How I Tricked Google Into Hiring Me

HCIM graduate student Vanessa Oguamanam talks about the insights she's gained in applying to internships, and the approaches that helped earn her a position at Google this summer.

OK, so I didn’t really “trick” Google into hiring me. I think it’s safe to say most of us

get this feeling when we undervalue our intelligence and capabilities by applying an

unfair higher standard to ourselves. I certainly did this when I was first offered the

job. I was in such shock that I completely downplayed the hard work and effort I put

into the application process to get here. I had to do some self-evaluation and

reflection to realize that this offer was very deserved because of how well I

prepared for it.

It took two long years of sacrifices and rejections from companies for UX positions,

for me to realize that the way I was approaching the job application process was

wrong. It wasn’t that I waited to the last minute to apply for positions or wrote

generic, boilerplate cover letters; it was just that my approach did not serve me well.

I used to apply for the UX jobs using a resume similar to the one I would use when

applying for software engineering positions. In addition, instead of putting in the

time to work on a portfolio, I would attach a couple PDFs displaying pictures of

screens that I’ve designed for some of my mobile application prototypes. I vowed

that this year I would change my approach and not only get an internship, but get

the internship of my dreams. Below I will provide 5 general tips to increase the

likelihood of securing the internship of your choice.

1. Be Confident

Remember the impostor syndrome I mentioned earlier? Let go of that mentality.

You are so much better than that! Also, you are more qualified for that position than

you think. Stop selling yourself short. Anytime I hear anyone talk about a company

like Google, they compare it to taking a jump shot. Each time you shoot the ball to

the basket, you are taking a chance. The problem here is that people convince

themselves that they will miss that shot even before taking it. That is to say, I’ve

heard students mention that they won’t even attempt to apply because they don’t

think they will get the job. So what’s the point of applying right? . . . WRONG!

I began my job hunt with the attitude that I am very much qualified for all the

positions I was applying to. Even if there were certain skills I didn’t have, I

approached each application as if I were the best candidate for them. Be confident

even if that means faking it until you make it. If you don’t believe that you are

qualified, you can’t convince any manager that you the right person for his or her

team or company. Not to sound cliché, but you must be your biggest cheerleader!

2. Be Persistent

Do NOT give up ever! Never quit trying and never stop applying. (Sorry for sounding

cliché again, last time, I promise.) Last year, I applied to over 20 UX industry

positions and got rejected by all of them. I threw a mini pity party for myself but

once that was over, I got back up and starting working on honing in on my UX skills.

As a result, I worked in the HCIL last summer to gain more experience in the field

and learned how to use some UX tools. My skillset became much stronger and I was

better qualified for the next round of applications.

3. Start Your Job Search Early

Although most positions are for the summer, be sure to start your job search early.

Winter break is the perfect time to start looking for positions, working

on crafting your resume, and building your portfolio. Keep a look out for the

positions that come in through the HCIL and HCIM listservs, as well as searching

directly on companies’ website.

4. Do Your Homework

It is important that you do research on the companies you want to apply for.

Additionally, do research on the position you are interested in applying for. You

should generally know what the company looks for in a candidate, and should frame

your portfolio and resume to highlight the skills and experience that are most

relevant to each potential employer. You can also find people on LinkedIn who have

worked in similar positions at companies you are applying to. Be sure to ask them

questions about what the company typically looks for in a candidate and the best way to

prepare for an interview.

5. Utilize Your Resources

There is a good chance that the faculty members in your program have worked with

companies that you may be applying to. Build relationships with the faculty in your

program and let them know what companies and which positions you are interested

in applying for. They may be able to forward your resume or recommend you to a

former colleague or a manager in the company. Also, talk to students in your cohort,

previous cohorts, and/or PhD students who have been in the program longer than

you have. Ask them how they secured their internships for the program and see what advice they have to offer. The good thing about our program is that for the

most part, everyone is approachable; so don’t be afraid to ask questions or for help.

In addition to talking to other students and faculty, attend career and professional

development events in the field of HCI put on by your school, program, and outside

of your school. For example, go to the career fairs, resume workshops, portfolio

building events, etc., especially if it’s being put on by the iSchool. I guarantee you

will walk away with crucial information that will support you and guide you through

the application process.

Now, this list is not exhaustive at all. I should have mentioned there are many ways

to secure internships, but these are just some of the things that have helped me

along the way. Hopefully you found these tips to be helpful. Good luck on your job

hunt! Can’t wait hear about the cool exciting positions you all are able to secure! I

know you can do it! Also, feel free to contact me if you have any questions at

nessaogu [AT] gmail [DOT] com.

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Master of Science in Human-Computer Interaction

College of Information Studies

University of Maryland
4105 Hornbake Bldg, South Wing
4130 Campus Drive
College Park, MD 20742