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I'm trying real hard to get a web development job and was wondering could I try to prove my skills by asking any potential employer to get a wireframe of whatever sort and then let me build a website according to the wireframe's specs, at their offices?

They provide the computer and internet so as to make sure what I make is a fair reflection of my current skills. I don't want this protracted baloney of negotiations and all that malarkey. I would actually want for there to be as little talking as possible. I'm really not good at it.

I just want to say this is the money I want, judge me on my work and decide if my current skills are worth what I'm asking for. I fear that the social aspect of an interview is not going to be easy for me, and that my lack of social graces are going to negatively effect my chances of employment. I just want to build something and be judged on that. I of course have some portfolio items I can show employers, but I have no way to know if what I like to build is what an actual employer wants.

I have worked as a teacher for the last 7 years so I'm not really versed in how the business world operates, I very well may have a completely naïve outlook as to how these things are done. I'm just left wondering if a tech interview could ever be done like this?

EDIT:

I would just like to add a bit about this question. OK thank you to all the posters on this question. I have now realised that I had a fear of the interview that was unnecessary. If i crash-and-burn a couple of interviews I should consider that a learning opportunity. In the same way some writers frame some of the rejection letters they got from publishers. Consider me now schooled.

I'm extremely glad I got my head around what the interview is. That is much better than going into interviews with unrealistic expectations. Unfortunately, life is full of hard / unpleasant things we have to do. I'm just going to have o buckle down and learn to do this effectively.

Thank You for all the posters for reminding me of it. I should be old enough to realise this, but this is maybe not the worst place to get reminded of it.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Feb 12 at 17:51
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    OK thank you to all the posters on this question. I have now realised that I had a fear of the interview that was unnecessary. If i crash-and-burn a couple of interviews I should consider that a learning opportunity. In the same way some writers frame some of the rejection letters they got from publishers. Consider me now schooled. – Neil Meyer Feb 13 at 17:07
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    @NeilMeyer nice to hear that :) if your questions have been answered please consider accepting an answer – DarkCygnus Feb 15 at 2:37

10 Answers 10

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You can ask anything you want, but it is unlikely that the company would respond in the way that you want.

Pretty much every other candidate interviewing for that position is going to be going the more traditional route of interviewing and if you can't do that whereas every other candidate can then that, in and of itself, makes you look bad. Why should they go out of their way to accommodate you when there may be ten other people that they don't have to go out of their way to accommodate?

Besides, if you lack social graces then you're probably not going to be a good cultural fit for them, anyway. Being an employee is about more than just getting the job done - it's about being able to work with your other coworkers and communicate with them.

I have worked as a teacher for the last 7 years so I'm not really versed in how the business world operates, I very well may have a completely naïve outlook as to how these things are done.

You learn by doing. Maybe you bomb this interview or maybe you don't but either way hopefully you learn something from it and you do better! I'd say: don't fret about the interview - just do it and learn from it and do better with each successive interview until you get that web dev job!

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    Also, it's difficult for them to make a fair assessment if they judge candidates by different criteria. – Gregory Currie Feb 13 at 0:30
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    Pro tip: maybe consider applying for positions less than optimal as well, so you get a few more opportunities to practice at places other than your dream job. – Cullub Feb 13 at 0:36
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Would you interview for a teaching position by asking if your prospective employer could make a lesson plan for you to teach to a class for a term and see what they think of your performance after you've taught it?

That's more or less what you're proposing here - "asking any potential employer to get a wireframe of whatever sort and then let me build a website according to the wireframe's specs" is literally the job they're trying to fill. Interviewing by saying "just give me the position and then I'll show you if I can do it" is not going to get you the result you want.

Worse, it will actually expose how inexperienced you are - you're apparently interviewing for jobs where you expect to be capable to solely "build a website", but you don't seem to understand (based on this question) that getting "a wireframe of whatever sort" is a massive part of the job, if not most of it. It's not a little throwaway task that gets knocked out in half an hour. The interviewers will see that you haven't learned this yet (which would be fine if you were owning it, but won't be fine if you're trying to represent yourself as a self sufficient expert).

And with that "wireframe of whatever sort", you apparently expect to be able to sit down and wow them within a couple of hours by turning it into something deliverable. If you're interviewing for serious web developer jobs, there will be teams that take weeks to deliver one small part of a website. If you're interviewing for a simpler static HTML kind of role then they'll probably be flooded with candidates who have already developed static sites they can show, without the interviewer having to provide a workstation and spec. It will also be obvious to the interviewers that this is something you don't realise yet (again: fine if you were owning it, not fine otherwise).

Sorry if that sounds harsh - it's a fair question to ask here, and I think there are probably some industries where it would work (I used to live with a great chef who reckoned the best way to get a job was to knock on the kitchen door with all his knives and ask if he could work for a shift) but it's really not a great approach for a web developer interview.

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  • "Would you interview for a teaching position by asking if your prospective employer could make a lesson plan for you to teach to a class for a term and see what they think of your performance after you've taught it?" - that doesn't seem as completely incredible as you probably intend it to be! – Steve Feb 12 at 11:26
  • (Addressing now-removed comment...) Fantastically well for the employer I imagine, with a gaggle of unpaid teachers available for a whole term. I think the most common application though, would be where the employer has just one candidate and is unsure of their quality, not where they are attempting to run a beauty contest between many plausible candidates. – Steve Feb 12 at 11:40
  • @Steve You've actually reminded me of a chef housemate I had back in the day who swore by this method of getting a job, but I'm still going to stand by my claim that this is a bad tactic for a developer interview, based on my experience in the industry. – Player One Feb 12 at 11:42
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    @Steve if an employer abused interviews to employ unpaid employees for months then that would be all sorts of illegal in any country where I have worked. The point of my deleted comment "How would that work if there was more than one candidate" was that you can't employ them all for a term to teach the exact same class – Player One Feb 12 at 12:19
  • Agreed, this approach has its own potential downsides when applied to many candidates. As I say, as an approach it works when there is really only one candidate, but the employer is unsure of the quality, and the work does not have to conform to a particular schedule. – Steve Feb 12 at 12:44
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I have worked as a teacher for the last 7 years so I'm not really versed in how the business world operates

This is why Academia has it's own stack....

TLDR

An employer isn't going to want to invest that much time in someone to prove themselves. A better approach would be to approach a few small businesses, or charities and do some pro-bono work, doing a few simple websites to build your portfolio, and THEN approach a potential employer where you can show what you have already done.

LONGER ANSWER

It's often been said that Academia is quite the sheltered existence, and there is some truth to that. Quite frankly, your attitude in calling what the rest of us have to deal with all the time as "malarkey" comes off as arrogant, out of touch, and is very off-putting. The first thing I'd do, if I were you is get into a different mindset.

The business world functions very differently. What you propose would not get you very far. Titles and pay grades in the private sector are far less rigid and/or structured. While there may be titles like "Web designer1" and such, there isn't a hard and set salary for that role, or even clearly defined duties in many cases. You need to be aware of this, and many other things when you go into the business world.

You not only have to negotiate salary, but benefits as well, and look carefully at the total compensation package. a 100,000 salary with no benefits may not be as good a deal as a 70,000 salary with a generous benefit package. Yes, you need to be able to negotiate ALL of this.

There are some people who can walk in and say "I want this much with these benefits", and they will get that because they have a proven track record and a reputation in the industry. Right now, you have neither.

If you want to cross over to the private sector and reduce the amount of negotiations to a minimum, you're going to have to have something to show a prospective employer before you walk in, not create it as part of the interview.

Also, if employers are hiring, they want someone who can start contributing RIGHT NOW, not in a day or a week, or however long it takes you to build your masterpiece from a wire framework that someone else would need to take time out of their day to design.

It would behoove you to start out buy doing piecemeal one-off small contracts/gigs with smaller companies or charities, do some for free or at a minimal cost so that you can get the experience/reputation that will help you secure a permeant job.

To be brutally honest, if you came into my office with your proposal, you'd be treated politely, but would be the subject of many jokes for quite some time to come. What you propose is very brave, but none too wise.

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    Good answer, you need to already have a solid reputation before you can do this sort of thing. Another thing is that attempting to get physical access into a companies offices is in itself something that would concern many. – Kilisi Feb 12 at 15:49
  • Another case when people can say "I want this much with these benefits" and get it is when they ask for strictly less than the company was going to offer (and did pass the interview). – Victor Sergienko Feb 13 at 7:15
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    Wish I could give you an extra +1 for "behoove" – tddmonkey Feb 13 at 9:07
  • @tddmonkey ha! I thought the same! :-D – Aaron F Feb 13 at 19:35
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Interviews are quick and simple and not just about technical skills

Many developer interviews (probably the vast majority of them) involve some coding step to make sure you have the technical skills required. These can vary from writing some code for 30 minutes to spending a week building something. They may also ask theoretical technical questions as another way to assess your technical skills.

Most of the rest of the interview is there to make sure you would be a good cultural fit. That is to say you do things that align with the company's values (without needing to be told), you're someone people wouldn't mind being around for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, you'll stay with the company for a while and your career goals aligns with what they can offer you. They also want to check how you manage when things don't go perfectly (e.g. dealing with conflicts or deadlines).

Working instead of interviewing won't work

Certainly you doing some work for them instead of the interview will tell them whether you have the technical skills, but it does come with some issues:

  • It's probably going to take a lot of time for them to set up an environment that allows you to work there and evaluate what you did, especially if they're not going to use it in their production systems and they don't even know if they want to hire you. Evaluating and training a new employee is different because that's an investment into someone who'll (probably) stay and make useful contributions for at least a few months (and hopefully much longer than that).

    Interviews are really quick and easy for them by comparison.

  • If they do use what you built, that may come with some legal, moral or administrative concerns or complications about unpaid work or agreements that go outside typical employment.

  • If you meant working for them for just a few hours, that's probably not really going to give them a great idea of what you're like to work with on a longer timescale. It might also be arguable whether interviews do a good job of evaluating this, but at least companies believe they do.

  • If you meant working for them for a few days, weeks or months, especially at their offices, that would probably involve a fair amount of interacting with them, so they'd probably want to evaluate you before that to make sure you're a tolerable person, and to get an initial gauge of your technical skills to not waste everyone's time (which leads us back to interviews).

  • It may not tell them what they want to know about your values. Certain values may not be things you visibly demonstrate every day, but they can nonetheless be important to employers.

  • Many companies just aren't that flexible. They may make some basic accommodations for candidates if needed, but asking them to entirely redefine their interview process is too much.

You can get better at interviewing

There are plenty of resources online to help you prepare for an interview. You can find some common interview questions (and how you should answer them) as well as interview questions for specific companies. Having mock interviews (with friends/family or using online services) can also help a lot.

Not all interviews are the same

Different companies want different employees. In some jobs you'll have plenty of meetings with stakeholders while in others you may not need to talk to others all that much.

Interviews do reflect this to some degree (or at least they also vary between companies). Some companies mostly focus on your technical skills while others focus quite heavily on cultural fit.

Although most employers want employees who are at least somewhat sociable.

What about an internship?

Spending some time at their offices building something for them is essentially an internship.

Although that's more in the order of months and they usually to have interviews too, but those might not be quite as intense as the standard interviews.

Some companies may only accept students for internships, but I'm sure others would be willing to consider you (assuming you're not still a student).

What about freelancing?

That may also involve interviews, but those may be a bit more focused on technical skills and less on cultural fit.

This could also be a way to "get your foot in the door" in a company and get a full-time offer from there.

Although if you're not a fan of talking to people, freelancing may not be the way to go. I haven't tried it, so I might be wrong, but my impression is as follows: it will vary from one client to the next, but you can probably get away with having relatively few meetings once you actually get going, compared to the average job. Although you need to interact with others a fair amount to actually get hired and get information about what they want you to do, and to share your progress and get feedback. And you'd also generally be working with different employers more often, which means more interviews and more interacting with people.

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  • If you don't mind just going a bit deeper into the rabbit hole, how/where would a decent programmer get started just building experience and getting a reputation? – user7778287 Feb 20 at 20:59
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    @user7778287 A few companies may be willing to consider a developer who has the required skills, but no experience. If you can't even get any interviews despite applying for many jobs that don't require much experience, then you could (in no particular order) try applying for internships, signing up on freelancing sites, doing online programming courses (possibly even an online or in-person degree), doing personal projects (and actually completing them and making them public, even if just on GitHub or your website), taking part in programming contests or contributing to open-source software. – Bernhard Barker Feb 21 at 7:29
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    @user7778287 Although there are other ways to improve your chances of getting an interview, like networking or improving your resume or cover letter. And certainly you shouldn't expect to get interviews if you're not applying to many jobs or you only apply to jobs you'd be poorly suited to (like applying to relatively senior roles if you have no experience). If you are getting interviews, then experience is likely not the problem. But this goes a bit beyond the question asked here. If you'd like a more detailed answer or to dig deeper, I would suggest asking a new question. – Bernhard Barker Feb 21 at 7:34
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To add to some of the other answers, I suspect the question springs from a misconception:

Writing code is only part of the job.

Even in junior positions, where you might be given detailed specs to code directly from, you'll still be expected to interact with your boss, team lead, and other co-workers: you're bound to have questions about standards, practices, locations, and the like.  (The details will depend upon the type of development you're doing, and the company set-up, of course; but no-one can work in complete isolation.)  You're going to want to share tools and techniques with your colleagues.  You're probably going to have to write some sort of documentation at some point.  And once you start having input into the design and the bigger picture, that'll involve bouncing ideas off colleagues, learning a bit about the business side of things, and other interactions.  You might need to give presentations to your team, to management, or to clients. And you might be called on to mentor a newer joiner (just as someone else might mentor you at first).

And all that's just as true now many people are working remotely; people use audio and video calls such as Zoom, and instant messaging such as Slack, as well as emails and wikis and other collaboration tools.

So even if a potential employer could get a perfect idea of your code output, it wouldn't tell them all they want to know about what it would be like to employ you.

That's what interviews are for: so they can learn a bit about you and how you'd fit into the company.  (It's also for you to learn a bit about them and what it would be like to work for them.)

And since it's a standard part of just about every recruitment, the mere fact that you want to avoid an interview is itself a red flag.  Of course, there are always special cases, and during the pandemic I expect interviews over Zoom or whatever are likely to take the place of many in-person interviews.  But I think it would be extremely unusual to hire someone without any social interaction at all.

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  • And if you do, you're essentially hiring a contractor for some "black box" with specifications, that you can't be bothered to do yourself and expect a product and documentation. – mishan Feb 13 at 10:07
  • +1 for 'the mere fact that you want to avoid an interview is itself a red flag'. Sorry Neil Meyer! – EleventhDoctor Feb 14 at 13:43
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Just create a concept and build it for them

I would not ask and would instead just do it to bring into the interview or even send along with the application. Worst case, it becomes a portfolio piece down the road. I have done this in the past and it got me a really cool internship. In 3rd year, it mean that I applied for one job and very solidly landed it.

Google "pre interview project" for more information on this.

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    This core message of your answer is the best here - it takes into account what the OP is ACTUALLY asking: "Are there other way into a job than the formal interview process?". All the other questions assume it to be "Can I fudge the interview process?". BUT, I think it needs a little more fleshing out in that sense. Still, +1 from me! – josh Feb 14 at 13:13
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One vital thing that interviews provide is missing from your scheme. Any employer will need to have effective two-way communications with you to discuss website designs and to give feedback on designs as they develop. If they don't get to talk to you, they have no idea how well this communication will work. So they aren't going to go for this idea, and will reject it.

Company web designs are not commissioned like works of art. They're the face the company presents to the world. So all the departments and roles within the company need to give input, and to be listened to. If you can't take part in that, you have a serious problem.

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Sure, you can ask. I have colleagues who have foregone lengthy interview processes and got hired by telling the employer that if they wanted to hire them so badly, they should be able to do so based on the quality of their work. However, they were experienced developers with large portfolios and were well-known in both the local tech scene and spoke regularly at international conferences.

I feel you are missing the point of the interview process. Especially for junior roles, a significant part of candidate evaluation is going to be based on the soft skills they present during the interview process. I would rather hire someone who knows nothing but is quick to teach, is proactive in learning, and asks the right questions, than someone with strong technical skills but can't communicate well with others or is reluctant to learn beyond what they already know. It is not possible for a company to assess those factors without a face-to-face interview.

You are also missing the value of an interview from the perspective of the candidate. Interviews are a two-way process. You are assessing the the company as a potential employer as much as they are assessing you as a potential employee.

What you are looking for - where you are assessed on your existing body of work and are paid accordingly - is freelancing, and you are wanting clients, not employers (this won't get you out of talking to people however - lead generation doesn't come for free).

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An interview is not about assessing skill. That's what your CV and hiring tests are for. An interview is for assessing your personality:

  • Can you act professionally while talking to people?
  • Do you have the right attitude for the job?
  • Do you fit into the company philosophy?
  • Does your personality fit into the team?
  • Will you be a person who is easy to lead and won't cause trouble?

None of that can be assessed from you creating something for them on your own.

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If the company wants an employee on short notice, and wants them to productive as quick as possible, they will not be interested in prolonging the interview by this much. So for many job openings this will not be considered acceptable. Especially not if you're experienced in the field, when interviewers will expect you to be able to show/talk about previous work to establish your credentials.

However, "Pay me some money and let me work here to prove that I have what it takes, since I don't have any previous experience but think I can be productive" sounds quite a bit like a traineeship position.

There are companies that offer paid positions to workers new to field and will train them on the job; if you are switching fields from a different one, you might get something like what you want by looking for one of those. Of course, that also means you'll be getting additional coaching, and you won't be able to work alone. Very few jobs are done without communicating with anyone and just building on your own.

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