innovaniac.com
A blog about software development

How to land internship at a tech startup

In October 2013 I began looking for new opportunities abroad. Now, just two months later, I am choosing over multiple offers from world's finest startups. I recently read an article by Kippt founder Jori Lallo which inspired me to write my own article about my experiences. I'm going to focus more in-depth on finding and landing the actual internship position.

1. Set up your online profiles

Whether you're a hacker, a designer or a business guru, there are number of outstanding websites to present your works, gained publicity and achievements. These websites are often used by business executives and recruiters. That's why you should be there too.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn has proved to be a valuable tool for job seekers. Used by recruiters across the globe. Has a fine job board as well. Be sure to ask your co-workers for recommendations.

GitHub: Excellent for coders. This site is valuable for showcasing the quality of your code and the level of your activity on open source projects.

Dribbble & Behance: Perfect for designers. Both of these sites feature good tools for showcasing your visual designs.

2. Set up your personal website

People at small startups are often super busy. They might go through their email during lunch or on the bus. Therefore it is important to have just one compact website that has all the necessary details. And make it work well on mobile! This website is your personal ad which should provoke enough interest for people to take another more careful look on it.

You don't need much on your website. Here's a small framework for you:

  • Who are you and what are you like?
  • What are you good at? Mention awards and press coverage!
  • What have you worked on so far? Mention projects, responsibilities and companies.
  • Links to your online profiles: LinkedIn, Twitter, GitHub etc.

My personal website is at innovaniac.com. It features most of my public projects and the technologies I currently use most. This is the website that I link to the initial emails I send to companies I want to apply to. Before setting up my own website only half of the application lead to interviews. With the website all of my applications lead to interviews.

3. Finding the internship positions

Some of the companies have their internship positions listed on their careers page while some won't even publish their internship positions openly. There are number of job boards available for tech startups. Your local university might as well have an internship program which can connect you to your dream position. Internship programs can also make introductions on your behalf to companies you haven't even heard of before. You can also think about the kind of companies you want to work with and straight-up shoot them an email asking for an internship. Apply to multiple places at the same time. Worst that can happen here is that you will have a handful of positions to choose from.

Check out these websites:

Hacker News: Fantastic job board with YCombinator backed startups seeking to expand their team of professionals. This board updates regularly so be sure to check in every once in a while.

Angel.co: Thousands of startups seeking professionals. Use this site also as a professional online profile.

InternMatch: Internship positions from many cities across the United States.

4. Prepare for the interviews

So far most Silicon Valley startups have interviewed me in multiple steps ranging from Skype interviews to coding practices to do on my own time. Skype and Google Hangouts were often used for the calls so it is a good idea to set up your accounts there and to get familiar with the apps.

Be prepared to code small exercises during the interview calls. Interviewers will likely test your knowledge on certain technologies, your logic thinking and your knowledge on computer science related topics. Therefore it's good to read through articles about computational problems and algorithms and calculating basic probabilities. There's also tons of resources online for prepping before the interviews. If you are still studying you can take on in-depth courses on the topics at your university. Understanding these things is beneficial not only for the interviews but also for your work.

Take a good look on the company you are applying to. Familiarize yourself on the product and business model of the company. Think about what you can bring to the company and have a list of questions ready for them about what you would like to know about them.

Your first interviews might not go all that smoothly. However, in time you will gain confidence and have your thoughts more organized. Just keep practicing!

5. Finally

Good luck! Don't be worried about getting a few "no" in return. There will always be companies that won't find a strong match with your past experience and the companies might have very specific needs. The earlier you start, the closer you are to your dream position in the industry's most promising startups.

For recap:

  • Set your profiles on LinkedIn, GitHub, Twitter, Angel.co, Dribbble.
  • Set up or update your personal website and PDF version of your CV.
  • Add links to your profiles, CV and website to your profiles, CV and website.
  • Be in touch with your local university and look-up for internship opportunities on the job boards.
  • Prepare, prepare & prepare. (but don't stress too much!) Remain positive!

Tomi Hiltunen

Senior Full-Stack Developer @ Hubchat

Helsinki, Finland