Carnegie Mellon University
November 06, 2020

Alumni Assist in Interview Prep

By Jen Moritz

On a given day, MSE students have to balance studio projects, classwork, team meetings, and the time-consuming interview prep plus or minus other responsibilities. Interview prep has been deemed critical and the MSE program recognizes this. This past summer the MSE program had the pleasure of working with one of the MSE students, Daniel Biales, on developing a career prep group to help with technical interview practice. As part of this group, there was an effort to hold organized mock interviews with MSE alumni. Since July, the MSE program has hosted three different mock interview sessions to help students gain real-world feedback from MSE alumni. This effort saw 23 alumni conducting over 65 interviews. Alumni were able to bring experience from a variety of companies including Google, Facebook, Greystar Real Estate Partners, Plaid, Nutanix, Uber, and many more. 

Using the MSE alumni network to help with this initiative provides the students more than just technical feedback, but also personal advice. Yazid Hamid (MSIT-SE 2017) had the opportunity to participate in the fall session which was geared towards helping the MSE-SS and MSE-ES students prepare for summer internship technical interviews. Yazid shared, 

“Mock interviews are a chance for alumni to provide deeper insights to the students, beyond the purely technical part: general recommendations for improvement for the coding interview, indications on what to expect from an interviewer and what the interviewer expect and advice on how to develop the student’s profile in a certain technical or non-technical direction. I personally enjoyed the interview since we were able to take some time after it to answer the student’s questions beyond the programming exercises. The discussion also helped me step back and remember some basic facts that might have been lost as time passed since my graduation: how much I enjoy hands-on programming, how taking time to reflect on my career choices is as important now as it was back then, and most importantly how great it is to establish connections with current students and get inspired by their enthusiasm and ambition

Yazid’s interviewee was Paul Well of the MSE-SS program. Paul was very happy that Yazid took the extra time to chat with him about more than just the coding problem and that it was “way more valuable than just a coding interview.” This experience will leave a lasting impression on both Paul and Yazid. 

Ajay Nair, a fourth semester MSE student who participated in several of the sessions, found it to be really helpful as he prepared for his full-time job search. Ajay found that coding in front of a “real” interviewer was tougher than practicing on his own. According to Ajay, “Mock interviews are the closest emulation of actual interviews and it helped me prepare myself to get used to such uncomfortable situations.” He strongly encourages current students to take advantage of mock interviews because it is the only way to get a feel for what real interviews are like. 

This initiative was long awaited for the program and it has proven to be successful in helping students prepare. As the program continues to grow and evolve, mock interviews will continue to be incorporated in the student experience. We hope to see many more student/alumni connections like Yazid, Paul, and Ajay experienced.