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Every employer these days wants 1+ years of experience, even in entry level jobs. I graduated this August with a bachelor's in computer science, and I've been looking for a job ever since. I've submitted at least 250 applications, and received no callbacks yet.

I've started applying to restaurants and retail stores, and every single one of them wants at least one year of retail or food service experience.

And please don't say internships, because very few of them pay and I couldn't get the ones that did, and I need to pay rent.

Everything about the current job market is frustrating, even before covid, as all my classmates now have jobs. I spend 7 hours a day job hunting.

I could learn any of the skills in the job postings once they hire me even if I don't know them right now and I can do any of these jobs, but they only want the cream of the crop these days, and anyone who didn't devote their life to their career the second they started college is at an extreme disadvantage in this world.

Why are employers so picky about hiring software developers when there is a shortage? How are new graduates supposed to get experience if we cannot get hired to obtain experience?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Mister Positive Jun 16 '20 at 11:38
  • This is my proposal for getting started in open source. Sindre Sorhus is one of the most active people on Github. He has over 1000 repos. There are numerous issues in every repo. My tip: Sort his 1000 repos after programming languages you are most comfortable in. Then start fixing the issues (fix bugs, answer issues, review pull requests). You will learn a lot. You will need to understand the project. Reading code is super important. This will get your skills up and you will get great exposure. – a1300 Jun 18 '20 at 9:15
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    By "I graduated this August", you mean you graduated in August 2019? Maybe you could clear that up. – WorkingHard_Guy Jun 18 '20 at 16:40
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Boy, there is a lot to unpack in your post, especially attitude. But something about it moved me enough that I will take a whack at answering it.

Every employer these days wants 1+ years of experience, even in entry level jobs.

That is inaccurate. There are plenty of places around the world that hire people with no skills, experience, or even commitment. Those jobs are mostly part-time, short term contracts, or just plain old fast food industry restaurants like McDonald's which business model is set specifically with unskilled short term labor in mind. Similarily there are no-skill required jobs in construction and many other industries.

One key thing about them is that those jobs quite universally suck. Carrying bricks all day is back-breaking, working line at a fast-food joint or a factory is soul-consuming, and all of that is for meager-at-best pay with very little future perspective. hat's probably why instead you've instead applied to restaurants and retail stores instead. And when doing so you've found masses of other people who want those jobs too, big enough masses that employers can be picky.

I spend 7 hours a day job hunting, and I'm ready to jump off a cliff.

HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO GET EXPERIENCE IF WE CAN'T GET HIRED TO GET EXPERIENCE?

I could learn any of the skills in the job postings once they hire me even if i dont know them right now and I can do any of these jobs

If you say that you can do those jobs, then go and do them. We live in era where you can gain experience and exposure at end of your fingertips in the software universe - it's called open source contributions. If you are such a whiz at tech as you claim to be, and master any tech the client demands but just need to be hired first then I have a crazy proposition for you - stop jobhunting for a month.

By your own math that will free you, at least 210 hours that you can devote to contributing to any open source project of your liking. This will show that you indeed understand the tech and give you a leg over all the other candidates, as now any person reading your CV can follow the link to github and see 210 hours worth of code you've written. And best thing is that you can do it starting tomorrow, it costs you nothing.

Everything about the current job market is frustrating

they only want the cream of the crop these days, and anyone who didn't devote their life to their career the second they started college is at an extreme disadvantage in this world.

It's called a market for a reason where the best win. You can be as frustrated about this as you want, howl to the moon, rant and stop your feet, none of this is going to change it. What can and needs to change is your attitude. Instead of sending 250 CVs, put that time to work, because as I pointed out before you are in an industry where you are free to gather all the experience you want if you have the time and PC with internet access.

Because as you've found out, even if you may not like it, you are the one behind the competition, and it's up to you to catch up to those who have already put that work in during the studies.

On final note

Why are employers so picky about hiring software developers when there is a shortage?

Because there is no shortage for your level of skill, it's simple like that. If there were, you would be hired, and company would be starting to hire anyone they can. But as they've rejected you, and likely countless other candidates, clearly what they are starving for is not what you are selling.

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    "you've instead applied to restaurants and retail stores instead." Good point. An air conditioned store job is only considered a lousy job by middle class people. It is nowhere near the bottom. – Matthew Gaiser Jun 15 '20 at 17:50
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    @MatthewGaiser far from it. I started out at the bottom, and one east European winter of carrying bricks was what motivated me to learn to code and find a job in that field instead. – Tymoteusz Paul Jun 15 '20 at 17:55
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    "working line at a fast-food joint or a factory is not soul-consuming" I assume you mean the opposite, based on the context this was mentioned in? – Flater Jun 16 '20 at 13:05
  • @Flater good catch, fixed, thanks! :D – Tymoteusz Paul Jun 16 '20 at 16:22
  • "If you are such a whiz at tech as you claim to be, and master any tech the client demands but just need to be hired first then I have a crazy proposition for you - stop jobhunting for a month." - I'll just point out that, in some countries, that will lead to you not getting any unemployment benefits (eg in the UK, where the official advice states "treat job hunting like a full-time job - you'll need to do it every day", you may be sanctioned if you don't job hunt and cannot provide evidence). – user25730 Jun 17 '20 at 22:51
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This:

1+ years of experience, even in entry level jobs.

and this:

And don't say internships

Is where you made your first error. Entry-level jobs (at least in Canada, where I am) are the internships, not the new grad positions. I work for an organization that generally does not hire entry-level people and when my boss stated this in a meeting about hiring, I was surprised at how I got there (as this is my first job after university). They counted my internships as that one year of required experience. You see this in Amazon job postings as well for SDE 1. They want one year of experience because in a typical 4 year degree, you should have done at least 3 internships. It is not unusual for people to have 2 years of experience if they also do a one-year internship, which is becoming increasingly common. I had classmates who had two years of work experience.

Of the engineers/business students from my graduating year who still are not employed, they are the people who did not do internships. This is a bit old, but the most desired factor when hiring new graduates is past internship experience.

I won't get into the nature of the retail and hosting markets as I do not know those, but I suspect there is a similar type of prior experience they expect you to have (warehouse/dishwashing maybe?).

I could learn any of the skills in the job postings once they hire me

This is software development. You presumably have a computer. Why aren't you learning those skills now? Claiming to be "could learn" is absurd in a field where you could be learning them now and are not.

Why are employers so picky about hiring software developers when there is a shortage?

There is a shortage of people who already know how to do software development, not people who want to be software developers. You have to remember that a full time software developer generally makes more in their first year of employment than most Canadians/Americans will ever make in a year. We are not cheap, so you need to be able to provide value quickly.

  • Internships are not Jobs as such they are meant to be training positions - surprised Canadian labour law doesn't say something about that – Neuromancer Jun 15 '20 at 22:49
  • It does, don‘t worry about that. – morbo Jun 16 '20 at 17:04
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    @Neuromancer - internships are experience, even unpaid experience, then no experience at all. Academia is not the real world. I have used almost none of my experiences from college in my job. All those coding projects you did, those were to teach you a concept, outside of academia they are not helpful. It took me over a decade to write a single sort function outside of college but in the course of 4 years at college, I wrote about 5 of them. – Donald Jun 16 '20 at 20:29
  • @Donald internes meant to be trained and not just used as cheap labour – Neuromancer Jun 18 '20 at 20:42
  • I speak from experience; I never had an internship and it was difficult getting a job, those colleagues that had one, had no trouble at all. To put it into perspective most of the time, I did the majority of the work on team projects, with those same colleagues. Any experience is better than no experience – Donald Jun 18 '20 at 20:57
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Lets see where this goes with votes, should be interesting...

Why are employers so picky about hiring software developers when there is a shortage?

Ok, so you just got your degree and now you want to work - I hate to break it to you, but academia and the real world are very very different, and many companies are simply not willing to nurture a new software developer during that transition period.

I hire software developers - I've hired a lot of software developers in the past year. I mainly hire mid- to senior-level developers, and thats precisely because we want the developer to be somewhat productive in their first week on the job.

With an established codebase and project, it can take developers a while to come up to speed - you might know how to code, but you don't know your new employers approaches, tooling or processes. You don't know how to leverage the existing codebase to produce better solutions. And we know this when we hire - we know that its going to take weeks, sometimes 4 to 6 weeks, for a developer to come up to speed and have everything gel for them.

And thats an experienced developer. You are not an experienced developer, you are fresh out of academia, which means that you have baggage - you were taught to solve software problems for your academic qualifications, and all too often what you have been taught does not translate well into the software development real world.

For a new graduate in their first software development job, having demonstrated no experience through any means other than their degree, I wouldn't expect value from you in the first year - you would have to be nurtured and helped to grow. And unless you are willing to work for a pittance, most companies don't want to make that investment - because you will probably leave before or shortly after you start adding value.

I've worked with degree holders who couldn't code their way out of a wet paper bag.

I've worked with people who didn't finish school who make me sit back and stare at them in wonder.

I've worked with pretty much everything in between those two extremes. Yes, there are good degree holders out there, and yes there are good degree holders who have just graduated out there. I'm not saying there aren't.

So, how do you improve matters?

Experience doesn't just come from paid jobs - as a software developer, you automatically get noticed more if you actively take part in open source. Start a project, scratch an itch, or join an existing project and get committing to the codebase - put that on your CV, have a link to an active GitHub account with your code on it.

By doing that, you grow as a developer - and you grow publicly. You interact, you learn that real world requirements are very much incomplete, that bug reports are often unhelpful, and that there is value in maintaining and improving existing codebases.

Sorry for the brutal honesty, but thats the way things are.

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As others pointed out there are companies that give jobs to entry level candidates.

But yes, it's easier if you have a bit of experience from outside the uni.

For me the main reason is the attitude. If you've worked in the industry you know what it looks like and should have learnt some standards of professional behavior.

I've had all kind of problems with recent graduates:

  • False expectations. Most jobs aren't exciting all the time. Most have some interesting and some awful components. Young people sometimes tend to have an issue with the boring stuff. To give you an example, I've once worked with a data scientist, just after graduation, who refused to do data pre-processing (checks, cleansing, normalization) since he deemed it "too easy". He wanted to do ML. He was very, very smart but he was fired.
  • Lack of professionalism. You can contribute as much as you want. I want to hear your opinion and your ideas. But if I say: "Sorry, we don't have time to do it this way this time because of A, B, C." you need to accept it and not feel offended and show me that.
  • Immaturity. If I give you an important task and you say it's doable in e.g. a week and we decide you will deliver it within a week, I expect it to be done in a week. Unless you signal problems. Yes, there are exceptions. Sometimes something beyond your control happens that makes it impossible to complete the task. That's normal. Then you signal the issues and we discuss re-prioritization or change the deadline. But don't simply ignore the deadline/ avoid me/ hope I will forget.

Of course not all entry level candidates are bad and non-entry level candidates good. But these are some points that I've encountered repeatedly and that make me very skeptical about hiring someone without these 2 years of experience.

You can and should work on your hard skills but if I were you I would also add information about any community service, student activities, dead-end jobs, basically anything you did which can show that you're mature, professional and reliable to your CV.

Stress that you want to learn and you're able to learn a lot. And don't show a special snowflake attitude.

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    Has it ever occurred to you that it's your role as an employer to develop professionalism and maturity? And that in an education system that constantly expects people to learn and demonstrate their smarts endlessly, and selects for those who do, then a mature employer fully expects that hiring from the top stream of academia will yield someone who is very smart and expects to be doing smart, challenging things (particularly in a first job which they have, presumably, got by demonstrating their smarts)? – Steve Jun 16 '20 at 0:30
  • @Steve Who told you that? No, my role as an employer definitely isn't to develop random people's professionalism and maturity. My role as an employer is to act in a way beneficial to the company I work for. Sometimes, this involves hiring a young person who shows a lot of potential. In other cases this involves firing a young person who is unreliable, immature and doesn't show signs of improvement after a few conversations. You mistook me for a parent I think. If I was these people's parent, I would be expected to learn them how to behave. But I'm not. – BigMadAndy Jun 16 '20 at 19:09
  • @Steve, one more thing: there's a huge difference between "being creative and challenging things" and "being immature and unreliable". Suggesting improvements is great, it's a sign someone is thinking, even if for some reason they can't be implemented right now. But I really don't get why you compare that to my examples: someone who didn't want to take over tasks, cause they were "too easy" for him or someone who hopes I forgot what he was expected to do. It's illogical. Also I've met plenty of people who think there are creative geniuses after leaving uni. In reality none of them was... – BigMadAndy Jun 16 '20 at 19:15
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    It is your role as an employer if you choose to hire a young worker with no experience, as opposed to paying the price for those with it (whose employers have already invested in them). I'm not saying you can't sack or sanction young workers at the limit, but it is hardly a parent's role - the vast majority of parents are not employers or managers anyway, and may be in completely different occupations. (1/2) – Steve Jun 16 '20 at 20:59
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    I can't second-guess your judgments about misconduct in the circumstances, but as I say you show a lack of maturity when you find it incredible that such misconduct even arises, that the orientation of young workers into the world of work takes more than a week, or that supervision is required. You acknowledge yourself that two years of experience is a reasonable amount of time to develop maturity and professionalism. Expecting other employers to have already provided two years of experience to young workers (or "snowflakes") so you don't have to play your part, is deadbeat behaviour. (2/2) – Steve Jun 16 '20 at 21:11
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My company interviewed several people quite recently coming fresh from university. Two of them were apparently very good (two were not), but still too much lacking in basics of software development, to the point that someone asked “what were they actually learning at university”. We have hired apprentices, which turned out very well, and people with multiple years of experience.

For writing 250 applications with no reply: You can try to find someone who is good at writing CVs and ask them for help, or you can hire a professional to do it. I’ve written CVs for others; one relative gave me a CV that accurately stated what she could do, but in an incredibly negative way. I wouldn’t have hired anyone with that CV. Changed it around a bit, focussed on strengths instead of faults, with a much more optimistic feel, and she got the job no problem.

Contact agencies. They get paid if they find you a job, so they will help you. And in an interview, be optimistic, enthusiastic, think “These will be my colleagues soon”. Before every interview convince yourself “I will get this job”.

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    “what were they actually learning at university” the gap between university and practice is extremely frustrating, especially since they don't even give you a clue in university that it exists. If they don't want to teach unit testing, fine, but at least tell people it exists as an important topic. – Matthew Gaiser Jun 15 '20 at 18:09
  • Oh, the problems were more like “what is an array” :-( At least that’s what I was told. – gnasher729 Jun 15 '20 at 18:25
  • Contract agencies is the way I’d suggest going, particularly if the OP knows anyone that got a position through one. – jmoreno Jul 18 '20 at 18:14
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All the other answers on this thread are great. But I'm going to surmise something else.

There's something inherently wrong with your resume and cover letter that you are sending out.

I suspect that it's a short resume and is in need of content to address your deficiency with regards to work experience. And further, it doesn't show open source projects and class works where prospective employers can get more insight into your abilities.

Here are a few things you can do right now:

  1. Get your resume improved. Have someone look over your resume or CV. Perhaps you are leaving out important class work, forgetting to put programming languages you know, forgot to put your email address, etc. Find someone that you took classes with that did land a job who would be willing to help. Universities and colleges usually offer some placement services and might have someone on staff that can help with your resume. Whatever you do, do not lie on your resume about a skill or experience you do not have.

  2. Create a LinkedIn page that mirrors your improved resume. Add all your friends. Then hunt for recruiter contacts. Similarly post your resume to the usual job boards: Monster, Indeed, Dice, etc...

  3. Showcase your best class projects. Put your code on Github and have your resume link to that.

  4. Go build a mobile app, desktop app, or website (with a front end and backend). Ship your app in the store or have a dedicated site for accessing it. At your app work to your resume and source on Github. This will show you are passionate about programming and capable of learning new stuff not taught in a class room.

Consider other IT areas to go into

Would you consider applying for system administration, technical support, software testing, technical sales, or a related field? You can build up some work history, get paid well, and then continue on your journey towards a software development job.

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Why dont employers take chances on entry level candidates?

The same reason why you probably wouldn't buy an unmarked box at the grocery store marked 'surprise inside'. It's risky and you don't need to take the risk. There's aisles and aisles of other products to choose from.

That said, some employers do hire entry level with zero experience. There's just not going to be a lot of openings. Usually schools keep a network of alumni who are in various industries and open to helping other graduates get jobs. Maybe ask your school for contacts.

Every employer these days wants 1+ years of experience, even in entry level jobs.

Is that all? I remember many years ago they expected people to have 3-5 years of experience in technologies that just came out 1 year ago.

I graduated this August with a bachelor's in computer science, and I've been looking for a job ever since. I've submitted at least 250 applications, and received no callbacks yet.

Even if you get a job doing tech support or testing (that random people who know nothing about programming can do) you will have a leg up compared to where you are now. Don't turn your nose up at such jobs. They can pay the bills.

I would look at contracting agencies. It's easier to get to an interview through one of those than going direct to an employer.

I've started applying to restaurants and retail stores, and every single one of them wants at least one year of retail or food service experience.

Well there are millions of unemployed restaurant & retail workers right now so I don't know why you think you can get a job in those industries. Unless it's for a job where how you look is all that's required cause your look brings in customers. Even so it would be an unstable job that would go away as soon as your Governor/County board decides to shutdown restaurants/stores. And guess who would be the first person to get let go? Whoever has the least to offer the company and whoever has the least time on the job.

I could learn any of the skills in the job postings once they hire me even if I don't know them right now and I can do any of these jobs, but they only want the cream of the crop these days, and anyone who didn't devote their life to their career the second they started college is at an extreme disadvantage in this world.

It's always been like that. If an employer has to choose between two applicants they tend to pick the one with extra skills or depth. Why? It's like free money for them. Why should they pay you $X when they can pay the next guy $X and get extras.

That said, there are people who will hire you. It's just that they're also open to hiring any one of 50k other people and you're basically playing the lottery right now. I worked in an HR department once. They were getting 400+ applications for every low end job. This was many years ago. So maybe go research how many people are applying for the types of jobs you're applying for and then figure out how many applications you actually need to send out before you have a hope of getting an interview.

Why are employers so picky about hiring software developers when there is a shortage? How are new graduates supposed to get experience if we cannot get hired to obtain experience?

You already said that your classmates got hired. It's not a given that employers need to hire every entry level person out there.

Another thing you should do is stay in touch with your classmates. They will gain connections that may help you now or later on.

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