What Employers Really Want from Interns and New Grads in Computer Science
Writer(s): Kristyn Childres
As you head off to your summer internship or new job, here are some things to remember.
According to Purdue alumna Theresa Koch, the most important skills for an intern or new employee to have might change based on whom you're talking to.
Koch, director of talent acquisition and development at Emplify, says that people who hold different roles in a company are looking for different traits in their interns and employees.
Here are the top traits that Koch says human resources professionals, development managers and engineers are looking for as they interview and hire candidates from computer science.
Human resources managers
"Especially in technology, you have to be able to roll with the punches. You have to shift,” Koch says. People who are used to adapting and aren’t used to a lot of structure will fit well in start-ups and small companies, but if you want more structure, you may want to work for a large company.
- Work well with others
“We have a saying in HR,” Koch says. “Don’t hire jerks, and fire vampires. Vampires are people who suck the energy out of your company and culture.”
- Be a sponge, and work hard
“As an intern, you only have 10 or twelve weeks with our company,” Koch says. “We’re looking for someone who wants to work hard and add a lot of value.”
- An unquenchable thirst to learn
Development managers are looking for candidates who want to take the extra step – if they don’t know it, then they can’t wait to learn it. Koch says, “We know that someone might not come in with the full knowledge of our full stack, but we don’t want them to lag behind, either.”
It’s not enough to just be passionate about computing. You also need to believe in the company that you’re working for. Candidates who believe in the mission of the company and what it’s building really stand out.
- Problem solving
Employers need to know that if you hit a wall while coding and run into a problem, then you’re going to find a way to solve that problem.
Koch says, “We don’t expect you to come in as an intern or a new grad and know everything, so don’t pretend that you do. If we ask you if you know Java and you don’t, then admit that, but show us how willing you are to learn it.”
- Good written communication skills
Documentation is important. Some engineers document as they code, and others document their work later. Either way, you need to be able to document your work so that other people can follow it and make sense of what you were doing.
Keep up with current trends. Interviewers need to know that you’re deeply passionate about technology.