Tips for job hunting and interviewing at the Grace Hopper Conference
I attended GHC for the first time in 2016 as a student and I am going back this year as a full time engineer (thanks to Google!). I secured my current job at the conference last year and truly value that experience among other great experiences at the conference. If this is your first time at GHC and you are looking for an internship, your first job after graduation or a new job on your career path, I would like to share some things that I’ve learned.
Before the Conference
- Submit your resume to the GHC resume database. Make sure your resume is up to date and submit early. Sponsors look through the database to find candidates to interview at the conference. Note that you can also submit your resume even if you do not plan to attend or your plans change later.
- Set up interviews. Some companies go through the resume database and schedule interviews with interested candidates before the conference. Don’t worry if you missed the resume submission deadline or didn’t get contacted before the conference, you can still secure interviews at the career fair. Some companies are also quite flexible with the interview schedules. I was able to switch interviews at GHC with earlier interviews at my school career fair and vice versa. This is helpful if you have upcoming deadlines or you need more time to prepare.
- Join GHC groups on Facebook. Connecting with people you share common interests with is the most exciting part of the conference. Join GHC specific groups on Facebook and make plans to meet up with people at the conference. I found out through FB groups that some of my old friends were going to GHC and reunited with them at the conference.
- Identify your top companies. The conference app and the website should have a career fair guide listing all the companies/schools that will be present at the expo. Do your research and make lists of companies you already have interviews with, companies you are very interested in, and companies you want to know more about. It helps to prioritize and rank them in descending order so you can navigate through booths easily at the expo. If you have interviews scheduled already, confirm those interviews and make sure you have all the details like booth number, interview date and time and point of contact.
- Print copies of your resume/business cards. Bring multiple copies of your resume for the career fair depending on the number of companies you want to talk with. It also helps to carry business cards to give out to people you meet at events. I didn’t carry one and I ended up handing over my resume to someone who was very interested in my research at the poster session and wanted my contact info. That was very awkward because he was not a recruiter.
- Practice your elevator pitch. Don’t stress over this too much. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Sometimes it’s easy to forget what to say when you’re overwhelmed at the conference so it helps to go over a 2 minute/5 minute (based on who you’re meeting) introduction about yourself, your skills, and what you’re looking for before you talk to recruiters or others. Try to keep it short and meaningful as you don’t get too much time with recruiters because of the sheer number of people waiting in line behind you.
During the Conference
- If you need coffee, go early! It’s a painful experience for coffee lovers at the conference. There’s usually only one Starbucks inside the conference building and the nearby coffee shops have huge lines too. If you don’t go early, you end up wasting way too much time standing in line when you could be at the career fair, listening to a talk or other events.
- Make sure you download the conference app. The Wifi sucks too. I would highly recommend downloading the app on your phone so you can see where all the talks are as well as the career fair guide. Carry your phone charger at all times. Companies you meet at the expo might send you emails after a couple of hours if they want to interview you so it helps to periodically go to a location where you are able to connect to the internet to check your email. Save your schedule and factor in the time required to get from room to room while creating your schedule (especially if you have interviews).
- Dress comfortable, be comfortable. The conference is pretty casual and you’ll see most people in jeans and a T-shirt. Recruiters don’t really care and you don’t have to show up in business attire. Wear comfortable shoes and carry a jacket with you (Conference rooms are really cold!). I would recommend taking a technical cheat sheet with you to review before interviews. Carry a laptop only if necessary. You won’t need it and you don’t want to be lugging it around in your backpack. I’d save that extra space for all the swag!
- Go to the career fair early. The number of conference attendees is increasing every year and the lines at the career fair get really really long! Go to the expo as soon as it begins with the lists you made. Go to your top companies first. Use the app to find where they are. Your favorite company’s booth on the last day might have a shorter line but their interview slots are probably already full! If you get an interview, note that you can also request the recruiters for a phone/campus interview later instead of a GHC interview if you’d rather not interview at the conference because the interview booths are on the same floor as the expo so it can be very noisy and crowded. As Lymari Montijo pointed out, don’t sweat it if a company ignored you at the booth, they might contact you later. Also, if a recruiter is snubbing you, wait a little bit, and try to talk to a different recruiter at the booth. Makes all the difference.
- Talk to people. I can’t stress on this enough. You never know who you are going to meet. Remember the person I met at the poster session? Yes the guy who asked for a business card and got a resume instead! He was a senior employee at a company I had interviewed with prior to the conference. I didn’t do well at that interview but I got a callback interview after GHC because this person thought that my research was very relevant to a product he was heading. I ended up doing much better at my second interview. Don’t just limit yourself to recruiters. Go to events, talk to people about their work, grab lunch with a random stranger, reunite with old friends and make new ones!
- Register for popular events. Most popular events require a pre-registration. So make sure to sign up early if you’re interested in them. This includes both sessions at the conference as well as after parties sponsored by some companies. These are great places to meet awesome new people. An after party sponsored by Google was my favorite one last year! Most of these events are not listed on the official schedule but you get invited or hear about them through people you network with.
After the Conference
- Send follow up emails. It is not creepy at all to send follow up emails to people you met at the conference. Keep track of the companies you are yet to hear from. The companies you interviewed with usually give you a timeline on when to expect a response. Feel free to follow up with them if you haven’t heard back. Contact the other recruiters you met at the career fair after a week or so to check in. Make sure to save their info and connect with them on LinkedIn even if you don’t plan to follow up immediately.
- Give back! Write about your experiences and share your stories with friends, classmates, and others who want to go to the conference next year. If you attended the conference through a scholarship, make sure to thank your sponsors and remind them of the great work they’re doing and let them know about your valuable experience so they continue to sponsor deserving candidates in the coming years.
Don’t sweat if you thought your interviews didn’t go well. The most important thing is that you got all that exposure, met a lot of awesome cool people in tech, and got to listen to keynotes by inspiring women! The Grace Hopper Celebration is a great place to find a job or internship but it’s not the only place. You will have plenty of other opportunities in case you can’t make it. Good luck! 🙂
If you find yourself overwhelmed, have any thoughts or queries or just want to say hi to a random stranger, I’d love to chat! Please also reach out if you want more detailed information about my interview experiences at GHC. I interviewed for SWE, Cognitive SE and Data Science full time roles. Feel free to contact me via LinkedIn. I’d love to help 🙂 I also wrote about my personal experiences with dealing with technical interviews (Link below).