Five Tips For Doing Well In A Co-Op Interview

This winter, I will be going into my third work term in the Computer Science Co-Op program. Over the past two work terms, I’ve found that I’m pretty good at interviews; in fact, I have only gotten lower than a #1 ranking for one interview. I’ve also had the experience of being one of the interviewers, so I’ve seen the process on both sides. Interviews for winter work terms are coming up, and to help out some people who may be going through their first work term, here’s some quick tips to survive your first set of interviews and get a great job.

1. Get Some Sleep

Look, if you show up to your interview with bags under your eyes, chances are you won’t get hired. Show up awake, alert, and not hyped up on caffeine. Being on a good sleep cycle shows that you’re capable of preparing for things in advance, not at the last minute.

2. Do Your Research

Is the company you are applying for a major corporation or a mom-and-pop IT firm? Are they local-only or nation-wide? How many employees do they have? What is their mission statement? Where is their office located? Are you able to get there via transit, or will you have to drive?

It’s important to do a lot of preparation for an interview. Almost all interviewers will ask you what you did to prepare for the interview, so have a mental list prepared. You should also have a list of questions you want to ask them. Bring a written list of these questions. I have gone through interviews where they have asked if I have had any questions and they answered all of them in the interview, so have the list there to prove it. Show that you have questions and are interested about the job.

A quick word here on the job posters which you read prior to applying for the job. If there’s a technology or TLA (three-letter acronym) listed on the poster or in your job poster, be prepared to know what it is and what it’s used for. If you don’t, you look like you’re just padding your resume or didn’t do research about the job.

3. Don’t Skimp On The Answers

When you get asked a question, don’t just say the bare minimum to get by. Interviews are painful if it feels like the interviewers are pulling teeth to get a reply from you. Gerri (our co-op coordinator) always refers to the STAR method for situational questions. Tell them the situation, the task at hand, the action you took, and the result. Contrary to popular belief, it is FINE to tell them about a situation in which things did not turn out for the best, but be sure to tell them what you learned from the situation.

On the other hand, don’t keep talking until the cows come home. There’s a healthy balance between talking too much and talking too little.

4. Relax

Nobody likes seeing an interviewee so uptight they can barely speak. Many times the interviewers are very relaxed. While I was waiting for my first interview for the interviewers to show up, I overheard the following in the hallway as they approached:

“God, why the hell did Gerri schedule us for eight in the morning? NOBODY’S up this early!!”

Needless to say, we all had a great laugh in the hallway before my interview started. That interview went great.

Again, there’s a healthy balance. Don’t show up so relaxed that you’re acting like you’re talking to your friends. It’s possible to be professional while still being relaxed and enjoyable.

5. Show Up Early

At no point should you EVER show up late for an interview. If you’re taking a bus, go one bus early. You should always be at least fifteen minutes early. If you’re going to show up late, be sure to call them to let them know that you will be late, and hope that you have a great excuse.

So, those are a few tips to get you started. For those that are going into their first work term, I wish you all the best in your interviews, and I hope you get the job you want (unless, of course, it’s the one I also want, haha). For a bit of extra reading, take a look at Tipping Canoe, who has a great blog post about going through the interview process with them and their “infamous” interview questions. Who knows? Maybe those extra 5 gold coins you earn from reading that article can be cashed in for a job with them…

Posted in Five Things
3 comments on “Five Tips For Doing Well In A Co-Op Interview
  1. Aaron says:

    Interestingly, point number 2 has not come up in my most recent round of interviews. People just flat out haven’t asked me their company to find out how much I researched them ahead of time…

  2. Ron says:

    Couldn’t agree more! We’ve interviewed countless people that I’m not sure even read our poster. We put on a lot of very specific tools/techniques to research, and it’s rare we actually interview somebody who actually does. What that means is, even somebody who does some half assed research has a significantly better chance of getting a high ranking than anybody else.

    But that’s just my experience with IPC :)

    • Brian says:

      I noticed the exact same thing when I was an interviewer for IPC. That’s why whenever somebody asks me for advice about applying for IPC, I always tell them to know the technologies listed on the poster.

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