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How do people who have knowledge of coding and scripting languages, but no work experience with them get jobs that seek those skills? I do have a computer science degree, but that was last decade. I'm not really looking for software engineering positions, as those remain fierce. Something to supplement automated testing, black box/backend testing, or anything that requires scripting and looking at code.

These days, I've applied for a couple that look for knowledge, only to end up being told they want someone with experience (then why not say 'x' # years of experience then!?). As I've got nothing to lose, I've also applied to positions that look for low level of experience. I've heard of folks last decade who were able to get programming positions by studying it themselves with no IT related degree whatsoever. Has the landscape changed now?

How does one "bs" and get your foot into the door into an interview? I was thinking of making an Android app, or putting up sample code on GitHub (but even then, I've heard they want more than just a few hundred or few thousand lines of code... they're more so interested on you working on large-ish projects, but those often have a waitlist)

I'd imagine during the phone interview, hopefully they'll ask you technical questions so you can demonstrate your skills. I've heard of some interviewees even instruct phone interviewers how to set up a Google Docs link so you won't have to describe over the phone what your code will look like. Have any of you been asked to "write" code over the phone? I'd gander it'd be more so simpler questions like how to read in files using C++ or Python, what's the command to switch root passwords in Unix,

If in-person, that's more straightforward, as you can now view and write stuff down. Has it been necessary to get almost everything right, or do they just want to make sure you're not a completely clueless hack who's only experience with a programming or scripting language is reading up a Wikipedia entry?

EDIT1: I'm currently learning Python through Google's courses on YouTube. Is that sufficient for many employers? Do I need to be able to submit source code for some software like a Blackjack program, or do they need to see contributions to an individual or group GitHub project?

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    I'm sure there's a duplicate somewhere, but can't find it... – Telastyn Jun 16 '14 at 20:45
  • Every single large project can't have a waitlist. You only need to find one and get coding. – user8365 Jun 16 '14 at 21:35
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    For an entry level/foot in the door position, they are just looking to make sure you're not completely clueless. There's a huge shortage of programmers in many areas, just keep applying. – Andrew Bartel Jun 17 '14 at 0:20
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How do people who have knowledge of coding and scripting languages, but no work experience with them get jobs that seek those skills?

Apply everywhere. If possible, social network so that a buddy can get you past HR. Small companies with small/no HR are also good. An Android app (or other portfolio) is good, but not necessary.

Has the landscape changed now?

Not in my locale, but yours may be different. My locale actually has many bad programmers looking for work. This may drive recruiters to favor experienced resumes over yours, but it also means that companies are desperate for vaguely competent coders. My company has had 3 open reqs for 6 months for example.

The key is trying to circumvent HR. They're the ones who largely require experience. Once you get the interview, engineers just care what you can do.

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One of the somewhat surprising things about looking for work in a different field is you will not necessarily find success in aligning yourself with whatever "the masses" are doing.

In other words, if you want to apply for a position as a "general purpose" Java programmer, you will have to compete with many other candidates who have far more experience than you or who are at a different stage in their careers with different expectations (eg. entry-level folks who don't mind working for very low pay).

You are more likely to find success if you can convince the right employers that you are somehow uniquely qualified for the position in question.

One way you can do this is to look for jobs where your previous experience is particularly valuable but which also require some of the newly developed skills that you want to exercise.

For example, if you have been working as a sales engineer but you want to shift into a software development role, look for software jobs which are involved in the sales domain. A software team peppered with one or more domain experts (who also dabble in software) can be very effective.

In summary, look for jobs where your previous experience is valuable even though the core functions of the job are something that is new to you.

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"only to end up being told they want someone with experience" - Is the "Its not you its me" speech of employment. It doesn't really tell you much of anything other than that you did not get the job. I have been told this a few times where the person that ended up getting the job had much less experience than I had. Its easy to say and totally meaningless. In my cases I usually walked out of the interview knowing that I was not getting the job, even though I had not been told.

My recommendation is to work on your interviewing skills, and find a recruiter to work with.

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    Of course they tell half the candidates, "I am afraid you are overqualified." Simple, basic, hard-to-argue with reasons for turning someone down. Much better than saying, "Harry, who interviewed you, doesn't like you as a person." or "We had to hire the CEO's brother." – HLGEM Jun 16 '14 at 21:40
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    Or: "I'm afraid you don't make a good fit in the team" - used instead of the (often illegal) "we think you're too old". – user8036 Jun 17 '14 at 6:23
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How does one "bs" and get your foot into the door into an interview?

This is your first mistake. If you have to "bs" your way into an interview, then you are not a quality hire. Both from the perspective of having this attitude, and from thinking that this is how people actually get screened. Sure, typically, no one candidate meets every qualification. However, their strengths overshadow their weaknesses and this makes them a reasonable fit. That is not the same as "bs"ing.

I do have a computer science degree, but that was last decade.

Your CS degree is a decade old. From the perspective of an employer you might as well not have one, given the pace of technology. Especially, given that it sounds like it hasn't been in practice. Even when I interview I still study the CS topics before I show up, as there is a huge difference between coding all day and answering theoretical CS questions.

I was thinking of making an Android app, or putting up sample code on GitHub (but even then, I've heard they want more than just a few hundred or few thousand lines of code... they're more so interested on you working on large-ish projects, but those often have a waitlist)

This is not true at all. Even if your portfolio contains one or two projects of small to modest size, you will find this is more than enough to convey your capabilities to the employer. I could get a good feel for your capabilities from a 100 line script and a 15 minute interview. So don't use that hearsay as an excuse to not jam out one or two small projects.

I'm not really looking for software engineering positions, as those remain fierce. Something to supplement automated testing, black box/backend testing, or anything that requires scripting and looking at code.

If this is the case, then the best thing to do is to create some automated test/ scripting projects that you can use for demonstration. For example, look into Selenium or something similar.

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There are following ways to go:

  • Get certifications. Founders and supporters of many languages, platforms and frameworks do provide the way to get official certificate proving that you know they product.
  • Try to get certificate of studies at the University. Some have programs offering a year or about of standard studies at master level, same exams and assignments. It is not the same as true master degree and may be tough to get, but works well enough against "your education is obsolete".
  • Join some open source project focused on technology you need and work in the team. Do not start from developing alone, the team will show you standard tools, approaches and coding practices.
  • Try to find some spin-off that is forced to hire strange people as cannot afford a descent salary. Later the spin-off may progress into perfect place to work. If not, both you and your employer have a glass of beer together and go looking for a job with lots of experience.
  • Look for a temporary positions, nobody wants them, so much less competition.
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Maybe people consider your coding skills a bit dated. Are they?

You can do lot of stuff to show you are actively engaged in coding. Join an open-source project of your interest, there are many without any waitlists, happy to have you. You were thinking about making android app - stop thinking and do it. Find meetups in your area, talk to people about what skills are hot. maybe make presentation about some technology, show your skills. Write a blog about what you learned.

If you do any of this, you will have advantage over most of candidates who are not capable of doing any. The only problem you need time to build your network, and you need to pay the bills while doing that.

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