Job seekers at the UW Computer Science and Engineering recruiting fair are confident they’ll find work. They’re more interested in whether they’ll find something they really like.

Share story

Daphna Khen happily described her normal workday to a prospective Zillow job candidate Thursday at the University of Washington.

She usually gets in about 9 a.m., she said, and leaves about 5 p.m. She remembers working late into the night only once during her year and a half with the Seattle real-estate technology company.

Yes, there are many opportunities to learn different skills. Senior engineers offer “office hours,” and everyone Khen asks is happy to help out troubleshooting any issue.

Job seekers at the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) recruiting fair generally don’t ask Khen about salary or vacation days or health benefits. They’re more interested in how she likes her job and the projects she works on.

Many know their degrees all but guarantee them a job with high pay and good perks, but they really want to know if they’ll like it.

Hundreds of UW computer-science students attended the packed recruiting fair Thursday, one of two this week where companies set up colorful booths to market their job openings.

The CSE department estimates 500 students attended one or both of the fairs this week, a number that just keeps increasing as more technology companies move to the Seattle area and the ones that are here keep growing.

Khen graduated from the UW computer-science program in March 2015 and took a job as a software-development engineer with Zillow Group, where she had been an intern before her junior year. Students probably find her easy to talk to; after all, she was recently a student, too, and she knows what it’s like to be in a market where people with her skills are highly desired.

For students about to graduate, from the CSE department, the job market is a friendly place. Companies are hiring tech talents at rates never seen before, and the supply of people with the right skills doesn’t match the number of job openings.

The Washington Technology Industry Association estimates there is a shortage of 4,000 people for computer-science jobs in the state at any one time.

Many students have five to eight job offers as they prepare to graduate, said Annie Rihn, Zillow Group vice president of recruiting, who has been with the company since it launched in 2005. That can be intimidating for a college student, and many seek advice from parents and friends as they try to differentiate between the companies.

“Our university recruiters are almost like career coaches,” Rihn said. It’s all about building personal relationships with people, she said.

Most of the seven-person team Zillow brought to UW on Thursday weren’t strictly “recruiters.” One is, but the rest were engineers coming to talk to fellow engineers about why they like working at Zillow.

Zillow has partnered with the UW for years to recruit students, while offering workshops and open houses for them. It has hired 150 students from the school as full-time employees or interns since 2005.

The company has hired 1,000 people globally this year, including nearly 100 new graduates and interns.

University recruiting has become a boon for tech companies as they strive to hire as many developers as possible. Companies still poach talent from each other, but they’ve increasingly turned their attention toward the young, newly minted engineers streaming out of colleges.

The UW’s computer-science school is considered one of the best in the country, and officials are working to construct a new building that will allow the school to increase the number of students it can accept into the program each year. In June, 256 students graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the department.

It’s one of the two schools DocuSign focuses on with its new university-recruiting program.

The electronic-signature company, which is based in San Francisco and has a large Seattle office, launched the program a year and a half ago as recruiting became more competitive in the Puget Sound region.

“For us, it was like, ‘OK, it’s getting more competitive. We need to get out and expand that talent pool,’ ” Mike Euglow, DocuSign head of global talent acquisition said. “…The skill sets we see coming out of schools surpassed managers’ expectations on the recruiting side.”

DocuSign expects to hire more than 700 people during its fiscal year.

University recruiting can also help companies increase diversity within their ranks, a topic that has risen to the forefront of conversation.

Zillow created an official diversity program a few years ago, but its recruiters say they have always been mindful of the topic, especially because the company has several female executives.

Maegan Nevalsky, a sophomore looking for an internship, said having other female engineers around isn’t a must-have, but she does work with different programs to get girls more involved in tech.

Computer-science students, meanwhile, have a world of jobs open to them, but that doesn’t mean the process is easy.

“It’s kind of terrifying,” UW senior Kim Lum said, laughing.

Lum, who has already completed several internships, has an idea of what she wants — to be in Seattle, to do front-end engineering work and to find a good cultural fit. Salary is a factor, but it’s just one piece of what she’s looking for.

That gets to the crux of university recruiting, Zillow’s Rihn said. Salaries across companies are pretty comparable at this point, as are perks such as vacation, free meals, etc.

What recruiters try to do is give candidates a sense of what working at Zillow is actually like, and help them feel out if it would be a good fit, both from a coding standpoint and a culture standpoint.

Khen, the Zillow engineer helping at the recruiting fair, makes eye contact and smiles at passing students. She doesn’t aggressively try to get them to talk to her.

“We want people who want to talk to us,” she said.