Layoffs Broke Big Tech’s Elite College Hiring Pipeline

Eva Xie did it right. She attended the highly competitive Bronx High School of Science in New York City and then MIT, where she majored in math and computer science with a specialization in artificial intelligence. After her freshman year, she landed a coveted summer internship at Facebook and was invited back to Menlo Park the following summer – traditionally a good sign that a student would eventually be offered a full-time job.

But in the summer of 2022, warning signs began to appear that Xie’s future could be sidetracked from her well-charted course. Rumors were circulating within the company that Meta, as it was now said, could impose a hiring freeze. Xie and her colleagues weren’t worried, assuming the established pipeline the company used to select students from elite colleges was a fixture.

The interns were wrong. In an early morning email last August, Xie and the rest of her overachieved cohort were among the first to be hit by a wave of tech hiring freezes and layoffs that would claim hundreds of thousands of jobs in the coming months. Meta regretted to inform them, the email said, that unlike previous years, they would not renew successful interns with guaranteed return offers for full-time jobs before going back to school.

When Meta announced 11,000 layoffs in the fall, the company didn’t shut out its high-performing interns. “They fired everyone who was just starting, including those who got the best grades during their internships,” Xie says. That included MIT graduates right in front of her on the conveyor belt that has consistently brought new talent to the industry for the past decade.

In recent months, many former interns and recent graduates have found themselves among the thousands of people laid off at the big tech companies. That has caused many prospective graduates like Xie, who once thought they would easily slip into employment at one of the leading tech companies, to reconsider the value of those companies, their own prospects and, in some cases, what they want out of their careers.

Meta spokesperson Andrea Beasley didn’t respond to WIRED’s questions about its internship program, but pointed to CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s blog post announcing layoffs, which said the company had expanded too much during the pandemic.

Amazon, which hosted around 18,000 interns in 2022, is considering reducing its intern class by more than half, according to a New York Times Report. Amazon spokesman Brad Glasser tells WIRED that the company is “excited” to accept interns in 2023 but is still finalizing its plans. Google, which laid off 12,000 employees in January, will accept interns next year but has slowed hiring and won’t hire as many employees as in previous years, according to Andrea Florence, Google’s director of internship programs.

Claire Ralph, director of career services at Caltech, where about 40 percent of graduates go on to work in technical fields, is concerned about student counseling given the recent cuts. “Caltech students are very successful and therefore often anxious. Certainly the news is at the center of their anxiety right now,” says Ralph, who also teaches computer science. Layoffs Broke Big Tech’s Elite College Hiring Pipeline

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