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Best Way To Land Entry-Level Job? 441

Posted by timothy
from the pick-a-field-with-no-advancement dept.
chemicaldave writes "I'm graduating this May and have been seeking a programming position for months. It seems that the biggest hurdle to landing an interview is getting past the doorman that is HR. After reading this entry from Coding Horror describing the lack of programming candidates who can actually program, I can't help but scratch my head. I can program! (See how I put that link in?) If I can't land an interview, then even a short online evaluation of my coding skills would suffice. I just want a chance to prove myself. Alas, sending resumes to companies has rarely led to anything but an auto-confirmation email of my submission. I understand that sending resumes online is not the best method to landing an interview, but I come from a small rural school so job fairs rarely offer anything more than IT support positions let alone a programming position. It seems to me that developers are always looking for talented young programmers. We're out here looking for you too. Am I missing something?"
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Best Way To Land Entry-Level Job?

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  • Apply (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BitZtream (692029) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @04:58PM (#31650210)

    And stop expecting a big salary shiny salary to do what is essentially the work of a computer janitor.

    As soon as you lower your expectations to reality you'll find 'entry level' jobs are almost as common as now-hiring signs at McDonalds.

    • Re:Apply (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:08PM (#31650306)

      Exactly. Many companies get their talent through temp agencies, so submitter should consult the area temp agencies - they'll do much of the legwork for you and bolster your visibility if you don't have any existing connections. It's not as prestigious as waltzing into IBM's offices and walking out with a job offer, but we have to accept the reality that all new workers are basically temps anyway. You were lied to if you were told that you'd walk out of college with a 50K job offer. You may have to work for chump change in a lower-level position for a while just to prove your mettle to the company. In that case, it'll be up to you to take initiative and demonstrate that you can do more. Company bosses aren't going to magically see all of your skills and pick you out for promotion. You need to go above and beyond the job description. Examine whatever you can and reccomend bug fixes, or create programs that serve a purpose.

      As an example, I wrote a small program to detect duplicate serial number entries so that nobody could print the same serial number for 2 machines without a warning. I also wrote a Rube Goldberg proof-of concept GUI program, based on the Java robot(in before noob, java sux), that simplified and made for safer data entry. Everybody on the floor thought that I was some kind of guru, and I'm only a lowly repair tech.

      Timothy: please lift my Slashdot ban. I know i've been a bad boy, but I'm not going to e-mail you and beg for forgiveness.

      -- Ethanol-fueled

      • Re:Apply (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Sunday March 28, 2010 @06:36PM (#31651112) Homepage Journal

        You were lied to if you were told that you'd walk out of college with a 50K job offer.

        It probably depends on what part of the country you're in. I got $23/hour (so about $46k/year) in the midwest a couple months after graduating (graduated December 2006), and then $51k/year about 8 months later when I went from being a contractor to being an employee. (And then they re-did the job descriptions, and the whole department got bumped up a pay grade.) This being the midwest, it doesn't seem at all unreasonable to expect $50k+ for entry-level positions in some of the more expensive coastal areas. Especially for people with better internships and social skills than I had.

    • Re:Apply (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BitZtream (692029) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:14PM (#31650362)

      Self reply but I have to ...

      I can program!

      No, you can throw code at a computer and get it to produce something you want. Thats not impressive. The first thing your first job is going to do is break down all the bullshit you got fed in school and introduce you to the realities of real world programming.

      It seems to me that developers are always looking for talented young programmers. We're out here looking for you too. Am I missing something?"

      Yes, you aren't talented. You're not special. You are just like every other graduate thats had a few programming classes. Sorry, but thats just reality.

      You are not going to get a 'good job' because there are FAR FAR FAR more people out there looking for those jobs right now with years of 'experience' on paper that you don't have.

      The lack of experience puts you at the bottom of the food chain, you have to compete with me, and my 20 years of writing software, and the thousands of others like me.

      My wife recently graduated Vet school and is upset because she couldn't go get the perfect cushie job fresh out and had to work a shitty job for a few months. Thats just reality. You went to school just to get on a level playing field with all the other people who went to school. Look at how many people graduated with you that want to do exactly what you do. Did your school produce more programmers than your locality can consume? If so, how do you expect to get a job at all if your school is producing more people to do a job than there are job slots to fill.

      First step in joining the business world: Businesses lie. They aren't looking for talented developers RIGHT NOW, but if you happen to be completely kick ass and submit a resume at the right time, they might pick you up anyway. Every companies website lists job offerings, 99% of the time they have no real intention of filling them.

      They are looking for experienced programmers they can hire at the rate of a entry level programmer. If they find it, they'll hire them, but they'll just turn you down unless you have something really impressive that stands out.

      How are you showing them your skills? A resume? I've hired a few developers in my time, I assure you the only people that care about your resume is HR. When a potential employer asks you what you've done, are you just going to point out class projects where you were essentially spoon fed every step of the process? Thats not going to win you any points. You need something to show them you are worth hiring and nothing on a resume is going to do it.

      Regardless of everything I've said above, be it right or wrong, you have one serious disadvantage. You're looking for a job at the worst possible time. For the last 10-12 years schools have been pumping out 'developers' who are just random people that signed up for CS because they thought they could get rich quick. Now you're coming into the job market, 15 years too late, with an education that was out of date before you graduated from highschool, during an economy were all the other mediocre but far more experienced 'developers' out there are looking for jobs as well.

      You're only hope is to get a job from a friend of a friend of a friend. So make so friend in the right places, work some crappy job in the interim and put some effort into making a portfolio of sorts and wait for a better time to find a job or some luck.

      • by cyber-vandal (148830) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:38PM (#31650558) Homepage

        The lack of experience puts you at the bottom of the food chain, you have to compete with me, and my 20 years of writing software, and the thousands of others like me.

        Do people with 20 years of experience only do entry level jobs these days. That really sucks!

      • Also (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Colin Smith (2679) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:40PM (#31650582)

        Are you Indian?

        Are you willing to move to India? Are you willing to accept local Indian renumeration levels?

        If you can say yes to the above, I see a great future for you.
         

      • Re:Apply (Score:5, Informative)

        by Yold (473518) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:47PM (#31650650)

        A bit cynical... but mostly true.

        I am still in college, and I was hired last week for a full-time position. I was lucky (or prudent) to gain programming experience through a 3 year internship in college. If you don't have any relevant experience, as the parent post points out, you are really going to need to put together some demo code. I wouldn't consider anything less than 500 lines, which if you really can program, should only take you day or two. Try to make it as original and non-trivial as possible... Be sure to document the code well using whatever documentation tools there are for the language you are using.

        Also, are you getting the basics right? Do you have a good resume? You should get some feedback from professionals if possible on it. Are you writing cover letters that explain what YOU can do for the company? Be sure to tailor your resume/cover-letter to the job description; expect to spend 2-3 hours on each.

        If you would like me to offer some feedback on your resume/cover-letter, I could do so. I've been able to help friends land interviews by doing this before.

        Good luck, keep your chin up, expand you skills, and realize that you don't know jack.

      • To that I'll add (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:53PM (#31650704)

        If your experience with programming is having a CS degree, you aren't a developer. You are, well, a computer scientist. The same thing you say? Not hardly. While both deal with programming, it is from different aspects. Computer Science is a theoretical field. It is based around the research of computers and algorithms, around the theory of how to program, how to make them better. Fine, but that isn't what most companies are hiring. They are hiring developers, which is the practical side. They are hiring people who will be told to solve real world problem X and do it quickly. They want people with practical knowledge of how to develop apps on today's systems, not theoretical knowledge of computers over all.

        So if all you experience is in computer science, that's a disadvantage. Don't get me wrong, having a strong theory background can help, but it isn't what companies are after. If you feel a bit cheated by your university, well, ya, kinda happens that way.

        The problem derives from the history of universities. They have historically been high level, theoretical institutions. Time was, that was really the only reason you went there. When Harvard first started, then called Oxford after the English school, you had to know Latin and Greek just to get admitted. It wasn't a place where you got practical training for a job, it was just the polish to an already fine education that included many purely academic pursuits. Few people got those sorts of degrees.

        Ok well our current universities get their heritage from that system. So while we now have more complex jobs that want more training than high school gives, students still by and large go to theoretical institutions. The universities are trying to present more practical training, but aren't doing a great job over all.

        Now please note, I say this as someone who works at a university. It is just something you need to be realistic about. Your degree can be helpful, but you need to get practical experience outside of it. The only time you tend to see an "All degree," field is if you are seeking to become a PhD and teach/research at a university. Anything else, you need to get practical experience as well as the degree.

        • by kklein (900361) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @09:03PM (#31652102)

          I'm a prof., and I can attest to everything the parent said.

          I can also attest to everything the OP said. I know, because I, like the submitter, screwed it all up. I thought my friends who were "working for free" at internships were crazy. They all got jobs--usually the same job they were doing for free--immediately after graduating. Me? No. I did not. I graduated in the top 10% of my class and am bilingual, but I couldn't get a job. This went on for years (I was working crap jobs), until I figured out that, although I think the business world is lazy as shit in that they refuse to train people anymore (I live in Japan; the companies here hire smart kids and turn them into whatever they need), that's the way it is. The problem was me, not them.

          So I looked at my academic record and realized that the only people who cared about it were other academics, and that the way out was through. I went back to school, and here I am: a prof. at a very prestigious university. But I got here by paying a lot of money and working for free for years and years. --I just don't think there is any way around that anymore. The "entry level position" is a myth.

          I tell all my students to get internships now. I tell them how I ended up standing before them. I like my job, don't get me wrong, but I ended up here because I didn't do the things I needed to do to go anywhere else.

          There is a fundamental lie that we tell young people: Go to college and you will get a good job. That just is not true. I have a close friend who dropped out of high school and is a very successful developer. He's very, very smart, and wears that lack of even a diploma as a badge of honor. But he got where he is today by working a lot of terrible jobs--starting by building PCs at a Mom & Pop white box shop in a strip mall--and honing his skills. It took a long time. It always takes a long time.

          I'd like to add something to the parent's point, though. The "go to college, get a good job" is a cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy (i.e. correlation does not imply causation). In the old days, only the idle rich could go to university, and they were largely finishing schools. That's why we still have total bullshit like literature degrees at 4 year institutions (I like books, but getting a 4-year degree in book reports is nuts). So those people didn't need jobs, or might be installed at the family business as some titular boss when they finished. However, if you were a really smart cookie from the lower classes, you might be able to go to university on scholarship. You might earn your way in. Once in, you were suddenly rubbing elbows with the ruling class, and one of your mates was virtually guaranteed to talk his dad into hiring you. Even if that didn't happen, when you graduated, someone would hire you because, "OMG you have a degree???" This is because they were rare. They are not rare anymore. It would be different if you went to an Ivy League school--that would at least get you an interview--but you didn't (that's the other thing I've learned since being "in the industry"--name value is everything; there's almost no point in going to a school that is not well-known--I work with a complete moron, but he went to the same Ivy League school as our boss, so he's in).

          So here's what you're looking at: You have no experience, no name value, and you don't know anyone. You have a random bachelor's just like everybody else. You are not getting a "real" job anytime soon. You're not. It's not going to happen. The sooner you make peace with that, the better. You need to get some experience, and that is going to mean doing it for free, probably. I'm sorry, but it's true.

          Good luck.

          • by Splab (574204) on Monday March 29, 2010 @01:31AM (#31653622)

            I never did get my masters, my graduate grades where poor (did half of a masters and got excellent grades there though). I have never had problems landing jobs, 28 years old and earning over $100k.

            Having a diploma shows you know how to read, it shows you know how to learn - these are important aspects of a company. Having experience working is also great, but fact is, every time you switch job you are in for a period of relearning - everything they do will be different from whatever you have done earlier.

            First problem anyone needs to get past is being sorted out before interviews, writing resumes is a science, but it isn't that hard, there are excellent resources on how to do this, but in my experience, have a generic CV you attach to a personalized e-mail. In the e-mail write why you think you are good for them, but also very important, why you should work for them in terms of what you expect. Keep the CV short and to the point, I've been through hiring people and christ some people attach a lot of meaningless shit.

            When you have landed the interview, be prepared! There are a lot of standard questions you will be asked:
            http://datsi.fi.upm.es/~frosal/docs/25mdq.html [fi.upm.es]
            those 25 suggestions have served me well through my short career. Never lie during the interview, if you have shortcommings, mention them, tell them how you are aware of them and work on them. Show them you are aware of how business works.

            Oh, and make sure you look clean. I know a lot of nerds thinks suits are evil, you don't necessarily have to wear a suit, check up on the dresscode at the company - but looking clean is important, if in doubt a nice shirt worn casually with jeans should be nice and neutral.

            Also, Office Space while being exaggerated, does have a few points. Hiding in a cubicle will get you fired, showing you have balls and a meaning will often get you promoted - provided you use them at the right time.

          • by Psychochild (64124) <psychochild@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Monday March 29, 2010 @02:27PM (#31660246) Homepage

            To put it succinctly: a college degree isn't enough. It is, however, a good start.

            I think the real benefit is that college gives you the time and resources to do your own thing. For example, it's easier to do an unpaid internship if you already have room and board covered through student loans or from your parents.

            I got a CS degree (and Spanish, minor in Business) in the mid-90s. About the time I was graduating, I saw people get into CS because the dot-com boom showed that programming was big money. I'm sure lots of people were disappointed when the crash came along a few years later. I didn't do an internship in school, so the first job I got was one that literally nobody else wanted to do. I only got it because I called back after everyone else had turned down job offers. It was a soul-sucking job, though, working at a small company owned by a huge company and experienced the worst of both worlds.

            When I was in college, I spent a lot of time working on text MUDs (predecessors to MMORPGs) while I was working on my CS assignments. I eventually got the opportunity to be a programmer ("Wizard") on a game and spent a lot of time creating and designing. It was this experience that let me get my foot in the door in the game industry. I've been working on the game industry for nearly 12 years now, first as a mook, then owning my own company, and now doing mostly consulting and contract work. I'm relatively well-known in my small niche. But,I owe a lot of it on working on MUDs. That experience got me my first job working on Meridian 59 at 3DO which lead to other opportunities.

            So, take this advice: do something else while you have the time and resources in college. Internships, volunteer for a open source project, work on games, whatever. Just get something to help you stand out from the crowd.

      • Re:Apply (Score:4, Insightful)

        by thefear (1011449) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:57PM (#31650746) Homepage

        How are you showing them your skills? A resume? I've hired a few developers in my time, I assure you the only people that care about your resume is HR.

        Agreed, that said, the OP lamented how he can't get an interview. Maybe he does need to improve his resume.

        Regardless of everything I've said above, be it right or wrong, you have one serious disadvantage. You're looking for a job at the worst possible time.

        I fervently disagree with this sentiment. I'm also a soon to graduate developer and have received offers from almost every company that I applied to.

      • Sheesh (Score:3, Informative)

        by deisama (1745478) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @06:24PM (#31651032)

        I hope you don't pay to much attention to this guy. The world is not nearly as dark as he's proclaiming.

        I'm going to tell you a fact that you may or not find comforting.

        9 out of 10 programmers who are applying for jobs suck. I'm probably being too generous here, but whatever. I've interviewed people at Microsoft, and I've interviewed people at small start ups. Doesn't matter, most interviewee's are just terrible. I don't blame this guy for being jaded. If you had to interview crappy programmer after crappy programmer, you would be too.

        BUT if you're the 1 out of 10 who's actually good, than you have a very bright future ahead of you. Companies are always hiring, and if you're truely talented, they'll often hire you even if they weren't planning on it. No good company lets a great programmer get away when they find one.
        Entry level jobs have a lot of advantages, in that you're still new, and have no idea what you're actually worth. People are inheritantly loyal to the first company they work for, so they tend to stick around for a lot longer. Plus you get to train them to your style of programming.

        Now in terms of actually getting those jobs...

        Luckily for you, HR is ridiculously easy to get around. They don't know technology, and you can use that to your advantage. School, GPA, hobbies, cover letter, prior non programming work experience, awards... none of that matters. The only thing they care about is the programming buzzwords you have in there.

        Right now, the big one is FLEX, or AS3. Learn that. Put it on your resume. There's a big shortage there, because most people who learn Flash are graphic designers with a minimal programming skill set. If you're a programmer with a minimal graphic design skill set, they'll love you.

        Find out what else is "hot" but becareful not to confuse programmer trendy, with what's actually in demand. (Nobody in HR cares about Ruby on Rails).

        Just pretend HR is nothing but a search engine that scans your resumes for keywords, and you'll be fine.

        Now as far as experience goes. Work on an open source project. There's really no excuse not to. Just think about all the programs you use that are open source, find something that you'd like to change, and than go about learning how to change it. Don't "apply" and ask "what can I do to help". Just jump in and have at it. It's way easier to work on a project when you're doing something you want done anyway.

        Good luck!

      • Re:Apply (Score:3, Insightful)

        by funkatron (912521) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @08:30PM (#31651894)

        Regardless of everything I've said above, be it right or wrong, you have one serious disadvantage. You're looking for a job at the worst possible time. For the last 10-12 years schools have been pumping out 'developers' who are just random people that signed up for CS because they thought they could get rich quick. Now you're coming into the job market, 15 years too late, with an education that was out of date before you graduated from highschool, during an economy were all the other mediocre but far more experienced 'developers' out there are looking for jobs as well.

        As a CS graduate in the UK, I wouldn't entirely agree with this. Yes, the economy is a little bit shit right now but technology jobs are still out there. In fact, I recently visited my uni for a few drinks and the students in tech related subjects seemed quite a bit less worried than everyone else. In my own experience, the biggest obstacle to getting a job was that I believed the newspapers and got demotivated. As soon as I started looking, I started getting interviews.

        I cant compare the situation to previous years because I wasn't looking then but the job market is hardly terrible for developers. Obviously, the situation will vary depending on where you are.

  • apply for the google summer of code project. looks great on the resume.

    also, do virtually anything public programming related. write a small open source utility. or a new feature in an existing open source app. or a free app for a cell phone. (100k downloads isn't that hard, and looks good to business folk)

    i've been on the hiring side of fresh meat devs several times now. literally anything that shows you can code in a reasonable, organized fashion will put you at the top of the list.

    btw, i hope the html link reference was a joke. =P

  • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @04:59PM (#31650218)
    Can't stress it enough. Lets assume you do get to an interview. Ooze COMMON SENSE. Let it seep out your pores. You are going to be the guy that doesn't need to ask the stupid questions that should be assumed.

    Secondly, show examples of your programming experience. Doesn't have to be used somewhere in industry, just have working, finished examples of your code available either online (if applicable) or somehow available for them to see. Be the candidate that they interview that might not have experience working in a firm, but can still finish projects.

    I can't stress just how much those two simple points will help?
  • The sad fact is... (Score:4, Informative)

    by rm999 (775449) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:01PM (#31650242)

    The sad fact is GPA and the school you went to really matter a lot when getting past HR. If you have a sub 3.0-3.2 GPA and/or went to a low ranked school you should try to bypass HR.

    I would consider traveling to another University's job fair if you don't have good local ones. Here, you can talk directly to engineers/programmers who can gauge your skills far more precisely than HR can glean from your resume.

    • by beakerMeep (716990) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @06:00PM (#31650770)
      I'd go a step further and say if you can, always bypass HR. They don't really add anything to the equation for the applicant. The only thing you will get from HR is silly questions about how you handle 'difficult situations' and other amorphous concepts. They'll often also just push your towards some 3rd party online application with a ton of questions that exactly match your resume except for the handy (sarcasm) checkbox to waive all your rights to a credit check and indemnify them for killing your dog and whatnot.

      For me, I do not want to put all of my personal details in a 3rd party online application form of some company I have no relationship with, have never heard of, know nothing of their security, and will likely forget has my info in a few years when they finally get pwned by some foreign script kid. Luckily, as for the credit check BS, at least 16 states are moving to ban the practice and two already have (HI and WA).
    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @06:07PM (#31650840)

      The sad fact is GPA and the school you went to really matter a lot when getting past HR.

      Not really. A good GPA will help you, but a mediocre GPA won't hurt you if you write your resume well.

      The key to getting past HR is to have a resume that gets HR's attention in the first sentence. Usually large job postings are whittled down by keyword searches, so if you are looking for a programming job make sure you actually mention things relevant to programming in your resume. After that point, the HR screener just skims the resumes, looking for the ones that grab his attention. This is likely where the GP is having a problem. Open up the resume, look at the first sentence, and if there isn't anything that screams "Hey! I'm Special!" in the first half of the sentence, you're probably going to be rejected. If the HR guy doesn't have too many to sift through, he may bother to read the whole sentence. He definitely won't read your whole resume at this point.

      Another thing to realize, is that most jobs don't follow the "post, interview, then hire" format. For the majority of jobs, a person is found, the company (or department, or whatever) realizes they could use that person in a position, and the person is offered a job. If jobs are posted at all in this case, it's only to satisfy some company policy or a legal requirement, and the person who will get the job has already been chosen. Easily half or more of jobs are gained this way, and you won't stand a chance getting it unless you are spectacularly better than the person they have already chosen. In that case, they'll at least look at you. These jobs are generally much better than publicly posted jobs too. The only way you'll get one is to network. Go find companies you'd like to work for, and start to find out about the company and the people who work there. If the company is big enough, you can just hang out and talk to the receptionist (as long as they aren't very busy) for a portion of the day. There's a good chance you'll get to know someone who has the ability to hire you, and you just might be able to interest them in your services.

      If all you really want, though, is an entry level position, you can always sign up through a contracting service. The jobs tend to suck, but are also often a way companies like to feel out potential new employees who have little or no work experience - it's a lot easier to go through 10 temps until you find a good one worth hiring than it is to hire and fire 10 employees.

    • by stewbacca (1033764) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @10:02PM (#31652460)

      The sad fact is GPA and the school you went to really matter a lot when getting past HR.

      I think this is a common misconception on slashdot. Perhaps it's a regional thought process, but here in Austin, if you have the degree, it doesn't matter where you got it from (as long as it's accredited) and nobody will ever know your GPA (unless you tell them).

      There is such a SHORTAGE of entry-level candidates with a B.S. in anything computer related, we hire pretty much anyone willing to apply and show up to work on Monday...and I live in a progressive tech-savvy city with two universities within commuting distance to my office.

  • by hedwards (940851) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:01PM (#31650246)
    Things have changed a lot, you can pretty much expect that most of the time you're just going to get an auto reply. If you do manage to get an interview they may very well think that silence is the same thing as telling somebody they didn't get the job.

    Probably the best thing you can do is while searching try and get involved in some open source project. It's probably not going to put food on the table, but it will likely land you access to opportunities that you might not otherwise get. And give you something to put on your CV while maintaining your skills.

    But just realize that the manners of people doing the hiring are typically lousy and remember that if you get turned down that you're likely not interested in working for a company that represents itself in such an embarrassing way.
  • The economy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AuMatar (183847) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:03PM (#31650260)

    Bad economy+no practical experience+little school no one has heard of=hard to get a job. Particularly if your college can't get together a real job fair. Applying to internet postings works more if you have experience on your resume, its a difficult way to get a first job. Especially since in this economy an experienced but out of work programmer may apply for a position normally below him. It was that way after the .com crash too.

    I'd suggest using any people you know already in the industry or in companies that hire programmers. And consider taking an IT position if you can't get anything else- I know a lot of programmers from small schools that started out that way and then switched over. If nothing else it will pay the bills for a while.

  • by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3 AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:03PM (#31650266)
    Many points to consider:
    -Do you have professional experience programming?
    This can be gained through internships [fastweb.com], FOSS development, [sourceforge.net] and competitive programming. [topcoder.com]

    Do you have resume fodder?
    -Certifications
    -Degrees
    -Project Successes

    Do you have references?
    -Professional connections through school.
    -People who have reputations in software-development.

    Honestly, those are all solid ways to develop the credentials to get you into entry-level, and if you are motivated, well-spoken, and honest, it can be done. But sometimes you have to just bite the bullet and do some intern work for free, or some beta-testing before those connections can be made.
  • by slashkitty (21637) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:05PM (#31650286) Homepage

    Build up your skills and portfolio.

    My first job interview was mostly just showing off the websites I built.

    Elance will let you get paid and will give you a better sense of what real work might be like.

  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:08PM (#31650316) Journal

    Right now is a really hard time to try to get your foot in the door. As a manager, I posted for an entry level position and ended up with a ton of candidates with a strong background. I don't believe in the whole "overqualified" paradigm, so I ended up getting the best candidate -- over twelve years of experience pertinent to my business, glowing reviews from previous employers and excellent interpersonal skills.

    I got a ton of resumes from college students. Several sounded promising, and I would have loved to give them a chance. But when I have someone with a proven track record who I KNOW will not require only minimal supervision and will bring more to the table... why should I waste my time and money?

    Is it fair? Maybe not. When I was in this position almost 15 years ago it sucked. But with 10%+ unemployment it is very hard for the entry level candidate to get his foot in the door.

    My solution.... if you are still in school... get a fricking internship. It may not put you at the same level as those I did end up interviewing... but it will help/

    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @06:25PM (#31651038)

      Is it fair?

      It's absolutely fair. It may be a little unfortunate, but it is certainly fair. Think of it from the perspective of the guy who has a stellar track record but lost his job when the company folded, and has been out of work for the last 6 months because of it. Not choosing him even though he is the most qualified applicant would be unfair.

      It's just that we tend to have a hard time looking at it from someone elses perspective when we lose, but fair isn't always nice. In fact it's rarely nice to everybody.

      My solution.... if you are still in school... get a fricking internship.

      Bingo. Work a second job for money (preferably one that doesn't require thinking, or you'll be drained) and intern for free if you have to, anything to get a foot in the door. If you've got free time after both jobs, help out some FOSS projects. Anything you can do to pump your resume, do it. It probably won't be more than a year before you're able to land something that actually pays. Chances are it will be with the company you're interning for too.

    • by jeko (179919) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @07:04PM (#31651322)

      "As a manager, I posted for an entry level position "

      "I ended up getting the best candidate -- over twelve years of experience pertinent to my business, glowing reviews from previous employers and excellent interpersonal skills."

      "Is it fair? Maybe not."

      There, right there, is why I don't teach. I cannot, in good conscience, tell some poor kid to work hard, stay in school, study like a madman, fight for good grades, and work 80 hours a week to put himself through school like I did, knowing that there won't be a job for him.

      We all know this economy HAS NO entry-level jobs. The same people who so cavalierly smirk "life ain't fair" will be the same people whining and gibbering the loudest when the young we've screwed over pass the "Mandatory Euthanasia/Nutrition Enhancement Act of 2025."

      As the next generation straps me and the whiners into the gurneys so we can watch the pretty movie while the drugs start dripping down our IVs, I look forward to finding the fattest, loudest schmucks bawling the like Glenn Beck and telling them, "It's OK. Life ain't fair," before it all goes black.
         

    • by SpinyNorman (33776) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @07:05PM (#31651324)

      The trouble with what you did is that the the guy with 12yrs experience and glowing reviews was surely not looking for an entry level position... he only applied and accepted because he needed a paycheck and had obviously not found a job at his real experience/salary level. I'd be AMAZED if he doesn't keep looking and quit your job as soon as he has found a better one.

      If you'd hired a fresh grad or someone with a year or two's experience they could have grown with the position and maybe ended up making a long term career at your company.

    • by cervo (626632) on Monday March 29, 2010 @09:44AM (#31656288) Journal
      That's exactly what happened in 2002 when I was looking for a job. All the "entry level jobs" were sucked up by experienced people willing to work for less. Not only that, but some "entry level jobs" were posted demanding 5 years experience in language x, 5 years experience in language y, 3 years experience in language z, etc." Obviously the "entry level" job postings were tailored to attract these more experienced people that are unemployed...even though the salary would be an entry level salary at like 30,000 or 35,000.

      Anyway I think the last laugh went to me because many of these more experienced guys jumped ship as soon as the economy improved. Whereas if there was room for advancement a real college student may have stuck around and worked for a few more years. Although most companies I have worked for treat IT like a disposable commodity. You can always toss out an IT worker and get another one and plug him in. Any knowledge of the company doesn't matter in IT. In that case the companies don't care about high turnover even though they should. Also many of them are quite content to hire you and keep you doing the same job year after year. And to try to keep your salary as low as possible inventing different excuses. In that case often it pays to switch companies and get another 10,000 or 15,000 dollars.
  • by jeff4747 (256583) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:09PM (#31650318)

    You don't say where you are located, which has an enormous effect on your ability to land a job. Some job markets are terrible, and others are wonderful. If you've moved from the former to the latter, your job prospects will improve greatly. In the current economy, "Labor mobility" is very important to finding a good job.

    Also, "Programming" is a rather broad area. What kind of programming are you interested in? What industry do you want to work for? Figure out where those companies are located, and move there.

  • by smpoole7 (1467717) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:09PM (#31650320) Homepage

    I'm in broadcast engineering, which includes some programming, but is not programming-specific. I'll let some of those folks address your concerns directly. But speaking in general and in no particular order:

    1. Maybe you should have gone to a different school, even if it meant relocating. An internship would have given you some valuable experience, and if you're really good, would probably have resulted in permanent employment afterward.

    2. Look at small companies instead of the big ones. Offer to work for beans and rice until you can demonstrate that you know what you're doing. It'll pay off in the long run.

    3. While you look for a job, work on an open-source project. Having a recommendation from a well-known F/OSS guru can't hurt. :)

    4. Once you get the chance, I can't emphasize this strongly enough: PROVE TO ME THAT YOU REALLY WANT THE JOB. Think outside the box. Be willing to go the extra mile. Don't sit in your chair playing Solitaire waiting for me to tell you what to do next. Show initiative.

    Back when I was a teenager, I got my first job in radio by hanging around the station constantly. I took out the trash. I annoyed the engineer and asked a thousand questions. I was willing to do anything to prove that I wanted the job.

    I'm not boasting; that's just common sense. But contrast that with an intern who tried out with me a couple of years ago. Unless I stayed on him, he did indeed sit and play Solitaire. When the HVAC went out in the studios, he got up from his job as a call screener for one of our talk shows and said, "it's just too hot. I'll be back tomorrow" -- which left us scrambling for someone to cover his slot.

    He still calls from time to time and is amazed that we won't hire him. No, I'm not kidding.

  • by lucky130 (267588) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:09PM (#31650322)

    ...but about who you know. Referrals from friends are the best way to get your foot in the door for entry-level positions, then experience will get you in the door for future jobs.

  • by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:09PM (#31650326)

    When I was in school way back when, the school would work an internship program with local companies and the students would get course credit. Do they still offer those anymore for CS majors?

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:12PM (#31650352) Journal
    If you are submitting resumes, and not getting any responses whatsoever, then it's likely there is something wrong with your resume (I had this particular problem when I was entry-level; I kept rewriting my resume until I finally got responses).

    If you are only applying to big companies, that could be your problem. There are lots of smaller companies around, and they are usually the ones that have trouble finding good programmers. If you really are good, then keep tweaking your presentation until the people where you are applying can actually see that you are good. If you are not actually good, then your roadblock is that you are not good, and you should fix that.
    • by mobby_6kl (668092) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @06:59PM (#31651276)

      I'll second the resume suggestion and I'll comment a bit more on this, as this hasn't been discussed much so far. This might indeed be his main problem (besides the fact that the economy is just starting to recover and lots of companies have hiring freezes) if he's not getting any responses at all.

      The shittyness of some resumes can be simply staggering, and the OP's might be one of these. It's not that you need embossed print or watermarked paper, but following some basic rules of typography and design helps immensely. I'm not a designer myself, but I think just sticking to one font (maybe a different one for the name/heading is ok too) and keeping the layout as clear and as consistent as possible can make a huge difference.

      The content itself is of course very important. Even as a fresh graduate, you don't want your resume to look like this:

      chemicaldave
      chemicaldave@hotmail.com
      215 555 6342

      EDUCATION
      CS, Joe Shmoe College 2006-2010
      Hicktown high school 2002-2006

      SKILLS
      Java
      C

      EXPERIENCE
      Code monkey, college library 2007-2008
      -Maintained their web page and did some other stuff*

      *-paraphrasing, but this is an actual line I saw somebody write on their resume.

      Obviously, make sure there aren't any spelling or grammar problems, or just awkward phrasing anywhere. I'm not going to say what exactly you should write to guarantee a job because I don't know that myself, but in my opinion (well also in the opinion of people vastly more experienced than I am) the most important thing here is to show how you are different and better that others who would be applying for the same job. Unless there are more jobs that possible candidates, you are going to compete with them. Sure you can code in C, but so can I, and I've never went through a fancy CS program.

      So, think about how you are better than others, like those who will be graduating with you. If you can't think of anything, well, that's your problem. Do something about it ASAP before you graduate and become unemployed.

      It's possible to argue that skills required for making a nice resume don't overlap much with those required from a code monkey, but if the resume looks like it was designed and written by a thirteen year old, I think the HR drones are more then justified in tossing it in the bin. At the very least, a nice resume shows the employers that you care about finding a job, put in the effort to do it right, and that you could also pick up the skills which were necessary for the task, even if they weren't your area of expertise originally.

      OP, if you're reading this (and I hope you are, I didn't type all this for my own amusement!), why don't you post your CV so we can critique it for you?
      PS. the cover letters can be just as important.

  • Friends and family (Score:5, Interesting)

    by googlesmith123 (1546733) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:14PM (#31650368)
    Have you asked your friends and family. And families friends...and so on.

    That's were most of the jobs are. Which is a bit sad.

    And remember, don't take just any job. You have a degree and you've spent a lot of money on it. The salary of your new job should reflect this.In Norway for instance starting salary for an uneducated is about 280'000,- kr. The cost of 5 years of study is 333000 in loans. 20 years from now your education will have cost you 1'400'000 (5 years of lost income) + 999'000 in down payments = 2'399'000. So if you are planning on paying that down you need to make close to 400'000,- kr a year.
  • Who ya know (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rivalz (1431453) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:16PM (#31650378)

    I find that jobs are handed out in this order.

    1) Kickback (If I Hire X will I be compensated?)
    ----
                        a) |----- Family (Am I related to individual [Small form of kickback, sometimes hiring children of political people falls under this catagorey, nothing cuts through red tape like]
                        b) |--------- Figurehead ( I've seen where people are hired just to be a figurehead ( Astronauts, Politicians, Former CEO's ect )

    2) Circle of Friends (Nothing makes them feel better than hiring someone from their Alma mater, charity, ect.)
    ----

    3) Indentured Servitude (Can I pay this kid to do the job what I spent filling up my yacht for my weekend getaway?)
    ----

    4) The Shiny Turd ( I've got a double MBNA Frum Havard. I am Job. )
    ----
    Lying lips sound the sweetest but when their kissing your ass its even better.

    5) Needle In the Haystack ( This is you and me )
    -----

  • by rwwyatt (963545) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:17PM (#31650380)

    I am probably one of the most awkward individuals in HR interview settings. I aimed for a job that I knew I could get, and I excelled at that job which allowed me to move on to better roles.

    How are your other skills? Process Management, Configuration Management

    You must emphasize all skills in addition to programming. I would say 30% of my time is dealing with QA aspects.

  • by picklepuss (749206) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:18PM (#31650392) Homepage

    Step 1: When carping about not being able to find a job on slashdot, remember to tell people what programming languages you know.

    Step 2: Make sure the name attached to your post links to something besides a couple of pages that haven't been updated in 2 years

    Step 3: When fixing the above - start writing essays or blog entries on technology stuff that you know, so that when the quasi-decent HR rep googles your name, he'll be impressed with what he finds. In this day and age, that's one of the few ways you can "submit" a sample of your code.

    Good advice was already stated about volunteering for OSS. Even if it doesn't help get you in the door somewhere, it'll at least hone your chops, which will help once you do get a job.

  • Networking (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:20PM (#31650408)

    Getting a professional job isn't as simple as having the knowledge and certifications that make you eligible. Building a social network is equally important, if not more important. Having a professional that's already in the industry being able to vouch for you is a huge plus when it comes to finding jobs. Often, this can completely bypass HR and get you in touch with the management involved where your targeted position is.

    HR is kinda stupid. Getting around them is the best way to get in, and doing that requires knowing the right people.

    This is how I got my engineering job. I have no degrees, but I have substantial real world experience and knowledge, and was introduced to my job through a friend and former coworker who convinced my current manager to interview me. No HR was involved until hiring.

  • Confused (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 4pins (858270) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:21PM (#31650420) Homepage
    First, including a link doesn't make you a programmer.

    Second, what are you graduating from (high school, technical college, university)? With what kind of degree?

    To directly address your question, most entry level positions require two years experience. You need to figure out how to get that experience!

    I graduated right before September 11, 2001 and wound up taking an IT support job where they needed some programing done as well. It was a long haul (almost eight years of more and more development), however I just started my first senior developer position. Everyone has to start somewhere!
    • by centuren (106470) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:39PM (#31650564) Homepage Journal

      Second, what are you graduating from (high school, technical college, university)? With what kind of degree?

      Also, where are you located? Some areas have a much higher density of the type of companies that most frequently look to college graduates for hire. Small dev shops can hire fresh grads to get untrained labour for much lower wages than someone with experience. Find companies that are looking for college students / recent grads and offering something like $10-15/hr, even if it's not fulltime. Living frugally for a year or two will not only fill out your resume for a better position later, but give you time to learn industry-relevant things that aren't taught at university.

    • by turgid (580780) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:40PM (#31650580) Journal

      First, including a link doesn't make you a programmer.

      Whoooooosh!

  • by composer777 (175489) * on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:21PM (#31650422)

    1. Pick a specialty or two. Maybe you're interested in computer graphics, great, learn OpenGL, or maybe you want to work with databases, fine, learn the API's.
    2. Do one or more of the following:
            a. Write a few small, relevant, open-source programs that you can show to prospective employers.
            b. Work on a few relevant open-source projects to help build networking/contacts.
            c. Do an internship and write a few small relevant programs that you can discuss during the interview, this is also good for networking
    3. Have a backup plan if you can't get a job. Try to pick a specialty where, if worst comes to worse, you can sell the applications you write, maybe even starting your own business.

    The above is the catch 22, no one wants to train people, especially in this economy. I got a job out of school because I learned the relevant knowledge (OpenGL) to my field, and had a portfolio of applications that I wrote outside of school. The kind of guy that is most likely to get a job is the guy that can laugh at job offers because he knows that he has all the skills necessary to write the application on his own and keep the profits for himself. Looking back on it, I think my biggest mistake was not pursuing my own business more seriously. You will always make more money if you can cut out the middle man (your employer), and run your own business. Sure, you take risks, but in this economy, EVERYTHING is risky, and it's also risky to be an expendable employee, with debt, in a low-paying entry level job.

  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:24PM (#31650458)

    If you post an anonymized version of your resume, I'll be happy to see if there's anything obviously wrong with it.

  • by jimicus (737525) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:26PM (#31650470)

    You haven't really discussed how you went about your approaches in any real detail, so excuse me if I give you a few pointers:

    1. HR departments (particularly in big companies) are mostly there to keep outsiders out. They seldom accept speculative applications and forward them to the relevant department - yet at any given point in time, many departments within organisations are thinking "We could do with someone else here to help deal with XXX, but we need to get around to writing the job spec, get hiring authority sorted out, contact agents/advertise and ask HR to accept CVs with the following qualifications....". If you can find companies in that kind of position and speak to the person who's thinking that, you'll bypass much of the HR bullsh*t. For some odd reason, this process can actually be easier than going in the "accepted" way of writing to HR and a hell of a lot more productive.

    2. Regardless of whether you're applying speculatively or for an advertised post, NEVER send out a standard CV/covering letter. I promise you no matter how much effort you put in they stand out a mile. Figure out what the company is looking for (and if you can't figure this out, why do you want to work there?) and write covering letter/tweak CV to suit.

    3. Avoid agencies. This is my own personal experience, take it with as much salt as you feel it requires. But most employment agencies charge a small fortune, no employer wants to pay that if they can avoid it. Particularly not when they're taking on a graduate, who may or may not be any good in the real world. At the end of the day, the agent is being paid by the employer and they don't really care if you get the job or not, just so long as the person who gets the job is someone who they put forward. You'll waste hours talking to these people on the phone who insist they can find you work, that your best bet is to ask them to market you, that they're the solution to all the world's problems. It's complete fiction, but they're telling you what you want to hear.

    4. Keep active in both your job hunting and (if it goes on a long time) something relevant to the job. Any potential employer will view how seriously you're taking a job hunt as a guide to how seriously you would take the job - if you have been scratching your bum since the last interview 3 weeks ago, they'll assume you'll do the same thing when they're paying you.

  • by blunte (183182) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:30PM (#31650506)

    You think finding a job is hard now, when you have no experience. It can be as hard or harder once you DO have experience. Before I drone on about why it's hard to get a job with experience, here's my solution to both: Human Networking.

    It's really surprisingly simple. The more people you talk to and get to know...

    - the more people who may tell you when a position becomes (or is about to become) available
    - the more people you can "seek advice" from about getting a job (thereby making them aware of your availability, skills, and interests)
    - the more you can name-drop, or at least make reference to first hand
    - the more you can hear and learn about what companies are like to work for, and whether you would really want to work there or not

    I'm sure there are other benefits, but the first two listed are probably the most valuable.

    So how do you meet these people? In the old days, pre-internet, people tended to congregate in different groups or clubs (Toastmasters being one of the popular ones). Now we have Meetup, which might have some active groups you can visit and get in with. There are also community groups, such as those focused on bringing and operating business within a community, volunteer groups, etc.

    You can't really discount groups as not being applicable or beneficial until you get in and get to know people. Everyone knows someone, and people, in person, tend to be happy and willing to direct and guide others. So the guy you're volunteering with at Habitat for Humanity may have some great contacts in your field. At the very least he may have a contact that he knows has lots of tech contacts; and you're +1 already because you know this guy, and because you're doing meaningful volunteer work.

    Lastly, seeing the internet as the primary tool for getting a job is a huge mistake. The internet, where jobs are concerned (and some other things), is a cesspool. Multiple posts for the same job, multiple "staffing firms" trying to fill the same spot (and using recruiters who previously were just somewhat non-technical, but now who are imported and often merely trained monkeys); positions which have been pulled or filled, but no updates/removals of the internet posts have been made; etc. etc.

    Meanwhile, find something of interest, technical or otherwise (you never know where your good connection is going to come from), and get involved. If ballroom dancing is your fancy, go do that. Those people know people.

    Now about the experienced seeking jobs... just be aware that so many jobs today are for positions that already existed. Bob did X, Y, and Z, and company is seeking someone with those exact skills. It's pretty unlikely that there are candidates with the exact skills required; thus it's very beneficial to know someone within the company, that way you can get the interview without being filtered out by a keyword-matching monkey.

  • by koreaman (835838) <uman@umanwizard.com> on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:35PM (#31650538)

    Nepotism. The nice word for this is "connections". Do you know anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone (etc.) who runs their own software company, or works at one in a high-enough position that hiring interns or entry-level, underpaid slaves falls under their authority? Find these people and get your foot in the door.

  • by Courageous (228506) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:38PM (#31650556)

    I read a few responses to all this, and didn't see a significantly practical recommendation. Purposely focus on the municipal areas and industries where unemployment is low. For example, consider Washing DC jobs in the defense sector.

    As an aside, you said your problem was that you couldn't land the interview. You must understand clearly that the purpose of sending your resume to the company is to not land a job, but land an interview. You need to rethink the structure and presentation of your resume specifically around this fact. "The interview is to land the job, not the resume." "The resume is to land the interview".

    C//

  • by quietwalker (969769) <pdughi@gmail.com> on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:39PM (#31650566)

    To understand how to get hired, you have to understand how hiring works. Here's a simple 2-step generalization:

    Part 1)
    A great number of companies out there rely on their HR staff to do the hiring and applicant-seeking. The project lead or ~maybe~ even manager writes up a job description, and the HR staff formalizes it; breaks down each skill individually, adds 'years of' or 'proficiency level x-out-of-5' etc. This means that either a computer program that scans for buzzwords, or a person with no computer experience is going to be the first one to decide if your resume fits the bill.

    They are not going to know that someone with 10 years experience with c++ can probably write pretty good c, or that J2EE is the same thing as Enterprise Java. They won't understand why no applicant has "MVC programming" on their resume. This is your first gauntlet.

    Conclusion 1)
    You need to conform to their specifications.

    Rewrite your resume to tailor it for each position you're applying to. Make sure you include every single keyword listed in the job description, exactly as it's listed. Include easy-to-find "years of experience" for skills. When in doubt (say you're submitting without a job listing) investigate the company, make a best guess, and liberally sprinkle buzzwords.

    (... and if you're submitting 100% blind, like on dice or monster, rewrite your resume every week or so to change up the buzzwords. It seems that the company searches are re-run upon resubmittal, generating new 'matching candidate found' indicators)

    Step 2)
    Now you've made it to a person. Hopefully a technical person, but sometimes it's an HR person with a 20 question programming quiz - really just an extension of the resume step (JMP step 1). They're going to do the technical and social evaluation.

    Conclusion 2)
    You need to be unique.

    Everyone else who's made it to this stage is identical. They all have the same buzzwords, years of experience, etc. Assuming all of them have the actual technical capabilities, there's nothing to differentiate you from anyone else, which means that selection of a candidate is still pretty much random choice. So, you need to find a way to stand out.

    One good way available to everyone - in life as well as interviews - is to ask a lot of questions. Get the interviewer talking about their most recent projects, engage their emotions by getting them to talk about customers (no one has a customer-neutral stance). If you can get them talking about themselves, they'll leave with the perception that you were really interested in what they do, and pretty impressed with them in general. It doesn't hurt in most cases to sideline the 'real' interview to talk about their hobbies. Then, the next time they see your name on the page, they remember your face, the discussion, and you're head and shoulders above everyone else.

    One person I know had his girlfriend call three times during the interview. He did the check-the-number-frown-send-the-call-to-voicemail thing for the first two times, and then asked for a quick reprieve for the third. Embarassed, he explained it was his girlfriend, and they were meeting her parents for the first time tonight, etc, etc, don't forget this, can you pick up that. That sort of thing totally humanizes a person, turns them from a name on a paper to something more.

    Of course, if you have some interesting resume fodder, like the google participation listed in a previous comment, that's good to bring up too. Still, people like to talk about themselves or their code, so usually asking THEM the questions instead of just responding or talking about yourself seems to be a better shot.

  • by vlm (69642) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:39PM (#31650574)

    A biosciences company will hire a dude with a bio education AND a CS degree before they'll hire a CS guy.

    A finance company will hire a dude with an accounting education AND a CS degree before they'll hire a CS guy.

    You get the idea.

    No need to go back for a 4-year degree... Boss will be impressed enough to hear you're enrolled at the local community college.

    Also, in general, there are certain educational areas that "go well with programming".

    For example, most big companies that have MIS developers also have a finance/accounting department. If you want a MIS developer position, its hard to go wrong by taking a couple accounting classes at the local CC, or a seminar.

    Another example, many apps seem to involve databases. My CS degree only had an optional, superficial, theory oriented one semester class. Since so many apps involve DBs, maybe a quickie DBA class at the local CC would be good resume fodder.

    The goal is to not be "the guy who programs" but to be "the guy who programs and also knows about our business"

  • by john.r.strohm (586791) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:41PM (#31650590)

    Every college and university I ever heard of had a placement center, that existed for the sole purpose of facilitating interviewing of students about to graduate, and getting them hired. They are generally very good people, and helping you get hired is their job.

    More to the point, the companies that interview you through the college placement center know you're a fresh grad, and unlikely to have any real experience.

  • by Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:43PM (#31650620)
    Why not apply to grad school? A master's degree plus the experience gained from doing even a little of your own research will look great in a few years.
  • I'm a manager for a large county (100,000 employees) and am in a medium department with 800 employees. I've hired nine programmers in the past two years. Seven of them were fresh out of college. Oddly enough, all had CS degrees, though none had a clue about assembly or circuit design.

    Of the seven 'beginning' programmers, all had done work on the side either as a self-held business or as contract work. I rejected every applicant who hadn't done some programming outside of class.

    Two of my top programmers even had joined to enter a M$-sponsored contest for programming and had gone on to the finals.

    In other words, show that you want to be a programmer and not just a student.

    I noticed koreaman also mentioned nepotism - that works as well. :)
  • by edmudama (155475) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:54PM (#31650708)

    Finding a job takes a lot of time if you don't already have the connections. You should be applying to hundreds or thousands of jobs.

    Also, remember there are a lot of software engineering jobs at companies that do not sell software. If i were a student fresh out of school right now, I'd just go to a list of the fortune 1000 and apply to all of them.

    You also want to go to every single career fair you can find within 50-100 miles, and meet people and give them your resume, and tell them how awesome it would be to help them succeed in business. Jobs fairs/career fairs are a great way to start building a network.

  • by elucido (870205) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:54PM (#31650710)

    Thats one way to get an entry level job.

  • by plopez (54068) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @06:53PM (#31651252) Journal

    For anyone starting out, coming from a veteran of job searching.

    1) Experience. I have said this before, if you have to do some volunteer work for a non-controversial non-profit. E.g. doing websites and donor databases for your local no kill animal shelter. There are plenty of volunteer orgs. that need help. Find one that overlaps your interests and seems a high quality organization. You can get both experience and good references from this.

    In addition, if you show up to help with fundraisers you will probably get to meet local business owners. One of which could give you an internship or entry level job to see how you work out. This is also the networking aspect.

    2) More references and networking. Get a reference from instructors you "click" with. They may even have leads on potential employers, sometimes former students or colleagues of their. It helps if you have an interest and good grades, but if you show a keen interest that helps to offset any academic struggles.

    3) Networking with peers. Form study groups, interests groups, or join one. People who graduated before you could give you leads or advice. Depending on the situation, you may end up doing business with a classmate or two for the rest of your life.

    4) See if you can get a student position at your school's IT dept. or help desk. More opportunities for references and networking.

    5) Put up adds on Craigs List etc. and do a little consulting on the side while in school. It beats washing dishes. Just make sure you know how the taxes work. More opportun ity for networking. Nothing speaks volume like satisfied customers.

    In this economy if all you have done take classes, you are hosed. You lack both experience and social contacts, and will be starting from zero when you graduate which is when you need to money the most.

  • move (Score:3, Insightful)

    by colmore (56499) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @07:27PM (#31651514) Journal

    Move to a city with a lot of IT. Take ANY job, even if it's Geek Squad. Start networking like crazy, join a LUG, attend conferences and talks, put yourself out there. The vast majority of all jobs are not given to a resume on a stack. Meet people.

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @10:51PM (#31652752) Homepage

    You aren't missing anything. The problem is HR. The people actually hiring don't evaluate resumes at companies of any size. They send a position summary to HR, who handle that. When you submit a resume, it goes to HR. HR then scans your resume for the keywords from the position summary. If your resume doesn't contain exactly the right keywords (which you don't know), then HR bins your resume and the people who know what to look for never even see it. Meanwhile the scam artists (whether the candidate themselves or the recruiter submitting their resume) know exactly how to put the right keywords in, so what does go through to the hiring manager is the people who aren't qualified. Which leaves both hiring managers and candidates griping.

    Yes, I've been through this from the hiring side. After one particularly fruitless batch I got permission from my manager to go twist HR's arms until they coughed up the rejected resumes. And lo and behold, we found 5 interviewable candidates from the batch HR said weren't qualified. My manager was, needless to say, Not Amused, and made his lack of amusement felt.

  • use your network! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ericbg05 (808406) on Monday March 29, 2010 @01:45AM (#31653698)
    I read all the +3 -> +5 comments here and am shocked to see no one mention the importance of referrals!

    You already know people connected to the industry -- talk to them! Ask your profs if they know anybody in the industry. Ask your jobful friends to pass your resume along. Is there a famous prof at your uni? Did you take a class with them? Bring your chutzpah to their office and ask for a rec.

    A referral from a trusted third party is thousands of times more likely to get your foot in the door than your resume, no matter how bloody sparkly the thing is.

    Case in point, I graduated summa cum laude from an Ivy school, and no one really gave much of a shit. Until I knocked on my algo prof's door once during his office hours, asked him whether he knew someone in industry looking for a smart hard-working youngster. He gave me the name of his contact (the CEO of a tiny co). (I didn't even do that well in the Prof's class, slightly below median IIRC.)

    Next thing I know the CEO's shaking my hand congratulating me on my new 50%-pay job. He's telling me "boy have you ever got a lot to learn, but Prof so-n-so says you're smart and you do seem to come off that way". Worked my arse off til it turned into a real job. And now there are *2* people out there who think I'm smart, so, you know, twice the network :)

    If you don't have a network, make one. Think about doing an unpaid internship at a company that has a future. (Look into funding options from your uni for this kind of stuff.) Be careful with this one -- the network you create here must be valuable to justify the work and the resume gap.

    I had the privilege once to speak with the former-CFO of Coke, and asked her (rather lamely) how one winds up being the CFO of Coke. She said, "If you really want a big-time job you gotta be aggressive and you gotta be charming."

    Note that "qualified" is not a part of that sentence.

    I can program!

    Broken thinking. Getting hired isn't about being good at the job. It's about being good at getting hired, which is a largely orthogonal skill set.

    Need new skill set = need to practice. Interviews are like first dates: they pretty much all suck, but get less nerve-wrecking with practice.

    I should mention that once you have job 1, the network it creates (or doesn't create) will bear heavily on how your search for job 2 goes. So take good care of your network at job 1. I've seen a ton of smart people with amazing resumes, who are actually quite good programmers, who can't find jobs because they are huge pains in the ass. The days of the cranky-bitch-genius-programmer are limited (if not completely over), because there are plenty of pleasant-genius-programmers out there who need jobs too.

    Approach your job like a pro: learn the politics and the people, be friendly, be polite but not stodgy. Choose very carefully which personal details to share with which people. Never express a negative emotion unless you've thought about it extremely thoroughly. Never write an email to/from a work account that you wouldn't want the CEO to read. Get people to like you: morally it shouldn't matter, but practically it makes a gigantic difference to how your career will go.

    Finally and of course most importantly, work your ass off and get results. Nothing will make boss-man like you more than if you are generating two times the output as everyone else, with a smile and a joke handy at lunch time. It makes him look fabulous to his boss, and ten years from now when he's working at google (or whatever the "google" of 2020 will be, probably "google"), guess where you can ship an email and probably get a job.

  • by Full Meat (681492) on Monday March 29, 2010 @02:17AM (#31653864)
    • Be willing. One advantage that you have over older, experienced competition is that you're young, healthy, idealistic, unmarried, and have no children. Your ability and willingness to put in long hours can offset some of your lack of experience. Convey your enthusiasm with your during phone screens and live interviews.
    • Advertise any personal projects or interests. I always take note of an entry-level candidate that has put effort into a project that they take pride in, whether it's a personal project, a school project, or blog postings. It doesn't necessarily have to be technical. It's a great differentiator and a glimpse beyond the resume into what motivates you.
    • Send a reasonably professional email. Send your job-seeking email to yourself and examine it in your inbox. Preferably, your name appears in the format "John Doe", not "deeznutz23235@aol.com", "john", JohnnyBoy", or "JOHN DOE" . The subject line, if not predetermined by the reply mechanism, should be the title of the position for which you're applying. It should not be "Hi" or "Interested".
    • Include testimonials. If you have a good GPA (>3.5) or recommendations from professors or your landscaping boss, include them.
    • Avoid rambling answers. Part of what you're being evaluated on is the ability to articulate concepts clearly.
    • Bullshitting is lethal. Once you start bullshitting, you're wandering a minefield with a blindfold on and every step can blow apart your credibility. Stick to the map. If you say "I have hands-on experience with X" and when I start probing about X, that turns into "I have some passing exposure to X" you will have committed lethal bullshitting.
    • Be prepared for the unprepared interviewer. Have a two-minute summary of yourself prepared. Have a handful of genuine questions ready, i.e. not the vague, generic questions like "What do you like best about working here?" but things that you're genuinely curious about, like maybe "What IDE does everyone use here? What database technology in production?"

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