For college students everywhere, it’s getting to be that time of the year again. You probably have your eye on an internship with a fast-growing company where you can get your hands dirty, own real problems, and move the needle on a product that actually interests you. The only thing standing in your way is a tiny little detail called competition.
From my time screening and interviewing intern and co-op candidates for HubSpot’s Product Team, I’ve realized that not all tech applicants present their talents equally. Some applicants stand out more than others and it isn’t because they’re “better” designers or engineers. It’s because they demonstrate passion, culture fit, and potential to grow; things you can’t always get across on your resume.
With all the competition out there it’s more important than ever to go that extra mile and demonstrate why you are the perfect fit, on and off paper. After thinking about the candidates that have stood out to me, I thought these tips from their playbooks might be helpful as you navigate your search:
1. Think Outside the Resume
Today, the first thing a recruiter or hiring manager will do when considering you for an internship is a quick Google search. That’s why it’s important to develop an online presence instead of relying purely on your resume. Take LinkedIn, for example. You probably have a profile but are you using it to tell your story? LinkedIn is a great vehicle to describe past projects and share work you’re proud of. Along those lines, being active on sites like GitHub and Dribbble is a huge plus because it shows us that you truly have passion in what you’re doing beyond the classroom. Not to mention, they showcase your talents in a way that a piece of paper can’t. Resumes are important, but let’s face it, they’re old-school so I recommend putting some time into increasing your visibility on these platforms.
2. Don't Be Afraid to Try New Things (or Talk About Them)
Growth stage companies want to see that you are hungry to learn new things. Sharing the computer science classes you’ve taken is helpful but it doesn’t show me that you’re curious or eager to roll up your sleeves. That’s why you should have at least one project in mind that you’re comfortable and excited to talk. It can be a side project you started with your friend something you worked on in class; what matters is that you set out to solve a problem, shipped a living breathing thing, and were engaged throughout the process. Candidates that share things like, “I started exploring iOS apps and I’d love to do more mobile development” or “I tried building a front end application because I already have a lot of experience with websites” are usually the ones that stand out. Find stories to tell and experiences to share that demonstrate that you want to grow. Often times, that’s more important to us than what you already know.
3. Do Your Homework
To be remarkable, take the time to do some research on the company you’re applying to and their product. It proves you’re serious about joining the team. Luckily, Google makes this pretty easy. Start by taking ten minutes to check out a company’s website, blog, or latest headlines. Dive a little deeper by familiarizing yourself with their work: if you can, try a free trial of their software, use their freemium tools, or check out their open source contributions. Bonus points if you use one of their libraries or tools in a project. Later on, come up with a few thoughtful questions to ask before heading into an interview or recruiting event. A good rule of thumb is to think of a few things you’d like to know about the company or team that you couldn’t find online. Getting familiar with the ins-and-outs of the company speaks volumes about your commitment to working on their product.
4. Be a Team Player
We like to work in small teams at HubSpot so that everyone has ownership over part of the product. It’s one reason we’ve been able to scale our speed and deploy up to 300 times a day. Our Product organization is broken up into teams of about 3 or 4 with one tech lead, developer, and engineer (typically). Not surprisingly, how candidates approach teamwork is more important to us than how quickly they can write code. Before your next interview, keep in mind that there are subtle ways to tell whether or not someone is going to be a team player. For example, if you light up when you’re talking about a group project or use “we” more than “I”, you’re probably a better culture fit than candidates that don’t show much interest in collaborating. It’s tempting to only talk about how great you are in an interview, but keep in mind that most product organizations are fueled by teamwork.
5. Don’t Underestimate Passion
When he was a kid, professional hockey player Sidney Crosby practiced his shot in the basement every night. His net was set up right next to the dryer so everytime he missed, the puck would hit the dryer and leave a dent. Top tech talent and Crosby have one thing in common: they’re passionate. We want to work with people who are committed to projects and stay up late thinking about how they can get better. What are your hobbies? What keeps you up at night? We get excited when candidates tell us they're on a soccer team or take guitar lessons because there’s a good chance they’ll carry that drive over into their projects. During your interview, on your website, or at a networking event, tell companies what you’re passionate about. Show them that you can make a dent.
Hopefully these tips come in handy as you start applying for internships and reaching out to product organizations. Have more questions about getting a technical internship? Let us know in the comments.