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How to Get a Software Engineer Internship

Software Engineer internships are perfect for those students looking to gain industry experience and improve their skills in this field. It is, however, a challenging field and you will face a lot of competition for each internship that you apply for. The information on this page should help you to understand the best way to approach the application process as well as giving you some top tips for securing that placement.

Start Applying Early

If you are looking for a software engineer internship for the summer, start applying as soon as the jobs are advertised – this will likely be as early as the previous August/September. Most well-known companies will have completed recruitment for internships the following summer by December. If you do not start the application process until later, it is still worth checking for available placements.

Think Carefully About the Companies You Would Like to Intern for

There will be many diverse companies offering internships, and each will provide a different environment and experience. Do some research on a range of companies and think carefully about the type of company you would like to work for. Using job search websites will allow you to become more familiar with some of the companies offering software engineer roles in your area. This preparation, before internships are even advertised, puts you one step ahead and means that you will know exactly which roles to apply for as soon as placements are published.

Send Multiple Applications

The above being said, it is essential that, in such a competitive field, you apply to numerous companies. On your search, you may find your ‘dream company’ to work for but, unfortunately, you may not be their ‘dream candidate’ for the role. You can never know which company your skills, qualifications, and ambitions will best match with, so you must make multiple applications.

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How to Get a Software Engineer Internship

Build Connections in the Field

Many students in the tech field find internships through people they have connected with. This could be a friend, somebody who works at the university, alumni or a family friend.

Be sure to build up your network ahead of application time. Also, be mindful of how you ask for support; phoning up a distant cousin you haven’t seen in 5 years and asking for an internship at their company is likely to be seen as quite rude. Instead, you may reach out to them, explain that you are interested in pursuing work in their field and wondered if they would have time to chat with you about their job. Then, during the chat, you can mention that you will be looking for internships next summer and you could even ask if they know of any internships at their company.

If you don’t have any connections through family or friends in this field, Linkedin is another great way to connect and reach out to people.

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Ensure Your CV Stands Out

Tech companies will be swamped with applications for internships. The majority of applicants will have completed, or be completing, graduate study, and many will have achieved good grades throughout school. So how can you make sure your CV is noticed? Offer something that not many other applicants do. This could be a successful project you have been a part of, a qualification or award that you have received or something that shows an ongoing passion and dedication to work of this kind. You may want to consider creating an open source project or building a personal website.

Prepare for the Tech Interview

Turning up and expecting to do well in a tech interview is not enough. Tech interviews require preparation. See the information below for further details.

The Application Process

There are two stages you will need to go through to get an internship placement: resume screening and the tech interview.

How to Get a Software Engineer Internship

CV Screening

Much like the process involved in applying for internships and jobs in other fields, CV screening is the first filter of applications. Hundreds, if not thousands, of applications, are likely to have been received for each position. The employee completing the CV screening will need to glance through each of these individually. Therefore, you must ensure that your experience in this field is clear. This is what will make you stand out and could be the difference between your CV ending up in the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ pile.

Tech Interview

If you successfully pass the CV screening process, you will be invited to take part in a tech interview. Although some companies will do the more traditional ‘sit down and talk to me about your knowledge and experience’ style interview, this is becoming much rarer in the field.

Often, the tech interviews are preceded by a ‘Hacker-Rank’ style assessment, that is essentially a coding challenge. You are highly recommended to practice this style of the problem within a limited time frame to prepare for this part of the interview.

Once you have completed the pre-interview screening, you are likely to be asked to answer several programming questions, which will require you to solve algorithm problems. The problems you must solve are likely to be different to those you would have come across in day-to-day programming and, therefore, to succeed, you will need to have completed a lot of practice in advance. In fact, some applicants study for a year to be fully prepared for the tech interview.

The book “Cracking the Coding Interview” is highly recommended by those who have prepared for and succeeded in tech interviews. There are also websites like Leetcode and HackerRank where you can practice this type of technical question. You can also look on the website Glassdoor to see a selection of sample questions provided from different companies to help in your preparation.

Overall, applying for a software engineering internship is not an easy process, but it will be worth it to gain the relevant experience and skills. As you embark on this journey, remember this valuable advice:

  • Make sure you are well prepared when applying for a software engineering internship. You may need to start this preparation a year in advance of applying.
  • Be sure to have completed individual projects, outside of those required as part of your studies, to show your commitment to the field.
  • Apply for many different internships to increase your chance of success – but make sure each application is personalized to the company and the role.
  • Practice, practice, practice for the tech interview to ensure your success!