How to Ace an Interview with no Experience - From a Senior Developer

Ok, where in the heavens is my secret ancient book of spells! Just kidding, that would be easy.
Nothing's easy unless you're hot, handsome and smart like me. *Insert Nervous Laughter Here*

Since you're here, I assume you are just a regular person, trying to step out into the world, but with a little or even no experience. In a world where most entry level jobs require 2 years of experience, how the fecuyoxlyru am I supposed to get that job? Ever asked yourself that?
If you did and even if you didn't, and since the title of this post is "How to Ace an Interview with no Experience", that's what we are going to talk about now. And since I still haven't found my "secret ancient book of spells", I am going to discuss the things that most companies and HR managers are looking for, and what your approach to an interview should be like, alas, no sure fire "magic spells" for now! :( and just like my usual organized, topic wise, separated style of writing, this is going to be divided into three parts so your can clearly place important things in your head!

GOOD CV

Even before the interview starts, before you're sitting there, testing your mettle, before the "sh*t goes down", you need to create a good CV, now there isn't some magic, enchanting, golden spell that you can write in your CV to be shortlisted, but there are definitely some things you can include in there that'll help your chances a lot, and things that'll not get you CV thrown right into the trash.
Now this is not a post about CV itself, so I'll not go into much details about writing CV, but the most important parts. You must remember the following things when creating your CV.

  1. Make Your CV Look Good

    Yes, it should look good, it should be organized, well structured, clear & concise. Check the images below for reference:

    good-and-bad-cv
    Bad vs Good CV
    As you can see above, the CV on right, of Goku Dude is clearly superior. When I was searching for a bad and good examples of CV's, I came across this and I though, it doesn't have to be as good as the one on right in this picture and initially discarded this picture, then I thought, there's a lot of competition, and this one is not so uncommon too, so if you're applying then you gotta make an effort to make your application look good.
    Some things you can note from the images above:
    • Use good formal fonts, like Google Sans. Don't use multiple fonts, use at max two fonts than don't go along. Use one for titles and other for content throughout the CV.
    • Use proper margins. Have some margin at the borders and between different sections of your CV.
    • Use proper formatting, just take a look at the CV on the left, the bullet points are not aligned among different sections, disgusting!
    • Create title, subtitle and then content, try to limit your sections to just two titles, title and subtitle.
    • Add ratings bar for your skills. Add this if you want, not a necessity but this certainly adds more visual appeal and can let the employer know the level of your fluency in any skill.
  2. Objective

    Objective is very important part of your application, it tells the HR manager if you are interested in doing what the company wants you to do. I've seen a lot of people and some of fresh college graduates whose objective is... let's say not worth sharing 😂, that's basically "my parents are pressuring me, gotta get them off my back" or worst, not knowing an objective or being confused about what it is. Writing objective is not very complicated, you may actually have a goal that you want to achieve and that's very good, it you have then write it down! It great if you are one of the few who can actually write the objective honestly so that if the time comes when you have to talk about it, you don't sound passionate and not unnatural. If you are confused about what to write in your objective, first of all check out the profile of the company in which you're applying, then check the requirements and responsibilities provided in the job listing and write something encompassing those things. As you're a beginner, you can include notions related to "learning" and "growth". An example from naurki.com, "To secure a challenging position in a reputable organization to expand my learnings, knowledge, and skills". Although it is good, you can make it better by personalizing it by adding things like, 'utilize my knowledge and passion of programming to...", or change "reputable" to "startup" if the company is a start up.
  3. Skills

    If you're applying for a job without a skill, just say "I'm applying without skill" in your head and see how ridiculous it sounds. It might seem like an odd statement to you, or you might me thinking who the hell applies without skills, I've seen people do it, just testing it out probably with very little knowledge even about the basics. Don't be one of those people, don't waste your and the company's time. If you don't have enough knowledge about the basics of your programming language of interest, be it Java, PHP, Python or Javascript or any other language don't even bother.
    You can divide the skills into two parts:
    1. Technical Skills
    2. People are using this rating this for a while now and it has become quite common in the past few years. It is very helpful for the interviews to know what's your level of knowledge in each skill.

    3. Interpersonal Skills
      It doesn't hurt to have some interpersonal skill too but be sure that you actually are what you write here, or it's very likely that you'll be badly exposed in your live interview. You can add things like, team work, communication, listening, problem solving, adaptability.
  4. Education and Qualification

    If you're like most then are a college graduate and probably have taken some additional courses, luckily in the technology field, it doesn't necessarily matters, it's just your skill that matters, you just gotta have something to show for it. But you are a beginner, so I think you definitely have something to show is case you don't have a college degree, that could be a project you created while learning, or a website that is live or an app, maybe some cool stuff in your Github?
    You can add your college education details here, also add any other special or online courses, seminars you attended but don't go too far and include stuff up things older than your high-school, no one's reading that.
  5. Experience (Optional)

    This is not exactly what you think it is, you don't have to list out your previous professional experience here as you have none, I get it. But what you can include here is your projects if you have any, it is a huge plus for a beginner. It could be anything, a website, an app. Also, note the components of what you learnt while you were involved in these projects.
    You can also include relevant events that you've been to like a hackathon, or code camps.
  6. Achievements (Optional)

    This is not exactly that I see in a lot of beginner CVs, and it's perfectly fine to leave it out instead of filling it up with utter garbage that needs no mention. But if you do have achieved something, fill it up, it can be something that separates you from the rest of the applicants. I've got some CV's with nice achievements that stood them apart from other CVs.
    You could write something like, selected in top 5 of some "App Camp", perhaps some achievements of your college time.
  7. Interests and Hobbies (Optional)

    Again, like the section above, hobbies section is completely optional, it can be a good way to make your CV stand out, but make sure you do it in a good way. Avoid one word points like, singing, dancing, hiking. How can that help you get a job?
    Mention the hobbies that has enhanced some of your skills, or at-least it look as if it has. For example you could say "Football : Was mid-fielder in college football team and won gold in 3rd year", shows you have some team skills, you could say "Singing : Involved in local club where I teach about Vocals", show you are good with communication.
  8. References

    Now this may or may not be noticed according to the company you're applying for, but it is definitely a good practice to include this. If someone decides to ignore this, no worries at all, if someone wants to check out your references, then that they may as well. But be aware that you do not put the names and contact details of your references on your CV without letting them know or asking them first.

APPEARANCE/PRESENCE

As you have probably heard a hundred times "First Impression is the last impression". If not get out of the rock you're living in. Your appearance for an interview gives interviewers their first impression of how you present yourself professionally. Programmers are usually casually dressed and most companies don't require you to be dressed in formal shirts and pants, you can dress pretty smart casually, casual doesn't mean you walk in wearing flip flops, tank tops and shorts, you're not in a beach, but even if you're applying to a hip, casual tech startup, nobody is going to get upset if you're wearing a nicely ironed shirt and pants. If you're applying for banks or other similar organizations, then you should definitely be formally dressed, even put on a suit. You might be looking pretty good on paper but if you don’t dress appropriately for an interview, you might give off the impression that you lack respect for those you are meeting with, and that's something that you don't want to do.



not-a-good-way-to-dress-for-an-interview
Not a good way to dress
smart-casual-formal
Smart Casual-Formal

So let's go over somethings you can do,
Keep your hairs neat, comb your hair and If your hair is very long, tie it properly someway that it is out of your eyes. You don't wanna be answering questions and listening and fiddling with your hairs in the middle of a conversation, that is very distractive and in no way is it going to give a good impression. If you have beards and mustache, make sure you don't look like a homeless man even if you're homeless. I know you've seen coders in movies with messed up hairs and beards, looking like all they do it eat chip and drink coke, but that's not the case in reality. If you want to look like that, first you need to establish yourself important enough to not be warned by HR over such appearance in office 😂, or you can continue playing video games in your basement. To be honest, in almost all the companies I've been in, the coders are casually dressed, but they look neat and smart.



Going to a pool party?
Casual-Dress-for-Interview
Smart Casual Dress

If you are a girl and you want to wear a skirt, make sure it's not too short. You want to impress the interviewers with your brain, and focus on your capability to perform well, don't dress too loud.
Keep your nails trimmed, hands clean and all the common things. You can wear any kind of shoes but make sure they are clean. Bottom-line being, you can dress casually, but that doesn't have to mean sloppy or like you're dressed to binge watch your favorite series from the comfort of your home. Be on the safe side, dress well, be respectful to yourself, your interviewers and the company for which you're applying.

bad-dress-for-interview
What's up sexy? In the wrong place?

nicely-dressed-girl-for-interview
Nicely Dressed Girl for Interview

Being dressed up appropriately is good, but the best thing you can carry with yourself is a smile. I know, cliche, but it works. Give a natural smile, like you want to be there, you appear more confident, and your smile is going to meet with a smile in response and will lighten the mood, perhaps calm your nerves and you are ready to rock!

MINDSET

"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you are right", Henry Ford said those words, and the day you realize it's truth, the way you look at things will change. Reading and knowing is one thing, but understanding and experiencing will change the world for you. Your mindset, even if you're a beginner, or you're a senior decides how you live and shape your life.
One most important quality that I look for in a developer is the capability to find solutions, and solve problems. In the tech world, you can see how quickly tech upgrades. We now have the power in our hands which was hard even to imagine a few decades ago. As a software developer or programmer, you must remove the notion of  "It can't be done" from your mind, rather you need to inculcate the habit of saying "how can this be solved" to problems. Of course, the first thing you think of will probably not solve the problem or it will not be efficient enough but that's why we have the word "evolution" that's why we have multiple iterations of product before it is released to the public.
If you cannot do it, then the company will find someone who can, so it better be you only. Change the No in your mind to How, and you have already started looking for the solution.
When working as a software developer, your mindset towards problems will define how far you go, so that is an important thing that your interviewers will be on the lookout for.
Now I cannot teach you all there is about mindset here, or even in a book, you need to build it yourself gradually, some books that have helped me enhance my mindset and outlook are: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and The Growth Mindset: A Guide to Professional and Personal Growth (The Art of Growth) (Volume 1) read them, I'm sure your life will be better in more ways that you know.
You can keep in mind the most important things listed below, it will improve your interview skills a lot!
  1. CONFIDENCE: You probably are tired of hearing about confidence everywhere, but it is definitely not over-hyped, when in a interview, you have limited means and limited time to show the interviewers that you have what it take to work for the company. And your confidence can make them believe so. I understand that you are a beginner and you are still unaware about the how's and the what's of working in a company, but here's the thing, you don't have to be confident in your skills, you just have to be confident in yourself to learn the required skills and solve problems. Here's a quote my Mark Twain:
    a-man-cannot-be-comfortable-without-his-own-approval
    Confidence Quote
    The point of bringing this up here is that, for other to believe that you can be as asset to a company, you yourself first need to believe that you're an asset. I know, you probably have heard this somewhere else too, but here's some tips too to help you grow more confident:
    1. Know what you know: This is an original 😆, what I mean by this is, you don't have to have written a book on programming, or whatever field it is that you're interested in or worked for 10 years to get hired. But you definitely need to be good with the basics and you should have a clear answer in your head when someone asks: "What do you know about Java" or about Python or your field or interest. Be very certain about that.
    Do not focus on all the things you don't know, there will always be plenty of that, but on the things you know, things you can teach others that do not know it and be excited to learn more!

    2. Practice: I don't fully agree with the saying "Practice makes perfect", but I tend to like "Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes permanent" better that's because there is not a perfect programmer, that doesn't make mistakes, that always gets it right. But if you've practiced enough, you can be sure of what you know and understand a lot of concepts better. You don't need to try to remember things if you've practiced it enough times as it becomes a habit then. As a beginner, if you've applied and practiced enough times what you've learnt in college or your course then you will be a lot more confident in your skills, because you've been doing it all along. After the hills that you've climbed, the new mountains ahead are there to be conquered.

    3. Network: The world is your oyster! but until you go out there, you'll always just see the four walls within which you are. Now some might find it odd that I've added network as a way to increase confidence, it may not sound directly related, but what it does is it opens your eyes to the truth of your community that until now were just your conceptions or guesses in your mind. You'll see how much similar you are too a lot of freshers out there, or even better. The world is diverse and you need to appreciate all the differences.
    More than this, by networking you'll meet fellow developers, coders and enthusiasts and know what skills level they have. This will give a better understanding to judge yourself. Maybe you were indeed a little less skilled, and now you'll have to work on it, but now you know how to work, how much to work and where you need to reach. Or perhaps you already are better than a lot out there but your were just not confident enough due to the conceptions you had in your mind about better programmers.
    Attend events, hackathons, seminars or codecamps, meet people share knowledge and who knows maybe you'll find your first job in such events.

    4. Prepare: How do you prepare for an interview? You just don't apply and then show up without knowing much about the company do you?
    I've seen people in interviews that don't properly know about the company, don't know what is required of them and what they are getting themselves into. How you shape your CV should be defined by the requirements of the position for which you're applying. More times than not, you'll see a well defined essential skills, responsibilities and nice to know things defined in the vacancy posting itself. Those are the things you need to be on the lookout for.
    Once I applied for an Android Developer position that had asked for 2 years experience and got selected, with zero experience. It's not always about how much experience is required, but how much do you know and are willing to learn. Maybe your already have the skills described in a vacancy, maybe you only know some of those skills, but don't let it stop you from applying. Even if you apply for a job that requires more experience than you already have, if the interviewers think you can learn quickly and be an asset soon, you'll be hired!
    Know what is required for the company that you've applied for, be good at some of them if you can't be good at all of them, and have some knowledge about others. For example, if you are applying for a junior web developer and website has listed the following skills: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, React. Make sure you are good at at least HTML, CSS, have played around with JavaScript a little and if you don't know anything about react, then learn now! you don't need to know everything there is to know about react, but what some videos on it, read some guides and know what it is, so that if asked about react, you at-least know something, show your interest in learning it, show how you will proceed to master it and if you are successful it getting the job, then act your words and prove yourself!

  2. LEARNING: It's been said many times and been written in many books, that learning is a life long process, I will not speak much for or against it, but I will say this much with a certainty, if you cannot learn anymore, regardless of your experience or inexperience, you will not be able to work for very long as a developer. And you'll go a long way if you can understand this now and act accordingly. I say this because I've not met one senior developer that says there is nothing new to learn and figure out in almost every new project. Technology is constantly changing, updating and you need to update yourself too.
    So how does this help you get a job? Because this is the most important thing as a fresher! If you can write 'quick learner' in your CV as a fresher, that's a huge plus to me. Honestly speaking, I don't expect much from freshers, as they probably have no idea of working in a team, daily sprints, standups, changes and many more things, but they need to be able to learn. Even if you were the top of your class, that means little when you are stepping into the real world, atleast in the field of development and programming. Never have the notion of "I know enough" in your head, no one in the tech field ever "knows enough". So be a little confident in yourself as every developer out there is Googling everyday, copying and pasting answers from stackoverflow everyday, if they are not rest assured they are not working!
    So do not think you don't know a lot of things so you'll not get the job, you'll not get the job if you cannot learn. Every senior developer was once where you are, and the senior developer has faced the problems that you'll face a lot of times.
    If you are in an interview where you are asked something of which you are unsure, don't go straight to "I don't know", answer with a few lines of what you know about it then reach the point of saying I'm not sure about this, I'll have to look into it. If you're in a position of finding a solution to a given problem, always give a solution that seems best to your logic, don't leave the problem without a soution just because you think you might be wrong. Being wrong is the first step to finding a good solution. I'll give you an example question that you can think about and how you would answer if "How can you create an application that calculates the weight of a building?", come up with your best solution and let me know in the comment section below. Let's see what you've got, if you're absurdly wrong, do not worry, I'll help you out 😉

There are a lot of things I still can talk about, but I think this sums it up, the bottom-line being create a good looking CV that is in line with the requirements of the company, shows what you're good at and what you've done. Be positive, inquisitive, docile and quick to learn. To help your confidence, instead of focusing on what you don't know now, keep your mind at what you can be and what you want to be!
I wish you all the best in your journey, and if you have anything that you'd wanna ask me, please feel free to do so, I'll gladly help you to the best of my abilities.

Books go a long way to make your better self! Help me keep this blog free and if you gotta buy, buy one of these amazing books and help me too! 😉

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