Programming interview tips by a student

Hi everyone! I’m currently looking for a summer job as a software developer, and I thought I would share some ideas on how to prepare for an interview, for those who have never been to a job interview yet.

A short introduction of myself — I’m a second-year computer science/information technology student from Finland. After my bachelor’s degree, I’m planning to get a master’s degree in software engineering. In my free-time I love to program, especially web related stuff. Other hobbies of mine is going to the gym, play the guitar or having a good time with my friends.

How to prepare yourself

1. Be yourself

To be yourself is so important! But still so many can’t stay calm, or be themselves. In an interview, you shall never try to be something you aren’t, or anything greater. Do you know what’s so special about you, yes you reading this article? You were born to be you, and your biggest strength is being yourself, nobody can do that better than you! And the interviewer will notice if you are acting weird, believe me he/she has probably been interviewing people for years!

It’s okay to be nervous! A little bit of nervousness is healthy, it gets you going, and you can almost hear your heart beating. But do not be afraid of the interviewer, they don’t bite, and they are for sure a little bit nervous to meet you too.

Remember that you should also be asking questions! You can get som really valuable information from the interviewer if you ask quetions, it can be anything. My favorites are “Can you tell me about a project that you have been working on recently?”, or “how has working here helped you grow as professional?”. Believe me they will appreciate your curiosity!

2. Don’t lie about your skills

Remember that you don’t have to know everything, especially when it comes to programming! There’s too many programming languages to choose between, and of course frameworks as well. In an interview, you should never lie about what languages or frameworks you know, and how much you know. If you are given the job because you lied about all the languages you told them that you have a lot of experience in, you will probably be fired in a couple of days! That would destroy your self-esteem! Instead, if the interviewer asks if you have experience with language x, be honest and tell them no if you haven’t. If you have only heard of the language, tell them “No unfortunately I do not have any experience with language x, but I have heard of it, and I find it really interesting and I am willing to learn it!”. The interviewer will be impressed about how determined you are to learn new things, and learning new things all the time is mandatory when it comes to programming!

You can compare programing languages to football/soccer. Let’s say that most of a team’s players all have different nationalities (let’s say that this is a new team, searching for players). They all have the skill of playing football (programming), but they all speak different languages (programing languages). The only way for them to work better together, is to agree on speaking a language majority of the team knows! Same things apply to programing, all companies have their default programming languages that they use, a language they have all agreed on that suites the company the best.

What if you don’t have experience in a language that is being used at the company you are applying for? Don’t worry about not knowing all the languages and frameworks, the interviewer doesn’t care about that, instead, he/she cares about what you know about programming/software development. He/she only cares about if you understand how programs are built, difference between front and back-end, databases, OOP (object-oriented programming), how things relate to each other! Algorithms and data structures is also very good to know! Programming languages are always going to change, but the programming mindset and understanding will never change!

3. Be passionate

Yes, you heard it, be passionate about programming! There is a reason, why you chose to become a programmer, and a reason, why you want this job. By telling the interviewer how passionate you are about programming, it will convince him/her that this is something you truly love, and something you are willing to do the rest of your life. Remember to tell he/she why you chose this field, and why you would be perfect for this job! Believe me this is the key to success in this field, and the key to always be progressing. Tell him/her how you like to program in your free-time, and that you are never satisfied regardless of how many things you have accomplished!

If the interviewer asks you about your strengths and weaknesses, I’m sure it will be easier for you to tell about your strengths than weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to tell about your weaknesses, it can be anything. A great thing to answer, is that you don’t have as much experience in this field as you would like to, considering that you have not been programming for that long. Convince the interviewer that you are willing to do anything, and work hard.

If you fail a job interview, it’s okay! We learn from our mistakes, and we gain wisdom. Remember to always be hungry, and passionate about what you do. You can never be sure of what the future holds, and that’s the beauty of this journey! Don’t compare yourself to successful people who have accomplished a lot, instead, enjoy the journey of becoming something great, something that only time will tell.

Kim Lehtinen, Student at university of Vaasa

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