I just graduated with a BS in CS & MATH at a state university with pretty good CS reputation, and still don't have a job. I have had 3 interviews by now, 2 of which I made it to last round but didn't get the job. Besides the lack of effort on my part (didn't apply as much as I should have), the lack of a good internship experience (had a 2-month internship at a friend's incubator startup, some TA and assistantship experience), and the lack of interview skills, my ability in actual development is probably to blame.

I know this is the case for a lot of CS undergrads just coming out of college, but my education path has been particularly math heavy. I've mostly opted for classes that count as both math and CS courses to kill two birds with one stone (e.g. graph theory, cryptology, ...), and these courses lack hands-on programming.

In addition, I am only now just starting to get into web dev (6-month ago, I didn’t even know what MongoDB was, or how to request a POST method), so a lot of the companies out there hiring for full time positions are going to raise their eye brows at me. I’ve had an interview where the interviewer partially realized this, and changed directions for me to ask more “fundamental” CS questions like “how does a DNS resolve URLs?” And I felt so embarrassed because I really didn’t know at the time.

Everyone tells me how desirable my degree is, but in my experience, more traditional companies hiring for full time SWE positions want mostly professionals with great development knowledge. Or, in the cases of larger companies like Google or Facebook, are willing to hire “smart” people and train them. This occurs mostly for internships or people with very impressive theoretical backgrounds. I can’t really apply for internships anymore since I graduated, and my background is just average. Besides, the prime time for hiring from these big companies are mostly in the Fall.

So I’m wondering what SoF would recommend or advise me to do? How can someone in my situation market themselves? Or what could someone like me do to get a good job fast?

  • Comedian Bill Cosby famously said "I joined the Army right out of high school because the dropouts had all the jobs." - The good news is: although your emphasis on deep fundamentals at the expense of practical skills seems to be holding you back now, as the years pass you will gain the advantage over your cohorts who wasted their university time learning the latest platforms and libraries. Platforms and libraries come and go and you'll be learning new ones all your life. Every time you learn a new computer language, you will have more to say in it than those who opted for vocational training. Jun 10, 2018 at 17:44
  • 1
    What is SWE? Common slang is Smoke Weed Everyday.
    – paparazzo
    Jun 10, 2018 at 17:55
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    Software Engineering...
    – B.Li
    Jun 10, 2018 at 18:06
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    What kind of job do you want? "Software engineering" is pretty broad.
    – dwizum
    Jun 11, 2018 at 20:18
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    Why are you looking at web dev? With strong math background, there are lots of other directions/branches, more appropriate in my opinion. Backend development, scientific computing, image processing, etc ... Jun 11, 2018 at 20:30

1 Answer 1


As you said, in most of the world your degree makes you very desirable. You identified your ability to interview as a possible problem. I suggest you work on this. There are two aspects to the interviews you will encounter, a behavioural test and a technical test.

To improve the behaviour aspect of the interviews get feedback on you you do. Ask experienced friends in any industry to interview you. Get them to give you honest feed back on how you come across. Prepare answers for the topics you are likely to get asked about. You have had three rounds of questions already so you have probably heard most of the behavioural topics already. Don’t parrot off prepared answers but do have a good idea what you are going to say to predictable questions.

You said that part of you problem was lack of effort on you part. Interviews will pick this up and will find it very hard to look past this to your good aspects. Before interviewing, learn what you can about the company and the role. When you go to the interview you should know why you want the job. Wanting to work at the company will help you focus and put in the effort need to make you best case.

On the technical side you should so some study. The problem solving coding questions can usual be tackled with a few techniques. Read a book on coding interviews and do all the example questions. Cracking the Coding Interview: is very good at explaining the classes of questions you will encounter.

It will also help to learn some basics of computer science. Depending you how you learn you could get a few introductory computer science books, read them and do the questions. I recommend an algorithms book, e.g. Introduction to Algorithms and a networking book, e.g. Computer Networks by Tanenbaum. If working from books doesn’t suit you you could take some online courses.

Don’t worry about not knowing web development or the latest database technology. Good employees won’t expect you know these things for an entry level job. If this is going to cause you insecurity then learn a little about some of the technology stacks. Again, online courses a good way to do this.

If you still like math then you should consider a job which takes advantage of you math skills. Companies need people who can code and have strong math skills to do everything from algorithmic bidding in auctions to motion correction in robotic vision. I normally don’t recommend working through a recruitment company because usually I find the add little value. However in you case since you need help getting you first job they could help. Especially if the can match you with a position needing strong math skills. They may also tutor you in interviewing skills.

Good luck.

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    Thanks! I'm pretty good with algorithms, I just don't perform well under interview pressure. I'm going to try and read the computer networks book.
    – B.Li
    Jun 14, 2018 at 19:23

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