Yahara participates in Mock-Interview day at UW

L&S Career Services Employer Mock Interview Day

What: L&S Career Services Employer Mock Interview Day - Tech & Data Thursday, Oct. 19, 9-5

Where: UW-Madison Successworks at the College of Letters and Science


Earlier this month, Yahara’s Sharry Zhang had a chance to participate in the UW Comp Sci Mock Interview day. This was a brand new event, put on by the college of Letters & Sciences at the new Successworks office. The event created an environment allowing comp sci students to interact with IT hiring managers to practice their interview skills and receive feedback on both their resume and the interview itself.

The impetus for the event, Sharry explained, stemmed from recognizing the difference between tech interviews vs. business interview. Tech interviews are a special subset of interviews, she continued, and what makes a good tech interview is not the same as what makes a good interview for other positions. Applicants need to be well versed in explaining their tech skills in depth, and there’s lots more focus on that than a traditional soft skill screening. It’s a common myth, she said, that resumes shouldn’t’ be longer than one page, but in the IT world that is false. For most IT managers, if it is one page that actually raises a red flag because competitive applicants can’t fit their technical skills, with relevant detail and examples, in just one page. Now shouldn’t be 10 pages either, of course, but it should be more than one. Sharry said one of her goals in the interviews was to help the students understand what a technical resume should look like and what IT managers out in the wild are looking for when they review them.

Sharry did 5 interviews, spending 30 min with each student. The students signed up prior through Badgernet and about 6-8 local employers were there, including some familiar names (American Family and Epic). Another cool thing about the day, the Sucessworks office, the new renovated career center on the 3rd floor at the UW bookstore. Each employer got their own room and spent fifteen minutes on the mock interview, and then last 15 minutes give feedback on areas to improve on the interview itself and the structure and content of the resume. Sharry was enthusiastic about the event, which gives students a really leg up in comparison to a hiring fair. Instead of just shaking hands with a potential employer, each student got 1 on 1 time with a hiring manager, allowing them to gain a more in depth understanding of the market and get more personal feedback rather than the traditional career fair.

So, what are some tips for those of you looking to get hired in the IT world? Sharry had few helpful suggestions:

  1. On your resume –  As previously stated, longer resumes are better. Its ok to go over a page but keep it straight forward with a clear structure. Start with an objective, then list technical skills (which are not part of a traditional resume), before moving on to education and experience. That way hiring managers can tell at a glance which programming languages, operating systems, etc. you are familiar. And one more note, unless you are applying for a graphic design position, keep it simple. No fancy pictures or fonts please.
  2. At the interview – If asked questions about languages or operating systems, applicants tend to default to telling you about the language from a definition perspective. But what people tend to forget is to say how they’ve applied it to a program. Hiring managers want to know how you’ve used the tech you know, not just what the academic definition of it is. Give concrete examples of experiences showing how you’ve applied the technology or solved a problem. And remember, you only have a small amount of time face to face, so use it wisely. Think beforehand of the skillsets you want to highlight and what the best examples of them are, then when asked a question, you’ll have an answer at hand.
  3. For both: Give real life examples! Point people to GitHub account, stack overflow, any place where you can showcase your coding or technical abilities. If you’ve done something cool, don’t be afraid to show it off by putting the url in your resume or linking to it from your LinkedIn page. Sharry really likes GitHub because it allows the interviewer to see and evaluation the programming skills. The take home message: Tell what you know AND show what you know.


What advice did she have for those who wanted to learn more? Head to Dice and look at the technical resume resources there. The site also often typically has very good articles about how to apply for IT positions and what IT managers look for.


All in all, it was an excellent event and we are looking forward to participating again next year!