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Interns, you need to step your game up!

Over here at Uniqa Raiffeisen Software Service we are organising an internship program for this summer and because this year the interns will be working on the project I work on and I am going to be one of the 2 or 3 mentors, I had the opportunity to actively participate in the interviewing process and the selection of the candidates.

Uniqa Raiffeisen Software Service

First of all, it is true that all beginnings are terribly hard, especially if you are in the first years of university and have no actual work experience. You might have done the mandatory exercises and projects and you’ve probably passed your exams with flying colours, but as far as I am concerned, this is just not enough. Especially if you have finished a specialisation other than Computer Science.

We were looking for 4-5 talented interns who have some basic knowledge in frontend development, meaning that they have had projects with HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript, preferably used some libraries and frameworks as well. Instead we had a bunch of candidates who never used HTML and were confusing JavaScript with Java. Or even worse, they have graduated at a completely different specialisation and started programming at home by following some tutorials on the Internet. On the other hand, I was expecting talented people who are passionate about software development, just as we were during the time at the university. After the first year we already knew some PHP, HTML, JavaScript and CSS even if those were not taught yet. Some of us were already accepting freelance projects and had a few websites.

As I said before, it is not easy to start your career when you have no work experience yet, just an empty CV, but if you are passionate about development, you will do some things automatically that will give you a head start. For instance, you may buy a domain name and set up a custom e-mail address instead of giving us a gmail or yahoo address. This not only looks better in your CV, but also tells the interviewer that you have some knowledge in the field of domains and at least you know something about configuring DNS and DNS records. I know (from experience) that students never have enough money for beer and stuff, but a domain name is around 10 USD per year, not the end of the world.

Moreover, if you already own a domain name, why not get a super cheap shared host and set up a basic website? At least a vCard with your contact details. In a next step you could turn that into an online portfolio to show off with your awesome side gigs, because if you are passionate about something, I would expect you to do more than the necessary exercises and micro-projects at the university. But even if you don’t, just put the source code of some small and interesting projects to GitHub or BitBucket and link them from your site. That will prove that you know how to use a version control tool and more importantly the technical interviewer can see your coding style.

I’m pretty sure that both sides made mistakes. Our mistake was that we decided the internship to be unpaid and you know… when you pay bananas, expect monkeys. The truth is that the talented candidates that I was expecting already do freelancing or work as junior developers and they do not need to participate in internships. However, our project is super cool and I’m pretty sure it will give a huge boost to the participants’ CV. Furthermore, we will accept only up to 5 interns, which means that we can pay attention to all of them and everybody will gain a lot of knowledge and experience in those two months.

Unfortunately the candidates were mistaken as well, as the majority of them expects from the internship to learn something new from zero that they have never used before, in our case HTML, CSS and JavaScript. But that should not be the scope of any internship. In my opinion an internship should not necessarily be a training, but candidates should come with basic knowledge and put that knowledge into practice by working on a real-world project along with developers with more experience who will give valuable feedback.

To conclude, this interviewing process was quite disappointing for me, I was expecting more… a lot more! However, I’m still optimistic about our internship, as our project is quite exciting and I believe we managed to chose a few inters who will do a great job!