The tech industry continues to grow and change faster than ever, with artificial intelligence, cyber security, and Internet of Things among the leading tech industry trends for 2020. If you are a high school or college student interested in tech, you can gain real project experience and build important relationships through tech internships in computer science, computer engineering, analytics, data science, cyber security, and more. This guide will help you understand the process of getting a good tech internship.
What Companies are Expecting from a Tech Intern
Internships are no longer just a way to pad your resume or earn some extra money over the summer. Companies now expect a tech intern to bring specific industry skills to the table upon hiring. Many companies want interns who can provide a fresh perspective, an extra pair of hands to get real work done, and a positive mentoring experience for current employees, which can boost morale and improve company culture. Across all industries, companies convert interns to full-time employees more than half of the time, so landing a good internship can lead to a full-time job after graduation.
It’s not enough just to have good grades, though your GPA and the prestige of your academic program will support your candidacy. Tech companies typically want interns who demonstrate initiative, entrepreneurial spirit, and a proven record of getting quantifiable results. Since tech tends to be an innovative and data-focused industry, you need to be willing to learn, open to constructive criticism, and focused on measurable solutions and results.
How to Get a Good Internship?
Applying for internships can feel like an extra part-time job on top of your schoolwork, extracurriculars, and your real part-time job, if you have one. Keep a centralized list of companies you’ve applied to along with the status of that application (applied, followed up, phone interview, skills test, in-person interview).
Preparing your resume
Keep your resume updated so you can send it to a recruiter at any time. Think of your resume as an advertisement the recruiter will look at for at most five seconds, rather than a book they will sit down and read cover to cover. Hiring personnel receive dozens if not hundreds of resumes a week. Catch their attention with a clear information hierarchy and concise descriptions. Make sure to include:
- Your name and contact information
- Education: degree and major, anticipated graduation date, and GPA if it’s above 3.0
- Relevant coursework: use descriptions for classes rather than course numbers that won’t mean anything to someone outside your institution
- Skills: make this list easy to scan, and only include skills that you are completely comfortable talking about
- Projects: show a live link to GitHub, class projects, or your personal website instead of just telling them what you know how to do
- Leadership and volunteer experience: stick with relevant examples
Use different font treatments to establish an information hierarchy, but don’t go overboard with colors and decor unless you are specifically applying for a design-oriented position (even then, be judicious). Your resume should be one page long and not too densely formatted. It can be tempting to try and cram everything you’ve ever done on there, but you should select the most relevant experience for each internship. You can write a master resume that does list all of your work experience and projects, and then pick and choose the best pieces for different internships.
Finding a tech internship
To find a tech internship, you can look on:
- io (remote work)
- Outreachy (open source and free software)
- BuiltIn (tech jobs in tech hubs like New York, LA, and Boston)
- AngelList (startups)
Professional networking sites like LinkedIn and job search sites like Indeed or Monster will have postings for tech internships that you can search. (Make sure to keep your profiles updated!) You can also check with your school’s career services office or alumni association.
One of the best parts about tech internships is that location isn’t always a limiting factor. Remote internships are available for all kinds of work across the industry, especially as more full-time employees transition to out-of-office work. Almost 40% of remote workers work at organizations in the software space, according to a State of Remote Work survey by Buffer.
Interning from home also gives you flexibility in times of change or crisis. The Buffer survey found that 40% of remote workers think the flexible schedule is the best part. Employees can work while traveling, when a child or family member is sick, when weather conditions are too dangerous to commute, and more. That flexibility ensures you won’t have to choose between keeping an internship and being where you are needed.
If you are interested in a remote opportunity, make sure to consider a few extra things, like:
- Do I have the equipment needed? (a computer, stable internet connection, etc.)
- Do I have a place I can work quietly?
- Do I feel comfortable managing my time from home?
How to Choose the Best Place For You
Everybody wants to be able to do satisfying work and be compensated fairly, and most companies want to be seen as good places to work. To choose the best company for your tech internship, you’ll need to consider your goals for the internship and afterward, as well as your overall work priorities.
Working at a small company or startup may give you the opportunity to try out different roles, which can be helpful if you haven’t figured out what you want to do long-term. On the other hand, if you know, for example, that you want to program and not dabble in sales or marketing, corporate jobs and larger, more established companies tend to be more focused in scope.
According to a study by Indeed, workers who prefer to work for small companies value flexibility and work-life balance most highly, while larger companies hold more appeal for those who value benefits and perks.
Take your tech internship seriously but feel free to take some risks during this stage of your career. You can use the internship to gain skills even if you don’t envision yourself working there long term. If you don’t like a company where you’ve done an internship, you don’t have to accept a job offer there.
Tips for Tech Internships Interviews
If your resume catches the attention of a recruiter, you may get asked for a phone or in-person interview. Start preparing for interviews as soon as you start applying for tech internships, not when you get an email asking if you can interview tomorrow!
Interview questions typically fall into two categories: technical and behavioral.
Technical questions demonstrate your specific technical skills and knowledge of principles in your chosen field, which may be very different from exams in your academic classes. For example, questions for an internship that requires Python experience may include:
- What is the difference between lists and tuples in Python?
- How would you create a Python dictionary with the names of the colors of the rainbow in it?
- What is the output of print str[1:4] if str = ‘Hello World!’?
The kinds of questions you may receive will vary depending on the type of internship you’re looking for. Cracking the Coding Interview is a frequently recommended tech recruiting manual and LeetCode has practice questions you can work on to get comfortable solving programming problems with an audience.
With the right preparation and application strategy, you can land a tech internship that will prepare you for a career in computer science, analytics, cybersecurity, and other in-demand fields.
Behavioral questions often include standard job interview questions:
- How have you demonstrated leadership?
- What do you do when faced with a challenge?
- How do you respond to failure?
And, of course, the perennially nebulous: “Tell us about yourself.” This is often the first question in an interview, so you need to have a solid answer. Introduce yourself, summarize your key accomplishments, and recap why you’re interested in this particular position. Don’t ramble or try to talk about everything you’ve ever done. This introduction should be about one minute long. Practice it alone and with an audience until you can say it without stumbling or sounding robotic.
For the other behavioral questions, prepare a few stories that show the kind of problem-solver, team member, or leader that you are. Each story should include a brief summary, a description of the problem, three to five actions that you took, and the final outcome. These stories should be relatively succinct and focused. Practice telling these stories as well as adapting them for other themes that might come up in an interview, such as creativity or receiving feedback.