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Kevin Zhou

Job Hunting Experience

I must admit, I didn’t expect the job application process to start so soon. I mean, I knew exactly when it would start according to my co-op sequence, but it just felt like time passed much faster than it should have.

The application process began two weeks into my 1B term, so I luckily had time over the break to brush up my resume and short-list a few companies. There were only about a hundred jobs targeting the Computer Science and Software Engineering disciplines on Jobmine at this point, but that was enough to get an idea of the skills companies were looking for. I also planned to read McDowell’s Cracking the Coding Interview to prepare for any technical interviews that I could come across. I never got around to doing it though, which turned out to be a big mistake that I’ll talk about later.

Besides the things I did myself to prepare, CECA also provides a lot of services to help with the job search, such as resume critiques and mock interviews. I never got around to using these services though. What I did take attend regularly are Employer Info Sessions, which I encourage all students to take a look at, co-op or not. You get to learn a lot about companies and get an inside look on what it’s like to work there. They also often talk about the work of previous co-ops and sometimes even share interview tips. Of course, the free food is a plus. I was lucky to have the option to view these sessions in my first term when I wasn’t applying for jobs, since most of the sessions were scheduled after the job application deadline for the first round.

When the job postings opened, I used up almost all my applications to apply for more than 50 jobs (openings from IBM and Blackberry didn’t count towards the quota). This was much more than originally planned, but it turned out to be a good strategy since there weren’t many postings I was interested in in the second round. I also pushed my luck and applied for a few “higher up” companies, such as well-known startups and Silicon Valley companies, just for the slim chance that they might give me an interview.

As it turns out, that’s what happened. It also happened to be that the interviews of these companies were the most technical (no surprise, really). You can probably see why not reading Cracking the Coding Interview was such a big mistake now. I performed so badly on one of them that I wouldn’t be surprised if the company would straight up toss my resume out the next time I applied. Thankfully, my other interviews went much better, mostly because they didn’t nearly have as many tricky technical questions.

In retrospect, there were a lot of things I could have done to improve. The main ones were spending more time preparing answers to potential interview questions, and practicing solving and explaining solutions to coding problems. My time management could have been better too. I ended up skipping most of my classes the week I had three consecutive interviews. I thought it was worth it to spend the extra time preparing for the interviews and catch up on my missed classes the week after during reading week. This turned out to be a pretty good decision, although I probably could have avoided doing this altogether if I prepared more in the beginning of the term.

In the end, I received 6 interviews and 2 job offers, one from the first company I interviewed for and one from the last. I ended up taking the offer from the first company, TD! I am super excited to work in their innovation lab in the Communitech Hub next term.

My first job hunting experience was definitely a positive one. I was fortunate to find a co-op position early in the term, so I didn’t have to worry about employment or interviews during finals. It was also great to have the extra interviewing experience. It’s safe to say that I felt much more confident in my later interviews than in my first. Overall, CECA was right about treating co-op as an extra class. Finding a co-op job can be a lot of work, but there’s no denying the valuable experience you get from it.