re sending a text message.
- Be early for appointments. Don’t be late. You only get one chance for a first impression to make yourself stand out and so make sure it’s not a bad one.
- Dress appropriately. If you don’t know what is appropriate ask about the dress code. Certainly do not show up in sweatpants or anything else informal.
- Highlight your most impressive skills when writing your CV/resume. Always try to somehow distinguish yourself from other applicants. Obviously, do not put false statements on your CV/resume.
- When applying include a cover letter if possible. This is another opportunity where you can make yourself stand out and so you should put a lot of effort in it. Try to relate your skills and background to what the position entails.
- Bring your resume and cover letter to the interview, and possibly a portfolio. Usually the company you’re interviewing with already has access to your information, but not every interviewer may have it readily available so it’s good form to bring several copies of these documents. A portfolio can really help make a great impression, and sometimes it is even required.
- Know about the company and the position. A good interviewer will find out what you know about them. So when preparing for an interview make sure you know as much as you can about both the company and position.
- Prepare questions to ask the interviewer. Always prepare several questions that you can ask the interviewer about the position and company. Don’t forget that you are interviewing the company as much as the company is interviewing you.
- Prepare for behavioral questions. Most companies will ask you a lot of questions that may not be directly related to the technical requirements of the position itself. For example, they may ask you why you want to work at the company, where you see yourself in 5 years, etc. They could also ask questions like give an example of when you failed and explain how you handled it or give an example that shows that you’re a team player.
- Prepare for technical questions. Obviously, this will depend on your level. If the position involves programming then be prepared to solve some problems on a whiteboard. Make sure you know the basic data structures, strings, numbers, arrays, hash tables, linked lists, etc. and you should be familiar with some sorting and searching algorithms. A question that is frequently asked is to implement a binary search. Also, the big O notation is also something that many companies require you to have some knowledge of (I’ve heard Google doesn’t hire anyone who does not know this). The big O notation essentially captures how efficient a particular algorithm works when scaling up.
This is not an exhaustive list but if you follow these guidelines you should be mostly fine. Note that when you go through the interview process it is quite common to be rejected, frequently without being given a specific reason. Do not get discouraged (one certain way to not find a position is to give up) but simply apply somewhere else. Try to learn from your mistakes and you will get better the more you apply.
Internships are usually taken during the Summer term and can be part time or full time, and for credit or not for credit. Internships (and co-ops) are strongly recommended because it allows you to get some experience before you graduate, and experience is a requirement for many jobs. You can search Handshake for internship positions. An internship is usually for 3 credits, requires 200 hours of work, you have to write a reflection paper, and you need to maintain a professional blog of your work efforts.
A co-op is an internship taken to the next level. Note that there is a minimum GPA requirement to participate in a co-op. It is a full time position with an employer provided by the University for the duration of a semester and is awarded with 6 credits when passed. It is possible to participate in a second co-op. Co-ops can be taken in the Fall, Spring, or Summer semesters. Before you can do a co-op you have to take a 1 credit course that prepares you for everything related to the co-op.
You want to start searching for jobs before you graduate, so that you can transition to next step in your career seamlessly. Again, you can search Handshake for available positions.