Troubleshooting your job search

Having trouble finding a job (or co-op/internship)? Here’s some advice:

Frustrated man

First, try to relax. (Click image for source)

If you’re submitting a lot of applications and not hearing back…

  • Refine and polish your resume. The one goal of your resume is to get you to an interview.
  • If your skills are too weak to have a solid resume, spend time working to improve them. Whether that means working on side projects, reading books, or anything else you can think of, don’t just sit around and expect things to improve.
  • How are your cover letters? Do you have others review them with the same scrutiny as your resume? If not, why not?
  • Are you persistent with your applications, or do you just send an email and forget about it unless you get a reply?
  • Are you being realistic about the companies you apply to? Finding a co-op is very much like a college search: by all means, apply for a “reach” (e.g. Blizzard, LucasArts, EA, etc.), but don’t count on it. Even if you’re a rockstar student, getting a highly-competed-for internship at a AAA studio is a crapshoot.
  • How many applications are you submitting? If you’ve only applied to 5-10 places, you’re not trying very hard yet.

If you’re getting to the interviews and not getting a position…

  • Have you practiced your interviewing skills? Do mock interviews, read books (e.g. Cracking the Coding Interview for programmers), and get all the advice you can.
  • What sorts of questions give you trouble? Have you worked on improving your abilities there?
  • Do you appropriately research the company beforehand, or jump in blind?
  • Are you enthusiastic, or do you not sound interested? Are you modest, or do you come off as cocky?
  • As a student: do you show potential? Nobody will expect you to be a programming guru while in school; however, interviewers are looking for someone who’s able to learn and improve.
  • Do you ask questions at the end of the interview? A pretty easy (and useful!) one is, “why did you decide to work at [company]?” Remember, it’s not just a chance for them to get to know you, it’s a chance for you to see if you want to work there.

After the interview, when you’ve been rejected…

  • Follow up briefly and thank them for their time. Ask when a good time to apply again would be (generally a year). Even if you didn’t get the job now, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a job there – it just didn’t pan out this time.
  • If you’re truly at a loss as to why nobody’s accepting you, you can try asking for feedback. Don’t get your hopes up, though; HR departments are incredibly busy at most companies. Don’t take it personally if they don’t get back to you. If you’re lucky, though, you’ll get a reply that might help you in the future!
  • Reflect on why you think you might not have gotten the position. Try and shore up any weaknesses that come to mind.
  • Keep at it! You’ll find work eventually, but you have to work for it!
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