How to Get a Programming Interview with No Experience

You put in the work. You learned how to program. Now you are ready to start applying for jobs, but all of the entry-level positions require three to five years of experience. Is all hope lost? No! In this article, I am going to show you how to get a programming interview with no experience.

Mindset

It is important for you to be confident that it is possible to land a programming job without any experience. I know because I’ve done it. My first programming job was at eBay, and I got it without a single day of prior experience as a software engineer.

If you still aren’t sure visit the Self-Taught Programmers Facebook group. It is filled with software engineers that taught themselves to program and were hired without any experience. One of our moderators, Matt Utley, went from a warehouse employee to working for the last four years as a software engineer. Another Self-Taught Programmers Facebook group member, Madison Kanna, went from a fashion model to a working programmer in one year.

Projects

Once you’ve adopted the right mindset, it’s time to get to work building things. Build anything you can think of. Build something new every day. Your GitHub should be full of projects.

Think of it as your second resume. Make sure to show off as wide a variety of skills as you can. If you can build a project that people actually use, and it starts to accumulate stars on GitHub, that is even better.  Try to create projects that would interest a fellow programmer. Eventually, you will list your best projects on your resume, and you want to have projects that will spark a conversation.

Resume

Put software engineer in your resume name when you save it. My resume is saved as cory_althoff_software_engineer.pdf. At the top of your resume, put your name, number, email, Github link, StackOverflow link (if impressive), and address. Underneath this information, create a section called skills. This is your chance to show off your skills and to focus your resume on what you can do instead of your experience. My skills section looks like this:

Next, you should create a section called projects. Once again, you want to emphasize your skills and deemphasize your lack of experience. I listed two of the projects that are easiest for me to talk about in interviews:

Almost every interviewer I’ve ever spoken to has asked me several questions about Projectx; a program I wrote, that scraped all of Airbnb’s data going back an entire year. Back when I had no experience, talking about this project helped me build report with my interviewer, and made it more likely they would overlook my lack of professional experience.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the best place to look for interviews. It is crawling with technical sourcers whose only job is to find people that know how to program, like you, and schedule them in for interviews. Talent is scarce, and if you can show you have it, they will allow you to do a programming interview with no experience.

They find candidates by looking for keywords. You should think of your LinkedIn profile like a webpage you are optimizing for SEO. If you know Python, make sure to include the word Python as many times as possible throughout your profile (while being reasonable). Also, make sure to have as many people you know endorse you for your technical skills (by the way, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn).

You should list your most recent job as “Software Engineer.” I don’t care if you’ve never worked as a programmer in your life. Find a way to list that as your most recent experience. Volunteer as a programmer for free. Start freelancing on Upwork. Start your own company. Whatever it takes.

Marketing

Getting a job is about marketing yourself. Being familiar with some of the basics of marketing will help you stand out. One thing to think about is that a marketer should look at what everyone else is doing and then does and do the opposite to standout.

Take the time to read a few marketing books. My favorite marketing author is Seth Godin. My favorite books by him are Purple Cow and All Marketers Are Liars.

 

Now get out there and get that programming interview with no experience!

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