9 Interview Tips for First Time Developers

Published Under careers
Placeholder image
Alex Everitt @alxevt

I’ve interviewed many junior/graduate developers over the years and see the same mistakes being made again and again. As a developer, it’s important to get a job and commercial experience as soon as possible. Listed below are 9 tips to help you make the best impression and get that first job. This list is not exhaustive and like most things, it’s subjective.

1. Don’t make stuff up!

You’re being hired as a junior or graduate developer so you’re not expected to know everything. With that in mind, don’t make stuff up. As an experienced developer, you’ll learn how a little “Artistic license” can open doors but until you know what you’re talking about, avoid exaggerating your own knowledge or abilities. Most interviewers will tell when you’re talking bullsh!t and will dismiss you.

2. Be confident, not arrogant

This is really a continuation of point 1. No one wants to hire a know-it-all with no experience. Don’t tell a company how to rewrite their solution or what methodologies they should use when managing work. Instead, ask questions to understand the business comment of on articles you’ve read and ask how the business compares to what you’ve learnt about.

3. Demonstrate your enthusiasm to learn

You are being hired based on your potential and not experience. Therefore you need to demonstrate that you are self-motivated and an enthusiastic learner. Anyone new to development has a lot of ground to cover in a short period so make sure that the employer can see you have then energy to do that. I've come across too many graduates who believe that a degree in computing is an automatic ticket in and once they get a job they'll be taught everything they need. If you're looking at a career with javascript then I won't expect you to be an expert in the field however you should know what the tools are. For example, you should know what node, React, Vue and Angular are. I'd like you to have heard about Webpack and build tools and why they are important.

4. Learn everything you can

With so much material available, you need to spend time learning as much as possible. You should be comfortable with terminologies and tooling because you've heard about them on podcasts. Seek out the influencers and don't be afraid to discuss the podcasts and blogs you follow. In fact, go further and ask for recommendations of what else you can learn.

5. Build something

There are so many free tools out there, and nothing to stop you building something today. Create a git account, signup for free cloud services, follow an online course, create a website etc. Just do something! One thing I recommend against though is sending a prospective employee a GitHub repo containing nothing but forked repos. I've seen this a few times and it's rarely clear what your contribution is.

6. Don't criticise a previous employer or team

For those who are finding their next job, be careful about how you describe your reasons for leaving Few things look worse than a bitter employee criticising their previous employer. The chances are you may be looking for another job because you don't like where you are. Find creative ways to explain your reason for moving on. For example: "I'm looking for a company that is keen to encourage new ideas, and a team that works well together" rather than "The place I worked didn't care what employees thought and the team was toxic, made up of bullies and backstabbers"

7. Beware of Social Media

This is more of a general tip which should be obvious however it's often neglected. It's not uncommon for employers to have a look at your social presence. You shouldn't have to censor your self although be mindful of certain things may be taken out of context by a prospective employee. Your social profiles can be used as a great platform to demonstrate your ongoing enthusiasm for software development. The only thing I really want to emphasis is. Do not publicly criticise current or previous employers over petty things.

8. Use interviews as a learning tool

The chances are you'll have a few interviews before you land your first job. View each interview as an opportunity to improve your pitch and the way you present yourself. Improve your answers.

You'll probably get questions that you don't understand. Don't guess what you think the interviewer means, just ask them what they mean or what a term is. We tend to use a lot of acronyms in IT and expect everyone just to know what is being talked about.

You're going to say things that are naieve or just a bit daft. This happens to everyone regardless of how experienced you are. Most of us will have tales of cringeworthy comments we made when trying to get a job, so as long as you're not offensive, just put it down to experience and it becomes a funny story for the future.

9. Ask for feedback

One of the best things about being new to something is you can get away with a lot of mistakes and you won't be judged too harshly over them. Before you leave the interview, try to get some feedback on how you came across and how you matched up to other candidates with similar experience. To be honest, this is easier advice to give, than to implement

Finally…

Getting your first job can be hard however, it does not take much to stand out from the rest. A good attitude to learn with bags of enthusiasm will go a long way.

If you've got any questions about getting your first job in IT then feel free to contact me. Do you have any stories about what did and didn't work for you? if so then leave a comment to help others.

Tagged as: interviews