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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


UW STEM students navigate challenging tech recruiting season

Abigail Leavins
Badger Herald archival photo of CDIS building under construction in October.

With recruiting season underway, many UW Computer Science and Data Science students are actively seeking internship, co-op or full-time job positions. But recent layoffs in the tech sector have made the job application process more challenging for some students.

SuccessWorks Technology Career & Internship Specialist Beth Karabin said tech companies had to whittle down their workforces in 2022 to make up for expansions in previous years. This has contributed to a smaller number of internships and full-time jobs available for students and new grads, Karabin said.

“In 2022, that meant that lots of layoffs kind of saturated the market and pushed everything down for even professionals in the field who are already graduated, and internships were one of the first things that got cut,” Karabin said.


This trend has worsened throughout 2023, according to TechCrunch,. Major tech companies Alphabet, Google’s parent company, and Amazon laid off a combined 30,000 persons in January 2023 alone. The overall tech industry has experienced over 200,000 layoffs in 2023 according to TechCrunch.

“This happens a lot where companies will expand, expand, expand and then have to kind of downsize a little bit,” Karabin said. “And actually, a lot of parallels were drawn between the 2022 layoffs and the tech bubble burst in 2000.”

As a result, companies have become more strategic with their hiring, which has led to a greater difficulty in landing an internship or full-time position within the tech industry. But, Karabin said that with large tech companies laying off employees, businesses in industries besides computer science and software development have been recruiting the newly available talent.

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Assistant Dean for Engineering Student Development John Archambault said he hasn’t seen much of a change in total recruitment from companies. With the UW Engineering Career Fair having a similar employer turnout to last year, Archambault said the job market for current students is still fairly strong.

“I’m sure there’s been some shifting from maybe some of the big tech companies not recruiting quite as much but I think even when you see in the news all these tech companies laying off people — they don’t lay off as many as they initially say,” Archambault said. “Companies may instead of hiring 50, may hire 40 interns or something like that, but in what is still a fairly strong market, I’ve not seen much of a downturn in opportunities.”

Yet, a strong market doesn’t guarantee an easy application process. For many students, landing an interview or response from a company is the first challenge. UW junior and Computer Science major Ian Gross said that without any previous experience, finding an internship can be difficult.

“Recently, it’s been finding companies and then getting as many applications [as I can] in,” Gross said. “I’m just basically trying high volume … I don’t have prior internship experience.”

To stand out in large applicant pools, Gross has been doing independent programming projects outside of school to enhance his resume.

The high-volume strategy Gross uses isn’t uncommon, because there is a low probability that a single application to a competitive tech firm will result in an offer. According to KDnuggets, a data science and machine learning blog, many prominent tech companies have extremely low job offer rates. As of May 2023, Facebook’s parent company Meta only accepts 5% of applicants that make it past the onsite interview. Apple, Google and Amazon all accept less than 5% of all applicants, according to the blog.

Karabin said she tells students the risk of mass applications is that one could be replicating something that isn’t working across many applications.

“What I usually recommend is applying, but do so thoughtfully,” Karabin said. “Blind applying to 300 jobs isn’t going to be super productive if you aren’t paying attention to the nuance of each application.”

According to the career development book “Cracking The Coding Interview” by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, after the application process companies will often have selected applicants go through a technical screening interview which consists of coding and algorithm questions. These interviews may be conducted via Zoom call or through an online recorded interview.

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UW senior Agastya Asthana said he has experienced both formats, but found the in-person evaluations more reflective of his abilities. He said there are a lot of times during recorded interviews where someone will be extremely close to a programming solution, but the automated tester won’t recognize how close the interviewee is.

“It [the recorded test] will reflect that your score was zero, but it won’t show the fact that you’re maybe like two or three lines or logics away from having it perfectly complete … when somebody is actually sitting with you, and then you walk them through your thought process,” Asthana said. “It’s a much better way for them to gauge how good you are.”

Asthana, who is currently searching for a full-time new grad offer, said he has been using LinkedIn, Handshake and his in-person network to find opportunities. He credits his past summer internship to a result of networking and building relationships with employers, but also says by targeting his applications instead of mass applying, he was able to find more success.

Asthana said he has been using a variety of UW tools like resume and cover letter workshops to help in his search for a full-time offer and wishes he learned about them earlier.

Asthana said SuccessWorks, UW’s career counseling service, gave him a variety of resources as well. SuccessWorks helped him connect with alumni who went on to work at Amazon, Pinterest and Facebook, Asthana said.

“They’re so useful to have, and I don’t think a lot of CS students know about it [SuccessWorks], or have tried reaching out to them,” Asthana said. “So I would say, absolutely make use of that — you’re paying for it anyway — you might as well try to use it and then put yourself in the best position possible.”

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