After many months of searching and answering interviews, my job hunt has finally come to an end. With it, comes some much needed peace of mind and relaxation. A process which started almost as soon as my first semester began (1.5 years ago) is finally over. This post describes my job search and interview experiences.
From my observations, the best chance you have at hearing back is when you apply through campus career fairs. The fact that some organization has taken the time out to specifically come to your university already means that they are looking to hire the students there. Other good places to potentially look for are tech meetups and conferences. Tech meetups have been a hit or miss for me, like this one time I landed up in an event where everybody was a web developer (not what I was looking for). In general, any chance you have of talking to potential employers is much better than sending over your resume (which usually gets read through in less than a minute). On the other hand, although the conversion rate of applying online is really low, it can be done sitting at home and you can cover a lot more companies doing that.
Needless to say that your resume is very important. Apart from the accolades and projects you put in it, I have also paid attention to aesthetics. Another important point to keep in mind is to strike a good balance between technical details and appeal to the general public, because your resume is read by both, experts in the field as well as people from the HR department. Having a webpage helps, specially if you are a programmer. There have been numerous times where potential employers have asked me about links and videos I have on mine. A Github profile with cool projects is also something employers appreciate.
Companies start hiring for internship positions for the summer as soon as the Fall semester starts. An internship tremendously increases your chances of getting a full time offer at the same organization. Among the computer science community, some organizations like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon etc. are highly preferred. With that said their interview process is long and difficult to crack. From my personal experiences, apart from the tech giants, interning at a startup has more benefits. The first being that you learn a lot, and the second being that future full time employers will be really interested in the work you did, mainly because in a smaller company interns have a lot more responsibility, and more often than not, problems you will encounter would have not been faced by anyone in the company before. If you are applying for research positions, collaborations with Professors at the University are extremely helpful, specially if they are in the same field of study as a particular organization is working in.I interned at a startup called Deep-Magic, where I designed and deployed deep neural networks for image classification. In my last Spring semester I am also interning at ButterflyNetwork as a Deep Learning intern, where I am mainly designing deep neural networks to draw inferences from ultra sound images.
Interviews at the tech giants will almost always involve an algorithmic challenge. You will be expected to come up with a solution on a black board or a shared document. The two most helpful resources I found in this case were Cracking the Coding Interview and Leetcode (they have a neat feature to sort problems by increasing difficulty). Startups tend to generally ask domain specific questions, which I really enjoyed. For someone who is interested in machine learning like me, knowing fundamental machine learning algorithms is a necessity to do well in interviews. For example, why are SVMs called “Support Vector” machines is a question I have been asked more than once.
For me the process took longer than I thought it would. I lost count of how many companies I applied to, most of which never got back. I have often had to go through long periods without hearing back from anyone. And I heard a lot more Noes than yeses. One thing I made sure of is to ask all my potential employers the reason for their rejection, and whenever possible, took steps to make the necessary improvements in my profile or skills.
In the end I managed to receive 4 nice offers. I have chosen the offer from FeatureX where I will be working as a Research Scientist. Since FeatureX is located at Boston, I feel this video is relevant