Tell me about yourself fresh graduate computer science

Jesse BramaniFollowOct 13, 2021·8 min readSaveHow To Stand Out as a Fresh Computer Science GraduateMake them want you, instead of you needing themPhoto by Béla Bakó on UnsplashIve

Tell me about yourself fresh graduate computer science
Jesse Bramani

Jesse BramaniFollow

Oct 13, 2021·8 min read


How To Stand Out as a Fresh Computer Science Graduate

Make them want you, instead of you needing them

A meerkat

Photo by Béla Bakó on Unsplash

Ive been the hiring manager for a few software developer positions in various corporate gigs. Ive seen a few resumes come across my desk. Ive met with countless candidates eagerly vying for junior and senior positions, even as they were only armed with extremely lacking resumes and college transcripts.

Why HR even asks for the transcripts, I dont really know. I dont look at them. They are usually of very limited value in the corporate world. It doesnt matter to me that you got an A+ in your Data Structures and Algorithms class. Why? Well, here at Big Data & More, Inc, we use libraries  well never write a linked-list implementation from scratch.

On the flip side, that C- you got in your Operating Systems class doesnt bother me either. Why? Were a data shop  we do analytics, AI, and ML.

Going back to the resumes, most fresh graduates in computer science only have school work and mini-projects to show off. Thanks for showing me that asteroid game you built in WebGL. It was cute. It looked quite similar to what the other applicant showed me earlier this morning. Oh, you know her? She was on your team? And she did most of the work? Both of you were looking iffy already, but you just put her in the lead.

Clearly, HR could have done a better job with the initial vetting round. But thats a story for another day.

While in school, I get that youre balancing a social life, family crises, a retail job, and all the school work piled on you. If you want to hit the ground running the day after graduation, you have to make a few sacrifices and a purposeful effort to start working on your career immediately.

Dont start doing these right after you graduate. Dont even start weeks or months before you walk. Get cracking on these in your freshman year! Right away! Pronto!

0) Work on Your Communication Skills

  • Look people in the eye during a conversation
  • Smile
  • Listen before speaking
  • Ask for clarification or repetition if you didnt catch or understand the message
  • Be sincere, not boastful
  • Answer questions succinctly. Dont add too much fluff
  • Dont be afraid to ask your own questions

Okay, youve probably heard all of the above before. These classic points apply to everyone.

The Real List Starts Here

Now, continue on for the real list that makes you  the green computer science graduate  stand out, potentially even over a candidate with a couple of years under their belt.

Above everything else, you need to know your craft. I need to believe that:

  • You can code obviously
  • You can figure out coding problems
  • You actually like coding

Following are a few additional ideas that you can, and should, employ to make you a giraffe over everyone else in your graduating class.

1) Build an App

It doesnt have to be a published app in the iOS App Store or on Google Play. Create it, build it, and install it on your phone. Youll have your phone with you at the interview, right? Take a moment and show off an app or two.

How is this different from the WebGL asteroid game from your class? You were required to make that game.

Im inclined to think you built the mobile app because you enjoyed the process and wanted to learn on your own. It lets me know that youre willing to learn outside of the minimum requirements of what you need to know to get through a class and secure a grade.

What app do you build? Try a few genres and create a few casual games or apps that use public APIs. For example, Google makes a ton of APIs (maps, places, location, etc.) available. Once you start exploring the possibilities, youll realize the options are plentiful. Hell, there are high schoolers building apps on Roblox!

2) Build a Knock-Off

Create an Instagram clone. Or a Snapchat clone. Create a knock-off of a popular app, website, or service.

It doesnt have to be an exact clone. It doesnt have to do everything the real product does. Duplicate and simulate the real thing as much as you can. Show off your skills in building a familiar product.

Contestants on The Voice or similar shows typically do well performing a popular song, rather than an original song. Original songs have to be outstanding to excite the judges. The same idea applies here.

Does this violate copyright and trademarks? No, because youre not creating it for profit or personal gain. OK, maybe a bit of personal gain.

Huge, bonus, ballsy points if you parody an app or a website at the company where youre hoping to land a job, as what Philippe Dubost created.

3) Contribute to Open Source Projects

What area of programming tickles your fancy? Web development? Cryptography? Artificial intelligence?

Ill guarantee you can find an open source project on GitHub no matter what your focus. Go create an account, study the project, and start contributing and submitting pull requests! Wait, you dont even know what a pull request is? Dont say that at the interview.

At the interview, find a way to humblebrag about your contributions to the public repos. Show them that green activity graph!

Not my activity graph

4) Answer Questions on Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow and developers go together like fish and water. Who among us coders hasnt Ctrl+Cd a solution next to the green checkmark on Stack Overflow?

Have you ever stopped to consider who is providing all these answers? Some are industry experts, some are creators of popular libraries, but most are just industry professionals and people who simply love to help solve coding problems for others. Their experiences will range from a few months to a few decades.

Go create an account on Stack Overflow. Set out to find easy questions you can answer. Then, challenge yourself with the harder questions that force you to research and experiment on a solution. In the process of contributing to the site, you will gain knowledge, notoriety, and a bunch of rep points. Repeatedly getting that green checkmark can be rush-inducing and habit-forming.

When the interviewer asks about your work experience and all you have listed is your stint at the gas station deli, flex your 25,000 rep points on Stack Overflow instead  hashtag humblebrag. I guarantee someone will take notice.

5) Learn About Basic Hardware

Ive actually seen newly-hired developers who were surprised that HDMI could be used on monitors, not just televisions. It was so shocking that I had to inquire how that happened. Turns out all their coding was done at the school computers, where everything was already pre-wired but still!

Ive heard tales of developers who didnt know what their ethernet cables at work did, since they were so accustomed to using Wi-Fi. Really?! Come on!

There were also those that couldnt really explain the differences between Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular data.

Now, is this knowledge actually needed for coding? Not directly. But my very bold claim is that these are basic technologies that a newly minted software engineer should understand.

6) Get Certified in Something

Take the next step from knowing the basics, and level up to actually getting an industry-recognized certification.

Theres CompTIA A+ for a broad swath of almost everything. There are also tons of AWS and Azure certifications to add to your belt. The data sciences field has its own set of collectibles. Ask yourself, what is my area of interest? Can I get certified in my area of interest?

Accumulating certs is no guarantee of job placement, of course. Think of them as badges in the cutthroat game of life  the more flair you have, the more you stand out.

7) Learn About Project Management

Its rare that universities and colleges delve into the complexities of project management, particularly in the computer science tracks. Software development teams in the real world dont just have to know how to code and crank out software; they typically get involved with business and project units as well.

If you can speak to various methodologies such as Waterfall, Agile, Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban, etc., as well as be somewhat familiar with their related tools and software, you will have increased your perceived value immediately.

Typically, companies understand that most college graduates will have to learn these concepts on the job, but if that step can be avoided, its one less hurdle for them and for you.

8) Understand That Creating Software Is Not Just About Code

Theres so much more than writing code. Theres also the gathering and vetting of requirements. Theres functional and non-functional testing. Theres deployment. Theres code reviews. Theres source control.

And so much more.

Now, you dont have to know exactly how all of these work, especially as most companies will have different spins on how these are actually accomplished.

Your responsibility, heading into the interview, is at least knowing what else is involved at a high-level, and that you can have somewhat meaningful conversations around these topics.

9) Write How-To Articles

You should write and self-publish your own technical articles, or publish them through the numerous publications right here on Medium.

Here are some popular destinations: Flutter, JavaScript in Plain English, Better Programming, Level Up Coding. There are numerous others as well.

You can write about how to build an app from scratch in Flutter. You can write a review about a Visual Studio extension. You can expound on how to use VS Code using keyboard shortcuts.

You can write about creating a Chrome extension. If you dont actually know how to write a Chrome plugin, but have always wanted to, what better way to actually learn than writing about it? Learn by teaching! If your plugin becomes highly rated and popular, that gives you immense clout  imagine if it turns out your interviewer actually already uses your plugin!

If you can point an interview panel to a series of well laid-out, well-received technical articles, you showcase your technical ability, your communication skills, and your engagement in the industry all winning points in an interview!

10) Get an Internship

Being accepted into an internship program these days can often be just as challenging as getting an actual job. The primary difference is that there is an inherent understanding that the intern comes into the fold lacking a lot of the standard expectations of a job candidate.

If the above nine points can be helpful in getting an internship, then successfully landing the role of intern will further help in getting the real job down the road.

Make Them Want You, Instead of You Needing Them

Make yourself stand out so much that you get offers from multiple companies. Gain control of your career immediately and work at a job that you want, not at a job you need.

Similar to how getting offers from multiple colleges depended heavily on all your performance and activities in high school, you wanted the colleges to fight for your acceptance, not the other way around.

Its rarely enough to excel in your studies, complete your college education and expect your dream job to land in your lap. Take it upon yourself to act on a few or all of the above suggestions. Do all of these well before you graduate and you will make huge strides as soon as the commencement confetti hits the ground.

Remember, the ability to write code, which is a large part of what you get out of college, is only a small part of what makes a highly sought-after software developer.

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