This blog post captures a conversation between Palantirians Elizabeth Watts and Alejandro Davila that originally appeared on InternMakers’ YouTube channel. InternMakers is an online community co-founded by Alejandro and his classmate Mariana, with a mission to help all students get tech internships.
In this conversation, Elizabeth, Recruiting Events and Programs Lead at Palantir, discusses Palantir’s internship offerings, tips for applying and interviewing, and common pitfalls to avoid.
Could you give a quick introduction to Palantir?
Palantir is a software company. Our engineers build products and platforms for organizations to do large-scale, in-depth data analysis. We partner with a variety of organizations, including US and international government agencies; we also work with commercial clients as well as NGO’s. But essentially we’re trying to help our customers better understand their data, so that they can apply those learnings to their most pressing problems.
What makes Palantir’s internship program unique?
A couple things differentiate our program from internships at other software companies. Number one is the impact you can make early in your career here, either as an intern or a new grad. By working closely with our customers, you get immediate access to complex, data-driven problems in the real world. Another factor that differentiates us is the size of our intern program; as an intern at Palantir, you are one of only 100–120 interns globally. As a result, you get to work on really small, agile teams. You’re likely to be the only intern in a group of full-time engineers, collaborating to solve a common problem. So the exposure, ownership, and mentorship you’re going to get is pretty unique.
The final thing that really sets Palantir apart is our emphasis on driving results for our customers. As a software engineer, you’re able to travel the world and interact face-to-face with our customers and users. You get to see the direct impact of the product you engineered on their problem, their workflows, and their day-to-day operations. That level of interface with the people who actually use your products is pretty remarkable.
What are the different internship positions offered at Palantir?
We offer a variety of technical positions for interns of different backgrounds. The two main internships we offer are in software engineering. We have our traditional Dev internship (titled ‘Software Engineer’ on our website), which is similar to most software developer positions in the tech industry. Then, we have our Forward Deployed Software Engineering Internship (FDE, for short). Those are our engineers who generally work on-site at customer locations, solving problems hand-in-hand with customer personnel.
We also offer internships in Product Reliability, Product Design, and Privacy and Civil Liberties. These, along with our software engineering internships, are open to juniors and/or students going into their final semesters of study. We offer Path internships to sophomores and juniors who haven’t had a technical internship just yet.
As a Path intern, your experience at Palantir will be the same as any other intern; your interview process will just be a bit more tailored. Not only do we want to understand your technical experience, we want to really understand a bit more about how you learn — about how you will apply the raw fundamentals you’ve learned in school to solve new problems.
Is it possible to apply to multiple positions?
Absolutely! In fact, we encourage you to apply to multiple positions. Of course, you should do some research ahead of time on the different roles available, and self-reflect on what makes the most sense based on your your skills, what motivates you, and what you want to accomplish as an intern. But when you get on the phone with a recruiter, we can talk to you a bit more about the similarities and differences between the roles and which office location will make the most sense for you.
The interview process for our internship roles is very similar. So once you get into the process, it isn’t incredibly important which position you’re interviewing for, since we’ll use the same technical framework to evaluate you.
What makes a candidate stand out to you?
Our recruiting team talks to thousands of candidates. The ones who stand out most to me are the ones who have passion, drive, and tenacity. They’re focused on the outcomes they’re working on and they’re driven by making a real impact.
This passion comes out in the conversations we have. Stand-out candidates focus not necessarily on the actions they took to accomplish something, but instead talk about the accomplishment itself. They elaborate on why they care about it — on why, on top of their course-load and other extracurriculars, they invested their time in this thing that they care most about. When I hear that over the phone or read it in an application, it really stands out.
What are the most common mistakes that candidates make?
Some of the most common mistakes I see are, one, not being your true, authentic self. We can tell when a candidate has a rehearsed pitch or is telling the recruiter what they think the recruiter wants to hear, as opposed to how they really think or feel.
Another flag is when a student doesn’t take the time research the company before submitting an application or sitting down to an interview. Related to this, it’s important to come prepared with questions. It’s frustrating for a recruiter when candidates don’t have well-researched questions, because it shows that they didn’t invest the time to prepare for that conversation.
A simple mistake students make is not taking the time to tailor their application to the specific company to which they’re applying. I’ve even see students put down the wrong company name in their responses/cover letters! It’s about paying attention to detail and putting thought and time into how you present yourself.
Do you have any advise for candidates to combat interview jitters?
The first thing to remember is to just breathe. Try to remember that everyone here is human. We want you to be able to take your time and think before you answer. It’s more than okay to take that breath and think through your response; in fact, we encourage it.
Also, remember that as much as we’re interviewing you, you’re also interviewing us. We want to make sure that this is the right fit for everyone involved. That way, you’re able to hit the ground running and have success. Interviewing is always a two-way street.
Finally, direct the conversation to what you’re interested in and passionate about. That passion is authentic and everyone in the room can feel it. It makes us excited to know we’re having a conversation about something we know you care about, and it makes you more comfortable to talk about something you’re interested in and know a lot about. You can’t fake that.
What are the key deadlines for Palantir’s internships, scholarships, and affiliate programs?
While our internship positions are filled for 2020, our scholarships are still open. Palantir’s Women in Technology Scholarship scholarship is open until March 22nd, and our Future Scholarship is open until April 5th. Our internships for the coming year generally open in August, so definitely check our openings during the summertime. This is particularly important for our Path internship, which has an early October deadline.
It’s also important to note that Palantir hires on a rolling basis. So the earlier you apply, the better. Those 100–120 spots tend to go pretty quick.
That being said, we have opportunities to engage with out recruiting team throughout the summer so that you can get to know the company better. This way, once applications open, we can get right to business and get you involved in the. application process.
Any last advice for anyone looking to join Palantir?
Reach out to your networks! Palantirians are always eager to engage in conversation to answer any questions or address any confusion.
Also, when you apply, make sure to fill out the “Why Palantir?” section. Believe it or not, we do read the optional responses and we do take them into high consideration when processing applications.
To learn more about working at Palantir and see all available positions, visit our website.
How to Get an Internship at Palantir was originally published in Palantir Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.