When I talk to first years about co-op I often feel that my experiences alone aren’t the whole story. Co-op stories on reddit tell a different aspect but still I felt that they weren’t enough. This page seeks to share responses from upper years in a variety of majors within the Math Faculty to questions that first years have asked. If you would like to add your advice to this page email the VPO at vpo@mathsoc.uwaterloo.ca. Best of luck on your job search – Mary.

How do you decide what jobs on Waterlooworks you want to apply for?

“I really recommend blocking out a few hours of the day and reading through every single job and shortlisting the ones that have requirements that match yours. Then, go through the shortlist and find the ones that interest you, or that match your skills the best. Always use all 50 applications, you’ll need them.” – 3A CS
“I filter by the number of applications (lowest to highest).” – 3A FARM
“I start by casting a very very wide net and then whittling it down to piles of safety jobs, reasonable goals and unattainable goals. Then determining how many of each job to apply for and further whittling down each pile based on my qualifications and the qualifications I don’t currently possess but want to build.” – 3B Stats
“I mostly choose jobs where I think I’ll be able to learn a lot in a positive environment.” – 4A CS
“I decide what I would like to learn. If I want more actuarial experience I’ll apply to actsc jobs, if I want to learn more statistical modelling I’ll apply to stats jobs.” – 4A ActSc
“A combination of what I’m interested in and what looks like I’ll have a good chance of getting. I still apply for prestigious jobs which I’m unlikely to get but only a few; most are in the middle prestige range with a couple of safety jobs.” – 4A PMATH & CO, Josué
“I only put jobs I have qualifications for and are related to my program on my shortlist. From there I pick the top 50 jobs that I think are interesting/ in ideal locations.” – 3B

What application tips would you like to share?

“Chances are some of the employers are only using the quick-preview mode to look at resume, and some of them are really hard too read in that mode. Once you upload your document to WW you can check it out through quick preview as well, so you should really ensure your font is readable and clear before you submit the applications.” – 4A CS
“I highly recommend downloading a Waterlooworks chrome extension – the ability to view a job as a popup instead of always in a new tab is just so nice.” 4A CS & CO
“Ensure your resume is one page long!” – 3A CS

What was your experience like when you were looking for your first co-op job?

“I started in the first round with some unwarranted optimism, and did not use all 50 of my applications. I failed to get a job in the first round, and had to go into continuous. Finally, I managed to get a job for the next term on the day I moved out of residence. The lesson here is do not give up, and don’t be too picky. By the end of continuous, I was applying to anything with the word ‘computer’ in it.” – 3A CS
“I felt like I was unqualified for everything. I applied to a lot. I got little response in return. I honestly think getting your first job is a fluke. You just have to keep putting yourself out there” – 3B Stats
“It was pretty bad! I didn’t really know what I should be applying for so I was applying for positions that sounded cool or everyone else was applying for. As a first year with no experience, it turned out pretty badly and I only had one interview during main round (which I bombed :)).” – meowth
“It’s definitely not easy. There are a lot of conflicting advice about things like resumes and cover letters, and interviews were very stressful when I had no valuable experience to talk about. ” – 4A CS
“My experience was a little stressful. I ended up going into continuous, which I thought was going to be the end of the world but it wasn’t. There were actually many jobs left.” – 3A FARM

What would you do differently if you were to redo your first co-op job search?

“I would start working on my resume and cover letter earlier to avoid that night-before application crunch.” – 3A FARM
“I now know that I can ask if I can take notes during the interview for reference later on. Everytime I ask they respond in a surprised but good/encouraging way. ” – 4A ActSc
“I would do some kind of project that shows adept use of a specific analytical skill and programming language and then target jobs looking for that skill and/or language.” – 3B Stats
“I would spend more time on my cover letters… It matters a lot when you have no work experience.” – 3B
“I would apply to a wider range of jobs and be more willing to take risks when applying” – Anon

How do you prepare for interviews?

“I make sure I am able to talk in length about every project on my resume, review some language / technology specific knowledge, and try to come up with a connection between my past experience and what this company does.” – 4A CS
“I like to start by skimming the company’s website and ensuring that I can ace the ‘tell me what you know about Corporation Inc’ question which is incredibly common. I then spend some time hyping myself up and getting into full social butterfly mode. ” – 4A CS & CO
“I didn’t get many interviews either, so when I did eventually get an interview I watched a lot of prep videos on youtube and practiced talking about myself. I also made sure to learn the job description super well and first convince myself that I was qualified for the job.” – Michelle
“I do a quick search of the company, and try to pinpoint anything that interests me, in case they ask why I want to work there. Then, I try to come up with two questions to ask the interviewer (if I can’t find anything, I usually go with “what have past co-ops worked on”, and “what new projects are you excited about”). Finally, I rehearse the answer to “tell me about yourself”, which you can spin into an answer for lots of questions.”- 3A CS
“Less than I probably should. Mostly company-focused reading and not how to answer stock questions. ” – 3B Stats
“I always think about a few traits I want the interviewer associate with me after that interview. For example I could choose an action statement such as, “I want to be seen as someone who pays attention to detail” as I deem this something really important for the role I’m interviewing for. Then I think of stories, or experiences that highlight this trait in me and then they’ll be fresh on my mind for when I’m in the interview.” – Terra, 3A, Math / CPA
“If I can, I find their statement of purpose so I can try to highlight the parts of myself which match that. I always sleep well the night before, shave the morning of, put on my best clothes and do what I can to relax. I’ve been in (and facilitated!) lots of interviews and what really trips people out isn’t their technical skills or even their soft skills, it’s actually they get so nervous that they forget who they are or what they’re about. Easier said than done but something that always helps me relax is to clothes my eyes and take three deep breathes. It actually helps! Give it a try sometime! ” – 4A PMATH & CO, Josué
“I think of questions and ask them to myself in the mirror, look up the company, and I write 3 questions specific to the job I can ask.” – 3B

Do you do anything different when preparing for online interviews?

“I like to look up the interviewer on Linkedin. It’s kinda nice to know something about the interviewer before you meet them for the first time considering they’ve already got lots of info on you” – 4A CS & CO
“I always make sure to double check what my lighting and background will look like on my computer on the morning of the interview. Especially with having to take most of my interview in my bedroom I like to make sure the space still looks professional and like a work environment in the eyes of my potential employer. ” – Terra, 3A, Math / CPA
“I set up my room to make sure that I have a nice background/decorate my wall. One employer told me they had a student set up a white board in the background that read “I <3 XYZ company" (they were offered the job). Also set up a stand so that you camera is at eye level." - 4A ActSc
“Nope! It may seem strange but still dress up like you’re doing an in person interview (even if the interview is just over the phone!). Part of why I dress myself up is not just because that’s the expectation but because it makes me feel good about myself. If you can walk (or call) in to an interview feeling confident and refreshed then you’ll rock it. ” – 4A PMATH & CO, Josué

Do you have any routines that you do before an interview?

“I always remind myself that regardless of how the interview goes, it’s a learning experience. There’s always future chances. ” – meowth
“Work out the day before the interview! It helps you calm down and get good sleep ” – 4A CS
“I don’t do anything before, but after, if the interview is early in the morning, I get the farmer’s wrap and a coffee from Tim Hortons.” – 3A CS
“Nope” – 3B Stats
“I like to talk a lot before my interviews to get into the social mood.” – 3A FARM
“I do yoga to relieve me of any stress. I also take my notes on the company with me in case they ask. I also listen to music/sit with friends in the waiting area.” – 4A ActSc

What’s your most memorable interview experience?

“At some point in my co-op career I thought I’d put some more personality into my interviews, but I think I overshot it one time when I make the “rocknroll” gesture (that thing people do with their hands when they say “gang gang” [don’t put this part into the final edit]). I got the job, though, so all’s well that ends well?” – 3A FARM
“I think my most memorable interview would have to be the one where I was so nervous that I couldn’t even answer how to code a solution to finding Fibonacci numbers in the interview and the class I went to immediately after (MATH 239) covered the problem and solution in the first five minutes.” – 4A CS & CO
“Easily the time I forgot what the job I applied for was. Naturally the first question was ‘describe the position in your own words’. Boy I was like a deer in the headlights for at least 5 seconds. So I guessed. Plus I used vague descriptions like ‘it’s a leadership position’. Anywho, to make a long story short, I got the job in the end ;)” -4A PMATH & CO, Josué
“During my first coop interview my mind went completely blank and I forgot how to speak yet I still got offered the position.” – 3B
“Got an interview for a job I fantasized about as a kid. I did way more prep than I usually do. I didn’t get the job, but it made me finally think: ‘Oh, I might be able to get real jobs, not just “co-op” jobs'”- 3B Stats
“The worst interview I had. Everything that could have went wrong went wrong. This made me realize I have to be careful about what jobs I apply to as well as what jobs I accept. You deserve a work place you’ll like!” – 4A ActSc
“In my second interview in first year, I ran out of questions to ask the interviewer, and basically asked them “what exactly does your team do again?”. Don’t do that.” – 3A CS

What advice would you give to someone who is nervous about interviewing/ talking to people?

“Be confident in yourself; you probably won’t see them again anyhow, so there’s no reason to hold back all the great qualities that make you you.” – 3B Stats
“I also get really nervous when talking to people I don’t know well. I’d probably advise to not take yourself too seriously, sometimes interviews go well and sometimes they don’t and that’s okay (I ended up crying in my first interview because I had no idea what the interviewer was asking so it probably can’t get much worse than that). Interviews are already inherently stressful so don’t give yourself more stress. You’ll improve the more you do!! ” – meowth
“It’s totally fine to feel nervous! Even if you are not really good at interviewing now, you really will get better at it with more experience. Also, treat the interview more like a regular conversation. Instead of waiting for the interviewer to ask the specific questions you need to talk about your interesting / valuable experience, find a way to steer the conversation towards it.” – 4A CS
“It’s a skill that can be practiced and improved. Mock interviews help, but only so much. The only real way to get good at them is to go in and do some real ones, unfortunately. Interviews can often feel really stiff and fake. If you can break out of that and turn it into a more natural conversation, that really helps. Easier said than done, I know, but if you can latch onto something and break out of the question-answer cycle, go for it.” – 3A CS
“I would listen to a lot of podcasts or watch videos of people speaking the way you want to speak, and then try and mimic them. ” – 3A FARM
“I used to get nervous about my facial expression looking a little bored at times when I was listing to people. If you’re worried about giving the wrong facial expressions off in an interview my trick to help is to practice facial expressions in the mirror. Even a little bit of practice just makes me feel more confident for when I’m doing them in person. “- Terra, 3A, Math / CPA
“The first minute is the most terrifying. The adrenaline pumping and the anxiety flowing. But I always find that after the first minute it goes away and you can relax into yourself. Try to keep in mind that everyone gets nervous interviewing and the interviewer knows that!” – 4A PMATH & CO, Josué

If you didn’t find a job for a co-op term what would you like to tell someone who is worried about being in a similar situation?

“I was unable to find my first co-op and at the time I was pretty stressed about it. I felt like I wasn’t good enough, that I was falling behind from my peers and that I was letting down my family. I was an out-of-province student and already had trouble making friends so this definitely increased the isolation factor. However, from this experience, I realized that I was setting too high of a goal for myself – despite having no CS background or side projects, I was applying for junior developer positions since that’s what everyone else was doing. I decided that it was okay to start off slower and aimed for IT and QA positions the next couple of terms. As I gained more experience both at work and school, I was able to find software development jobs at reputable companies for my last 3 coops. Looking back, even though it felt hopeless at the time, I really don’t think missing my first co-op affected any of my future co-ops. My advice would be not to compete with others, and to go at your own pace. ” – meowth
“Just apply externally, don’t give up. I got Google after getting nothing for my first co-op.” – Anon

Co-ops often aren’t in Waterloo. If you moved due to co-op what advice would you give?

“PLAN AHEAD. Do you need a car? Are you leaving stuff in waterloo? How much is rent? Whats the commute like? These questions helped me avoid jobs in locations that I couldn’t accommodate. I use fb a lot to find housing – especially helpful if You’re working near a school.” – 4A ActSc
“Find accommodations as soon as possible. If it is in a popular spot like California try finding roommates from Waterloo through the international coop Facebook groups” – Anon

How do you get to know your coworkers while online?

“Don’t hesitate to reach out with some small “problem” as a means to segue to a more casual conversation about their life or their weekend.” – 3B Stats
“It’s definitely harder to get to know your coworkers online so everyone’s in the same boat. I think a lot of it comes down to how much effort you put in. It’s cliche but don’t be afraid to reach out to your coworkers, either for coffee chats or asking for help in general. It might feel awkward at first but it’s probably awkward for everyone. If it helps you open up, you probably will never see these people again after the term ends so there’s no lasting consequences!!” – meowth
“not sure, I would like the know the answer to this…” – 3B
“Socials! Hopefully your company already has some mechanism for team socials but if not don’t be afraid to try and start one. There’s always online boardgames!” – 4A PMATH & CO, Josué

Anything else that you want to say?

“Interviews are stressful and they take a lot of practice. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes that’s how you learn and get better. Good luck!” – 4A ActSc
“Believe in yourself!” – 3A FARM