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I've applied as a Software Engineer at a company and been interviewed. The initial interview with the employer was good. The next step for the application process was to be interviewed by a technical lead developer. The technical lead asked me to show some sample outputs of my work but I can't show my sample output because the outputs I've done is ONLY for use inside of my past company and its very confidential.

Note that in my past company. Flash Drives are prohibited and uploading is monitored. That's is why I cant really copy my work outside the company.

I've spoken with the technical lead and I said that I can't give the sample output because of its confidentiality. In return the technical lead just thanked me for my time and they said they'll contact me soon. Which I haven't got a callback for two months.

Given the situation. What could I have done to make them to prove that I have done this and that project?

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    Where in the world are you? Where I live, it's normal to not be able to show previous work. We cannot possibly know if it's the same for your area. – nvoigt Mar 30 '17 at 5:45
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    I have been through the exact same problem as you, I have a feeling many developers have the same issue. What I started doing is making personal projects demonstrating the skills I had on my CV then uploading these to a public place such as GitHub so it is easily viewable by potential employers. – JavaGuru Mar 30 '17 at 11:31
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As an interviewer, I don't think I would ask to look at your code. I can tell a lot more by having a discussion with you about aspects of the language. I have no real way to know if the code you show me is actually yours. Coding tests as part of an interview annoy me for the same reason, its not really a good indicator of your abilities.

Most every job I've had the code would be either company proprietary or classified in some way, so providing it to someone else is not an option. In fact, I could see some interviewers using that as a test to see if you would provide your previous company's proprietary code to them and use that as a strike against you because that shows a lack of professionalism.

As an answer to your question, I think I would just say "I can't provide you with the code because it is proprietary and I'm sure you would want me to respect your code the same way, but I'll be happy to discuss the projects and technologies I have used as much as you want"...possibly phrased better. Most people don't have their own projects or open source submissions to provide. They should be able to understand that.

  • "Most people don't have their own projects or open source submissions to provide". This is a problem which can be very easily addressed. If you want to be well remunerated as a developer, an active Github profile is incredibly marketable. – Michael Mar 30 '17 at 14:57
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As an employer, I would never employ someone who said this (the emphasis in bold is mine):

The technical lead asked me to show some sample outputs of my work but I can't show my sample output because the outputs I've done is ONLY for use inside of my past company and its very confidential.

Note that in my past company. Flash Drives are prohibited and uploading is monitored. That's is why I cant really copy my work outside the company.

The real reason you can't show your work outside your company is because you're not allowed to. That's it. It's as simple as that.

It doesn't matter what the security protocols are, or even if the security protocols are non-existent. If you're not allowed to, you're not allowed to. And even hinting that you might be desperate enough to breach the confidentiality of your previous employer would only indicate to me that you might be willing to breach the confidentiality of my own company if I hired you.

As to the other answers, they're absolutely correct. You need to work on your own side projects or open source projects.

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    I feel that you only captured part of the quote. The missing part was from the beginning: "The technical lead asked me to show some sample outputs of my work but I can't show my sample output because the outputs I've done is ONLY for use inside of my past company and its very confidential." This makes it clear that it is against the rules. The part you quoted explains how far the company goes to eliminate accidental spills. – mhoran_psprep Mar 30 '17 at 11:11
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    @mhoran_psprep to me That's is why I cant really copy my work outside the company. shows that the OP places the physical restrictions above confidentiality. Otherwise the OP would have said My work is company confidential, but even if it wasn't I still can't even access it from outside due to IT restrictions. – Peter M Mar 30 '17 at 11:35
  • Ok, I've added the rest now, but you're welcome to edit your original question and I'll be glad to retract/delete my original answer completely. – Stephan Branczyk Mar 30 '17 at 15:41
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To the tech lead it means that you cannot prove your competence in they way they asked, while doubtless other applicants could.

One thing you can do is contribute to open source projects or do personal projects. Then use that work as samples. I'm not a developer but I would have no trouble finding several thousand lines of code I own from personal projects if I was asked for a sample.

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    If you present an open source project how would you present the thousands of lines that are yours apart from the other thousands of lines from others? – Brandin Mar 30 '17 at 8:11
  • @Brandin, On GitHub (and even other similar platforms), it would be very easy. GitHub has all kind of tools for tracking individual contributions. If you're not familiar with those tools, you need to become familiar with them. It's absolutely unacceptable these days for a developer not to be using a modern version control system (whether for work or for personal software projects). – Stephan Branczyk Mar 30 '17 at 8:42
  • @StephanBranczyk Yes, I'm familiar with the tools for developers. But for presenting it to an employer? Would you just say "check my commits"? – Brandin Mar 30 '17 at 8:47
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    @Brandin A good software shop will know what to look for in your GitHub profile. There's an activity feed of all your commits and a quick scan of those contributions are usually what I look for. – danyim Mar 30 '17 at 9:01
  • @Brandin One way is to create your own open source projects and be the sole contributor. Just because it's OSS code doesn't mean it has to be a huge project, and I'd say that a simple, well designed utility that solves a common problem shows more than contributing to large project. – Peter M Mar 30 '17 at 11:30
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Don't worry about it. I have never been asked to prove my coding skills with a sample. Nor have I ever asked for a sample of code.

In too many situations there is no opportunity to show your previous work because the customer or the employer owns the code, and has no reason to let others see it.

The company you ran into feels that they can reject anybody who can't provide examples. If they still get enough quality candidates then that is fine. If they don't get enough good candidates they will adjust.

I would just move on to other potential employers.

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At least out in the Bay Area, software engineers are expected to have a decent portfolio of work visible on a public source control platform (such as GitHub) containing code authored by you from either your small side projects or open source projects you contribute to.

I can understand why the technical lead didn't go through with your application. Your lack of visible work makes her decision harder and riskier, which already puts you at a disadvantage when compared with other candidates with this information at hand.

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    Why are you expected to use Github? There are other ways to publish code. – Brandin Mar 30 '17 at 8:12
  • @Brandin, GitHub is free for public projects. There is also bitbucket, which is free for small private projects. There is GitLab. There are others still. It doesn't matter which version control system you use as long as it's easy to use and also hosted online so you can easily provide links and they can see the history of your changes. Again, GitHub is currently the most popular for that kind of thing, but it doesn't have to be GitHub. It's just like someone telling you to google something, it doesn't necessarily mean that they want you to use Google over your preferred search engine. – Stephan Branczyk Mar 30 '17 at 8:32
  • @StephanBranczyk Answer would better say "public profile". Or if you insist on mentioning Github, "public profile (such as Github)". – Brandin Mar 30 '17 at 8:41
  • @Brandin, I did not write that original answer, but sure I agree with you. – Stephan Branczyk Mar 30 '17 at 8:44
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    @Brandin I'm telling you how it is in the Bay Area which is arguably where standards for the interviewing process are trickled down from. Almost every engineer I have worked with or interviewed has a GitHub profile if they're worth their salt. – danyim Mar 30 '17 at 8:55

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