Gayle Laakmann, current Wharton MBA student and former Google, Microsoft and Apple employee, gave a lecture Thursday to a crowd of Computer Science and Engineering students about how to successfully interview with software companies.
Laakmann, who completed her undergraduate and graduate studies in Engineering at Penn, is currently CEO of a web site called CareerCup.com.
When she was completing her masters degree at Penn, Laakmann said she was getting interviews and wanted to share questions with her friends. This web site, according to Laakmann, serves as a forum for interview questions.
On the web site, there is a chat room where people can post questions and get responses, and there is a video demonstrating what a technical interview is like.
The web site also provides viewers with the opportunity to do mock interviews over the phone or to purchase Laakmann’s book, entitled Cracking the Technical Interview.
Computer science interviews are not like other interviews because they are very technical. People can and should study for these interviews, Laakmann stressed.
Referring to big software companies like Google and Microsoft, Laakmann said, “They’d rather not hire a good person than hire a bad person.”
Having interviewed over 120 candidates at Google, Laakmann said firing people is a long and expensive process that companies try to avoid. As such, companies are very careful about who they hire.
Laakmann explained certain red flags, including arrogance when being told a piece of code someone wrote is wrong, shyness that shows an inability to work well with a team and carelessness in solving problems.
“In this tough economic environment where companies have to cut back on hiring, having interview skills is very important to set yourself apart in this very competitive candidate pool,” Laakmann said.
Engineering freshman Edward Funger, who is a Computer Science major, is currently interning for Laakmann.
Since CareerCup.com is going to be redone, Funger can write out specifications for the web page and hire developers to create this new site.
Noticing that a lot of people were using the web site to cram for their interviews, Funger says they plan on creating an iPhone application with flashcards.
People send thank you notes every day saying that they got the job, according to Funger.
“I try to reassure candidates that companies want you to be smart, excited and motivated, but they don’t expect you to be perfect,” Laakmann said.
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