This is a modified version of feedback provided to unsuccessful applicants for a position as an Intern in my team at UTS

I’ve removed the first paragraph which was specific to the situation. For context most of the applicants were applying for a professional job for the first time, though some had experience in similar organisations. The job ad and position description very clearly outlined the expectations of the role and listed the contact details for the two hiring managers.

Below are some resources and notes on things that we recommend you review to see if any of this applies to you. This email has gone to 50ish people so no one person should worry they did everything wrong, but one or two of these is all it takes to fall behind the competition.

We will share your details with other hiring managers at UTS who may be in touch and we wish you all the best in your future endeavours.

Not providing a cover letter.

This is one of the most common mistakes people at all levels make. Your cover letter is the first chance you have to sell yourself, most hiring managers will look to this before your resume. It’s your opportunity to tailor your messaging to the hiring manager. If you know the name of the hiring manager your should address them, not write a letter “to whom it may concern”.

Many people will tell you not to bother with a cover letter, but if you use game theory you’ll realise that no one will dismiss you because you include a cover letter, but some people may if you don’t. So err on the side of caution and write a cover letter. Note these are not always needed if you’re going through a recruiter first, though many will ask you to provide one if they are going to put you forward.

Unprofessional Behaviour

This is an instant red flag, talking down to someone, ignoring them or belittling people you’ve worked with are all workplace bullying. This is unacceptable in any workplace. If an interviewer feels that this is happening that’s an instant fail.

Not doing your research.

The second most common issue we have seen is not doing your research. You had both our full names and yet most of you didn’t look us up on LinkedIn or Google us. Several people addressed Jami as ‘mr’ in emails.

Not leveraging UTS resources

Even a second rate search engine like Bing tells us that UTS has a free service assisting with resume and cover letters available to students. Take advantage of it. Yes even you who is a native English speaker. You’re not an expert on resumes and cover letters, and if you are you applied for the wrong internship :)

The perils of Zoom

You should join an online interview a few minutes early to ensure you can connect. Ideally confirm your camera and audio are working too with a test call to someone else. Fortunately I don’t remember seeing anything awkward or unprofessional in the background on calls this time. But you’d be shocked the things I have seen.

Not having questions for the interviewer

You should always have some questions ready. A list of good questions to ask is just a Google away; but honestly no questions is a red flag, it says a candidate will take any job they are offered. And while most of us have times when that is true, it doesn’t make for a good look in an interview. It makes the interviewer wonder how long until the candidate takes another job on slightly higher pay…

Reading from your screen during the interview.

When we ask you to tell us about yourself, we shouldn’t see your eyes scanning side to side on the screen reading from a script. It’s great to be prepared - honestly far too many candidates make it up on the spot which can be just as bad - but practice before and answer in your own words.

This is a great video on how to respond to “tell us about yourself”

Lack of passion/awareness about technology.

This is a tricky one, you might be the most passionate tech nerd, but have been told to dial it down for an interview. Again do your research. You were interviewed by technical people who all self identify as nerds.

Having a good general awareness of current hot topics in IT is important for your career. Some useful websites that people on our team use to keep up to date are:

Other resources

If you are genuinely interested in software development, DevSecOps, cloud computing and modern development practices the following resources might be of use.

Websites & Videos

There are a heap of recommendations on one recent addition is:

  • Modern Software Engineering by Dave Farley