Getting a job as a programmer straight out of Uni

If you’re looking for a job as a programmer, software developer or whatever you want to call it there is one thing you ought to make sure you are ready to do at the interview. Program. It shouldn’t come as a suprise; you might be asked back for a second technical interview or you might get asked technical questions in the first interview but you will need to.

The type of questions asked are usually simple ones with very small dependencies. I favour simple text parsing questions myself. Some people favour date processing. You aren’t really likely to be asked to download an RSS feed and print the authors of the articles. With all the libraries out there these days this sort of thing shouldn’t take much code but it does require familiarity wiht the right libraries. It’s far easier to ask a question that just makes use of the core language and a few simple functions if necessary.

When I am asking an interview question I am looking for a few things,

  • can they write code?
  • can they deal with changes to the specification, or correcting their assumptions

I’m not massively interested in whether what they’ve written would compile as is. I am not worried about bugs, just that they can code and that I can communicate what I need coded to them.

I don’t even worry about the language that the code is being written in too much. The only reason that that would count against a candidate is if they had said they were good at a language and then could not present a decent example written in the language.

Some people start with some sort of code example to explain then move onto getting you to write your own code. I favour starting with a blank sheet and asking for some code. It tends to seperate those who are rusty from those who are practiced.

There are plenty of other things that I look for in an interview but the most common thing that’s a show stopper is this. It’s not a local problem either, as you can see from this article

One other thing to note is that being asked lots of different questions that you don’t know the answer to doesn’t necessarily mean that the interviewer hates you. When I am in an interview I am normally looking to give a candidate a chance to prove themselves. I don’t want to miss a really good candidate. If they are having difficulty demonstrating their technical ability to me I will ask as many different questions as possible in order to hopefully find an area that they are knowledgeable about and give them a chance to shine. It’s like school examiners, they normally want to give you the marks, you just have to show them something worthwhile.

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