At the end of my summer, I realized with dread that I hadn’t done any studying for interviews at all or started looking for jobs at all. I’m sure everyone can relate to just how annoying it is to find a job whether it be an internship or a part time job. Furthermore, I’m sure those of us in the software development or a similar field has experienced the extreme grind of going through Leetcode or CTCI. It’s not fun, especially if pushed off until the last moment as I had done. But no matter, I was determined to get a good internship so I sat down and went to work.

I worked on my resume alone for about two or three weeks. Everyday after class I would come home and tweak wording and design - occasionally even redoing whole sections. I would often ask my friends for feedback (thank you for dealing with me) and finally after hours of work I felt like I had my resume in a position I was okay with.

Next came the fun part, I compiled a spreadsheet of companies that I applied to, listing location, position, date applied, and various other details. In total I had about 150 companies listed that I wanted to apply to. Of that, I only ended up applying to about 75 because some of the companies didn’t have internships or it was not open yet or for whatever reason I just ended up with about 50%. One might think that’s an enormous amount of companies to apply for and it is. But I’ve certainly seen people who manage to get my whole list and then some. Most applications are pretty straightforward; pur your name, email, and school in, upload your resume, check off some boxes, etc. I have to say this was the majority of the applications which makes the 75 a lot less intimidating than it really is.

Those applications were over the course of a month and in the end I only got into contact with about a third of them. Most of these companies had not even bothered to send an automated email from a position I’m almost sure that I was rejected from. Of those that contacted me, rejections were plenty. “Thank you for applying to…”, this phrase will immediately put anyone who has applied on guard as it usually means one thing: rejection. It was pretty depressing in fact - a lot of medium sized companies just rejected me at the application stage. In fact one of the more established companies rejected me even though I had a referral and some experience. I’m not arguing for my position - I understand that sometimes there are better fits but other more established companies saw fit to interview me. So how do they determine a good candidate?

I realized that as much as recruiting depends on experience and yourself, it also depends on luck. Who’s reading your application? Are they familiar with the kind of work you did, are they in a good mood, are they actually even reading your resume? I can’t help but wonder what exactly goes on behind the scenes. Is there an automated filtering layer that just scans for keywords? How do they determine who is better? I’m sure there are biases - in school, previous experiences, projects, wording, first impressions, and so on. After all the human element is inescapable.

This year’s recruiting really opened my eyes to just how much depends on luck. One would expect bigger companies to have more stringent guidelines in hiring, yet I was able to secure interviews at several and even secure a position at one of them but at all of the smaller companies I was outright rejected. This isn’t a post to complain about the process - it can’t be helped but it’s more of a rumination I suppose. As we let algorithms make decisions for us, it won’t get better but will get exacerbated. There have been countless studies and instances where algorithms are only as unbiased as we are - meaning they are pretty biased in all aspects. Of course, we can take corrective measures but honestly this is very much a human problem - one that I don’t expect to be solved anytime soon if ever.

So moral of the story - don’t be let down by the rejections! Keep trying and remember that there are companies that do want you and sometimes even those that do can make the mistakes of not taking you in. Also remember to expand your network - a referral is invaluable as it cuts down the rate of rejection as well as give it more importance when a recruiter is going through it. I’m glad to say that for me after three months of stress I finally finished up my recruiting. I’m already dreading next year’s process but at least I won’t have to worry about it for another nine months or so…