Note: The 2020 Grace Hopper Celebration will be held virtually. While this article was written with the traditional, in-person experience in mind, attendees at this year’s vGHC will still find much of the guidance relevant. Hope to “see” you there!
As a college senior in 2016, I attended the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) in search of my post-college dream job. GHC is the largest gathering of women technologists in the world. Thousands of engineers attend, many with the goal of landing a job at one of the companies at the career fair.
I had no idea what to expect, but I was lucky enough to land interviews with several companies. I ended up accepting an offer from Two Sigma, and have since returned to GHC to help recruit for Two Sigma! With both sides of the experience under my belt, here are my top tips on landing interviews at GHC:
Before the Conference
Secure your spot
Don’t wait until the last minute to get a ticket as they sell out quickly. Many companies offer scholarships, and some universities sponsor GHC and receive access to student tickets. If your school is a sponsor, it might be willing to help you acquire a ticket — check with your academic department or career center to see if tickets are available. Hotels will sell out and Airbnbs will go up in cost, so book one early to avoid paying extra.
Refine your resume
GHC will allow you to submit your resume online months ahead of time so that potential employers can view it. Put the time in to really perfecting your resume so that your skills and experience shine through.
- Don’t make it a treasure hunt: Recruiters will be reviewing hundreds of resumes each day, and resumes that are dense with text make it hard for them to pick out your most impressive accomplishments. The first thing they look for is when you plan to graduate and your major/degree or what role you’re currently in – make that easy to spot. Use clear and concise language so that your experience and achievements stand out.
- Eliminate space-wasters: Unless you have spent a significant amount of your career/education specializing in a certain programming language or technical skill, it is not necessary to include a skills section. You can highlight the skills you know in your past experiences, such as “developed a game using C++.”
- Make it count: Use numbers to help describe your previous experiences so recruiters can get a sense of the impact you had. “Many users enjoyed this product” is less effective than “10 employees saved 1 manual hour of work per week using this product.”
- Phone a friend: Ask friends to read over your resume. What things stand out most to them? Are they the same things you want to stand out to recruiters?
Get ready for interviews
Whether or not you have interviews scheduled beforehand, you’ll want to prepare to be interviewed on the spot – practice in a way that would be similar to an actual interview.
- Practice those problems: Browse through online resources to practice solving technical problems. Leetcode is a great resource.
- Make them listen: Grab a friend to listen to you go through a practice interview. Are you able to clearly talk through your problem-solving thought process?
- Write it out: Get comfortable solving problems on a whiteboard or piece of paper.
Leetcode.com is a great resource to practice for technical interviews.
During the Conference
The early bird gets the worm
Many companies book interview slots before the conference even starts, but don’t fret! Most companies still have open spots, but they will fill up really early. Go around the career fair first thing; at the start of the conference, more companies will still have open slots and flexibility on timing. You’ll also want to wake up early and be one of the first people at the job fair each day because the lines to talk to people can get incredibly long.
Don’t be discouraged if a company doesn’t have any slots left for you. Ask what the application process is like; they might still be accepting resumes to go to a code test or on-site interview.
Conversations are key
At GHC, you’ll go from booth-to-booth meeting many different people and companies. Make a good impression so that they remember you!
- Nail the opener: Name dropping a recent article or a product shows you care about the company and the industry.
- Do the research: If there are companies you aren’t familiar with, find a quiet spot in the conference to Google them and figure out if you’d like to talk with them. That way, once you’re talking with an employee, you can have a more meaningful conversation.
- Ask away: Attendees tend to ask the same questions. To stand out, ask thoughtful, unique questions that show a genuine interest in the company. Don’t forget that this is your opportunity to figure out what positions and skills the company is hiring for, and if the company would be a good fit for you.
- Print before you go: Make sure you print enough copies of your resume so that you don’t run out. I’d recommend at least 50.
The days can be long and busy; there is food provided around the conference at various times, but you might be too busy to take notice. Bring a bunch of granola bars so you can keep your energy up if you don’t have time to grab the food around the conference!
To stand out, do some research and ask thoughtful questions that show a genuine interest in the company.
Extra networking time
Many companies will offer private evening events. Finding out about these early can provide you with extra networking time. Often these book up before the conference, so it might be worth trying to get in contact with your favorite companies ahead of time to see if they will have any events during the conference.
After the Conference
Give it a rest
You’ll of course want to send follow-up emails to the people you meet at the conference, but wait until after Grace Hopper has concluded – your email might get buried if you send it during the event.
See you there! I will be at GHC again in October 2019 with other engineers from Two Sigma. We all look forward to seeing you there — please stop by our booth and say hello!
Not attending GHC this year? Check out Two Sigma’s Careers page for company info, open positions, and more.