College hire interviews: Internships, personality, and drive

gpaI recently read the article about Googles position on GPA’s and Brainteasers in interviews. This is really a new college hire interview as a professional interview is vastly different from someone coming right out of college.

When I interviewed candidates right out of college while I was at Iris Associates and my early days of Lotus it seemed we only really got the double majors with a 5.0/5.0 out of MIT. I remember one year we had three candidates and all three of them had almost identical credentials – unfortunately we could only hire one. At the time, what it came down to was internships, personality, and drive. One, however, could easily argue that the 5.0/5.0 from MIT got them in the door so you really can not downplay GPA or the school. I will also add that at the time I did not even have a completed college degree yet I was interviewing candidates from arguably the best technical school in the world.

What I found interesting was all three candidates had the same stories of the custom Unix platform they developed on but one candidate focused on their internship they did at another very large company. What that student obtained at that internship was invaluable. It was software engineering in the real world – build problems, unit tests, functional tests, scope creep, personality conflicts, you name it. They could “speak the real world language” and not the text book language taught in school.

So I do agree in the end with the original article and I think students need to take internships seriously and make sure those are listed clearly on their résumé. Taking on an internship while going to school full-time shows in my opinion a lot of drive. Most kids want to “take it easy” on summer break and the ones that are working hard all through school and work in the summers are the real hard workers with drive – and at the end of the day that is what you want – a hard worker.


2 thoughts on “College hire interviews: Internships, personality, and drive

  1. I completely agree. I started an internship (really just a job) the summer after my sophomore year of college. By the end of that summer I was a core member of a software support and development team.

    I continued to work for that company part-time during the school year and full time during the summers. By the end of college I was the senior member of the team and responsible for training any new team members (and still considered just a part time employee).

    Not only was I doing “real” work for which the experience was invaluable but the relationships and connections that I built there led me directly to my next jobs and truly set my career. I was essentially 3 years ahead of all of my peers who graduated at the same time.

  2. I’ve always liked what Northeastern U. does – it’s a 5 year bachelor’s program but year 3 is a 12 month externship. The school places you, and there are quite a few companies who have an ongoing relationship with them and end up hiring a lot of the students. Northeastern is no MIT but I like the concept – a graduate with a degree and experience is certainly worth more than one with just a degree. The only other school I know that does this is Culinary Institute of America. There should be more.

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