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Ask HN: How long did it take you to get your first dev job?
41 points by nerd on May 14, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments
Been hunting for a month, probably 10-20 applications. 1 interview, haven't heard back yet.

Am I being too impatient? How long did it take you to get an offer for your first full-time position in dev? What should I expect?

Edit:

Thanks for the feedback so far!

- I'm applying for work in Vancouver, BC

- I have friends in tech; one works at a company that's aggressively hiring and he gave me a reference. Unfortunately not even an interview from them

- I have some internships/student work experience in dev, but they're lower tier (unheard of companies)

-Been going to meetups/hiring fairs. I've had good discussions with engineers there, hand them my resume, but probably gets lost in a pile/black hole of HR




3 weeks from (cold) apps to offers, with somewhere around 140 apps. My approach may be mildly unusual, but I think there's a bunch of very good reasons to play it like a numbers game. Off the top of my head:

- The more interviews, phone screens, etc. you have, the better you get at them. Better studying than studying.

- Having a competing offer, even if you don't plan on taking it, is going to make companies you DO want to work for process your application far more quickly...and maybe even be more likely to hire you.

- It takes longer to figure out you probably won't want to work for a company than it does to do the minimal amount of research necessary to whip up a cover letter and send it in. Worst case, they want to interview you, and you get additional interview practice. No point doing the rest of the research on a company until you're at least to a phone screen.

- You'll be surprised at companies you thought you wanted to work for that you don't, and companies you'd never heard of that you fall in love with.

Good luck


This has always been a difficult challenge when job hunting for me, and I'd be curious to hear how you dealt with this in your application process.

Nearly every job offer I've encountered expects a response within a few days. In practice, I'm usually interviewing at multiple places and at different stages of the interview process at each.

When engaging with so many companies, how in the world do you synchronize all the offers + interviews?

For nearly every offer I've received, I feel that the company might take objection or even not allow me more than 3-4 days to decide on an offer.

Also, how do you manage other companies sensing that you're 'playing the field' with them (which can easily become apparent, when you're employing these tactics)? That's generally not positive for goodwill with someone you might eventually be working directly + closely with.


Re: response times, I don't think it's unreasonable to explain that you have additional interviews coming up. You're excited at the offer, but you want to explore your other options before making a final decision. Then get on the phone with the company/companies you really want to go to and get in for your onsite ASAP.

As has been discussed on HN ad nauseum, most exploding offers are pretty BS. A ton of time and money has been spent on you already, they want you, and the odds they rescind that if you ask for an extra week to decide are pretty slim. That said, by waiting you DO probably give up some of your ability to ask for extra $$...

One final note regarding the perception of playing the field. It was something I was concerned about when I was in the job search process. When people asked me where else I was interviewing, should I tell them? Doesn't that reveal that they're not, so to speak, my one true love? Had that exact discussion with the recruiting team at my current gig; turns out it generally makes you appear more desirable than disingenuous.


I also endorse the high-volume strategy. It's good to have a mostly prewritten cover letter in which you swap out a few things. Fire that off repeatedly, and tailor it more for jobs that you're really interested in.


I'd say a few things will move you up the pack extremely fast:

* Do open source. This doesn't necessarily mean "Contribute to some huge project"- I mean, do ANYTHING, commit that to Github, and use that as part of your advertising process.

* Attend local meetups. Doesn't matter how unrelated they are. Is it for designers? Who cares, go and meet people. People throw away resumes, they have a much harder time throwing away a handshake and a smile, especially if you tell them what you've been up to.

* Don't be afraid to show passion for whatever it is you're working on. It also will make you stand out greatly over the other applicants.

I know this is going to be hard advice to take, but learn to be self-sufficient in your development work. Don't know how to get a site online? Learn how to deploy. Pick some technology that seems neat and learn it inside and out- I did this with Docker over the course of 2 weeks and immediately was able to put it to use when talking to employers.

Also, follow up with those Engineers you talked to. Be a squeaky wheel. Especially for the ones who are doing something interesting.


How firmly are you set on Vancouver? There's a massive difference by city (EDIT: commenters getting a job in one week are probably in one of the top listed cities)

  Venture-Capital Investment by City

  Rank	Metro	Venture Capital Investment (millions)	   Share of Global Venture Capital Investment
  1	San Francisco	$6,471	15.4%
  2	San Jose	$4,175	9.9%
  3	Boston	        $3,144	7.5%
  4	New York	$2,106	5.0%
  5	Los Angeles	$1,450	3.4%
  6	San Diego	$1,410	3.3%
  7	London	        $842	2.0%
  8	Washington	$835	2.0%
  9	Beijing	        $758	1.8%
  10	Seattle	        $727	1.7%
  11	Chicago	        $688	1.6%
  12	Toronto	        $628	1.5%
  13	Austin	        $626	1.5%
  14	Shanghai	$510	1.2%
  15	Mumbai	        $497	1.2%
  16	Paris	        $449	1.1%
  17	Bangalore	$419	1.0%
  18	Philadelphia	$413	1.0%
  19	Phoenix	        $325	0.8%
  20	Moscow	        $318
From http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/01/global...


Sure, but venture capital investment in not necessarily related to actual open programming jobs, and how easy it is to get them. A whole lot of jobs are at huge firms whose main activity is not to make software.

In my experience, San Francisco is not the easiest place to go look for a job, or even close to the best idea: Living expenses are very high, interviewing processes are often very selective in ways that have little to do with job performance, and, in my experience, do not even have that great an average of quality in programming practices: Heck, I'd tell a new grad that, unless they landed in one of the very top employers there, that they'll be far better off in a different city.

(Full disclosure, I currently work remote for a SF company that is pretty popular in HN)


Write code. Spend as much of your time as possible doing that.

I'd ignore recruiters and fairs. Go to techy talks, meetups etc. Don't hand outo a resume. In fact you don't need a resume except for HR filter purposes (you need one, but it won't be the reason you get a job --- not having one or having a poorly written one can get you nixed by HR/management). Engage in discussion with technical people you meet who look like they have hiring influence. Talk about your project (see above: write code). Also ask them about their projects. Get their email and ask if they mind if you connect on LinkedIn. If you are lucky one of these contacts will decide to promote you as a good hiring candidate in their organization. Follow up via email to keep them warm. Don't ask for a job. Ask some plausible follow-up question from the initial discussion or perhaps ask if they know if any company in the area hiring (this is code for "I want a job" but much more polite).

Also: write code.


It will likely take you more than a month.

I believe that my first job out of school took about three months.

It's important to remember you are likely not qualified for any job that you applied to. Of the companies that are most likely excited about new college graduates, many list job openings specifically for new graduates.

This should not discourage you though, it is probably in your best interest to only apply to jobs that you are not qualified for.

Also the way that you find companies can dramatically impact your hit rate. If you look at primarily sources like job posting boards, then you will have a very high signal-to-noise ratio to defeat.

try to come up with new strategies for finding companies that interest you.

Also, as other people have said, I believe that it is a good idea for you to get professional feedback on your cover letters and resumes. Both of these must be completely understandable by both a technical lead and an HR representative. This is a non-trivial goal to meet.


Post your resume for feedback. You need to "sell" yourself. It didn't take me long, but I applied to a lot of positions that I didn't really qualify for. And I got offers at places I didn't think I would qualify for, but I have some name recognition on my resume that helped.


About 200 applications over 3 months. This resulted in: 15 phone screens -> 10 coding challenges -> 6 onsite interviews

I'm a bootcamp grad in the Bay Area that made a career change from mechanical engineering. The interview process for the job I ended up taking consisted of a phone screen, a coding challenge, an online live coding session, and then an onsite interview. The entire interview process took about 3 weeks.

The best way to get an interview is to get an internal referral from someone at the company.

Interviewing is just like any other skill, the more you do the better you'll get at it. So try to do as many interviews as possible. The job search is a grind, good luck!


Took me about half a year or so, over here in the UK. That probably also meant a good few tens of applications.

But the answer here honestly varies based on a lot of things:

1. How much practical experience do you have? You mention internships and work experience, but what languages? How complex were the tasks you performed in said languages? What sites/apps/programs/whatever can you show people?

2. What types of companies are you applying for? If the companies want more experienced engineers, or have a lot of people wanting to work for them, that could be affecting your chances.

3. What sort of feedback have you been getting? You say no interview in regards to one of the applications, but how about the rest?

Give a little more information, and people here will be able to answer your questions a bit better.

As for practical advice? Well, don't be too disappointed if you don't get a job at a large technology business as your first/one of your first roles. Be willing to start somewhere smaller (perhaps for less money) in order to get experience.

Send out as many applications as possible. It's basically a numbers game to some degree, so you need to keep trying till someone inevitably says yes.

Show practical examples of your work if possible. Open source is good, but so is a website, app or other project made in your free time. Especially if it's making a bit of money or getting popular.


It took me about 7 weeks, in that time I submitted upward of 90 applications, as I was okay with moving. And had interviews/emails trickling in at the 2 week mark. My resume was groomed, and edited by some career development minded folks, I did a lot of reading on resume formatting and word choice. Practiced white boarding, reviewed and felt comfortable with the base data structures and algorithms.

I would say if you can speak to your relevant experiences and are able to tie that into the position, most times the 2-3 years of experience or BS in CS or engineering is a soft requirement.

That being said shoot for doing 4-5 applications per day, and if an interview goes poorly, brush it off, and get ready for the next one.

I created categories, or staging points for each application in asana, and treated the job search like work. (Applied, emailed, follow up thanks, phone screen, phone interview, onsite, etc)

Depending on who is doing the hiring the process could take an hour or it could take 3wks+ if its a big organization.

Edit:

Also reframe any "problems" as challenges, and instead of making negative comments try to pull out the positive from any given situation when asked about something.


You're not being too impatient. It sounds to me like there might be a problem with your resume. Get some other developers to help you with it. Maybe have them give you mock interviews to make sure that when you do get an interview, you nail it. It also helps to think outside the box and apply to smaller companies, which are often more desperate and might even provide better experience.


50 odd applications over 6 months. Eventually I applied for a QA position as I at least could do everything the ad asked for. Got told there was a dev job going too at that they’d interview me for that first based on my CC. Landed it and never looked back. Just took perseverance in the end.


20 minutes, 0 apps, 0 interviews. The guys running the C course I did offered me a job at the end of it!

Include as many skills as you can on your cv - so much depends on automated search.

As you've got friends in tech, have you got them to rip your CV to shreds? If not, you should. It's a sales document, not just a statement of experience, treat it as such.

Treat your first 5 interviews as "just practice". You'll forget to mention something, make a silly mistake or three, give a bad answer or two. Don't stress, just learn from them. You'll relax more if you view the first 5 as practice, maybe enough to get an offer from one of the practice meetings!

Do all you can to sidestep recruiters and apply directly. Small companies are usually much more interesting and won't be using recruiters.

It's a numbers game, so along with lots of applications, bear in mind if you have 3 of 5 "essential" skills you should probably apply anyway. You'd be surprised how often those essentials aren't - it's a numbers game for the recruiting company too.


I went to a major US university which was a recruitment center for a number of companies. I got a job at one rather by chance, as a good friend was applying there and told me I should too. But this happened several months before graduation.

In cases like that, at major US universities, some big companies (each of whom can hire dozens of students every year) are in a race: they know that they will overlap in which students they want most. So they offer early, and they play games like the "exploding offer" we have discussed here before.

With those companies, recruitment of a spring graduating class will be complete before the start of winter.

After graduation, things should get easier once you have 2-3 years of work experience (i.e. one industry standard job lifetime).

Small companies may be more flexible and/or random, because they are less systematic and probably only hire one person (or no one) each year from most schools.


Reach out to companies. Don't just hand them your resume. Show them that you are passionate about their technology and product. Show that you are determined to get this job.

Here is an idea: Take whatever they are doing-- let's say it's a social network-- and re-create a very basic version of it using new hot technology. Then send it to them and say, "Hey, I made a basic clone of SocialNetwork with an Elm front-end and Rust microservice backend on Docker utilizing Neo4J and Elastic Search."

That will grab their attention! The ultimate engineering employee is one who is passionate about working for the company and takes the initiative to go above and beyond what is expected of them. (Notice I didn't say that the smartest/most accomplished person is the best employee). Your goal should be to appear to be that ideal employee.


I have also been appling for developer jobs and waiting more than a month for more than rejection responses.

For anyone who came here to share advice about my resume, here's a link via my VPS: http://162.243.149.58/Resume.pdf


one quick piece of feedback: resumes about stories. namely, your story: what have you done? how did you do it? what impact did it have? there's a hint of a story in your last internship - there was a proposal? you proposed it to management? you wrote some java code for hadoop? what did all of that do? but it's hidden amongst very low calorie things like "ssh key management" which is basically just copying blobs of text around. I don't care about your skill at catting two files together, I had someone write a program to do that. but there on one line is "Java software development for Hadoop." What was that about? I have some Hadoop, I have some people write Java code for it. could you do that? I have no idea, so, on to the next resume we go.

here is what I would write if something had happened to me:

"Working with my intern mentor, I developed a research proposal to discover previously unknown relationships in users of our web site. I designed a scoring function to be implemented in Hadoop, presented the design and motivation to management, implemented the scoring function, and ran it over our data. It improved costs in the business by %5."

who - you and someone else

did what - came up with an idea, pitched it, implemented it

why - because you saw a business use case

so what - it helped the business

way better story! and nothing in there about managing ssh keys.


Excellently articulated, this is what you want to go for.


The resume lists mostly sysadmin and supporting tasks. Dev tasks (like "developed web-based email search" or "Shipped working code") are too vague.

The layout (especially the "Knowledge and Skill" section) look like you're trying to pad things out to fill a page.

If you do more admin stuff, maybe you are applying for the wrong jobs. If you are looking for software development jobs, be concrete. Give examples of projects you've built or contributed to: e.g. "Implemented significant features for in-house helpdesk ticketing system (Python/Javascript/HTML/CSS) supporting 35 users and over 2700 tickets/week." Enumerate the "working code" that you shipped.


I've just graduated, and I have a job. I interviewed at six companies, and had four offers. My coursework is good but not stellar, but I have lots of work experience, an in-demand skillset (full-stack web dev) and a solid history of projects with strong results. I went to an upper tier university (private non-profit with a strong reputation that companies recruit from).

The total time it took varied by company, but was generally one-two months. Most companies moved quite quickly, regardless of their ultimate decision. The longest lapse was between the initial contact and the first interview, usually. Of the companies I interviewed with, two were big Silicon Valley names, one was a small consulting org, one was a big insurance corporation, and the other two were fairly large private software companies (but not Valley companies). I went with one of the last two. Three of the companies I interviewed with actually contacted me first; interestingly, all of them made me offers.

I have a good single-page resume, and a personal site with more detail on it. More importantly, though, I'm good at the non-technical side of interviews, which helped me everywhere except the companies that do nothing but demand you regurgitate rote CS knowledge (read: Google). One trick I did was a short (<5 minutes) live demo of a personal project while in interviews, sometimes with a (very brief) code walkthrough. Not everyone cared to see it, but usually if they did, it was well-received.

But me talking about me won't help you. Let's talk about you. You're anonymous on here, your profile doesn't link to any identifying info, so be real:

Are you a student or recent grad, or are you self taught? What's your story? If you're a new grad, what was your GPA? If <3.0, can you explain why? Any red flags on your transcript? If not a new grad, what's your past experience? What do you do to demonstrate your abilities? What does your resume look like? What do you mean by "lower tier" jobs? Have you studied up on basic CS for those awful algorithms questions? Can you show some good past projects? Are you following up on these opportunities, or just waiting for someone to get with you? Are you being upfront and forward with your HR contacts? Why do you have to be in Vancouver? Would you move if the price was right?

What I'm getting at is you need to take a hard look at your networking/interviewing practices and see where the gaps might be. If you put the answers here, I am sure people will help you. Do post your resume as well.


It would be interesting to see your resume. Imagine you are the hiring manager at a company and read your resume. Would it make you interested? I see a lot of resumes that list a set of skills but there is nothing in them to hook me.


Given that many people come from larger cities, my story is an anomaly probably. I was working on my MS in CS and Applied Math at a local university when I started going to a local meetup. I got to know some people there who were in hiring positions at a local company that had a number of dev teams. They invited me to interview for an internship and ended up hiring me as a contractor instead. My next job after that came from meeting the CTO of a local consulting house at the same meetup. It's all about networking. I haven't gotten an offer from a place that didn't start with a warm intro.


I didn't go to a big name university. I did a 3 year college diploma that had coop. I had a job lined up before I even finished school and a few months later had 2 competing offers (one from a company I coop'd at). I think the key thing that helped me was being able to put work experience on my resume from doing coop.

Also I put a lot of effort into making my resume the best I could. Don't neglect this. It is the #1 most important thing you need to do when searching for a job.

You mentioned your intern experience being at 'lower tier' comonies. Are you maybe being too picky in where you are applying?


2/3 weeks and ~5 job applications? I applied to jobs to practice my interviews but ended up getting an offer 2 months before graduating, maybe I got lucky. AngelList worked well for me. Hired should be similar.

I graduated from a city college haha, but I built lots of stuffs in college, and did a Summer research program at Stanford and Google Summer of Code the next year, both involving projects within the same domain, which ended up being my specialization (iOS). If you show experience and an ability to get things done you should be fine! Good luck!

edit: I'm in NYC, maybe that helped too...


I'm a recent bootcamp grad with a bachelor's in Comp Sci and Mathematics. After college, I spent 3 years working in IT then decided I wanted to start coding again and went to a bootcamp. I've been looking for about 3 months in the NYC area. It was going really slow at first but I started reaching out to people on HN and through LinkedIn. Now I'm currently interviewing with 4 companies. Initially, I was applying to jobs through their jobs/careers page(about 50 of them) and that only got me 2 phone screens.


Post some cover letters here for feedback


I haven't gotten a job yet myself but I got my first interview by having a resume that really stood out. My process was:

- download their website

- edit the images and content to add your CV details

- convert html to pdf (I used https://pdfcrowd.com/html-to-pdf-api/)

- send

In my case the job I was applying for was a campaigning/petitioning platform so I sent them a petition titled "Hire mpatobin to work at X" and had some fun with the copy.

I can send you a copy of it if you'd like.


I finished college, and then realized that I wasn't going to just get a job since I didn't have the web dev skills for the jobs I wanted.

So for the next 4 months, I learned all aspects of building a website - backend, frontend, deployment and applied for jobs along the way. The key however for me was that I blogged about it the entire way. Being able to show employers not only finished products, but words showing thought process. If you can show results like that, people will want you to work for them.


Probably around 4-5 months post graduation. Most of the battle is with getting your foot into the door and getting some experience. Once you have some experience, things get better.

All that said, what sort of experiences are you putting on your resume? If you're involved in any open source projects, include them. If you've got a Github account with some small code projects, do list the URL in your resume. Every little thing helps!

You need to remember that your resume needs things to help you stand out from the crowd.


I have had great success with meeting new people with meetup.com and getting development jobs through that! This way you also know what kind of people you will be working with :)


Hey nerd, I'm a developer in Vancouver too. To answer your question, I got started through a close connection.

GitHub has generated several leads for me too.

Want me to have a look at your resume? There might be something you can improve that's causing you to not receive calls back (might just be bad luck!). I'm no expert in resumes though.

We're always looking for people to hire if we think they're a good fit.

Send me an email: lochlan (at) workatplay (dot) com


>GitHub has generated several leads for me too.

I 've had recruiters say the generic line ' I am impressed with your projects on github' , I am sure none of them actually looked at my github.

But in your case looks like it was not some random recruiter? This would be my ideal way to find a job, I would always choose this over stupid whiteboard interviews.


I'm not the OP, but my portfolio and side projects have outright given me jobs before. Quite a long time ago I had a small project done in Java, but I built an XML file format for tracking all my stories, and an XSLT script for generating a burn down chart, calculating velocity, etc, etc. OK... XML and XSLT... I said it was a long time ago ;-). I provided a link to the Java code as proof that I could do some basic Java/Swing stuff, but everybody who saw it commented on the simple project tracking. In the end it got me a job with a small group who were having difficulty with that kind of stuff.

What I find interesting is that if you look at my projects on Github, they are not particularly well written and my portfolio/blog is almost cringe-worthy in how pompous it is. But I think that the fact that I'm always dabbling in something and experimenting says something about me as a programmer.

If I had to do another interview, I think I might point them to this: http://mikekchar.github.io/core-wars-kata/ It's me implementing core wars, one pomodoro a day (got up to 65 pomodoros before I got side tracked on something else). It's nothing special. There are lots of problems with the code I wrote and I did lots of stupid things. But it's an honest exposition of how I write code. I recorded everything with asciinema and if you increase the speed 3 times you can watch a pomodoro in about 5 minutes.

I should actually get back to that project because it was really quite a lot of fun :-)


Those katas are awesome, great job recording it. I love pomodoro technique .


One lead came from a lead developer who came across my stuff which was highly relevant to what they were working on. Still wanted coding tests done though.


What do you have on Github that's actually getting you job leads?


Nothing super interesting, have a look if you like: @lwansbrough


Stars.


Right out of college, it took me about 3 months. Even my most recent hunt took a couple months, but I ended up with a bunch of really compelling offers. It doesn't mean anything about you. Just be persistent and keep applying to everything in sight.

And don't be afraid to experiment, tweaking your resume and cover letters. In the meantime, build little projects that are interesting enough to put on github and your resume.


One month isn't unreasonable. To speed up the process, try getting more warm intros: those work much better than handing out resume (even if it didn't work out for you the first time).

These can be low-level connections, e.g., reach out to 2nd or 3rd degree LinkedIn connections that work there, and ask for a phone call to talk about how they like the job. If you like the work, ask them to pass along your resume.


About a week. Which cities are you applying to?


tl;dr - network more, your best chances will come that way, but it will take time to build your network.

I'm not a typical example -- my experience here is over 20 years ago, I had no formal training in CS/engineering, and I was looking for work in an area that no one had open positions for (what people called a webmaster position in '95, but this was '92). I worked as a temp for a year until I got lucky with contacts / networking and found a company that needed my skills. I did very well for myself once I was able to demonstrate my expertise -- and I believe that's as true today as it was 25 years ago.


It took me a couple years to get a full salaried job, then I got hired by Google.


I asked this question myself when I first started and I think some of these answers are a little too 'SF'. Drop me a line at joelthecoder@gmail.com and I would be happy to share and give feedback.

FYI I'm in Toronto.


Get out and meet people. Most recruiters will throw your resume out since you don't have experience so focus more on meeting other devs than on applying the formal way.


What do you want to work with specifically? Web development would be rather easy. Do you have a CS degree?


2-3 months of light work (it was the summer), in Toronto circa 2011.

I had zero professional experience, and bad grades. I knew that for my first job coming out of school, a lot of places would ask for a transcript...so I pointed most of my energy at places where the HR process seemed lax enough that I'd get to talk to developers (who could advocate for me) before I had a conversation where grades would come up.

At the start of my search, the Star/Globe had an insert with "Canada's Top 100 Start-Ups" - I cold-emailed all the ones in there which seemed interesting. A few got back to me, and one of the ones that did is where I'm still working.

As someone on the other side of the table now (at a ~25-dev shop), some things I think about when I'm considering new grads:

* I'm looking at passion, which I use as a proxy for long-term potential upside. You likely won't be a valuable contributor for 6+ months while I get you up to speed on my domain and what real-life professional programming is like. Some new grads can have an immediate impact, but most of those will have already been hired by Google/FB/etc. before they even think of my company. Convince me that you're the one I should be placing my bet on.

* If your CV talks about a mobile app you built, have it installed on your phone so I can play with it. If you talk about a web app, have it bookmarked and walk me though it. If you have one of those you're not excited to show me, I'm going to assume it's bad or you didn't finsih it (so don't mention it). If you don't have one of those and you're a new grad, I'm going to wonder why not. These don't have to be sophisticated; what you're showing me is that you're excited about technology, and can apply it in a non-academic, non-forced context.

* Show that you can communicate well. We're going to be spending a lot of time teaching you stuff, so I'm going to be probing to make sure that you can absorb it all (emotionally and socially).

* Don't focus that much on your specific tech stacks, aside from enumerating them. I'll assume your experience is of limited/academic depth only, and that you don't have much real-world experience. Don't boast that you know Scala when you used it for a project and a co-op term; focus on selling that if I need you to learn OCaml, you'll be a quick study.

Lastly, re: meeting engineers at meetups etc. - don't forget about follow-ups. Maybe the person you had a positive conversation with was just being polite...but it's more likely that they just forgot about the conversation. Send them an email a few days after to remind them you exist.


I was hired by my university for my first dev job.


Make some project that you can show/talk.


My first post-university job is nearly 30 years ago, so it was different climate back then. However when I first started out, my interviewing skills were very poor. I must have gone to 10 or so interviews without getting an offer. I ended up going to the library and reading some books on how to do job interviews. It was really helpful. From that point on I tended to get offers from between a third and a half of the people I interview with.

A couple of quick pointers. First, when you are just out of school, you are likely to have no reasonable experience. So the question you have to ask yourself is why would someone want to hire you? Some likely answers: because you are cheap, because you have potential, because the team needs some inexperienced people to balance the experience they already have. You might be able to think of other reasons.

Once you understand why someone might want to hire you, you should write your CV/resume so that these things are obvious to the person potentially hiring you. Ideally you should write a CV and cover letter specifically for each job you are going for. That seems like a lot of work, doesn't it? And it means having to do research about the place you are applying to so that you can adjust your CV appropriately. You should treat looking for a job as your job. Spend 8 hours a day on it -- doing research about all the companies in the area you want to work for, hand crafting each CV and cover letter, writing a blog, programming and making a portfolio, etc, etc.

If you do a good job, you should get interviews. Now the most important thing to realize about an interview is that by the time you get there, the job is yours. What interviewers are looking for is: did you lie on your CV, are you incapable of doing real work, is your character going to clash with their culture? Your job in the interview is to show that all the answers are "no".

The first one should be easy: Did you lie on your CV? However, exaggerating even by being clueless can easily lose you the job. I once interviewed someone who put emacs on their CV. Of course I don't really care what editor someone uses, but emacs is potentially a fairly big investment and so interesting to me as an interviewer. We had a pair programming section to the interview and I set up a machine with emacs for him (since that is what he claimed to prefer). He didn't know how to open a file with emacs. He had simply used it once before and haphazardly added it to his CV, without realizing the potential downside. As an interviewer, you want to try to dismiss stuff like that, but it leaves a really bad impression that is hard to shake.

The second one: are you incapable of doing work? From my own experience this time. I took 5 years off to teach English in Japan after 20 years as a programmer. I worked on my own projects in my spare time, so I felt pretty confident in getting back into the industry. In my first interview I came up against the dreaded whiteboard coding challenge and I froze. I couldn't code to save my life. Again, as much as the interviewers want to give you some slack, this is pretty much going to lose you the job. Personally I hate that kind of interview and think it is ineffective, but that doesn't matter. Your job is to look good. So make sure you practice. Grab coding challenges off the net and do one every day. If you have some friends who are also looking for work, get together to do it so that you can practice in front of people.

Finally, are you going to be a problem for cultural fit? I'll give you a kind of trick here. Interviewing people is really hard, tiring and frustrating. Trying to come up with good questions that probe what you are looking for is difficult. The absolute worst is when you have a candidate that is just staring at you and answering questions with monosyllabic answers.

The trick is that you don't have to wait for a question to give an answer. In fact, you should always try to segue every question that is asked into a direction that is favourable to you. For example, if someone asks you if you learned about the software development life cycle in school, but let's say that you feel your strengths are in coding you can say something like, "Yes. I learned quite a lot about traditional SDLC in school. In fact, in my compiler course I tried to apply the concepts to this compiler I was writing. It was quite a fun project. " and then talk about your fun project. Don't stonewall the question (as my example probably implies). Answer it fully, but always lead the interviewer on to a subject that you want to talk about.

An interview should be like a tea party. It should be light, fun, and engaging. If you are constantly talking about things that are interesting to you, your passion will show through. Like I said, when you are right out of school, you have virtually no useful experience so the interviewer is looking for something else -- a spark -- that will make them feel like hiring you. If you leave the interview and the interviewer is thinking, "Wow. That was a lot of fun.", you will almost certainly get an offer. (Very occasionally you may end up in an interview for which no candidates can be hired. It sometimes happens that for political reasons senior management requires an interview to happen, but that middle management will refuse to hire anyone -- or vice versa. So the "fun == job" is not always the case).

So how long will it take? If you are cold calling then getting an interview for every 20 applications is probably not too bad. If you are responding to ads that are specifically looking for new grads, then I would worry a bit about my CV if I don't get a 1 in 5 rate of interviews per application. If you are meeting people and they ask for your CV, you should be expecting a good 80% of them to set up an interview. Make sure to get their contact details to follow up if you are not getting called back (sometimes they just get busy and after a week or two assume must already have a job).

When you get to the interview stage it is your job to loose (as I said). Sometimes it is obvious to both sides that there is not a good fit. Be confident and don't worry when this happens. I've even terminated interviews early when it was clearly a bad fit (one time a recruiter sent me to a Windows job interview when I only had X-Windows experience -- I voluntarily left that interview after 15 minutes and then turfed the recruiter ;-) ). There are still lots of jobs out there, so don't get into a panic and try to get every job.

You should count on something like 1 in 3 interviews ending up in a situation where both sides want to move forward. If you find that this isn't happening for you (for example if you do 5 or 6 interviews in a row without a job offer) you know that you need to work on your interview skills.

So doing the numbers, I don't think you have to panic. However, I might start to look at trying to improve the numbers of CVs you send out. And if you are meeting people and giving out your CV, I would try to improve your conversion rate for interviews for that. I would concentrate a lot in the next 2 months because there is a time when you will appear "stale". If you get up to 5 or 6 months without a job offer, then some people are going to wonder why it is taking you so long. This can work against you. Several times in my career I have intentionally taken 6 months off after a job and it's always a bit of a struggle to get people to understand why you have that gap.

Anyway, good luck. Keep working at it!


It usually takes a couple of weeks to find a job.

Even when I got to the senior level, I did up to 3 interviews per day (NYC).

The fact that you only got 1 interview means your resume is very weak, and you never did any extra curricular projects.


I was accepted into a graduate program before I finished my degree. Australia.




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