During a recent interview for a co-op, he listed on his resume that he had built a game in Unity. I understand the reason why he would list this as programming experience since he is a sophomore in college, but since my company is a transportation company, it doesn't directly relate to what we would have him doing. I understand the value of self-taught programming, but when it came to how he completed the project is where my question stems.

As a hobby, I have also started learning how to use Unity to create games using tutorials and videos online. It is a great way to get your feet wet in a language or technology.

When I questioned him as to how he built the game in Unity, I directly asked him if he read a book, watched some videos, or followed along with tutorials. He replied that he followed along with a tutorial.

How much value should an interviewer put into experience generated from step-by-step tutorials that do all of the coding for you?

  • 2
    Not a whole lot. It's something but the reality is that anyone can complete a tutorial. I personally would view it little more than the same time spent in a computer lab. You're doing what is instructed with very little deviation. That's not programming, that's interactive television.
    – Chris E
    Mar 13, 2017 at 20:42
  • Imagine my surprise, having finished an answer, that these comments had beat me to it! That's what I get for not refreshing the page...
    – SPavel
    Mar 13, 2017 at 20:59
  • It depends on the tutorial and how you use it. K&R's The C Programming Language is described by the authors as a tutorial, but if you read it and do the exercises, there's a pretty good chance you'll come away knowing a thing or two about that language and will be able to use it/answer questions about it.
    – Brandin
    Mar 14, 2017 at 8:11
  • A 10 year old could follow along with a Unity tutorial. Unless he could answer in-depth questions about unity development then I wouldn't assume he learnt anything at all. The only way I think it would help in an interview is showing that he actually has an interest in programming. Mar 14, 2017 at 10:45
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    I usually work with backend web technologies, but when I played around with a Unity tutorial, what I did was hack the game and extend it with a load of more stuff. Of course an experienced developer is different from a college graduate, but maybe he has done that, too. Ask if he did anything else with the game. Maybe ask to see the code. Also, if it's about following tutorials, ask him about his SO account. Look at his questions (and answers). Even if there are only questions, are they well structured? Do they make sense? Being able to ask good questions is a valuable skill too for a junior!
    – simbabque
    Mar 14, 2017 at 12:38

3 Answers 3


Consider what skill the candidate actually demonstrated

What the candidate did was not, strictly speaking, a programming exercise. He copied someone else's code. He followed instructions, but he has not demonstrated any ability to actually write his own code, or even copy-paste code from StackOverflow in the right order for something to work. He may have this ability (as the comments mention, tutorials are a legitimate way to learn a skill) but so far you have no evidence of it.

See if you can test the candidate on any skills you're not sure about

There's a fairly simple way to test the candidate's knowledge of a domain both of you know - ask him to explain a concept, or solve a simple problem. If the candidate cannot do so, then all he managed to accomplish was "follow instructions" and has retained zero meaningful skills from his tutorial. If he can tell you something, then he actually has some programming knowledge, and you can count that in his favor.

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    +1 for asking the candidate to explain their code. Understanding the code is much more important than where exactly it came from (as long as they're not plagiarizing, of course).
    – Mel Reams
    Mar 14, 2017 at 1:14

How much value should an interviewer put into experience generated from step-by-step tutorials that do all of the coding for you?

Not a great deal, but it's better than nothing. It's like asking what value to give someone with the Cisco Essentials certificate. Not much since it's almost unfailable, but at least they're on the right track.


How about this: He shows a willingness to gain knowledge. Instead of focusing on the specifics of whether or not he learned anything relevant to what you do (which you stated it didn't really relate), focus on the fact that he's showing initiative to learn and is proud of the fact that he's learning. People who are proud of gaining new skills are an asset.

Evaluate his coding ability outside of this tutorial, of course. If he can't do the job without the tutorial it's an obvious no-go, but if he has the skills you need AND is willing to learn on top of that, it seems you have a good candidate on your hands.

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