How can a programmer without work experience find a job: 10 tips for junior developers

Where do you look and how do you find a job in IT as a beginning developer? 10 tips that will help even a beginner without experience to get a job as a programmer.

Tatyana Matskevich, business trainer, practicing psychologist, coach, and HR for Aligned Code


Challenges for junior developers when looking for their first job in IT

— The main difficulty when looking for a job is a lack of commercial development experience. All employers want to hire professionals with at least two years of experience, and a beginner just does not have it. The trend over the past year is as follows: the employer has no time to train, they want to optimize costs and hire a developer at the level of Middle, or even Middle+, — explains Tatyana Matskevich, business trainer, practicing psychologist, coach, and HR for Aligned Code.

There are a number of other difficulties faced by junior programmers:

  • Undeveloped soft skills. Gone are the days when an IT specialist could be a rumpled introvert. Now, it is critically important that the employee not only knows the technology and understands computer science, but also knows how to engage with clients and colleagues to present their skills, argue their positions, and resolve challenging situations.
  • Lack of relevant experience in a particular domain or industry. Often, the employer is not only looking for an experienced developer, but also for experience in a particular domain, which a novice programmer might not have.
  • Insufficient knowledge of English. As a rule, an employer needs B2-C1, or at least B1, which is not always enough for technical interviews in English.
Discover your English level

How to look for a job as a junior programmer

— Despite the challenges, it is definitely possible to find a job as a junior programmer, and there are many examples that prove this. What are the mandatory first steps to take?

  • In order to find your first job as a programmer, you should register and create a quality profile on LinkedIn. For recruiters and HR, that is the first place they look for specialists, including beginners. A competent profile includes all of the projects in which the specialist has participated, including coursework, labs, freelance, and commercial. It is important that the profile has links to GitHub and GitLab.
  • Other relevant sources for job searches are the various specialized communities like forums, Telegram and Discord channels, and others. Find them and keep an eye out for job openings.
  • You can't do a reasonable job search without including specialized job sites either. Every country has one. Add them to your bookmarks, download an app (if one is available), and subscribe to their job listings.
Pick a position that works for you

How to write a resume correctly

— A resume is the candidate's calling card. It’s the key to a recruiter's first impression. There is a great saying: you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. As a result, your resume should be informative and memorable, and a recruiter should have the desire to contact you after reading it. A few tips from me:

  • There is a fashionable trend now of not putting a photo on your resume. I have discussed this issue with HR and recruiters working in IT on more than one occasion, and they all say that a photo helps a lot in selecting candidates. Your photo should be up to date, taken no earlier than six months ago, and it must have an appropriate background.
  • Your contact information should appear at the top and also at the bottom: so that it is easy to find, and easy to contact you.
  • If you have little or no experience, that's okay. Your resume should describe all of the projects in which you have been involved. A project description is a listing of technologies, frameworks you used, and your functions on the project. In general, you should give a detailed explanation of exactly what you did.
  • It's also worth listing your education, courses, and certificates, if you have them. State your knowledge in a particular technology / programming language.
  • Indicate your level of English, as well as your hobbies and interests.
  • At the beginning of your resume, include a summary — just two or three sentences — identifying the purpose of your job search and your most impressive traits or characteristics. For example, you might say that you are motivated and responsible, have a sense of humor, and are studying React and want to find a dream company.
  • You can also write a cover letter for your resume, explaining why you are sending it to this particular employer.

How a junior developer should build a portfolio

— It is important for a junior developer to have their own GitHub and GitLab, where they put their non-commercial and commercial code, coursework, graduation project, freelance projects, etc. A potential employer will definitely look at whether you have a portfolio when preparing for a technical screening, and will check to see exactly how your code looks.

How to interview as a newcomer

What interviewers pay attention to at the interview

— You must arrive for the interview a couple of minutes before it starts. It does not matter if it is an online or offline format. If it is an online interview, you should check your computer, camera, and sound in advance, to ensure that everything works. In addition, regardless of whether the interview is online or offline, you should pay attention to your appearance. Be well-groomed and wearing neat clothing. It does not have to be a tuxedo or a black-tie outfit, but it certainly should not be a stretchy T-shirt that you sleep in.

As a rule, it is customary in IT to communicate on a "first name" basis, regardless of age or experience. It's important to set yourself up for the interview portion of the hiring process, which can be interesting and informative, without feeling like it’s an exam. Smile, remember your interviewers' names, address them by their first names, ask questions, and talk constructively about yourself and your experience. Be prepared to answer HR questions such as:

  • In choosing between several candidates, why should we select you?
  • How do you know your work is done well?
  • If you have multiple offers, with roughly the same pay rate or salary, what other factors will you be considering?
  • What are the three most important factors in choosing a job?
  • Tell us about your major accomplishment in the last year.
  • Tell us about your main "screw up" of the last year.

A very important rule of interviewing is to ask questions. A person who knows how to ask questions, especially open-ended questions, is the master of the dialogue. At the end of the conversation, if the HR representative or manager does not indicate an algorithm or order of actions, it is great if you ask the question: what is the next step? At the same time, you’ll want to make sure you understand the time frame for making a decision.

A potential employer pays attention to what you know, what you can do, and how you think as a developer, not just a coder. There might be a Live-code part of the interview: you might be asked to write code on the spot. Try it out, reason it out, if you’re in doubt, then ask for advice. You should behave in the same way when you solve problems in the interview. The employer pays attention not only to the correctness of your code or your answer, but also to your ability to perceive information critically and think flexibly.

It is also important to show communicative competence, a critical soft skill. To assess yours, the employer may ask logical tasks or provocative questions, watch how you react to them, and see whether you communicate freely or are constrained, whether you use gestures, etc.

What you shouldn't do in an interview

  • Talk about how incompetent or unprofessional teachers, colleagues, or management teams are.
  • Say that you are not interested in programming at all, and that IT is the only field where the pay is decent.
  • Forget to thank them for the interview.

What you shouldn't do in an interview

  • Talk about how incompetent or unprofessional teachers, colleagues, or management teams are.
  • Say that you are not interested in programming at all, and that IT is the only field where the pay is decent.
  • Forget to thank them for the interview.

Real first job options for juniors

5 ways to get your first job:

  1. One cool option to get your first job in IT is to get an internship. Without experience, you are more likely to get an internship than an offer for a real project or job right away. Internships are usually unpaid — at least for the first stages. A big advantage of an internship is training in a real IT company, and training according to the program and requirements of the very company you are interested in working for. Your task is to prove yourself, show initiative, learn, and then apply for a job after you have completed the internship. Definitely do not get upset if an offer is not forthcoming. You'll still have real experience in a real company on your resume, even if it's not a paid position yet. With a completed internship, it is already easier to find a job as a programmer even without paid work experience.
  2. Contact all of your friends who already work in IT, ask about vacancies in their companies. Send your friends your resume, ask them to send it to HR, ask what HR’s response was, and don't stop asking your friends or acquaintances to remind HR about you. Personal connections and recommendations still work well, including in IT.
  3. Gather a list of companies you'd like to work for, find their emails and write to them directly, forwarding your resume and cover letter.
  4. Register on freelance sites, taking on small tasks and projects, thereby adding to your portfolio and gaining real experience. Upwork.com is one example of such a site.
  5. Attend conferences, business meetings, and networking events where you can meet HR reps and company CEOs. They are always on the lookout for new people.

10 important tips on how to find a job for programmers with no experience

I summarize my advice for aspiring developers this way:

  • Go to IT courses, even if you get a specialized education. The diploma defense at such courses is often peeked at by "smart-head hunters”. They are sometimes taught by teachers whose companies also have open positions. Or they may be taught by university professors who can also provide valuable networking assistance.
  • Strive to get internships.
  • Be prepared for technical interviews. Sample materials to help you: Front-end-Developer-Interview-Questions Public and JavaScript trivia questions in front end interviews.
  • Develop your skills — both hard and soft — because in this industry, to stand still, you have to run.
  • Interact with developers —those who are older and more experienced, and those who, like you, have no or little experience. Make the most of networking.
  • Develop confidence in yourself and your abilities — do not hesitate to write follow-up letters to remind people in your network of who you are and what you are interested in.
  • Create a non-standard resume and an engaging cover letter.
  • Be sure to have a LinkedIn account; update your profile and add new skills and certifications.
  • Subscribe to recruiting groups on social media.
  • Search until you find the right job and the right company!

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