Interprep Offers Much-Needed Interview Coaching

By Ben SanNicolas

Like many undergraduates who have successfully found an internship, Joan Zhang knows first-hand how stressful a technical interview, during which employers directly assess an applicant’s practical skills and knowledge, can be. The junior computer science major worked for a small company last summer and plans to work again this summer, but wants to help others snag similar opportunities.

“I felt really lost going through the interview process and I figured there should be a more convenient way for students like me to get in touch with students who can help,” Zhang says.

To remedy the problem, Zhang created Interprep, an organization that aims to aid students who want to know more about how to succeed in a technical interview. It was an idea, but Zhang could only help so many people on her own. Beginning last September, she recruited a handful of friends to jumpstart the operation. While she matched clients to coaches and ensured everything ran smoothly, her friends provided their expertise free of charge.

“They did it on a volunteer basis after I asked them,” Zhang said. “I begged.”

Luckily, this semester, Interprep received funding from Maryland’s Computer Science department and Zhang can begin paying her coaches.  Still, she is extraordinarily thankful to all those who helped her without asking for anything in return.

While technical interviews are not as common for underclassman, Interprep seeks to help all who ask and can still help acquaint students to the process. Zhang’s coaches routinely help students in the introductory Java classes.

“If they see [the client] is someone from CMSC 131 or 132, I tell them to put more emphasis on general procedure,” Zhang explains. Otherwise, the coaches develop a mock interview that assesses material covered in the student’s classes and seek to answer any specific questions or concerns the student has.

Interprep is still young, and Zhang isn’t sure where it will go in a couple years after she graduates, but it has already provided personalized, one-on-one instruction to over fifty students. Part of what Zhang hopes to provide goes beyond the students Interprep directly coaches. She wants to make sure students know that they aren’t alone--that other students struggle with interviews too, and Interprep is there if they ever need it.

“I want people to know there’s somewhere they can go [for help],” she says.

As for Zhang herself, she says she wants to continue helping. “I don’t want to go into industry,” Zhang admits. “Throughout college, helping people learn and teaching has been my favorite thing.” Wherever she goes, Zhang won’t be finished with her education anytime soon.

“I’m not sure I’m cut out for a PhD,” she admits. “But I definitely want to get a master’s.”

If you want a private session with Interprep, visit its website:

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