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.
    – Neo
    Jun 16, 2020 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, 2020 at 9:15
  • 2
    By "I graduated this August", you mean you graduated in August 2019? Maybe you could clear that up. Jun 18, 2020 at 16:40
  • If all your classmates have gotten jobs, why haven't any of them been able to get you on at their employers? Also, in case no one has linked you this yet: kalzumeus.com/2011/10/28/dont-call-yourself-a-programmer Apr 6, 2021 at 15:22
  • I was in your shoes a few years ago. From my perspective, many companies find their programmers from recruiting companies. Find a recruiting company to find a job for you. Apr 7, 2021 at 18:57

11 Answers 11


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. That's probably why instead you've applied to restaurants and retail stores instead, and in 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.


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 the 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.

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?

There is no shortage for your level of skill. If there were, you would be hired, and companies would be starting to hire anyone they can. As they've rejected you, and likely countless other candidates, clearly what they are starving for is not what you are selling.

  • 10
    "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. Jun 15, 2020 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.
    – Aida Paul
    Jun 15, 2020 at 17:55
  • 1
    "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, 2020 at 13:05
  • @Flater good catch, fixed, thanks! :D
    – Aida Paul
    Jun 16, 2020 at 16:22
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    -1: I have a personal GitHub. It has lots of personal projects on it. I featured the link at the top of my resume for years. Not a single time did any employer ask me a single question about anything featured there, I don't even think they checked it. Building a "portfolio" is not a useful thing in tech, and unless you're working on a very high-visibility OSS project, it's likely the same in that world.
    – Ertai87
    Apr 6, 2021 at 15:37


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.

Edit: Re-reading some of the comments, there seems to be a bit of a misconception regarding pay. At least in engineering and tech, internships are paid and often quite well. It is an internship simply because you are there for a defined period of time before you go back to school.

  • Internships are not Jobs as such they are meant to be training positions - surprised Canadian labour law doesn't say something about that Jun 15, 2020 at 22:49
  • It does, don‘t worry about that. Jun 16, 2020 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, 2020 at 20:29
  • @Donald internes meant to be trained and not just used as cheap labour Jun 18, 2020 at 20:42
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    @Donald : I've been told that only 1% of what I'd learn in engineering school would be useful to my career, but (1) no way to know what 1%, and (2) it would prove definitively a life-saver. Both points did prove true.
    – gazzz0x2z
    Apr 6, 2021 at 15:52

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”.

  • 2
    “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. Jun 15, 2020 at 18:09
  • Oh, the problems were more like “what is an array” :-( At least that’s what I was told.
    – gnasher729
    Jun 15, 2020 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, 2020 at 18:14

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.

  • I can't upvote enough the "I've worked with degree holders who couldn't code their way out of a wet paper bag" part. 30 to 40% of them in my experience. Of course, the other ones are good, usually very good. But this alone explains why potential employers are picky.
    – gazzz0x2z
    Apr 6, 2021 at 15:54

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.

  • This. Would also add that if all OP's classmates have gotten jobs, why is OP not trying to network their way into a position at places that have hired those classmates? Apr 6, 2021 at 15:18
  • +1 - Finding a job, ultimately, means selling oneself. It's a skill. You learn better if you are guided by people who know the thing, instead of trying to guess by yourself. Learn from the best, ask them advice, and make quick progress.
    – gazzz0x2z
    Apr 6, 2021 at 16:00
  • +1 for suggesting building an app or a website. This counts for more than just having a personal GitHub account, as other answers suggest, because it demonstrates that the code you write actually works, and that you know how to deploy it. Getting your resume reviewed by someone who knows something about resumes is also an excellent idea.
    – B. Ithica
    Apr 8, 2021 at 15:23
  • Thanks everyone. My only disappointment with giving advice on The Workplace is that I never find out what the OP actually did or their final outcome. With the original question being nearly a year old, I'm hoping the OP took the advice given across this page and landed his first job.
    – selbie
    Apr 8, 2021 at 17:05

I don't quite understand the negative answers given to you. Your situation is frustrating, and shared by many graduates. IMHO students shouldn't have to take care of their SW job skills while pursuing academic studies. If companys need developers who are craftsman, they should set up apprenticeship programs.

Anyway, for whatever reason, the prospective employers see some kind of flaw when looking at your application:

  • Some of those possible flaws are easy to identify and easy to fix: Like getting help with rewriting your application letter, and your CV.
  • Some flaws are easy to spot and impossible to fix: If you have bad grades, you have to live with them.
  • Some people have a horrible personality. That is hard to identify, and hard to fix.
  • A lack of experience, that is pretty obvious but hard to fix. Maybe you can make up for it with OS projects, anything, but most companies really want you to have spent some time in a regular workplace. Everything else being equal, you will always lose out to a competitor with more experience than you.

Now, my answer is the following: Work on both sides of the equation, try to identify and deal with the flaws you have. AND look for companies that are at the bottom of the food chain, startups, small shops, companies developing niche products. These companies are often struggling to attract any kind of developer, they mostly don't have an HR department, so at least you can get an interview. And then it is up to you to make your case.

  • "I don't quite understand the negative answers given to you" there are a bunch of red flags in the question, which means we're missing something crucial here. In a world where a compsci grad even thinks about being on the market triggers a piranha-like frenzy of recruiter activity on LinkedIn, something is really off. No internships? Classmates got hired but why not OP? Why can't classmates get the OP hired? What about on campus recruiting? Job fairs? My current employer (INDOT) would probably hire the OP in a heartbeat, yet they're searching '7 hours per day'. Something is wrong here. Apr 7, 2021 at 15:52
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    Yup, this question has the "I'm not telling you something really important" stink. If his resume has ANY value at all and he really sent out 250 of them to different people, there is almost certainty there would be at least one person out there that would take a chance and at least interview even a recent graduate with no experience and nothig in their CV. Which points at the possibility that there is some HUGE red flag in his CV.
    – mishan
    Apr 8, 2021 at 12:58

Yikes, some of these answers are way off the mark, and read a lot like people who have never been through this situation and telling you "how it is" despite having never lived it. I will tell you how it is as someone who most certainly has lived it, and more than once (it's a long story).

The fact of the matter is, what you are describing is a huge problem.

  1. Unfortunately, building a "portfolio" or "cv" is not helpful; I have a personal GitHub for myself, it has lots of old projects on it, in multiple languages, using multiple tech stacks; I featured the link to my GitHub at the top of my resume for years (about 5 years), and I recently removed it because not once in all the time I had it listed did any prospective employer indicate even a little bit that they had even clicked the link, nevermind browse it to see what I could do (in fact I asked some questions to my interviewers more than once about if they had seen X or Y in my portfolio, and they were clueless). Regarding all the suggestions of building a portfolio, they are all useless. Learning new things is never a bad thing, but if you spend a bunch of time building up a GitHub portfolio because you think it will make you more attractive to employers, I'm sorry but it won't.

  2. The fact of the matter is that the supply of software engineers is not low, in fact the market is extremely flooded, so much so that people like you are finding it hard to get a job. The supply of good software engineers is what is low, because most software engineers are very bad at it. And since you have no experience, the prospective company has no way of knowing if you're a good one or not. And even if you publish a GitHub with personal stuff on it to show how great you are, they won't look at it (see above). This is why they make you do technical assessments as part of the interview process, because they "have no other metric on which to judge you" (which of course they do, they could look at your portfolio, but nobody actually does).

Now for some positive news: Most of the time, job descriptions are written by people who have no idea how to write a job description. Which is to say, it is very seldom that the managers who are actually hiring for specific roles actually write the job descriptions for the jobs they are hiring for. This is why you see job descriptions that have 5 different programming languages, 3 different infra stacks, and 4 different DB technologies, and they want 15 years of experience in a technology that has only existed for 5, because the person writing the JD is clueless. So here's the secret: Treat every JD as if it is 80%+ BS pulled out of some HR goon's rear end; if you believe that you will be correct more often than not (and before I get comments, yes I know this is not the case in 100% of cases, but it is the case in the vast majority). The JD should be treated as a guideline and not as a rule; if you are a Java developer with 0 experience, you probably shouldn't be applying for a Senior-level Ruby position that requires 10 years and requires in-depth knowledge of infra and CI/CD, but you can probably apply for a Java position that requires 1.5 years experience and requires cursory knowledge of MongoDB and Bash shell which is clearly labelled "junior" in the JD title.

So here's what you do:

  1. Get a LinkedIn profile if you don't already have one (seriously, this is the most important thing; every job I've ever had except for my current one has been gotten through LI)

  2. Dump everything you can possibly think of into your LI. There are lots of tips for building LI profiles. The key thing to know about building a LI profile is that it is more or less indexed like a Google search: if you want people to find your profile when they search for "Java", then you better have the word "Java" featured somewhere prominently on your LI page; if you don't then you'll get passed over. Don't be afraid to list unrelated jobs or positions you may have had in the past, if any, or relevant courses you took in school, or whatever.

  3. Build a resume. I presume you already have one.

  4. Go through the list of jobs posted to LI, and jam the "apply now" button to as many of them as you can. Seriously, there is no limit, just do it. Obviously you should self-select a little bit; don't apply to jobs you have no chance of getting (see above on some recommendations there), don't apply to companies that are geographically infeasible, and so on, but basically any company that is looking for a skill level similar to what you have, with a tech stack similar to what you know, just jam that button.

Eventually you'll start getting callbacks, and you'll start getting recruiters sending you InMail directly, and then you'll be off to the races. From there, it just comes down to passing the interview, which is out of the scope of what you've asked (and there are lots of other resources to help with that)

  • 1
    About the 'HR goon' job description, I would say that not only is this true, this is disproportionately true of entry level jobs. Apr 7, 2021 at 15:57

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.

  • 4
    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, 2020 at 0:30
  • 2
    @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, 2020 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, 2020 at 19:15
  • 2
    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, 2020 at 20:59
  • 2
    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, 2020 at 21:11

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.


I see answers that suggest

  • contributing to open source
  • fixing CV
  • using LinkedIn to find jobs

However, I was in your shoes and non of those things helped.

SquiddleXO in his answer said:

Employers don't take chances on entry-level candidates [...] because they don't have to.

I agree with that answer, however I have something to add based on my own experience in this field. Thanks to internet and thanks to the fact that programming job can be done remotely companies find developers from all over the world. In US, companies find themselves cheap programming labor oversees or through something called "recruiting companies". When a company wants some programmers to write some code for them they give a call to recruiting company (or some company oversees), say how many people they want and a day or week later they hire that many programmers as contractors. Companies don't bother looking for candidates and interviewing them themselves. They outsource all that. I found my way into programming through one of such recruiting companies.

So here is how I would answer this question:

Why don't employers take chances on entry level candidates?

Because they find programmers who can get the job done oversees or through recruiting companies by making a phone call and don't bother investing their time and money into fresh new graduates.

If you want to make your way into a programming field I suggest you find a job at one of such recruiting companies, put up with the shady tactics they use to run their business for a year or two and then find yourself a proper job with all that experience you would have.


Employers don't take chances on entry-level candidates for the same reason that you don't take chances on crappy jobs: Because they don't have to. The job market is like any other market: Buyers (employers) decide on an asking price (salary range) and go to the seller (job seeker) willing to deliver (work) the most quality (skill) at that price point. That doesn't mean that they will take whatever they can get either, there is a minimum quality below which they will just give up on the transaction. This behavior is no different from you: You also would take the best job you can find for a given pay, and there are surely certain jobs (not necessarily in software) that pay so low and are so terrible that you would rather be unemployed than take them.

Many assertions you make are not true because employers are not robots who all behave exactly the same. Some of them take chances and others don't. Everyone has their own level of risk tolerance. Moreover risk itself is subjective. You may feel that the risk you represent is low, but the employer may feel that it is high. Even thinking from the employer's perspective, you may have a different opinion about how disastrous it would be if the employer's business was damaged as a result of hiring you. Trying to debate people into following your personal feelings and discarding their own is not productive here, you're much better off simply looking for people who ARE interested in buying what you're selling. There are plenty of employers that do take risks on employees without much experience. Of course the competition for those positions may be more or less, and you may need to compete on different things than for risk-averse employers.

Rest assured that these are not empty platitudes because the situation is not novel. Contrary to what you say, employers do not want only the cream of the crop "these days", it has always been that way. Experience has been greatly valued in every trade since the dawn of time. If employers refused to take chances on new employees as you say, after a few years the old and experienced employees would retire, and they would run out of experienced employees to hire. There would be a labor crisis, which would force them to increase their risk appetite and hire inexperienced candidates. Given that it wasn't yesterday that people realized experience matters, we already exist in a steady state where some number of inexperienced candidates are being hired entry level positions every year. Your task is to figure out who is getting hired in this way and how to compete with them, or else find a different means of procuring income.

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