Saturday, November 12, 2011

Forthright feedback wearing a child's rainbow festival hat

For the 13th year out of the 15 that the Computer Science Department at Aberystwyth has run the Interview Skills weekend I wondered up to Gregynog to put the 2nd years students through their paces. Hopefully they found it useful. This year, both in terms of C.V. quality and coming across in interview, were the best for 4 or 5 years.

The top 5 issues with the C.V.'s and the interviews this year were

  • Self-starter (vomit), passionate and team worker to be removed. Tell us what you have done, give us facts about what you have done inside and outside computing,  not your opinions about yourself. Let us form the opinion of what type of person you are based on the contents of the C.V. and how you conduct yourself in interview.
  • Put it in the C.V. We had a few students who needed a good slap for not mentioning distinctive and relevant technologies which they had non-trivial experience of and could talk about in some depth. They just happened to let it slip while talking about something far less impressive.
  • Lack of stuff. Doing a Computer Science Degree, but many had no outside computing related projects or hacking around to talk about. 
  • Every student on every computing degree course in the UK and beyond does a group project. If the group project is the best example of your team working abilities, think again.
  • Look at me when you are talking to me !
All this said, it was the best year for at least the last 3 or 4. Had some good sparing sessions with a couple of students, a discussion about debugging device drivers, an explanation of quantum mechanics (lost me quite near the start, but it sounded plausible) and a range of other stuff, so quite fun.

As industrialists, we do understand that having "Ron and Ron" questioning the purpose of your existence can be a bit of a trail for some undergraduates who maybe have never been interviewed in this type of setting before. We do aim to put them under some stress and make them work a bit, but also to give honest constructive  (and we hope useful) feedback. If something was wrong, we need to be quite forthright about it. Hence I borrowed my daughters festival hat [she looks much better in it than I do, even though she has grown somewhat since the picture was taken] and put it on when delivering blunt feedback. I have no idea if this helped reduce the tension or they just thought I was crackers.

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