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Yesterday, I went to an interview with a well-known foreign technology company which has some activity in my country (France), for my end-of-studies internship. There were three internship subjects available, all related to my interests (machine learning and computer vision, which I will call ML and CV in the following). Two of them interested me most.

After hearing a general description of both, I settled on one that seemed more interesting to me. It became clear that it would not be exactly what I expected; it is very CV-oriented, while still including a small ML part. The second topic would contain more machine learning. On the moment, I still thought the first one was a good choice.

The interview went well; they seemed satisfied and told me that I would be contacted for a second small interview, and that they would like me not to take too long to give a definitive answer. I am now waiting for them to get in touch.

The problem is that I am having doubts about my choice of subject. Though I find CV interesting, ML was initially my main subject, it is the one I have the most (not work-related) experience in, and it seems to have a much larger choice of job openings. I worry that doing mostly CV could hurt my chances of getting a job I like at the end of my internship. I did not think this through during the interview.

Since they seemed to like my profile and the two subjects have similarities, I wonder if I could request some more information on the second subject, and request a switch depending on that. Is that still an option? Do I risk losing the offer by going back and forth like that after the interview?

I have other contacts as well as an interview planned at another company, and am pretty sure that I will have at least two other positions available soon, so losing this offer would not be a disaster, but this one is better aligned with my interests. I can probably gain something from either of the two subjects. I would like, if possible, to get a chance to reconsider my choice with more information, without annoying the recruiters.

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I am on the other side of the table, in a very similar situation (well, the two projects we are offering are NLP and ML related, but you get the idea...). Every company is different, but still let me explain how this is seen from the other side.

In our case we took the initiative and explained the candidates that, while the projects are still not completely defined, they will be about two different fields and asked them about their preferences. But we also asked about what would happen if they get selected to do the second project (the one they don't like that much). And then, when making the decision about which candidates get the call, we are considering their answer to this question (as well as his performance on the interview in each of the two subjects).

If you were at the end of our interviews, and we received a call from you stating that you are changing your preferences, then that would be good for us - as it is yet another datapoint that we can use for our selection. It may be good for you (e.g. if we judged you to be likely to perform better in your now preferred subject); it may not be good at all (e.g. if they already have another strong candidate for your now preferred subject); or it may not matter (e.g. if they like you in general, no because of your performance in a particular area). But summarising, if you are having second thoughts about your chosen subject, I would be definitely glad to learn about it in a polite way during our next conversation, so we could avoid having your working for three months in a topic you dislike - one way or another.

Now, that probably would be best advice from the company/mentor side; however, from your side my advice would be slightly different:

  • The subject you choose for you internship does not matter that much - specially in your case, as ML and CV are somehow related. You have nothing to lose by having an internship in a topic related with your main subject (as it shows that you are open to change and that your knowledge is not too much focused)
  • Are you completely sure that you'll get the CV project? Did you discuss only that project with your interviewers? It may very well happen that you get selected for the ML project, if you didn't focus exclusively on the CV side during the interviews.
  • In some companies, the internships are actually just a way of doing kind of an extended interview over a longer period: You get to know much better the company and your would-be colleagues, and they can see you work properly. To be honest, in these kind of companies the topic of the projects matter very little, and instead you should be focusing on whether this is a company in which you'll like to stay after the internship and if you would enjoy working with the team.

I worry that doing mostly CV could hurt my chances of getting a job I like at the end of my internship.

  • I fail to understand why you think it could hurt your chances: Having one internship is going to be better that no internship at all, and, as you'll learn later, the topic of you internships doesn't matter that much for future job interviews (compared with things like your overall experience or how well you do on the technical questions - i.e. you'll probably fail if, for example, after 3 ML internships the only ML technique that you know well is DL).

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