Tips for Computer Science Grads Hitting the Job Market

Seniors from the class of 2019 are experiencing the best job market for new college graduates since 2007, according to the  Class of 2019 Student Survey Report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). That’s great news for grads.

Better still, NACE reports that computer science, information science, management information systems and computer engineering are among the top 10 in-demand majors, with starting salaries for engineering majors increasing by 4 percent and computer science majors increasing by 2.3 percent over last year’s grads.

But cashing in on the hot market for tech talent still takes some effort. Here’s what employers are looking for in computer science grads—and the best ways to come out on top.

What Employers Want

While the demand for technical talent is robust, the number of students enrolled in computer science majors is rising, too.

The applicant pool for entry-level jobs is strong, acknowledged Chris Pohalski, a career coach, strategist and trainer for STEM and business professionals in the Bay Area: “To attract one or more offers from high-profile companies, you need to shoot for being among the top five to 10 percent of applicants.”

How can computer science grads rise to the top? Prove that you’re ready to contribute from day one, advised college and career consultant Bob Carlton. Employers are willing to pay a premium for people who possess strong foundational skills for the digital economy, he explained. Those skills fall into three categories: human or soft skills, digital building block skills, and business enabler skills.

Specifically, employers are looking for grads who have taken machine-learning courses and know AngularJS in addition to popular building-block languages such as Java, C and C++.  They are also looking for critical combinations of skills and coursework that drive data-powered decision-making, such as data analysis, data management and critical thinking. Make sure those skills are prominent in your résumé, online profiles and responses to interview questions.

Don’t Rely on the Traditional Résumé

A new CS grad’s code samples on GitHub, along with skill endorsements from intern managers and colleagues on LinkedIn, carry more weight with a hiring manager than a traditional résumé. So if your profiles or repositories look sparse, fill them in with as many projects and code snippets as you can.

Many current CS students started building code repositories and completing freelance projects during high school, Carlton noted. Consequently, a late starter may need to do side projects and internships to compete with an early bloomer.

Better still, studies show that grads who have applied knowledge in a real-world context are not only more confident and prepared to enter the workplace, they are more likely to possess the competencies that employers value most.

Grads: Acquire In-depth Knowledge

To explain why you’re the ideal candidate for a particular employer, a new grad needs to conduct extensive research before an interview.

As Pohalski pointed out, most job descriptions tell you absolutely nothing about what needs to be accomplished or what it takes to be successful in a particular position.

Get the real scoop through informational interviews with people who have actually performed the role you that you are interested in pursuing. Read trade publications and websites that focus on the business aspects of a particular industry. That way, you can target roles, companies and industries that interest you, and articulate your comparative strengths in a clear, compelling way.

“Being smart isn’t enough,” warned Frank Schroeder, principal at Campus2Career. “You need to be able to explain why you want to work there and sell yourself to the hiring manager in a convincing way.”

Use the knowledge gleaned from insiders to connect the dots between your courses, projects, work experience, soft skills and the open role. More importantly, informational interviews are a great way to boost your self-confidence.

“Studies show that new grads who are comfortable doing informational interviews and networking in a professional setting are able to attract more offers,” Carlton added.

Nail the Interview Process

Recent grads should expect to encounter traditional interviews, whiteboard coding problems and algorithm questions during the hiring process. Acing all forms of job interviews is essential for nabbing an offer. Prepare thoroughly by studying the interview questions on sites such as Glassdoor and spending time on coding interview practice websites such as LeetCode or Pramp.

Actually practicing your answers is an incredibly effective way to prepare for interviews. And “practice” means “out loud,” Pohalski said.

One Response to “Tips for Computer Science Grads Hitting the Job Market”

  1. Pramp is a great suggestion. I found they were a good place to warm up but really liked paid mock interviews like Gainlo and PracticeCodingInterview.com. It was awesome to be paired with an engineer from the company I wanted to apply to. Also, I can’t recommend Grokking The System Design interview enough