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As a recent grad I accepted an internship opportunity with a household name major tech company. The program had little to no training or ramp up period, instead I was placed on an active team and expected to immediately begin making contributions. My first meeting with the team was an openly hostile discussion between the senior developers over responsibilities and expectations and that persistent atmosphere of hostility made me very hesitant to participate in meetings. I ended up mostly only communicating with my manager and they had me complete a few small, low priority tasks for the team during the few months I was there. My assigned mentor was busy and the few times I came to them with questions the reply was "I haven't done/used this before, I don't know." As the tasks I was being asked to complete were basic web dev I didn't have too much trouble and used my free time to help other interns, one of which completed half as much work as I did but ended up hired at the company. Nearly two-thirds of people that intern with the program get offers but I did not. I was discouraged enough after the internship that I did not apply or look for SWE roles for nearly a year. Now one of the people I met during my internship has offered to help secure me interviews at the company.

I've been told it is a bad idea to say anything negative about past employment experiences. How do I explain my failure to get an offer and subsequent discouragement without "bad mouthing" the team I worked with or former employer?

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You don't need to explain anything because it was not your decision. The company / team / manager took a decision to not to offer you a job, and only they can provide justification for their choice.

As long as you've got something positive to show (which you have learnt during your internship) which need not be only technical, it can be behavioural, leadership, co-working - anything positive, I think you should be good. Talk about them, show them what you're learnt and how that learning is going to be useful in your future roles. In case they specifically ask why you were not offered a role after completing the internship, you do not need to answer directly, instead you can just say that the decision was made by the company / team / manager and while you do not have an exact reason, it might be that they did not have opening for your interest area, or simply the vision and mission of the team / department was not aligned with your expectation.

No need to badmouth anyone, or provide the hard, cold facts - stick to generic answers.

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  • but please don't say it that way. Telling an interviewer how hiring works implies they need to be told. You can say you have no idea, you can say they didn't have projects you were a good fit for, you can say you didn't want to work there (but have a good, positive-sounding reason like "their focus was A and I really want to embrace B" (where B is something big at the place you're interviewing.) Just don't say "well I guess you don't know this but actually the hiring company is the one who decides so go ask them and leave me out of it." Jun 1 at 19:43
  • @KateGregory Well, definitely. I tried to write this on a lighter note, but I guess I failed horribly. Please feel free to edit and make the wordings better. Thanks. Jun 1 at 19:48
  • @KateGregory I think that was implied in the answer, but I guess some people could be a obtuse.
    – zmike
    Jun 1 at 20:35
  • @JoeStrazzere Right, but that is not why OP was not offered a role. The fact that OP chose to refrain for looking for other roles, is a separate case that needs to be explained for sure. Jun 3 at 5:57

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