In April, my team set out to design a new recruiting project: the Lockstep Software Engineering Internship. Our company is growing rapidly, but we also made the decision (before the pandemic) that we would be a fully remote company. Could we design a remote internship program that would open up Lockstep to a new generation of engineers? Would candidates be interested?

As it turned out, yes, they would be interested. We received significantly more applications than we originally expected. We closed the program to new applicants almost two weeks earlier than planned, after we reached a total of five hundred and fifty candidates – for a program designed to fill two intern positions.

We’re very excited to start working with our interns in June and help them develop their career – but we’d also like to take time to figure out how best to improve on our internship program.

Evaluating candidates

With the legal and compliance resources available to us, our plans for Summer 2021 were limited to US-based interns. This meant that we had to turn away some incredibly talented engineers who just happen to be based in a different country.

We will keep looking for ways to expand to other countries in the future, and we’ll commit to making all of our internship posts explicitly clear about legal issues and locations.

Once we identified candidates we could support legally, the next step was to find a fair way to evaluate candidates based on a few criteria:

  • Demonstrated programming ability;
  • Ability to think deeply about their work; and
  • The initiative to research problems and design solutions.

Of these three items, only one could be identified in an automated way. We decided to use the code testing service CodinGame to help evaluate candidates’ programming skills in a language-neutral environment. So how did it work?

We designed a test, sent it to the first dozen candidates, and waited for the results. We were shocked: all twelve received top marks according to Codingame’s ranking system.

We eventually worked with Codingame to design a second, improved test that provided a bigger challenge. Still, we were extremely impressed with the overall scores delivered by our internship candidates, so we’ll need to improve our code test strategy in the future.

Refining the process

Along the way, we made a few small mistakes and learned a few lessons:

  • We originally sent out programming tests to all candidates. Some of the candidates that scored highly in the automated tests were unable to be considered because of issues with their start date or with their location/citizenship. We’re redesigning the application process so that candidates won’t be sent the programming test until after they have completed the eligibility questionnaire.
  • Many candidates contacted us to ask about the deadlines for the various steps in the process. We’ll need to document the dates more thoroughly in the future.
  • Some intern candidates weren’t able to start on the dates when we needed the internship to start. Some candidates specified that they were only available starting in August or October; we weren’t able to consider those candidates for summer – but we hope they’ll apply for the fall internship!

Even with these little mistakes, we were able to narrow down the list of candidates to about a hundred candidates who had received top marks. Based on the questionnaire filled out by candidates, we were able to select twenty candidates to proceed to the interview stage.

We want to thank everyone who took the time to participate in this process, and we appreciate your patience. If you have time, please fill out a survey about the internship so we can learn how best to improve.

Our team is committed to doing our best to treat everyone fairly, and all applicants will receive a survey to help guide us for future improvements.

Helping applicants

Because we had to turn away so many highly qualified candidates, we want to encourage everyone to stay in touch and to continue to apply for future internships and fulltime jobs here at Lockstep. The summer 2021 internship applicants were some of the best we’d ever seen, and we’re excited for your futures!

Lockstep believes that to succeed it must cultivate new and talented engineers. Although summer is the time of year most closely associated with internships, Lockstep will continue to offer quarterly internships going forward.

If you weren’t accepted for Summer 2021, we’d be happy to consider you for a future period. Please come back and talk to us when we announce the Fall 2021 internship: we will do our best to make it clear to everyone the criteria we will use, and the rules around each internship plan.

Fall 2021 Internship

  • Applications open July 26, closing on August 9
  • Programming tests sent August 9, due by August 20
  • Start dates between August 30 and September 13; end dates between November 19 and December 10

I’d like to finish by saying thank you to everyone who applied. Everyone here at Lockstep is incredibly thankful for your positive and encouraging responses to this internship project.