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I have a entry level software engineering job interview this Friday but no related work experience to mention on my resume. The interviewer(s) sent me two forms for me to fill out and there is a section on the form where I need to fill in some work experience or write unemployed. I do have work experience but it is only related to retail, NOT software engineering. I never mentioned any work experience on my resume since I applied for this position. (They already have a copy of my resume). What should I do?

Side Note:

I do have a list of completed projects during my education on my resume. My completed projects have two Android applications and two C++ applications. I also have a personal project called the fargo 2D game engine. I also forgot to mention it is a simulation corporate software engineer company (if that helps).

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    What is it that you wrote in your cover letter and resume that convinced them to give you an interview in the first place? Because, whatever your answer is, that's your start line on how you fill out the questionnaire. I'd like to get your answer to my question, though. Because without that info, we can't help you much further. – Vietnhi Phuvan Sep 10 '14 at 21:32
  • @VietnhiPhuvan: I had a list of projects that I completed during my education. – cyberspace009 Sep 10 '14 at 21:36
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    why was this down voted? – cyberspace009 Sep 12 '14 at 7:45
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If you're interviewing for an entry level job, right out of school, they don't expect you to have a significant amount of work experience in this field. There's no shame in admitting it.

On the other hand, if you had on-campus programming jobs, or if you were a paid teaching assistant in a class in your field, those can legitimately be put in this box, especially if they had you working in or teaching advanced topics.

And if they didn't specifically ask for "professional" experience, it isn't unreasonable to cite jobs outside your field. The important thing is to do so in a way that shows your non-programming strengths as an employee -- reliable, inventive, conscientious, willing to go beyond the minimum, willing and able to deal with difficult customers...

Re their having your resume: Yes, but whoever's doing the interview may not have the resume in front of them or at the top of the pile of papers. The forms are a redundant nuisance, but it's better to be redundant than to have the interviewer spending time shuffling papers rather than talking to you.

  • This makes more sense to me and you're correct about the non-programming strengths. I'll place my retail jobs on the application since they are not asking for professional experiences. Thank you for the understanding and insight. – cyberspace009 Sep 12 '14 at 7:44
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Under WORK EXPERIENCE, write your own name, say Joe Rodriguez, as follows:

WORK EXPERIENCE
Joe Rodriguez (2012-present)
Wrote several apps in python for school projects:
- an app that tells time, and goes "poof" two seconds later :)
- an app that implements dequeuing, - an app that implements binary search tree algorithms
- an app that implements the game of life
- etc.

Completing these requirements contributed to my GPA, which is well above average.

Basically, you want to convey that you solved some nasty problems while in school. Most self-taught developers don't get to solve nasty little problems :)

  • I don't think they would count this as employment experience. However, they did mention self-employed as well on the form. – cyberspace009 Sep 10 '14 at 21:59
  • @cyberspace009 You could say that you worked for yourself, albeit at the skinflint wage of $0 :) You have to put your quals somewhere on the form, because putting nothing is unacceptable (to you and your interview prospects) HR may kvetch at the way you filled out the form, but I don't think there is anything illegal or dishonest about you -filling it this way. Given that the format of the form is a constraint, that may be the best we can do given that constraint. Stand your ground, be straightforward, say why you filled out the form the way you did. If they don't like it, they'll tell you. – Vietnhi Phuvan Sep 10 '14 at 22:10
  • @cyberspace009 At which point, you get to ask them where and how to put in your experience because you certainly don't want to put in nothing. Especially since you did something. – Vietnhi Phuvan Sep 10 '14 at 22:10
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If you have an interview they are going to give you a job based on what happens at the interview (not what you write on the form). The form will just be a sort of guide on what type of questions they are going to ask. (Maybe HR will use it as a guide for working out salary level at some point but that's beyond my experience).

So I would put down your programming experience with some detail so they can use it to probe you on exactly how knowledgeable you are on a subject.

If you have written some C++ code put that on the form and then expect to be probed in depth about your knowledge of C++. etc... So the more detailed about what you did the more detailed there questions can be and the further they can get into deciding how much you actually know.

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