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8 Tips for acing interviews as an entry-level developer

11 May 2023 , by Simone Markham

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Interviewing as an entry-level developer poses a unique set of challenges. Since you have no work experience to speak to, you’ll need to make a good impression in other ways. Here we explore how you can tackle different interviews you’ll come across to help ensure you are the hiring manager’s top choice for the job throughout the process.


Use the introductory interview to make a great first impression

Usually, this is the first time you’ll engage with the hiring manager that’s not over email or messaging. It’s essential to create a memorable impression so that they invite you to showcase your technical skills in the next stage.

1. Research the employer and role to build rapport with the hiring manager

Initial interviews will likely be a phone call, but this doesn’t make it any easier. In fact, it’s much harder to build rapport with a hiring manager over the phone. By doing your research on the employer and role you’re interviewing for, you will impress the hiring manager with what you know about the company and the work they do, which helps in building rapport.

Your research allows you to speak meaningfully about what the company is doing and why you’re excited about the responsibilities the job will entail.

Have a look at the hiring manager’s LinkedIn profile so that you can ask them a question or two about themselves. Although you should take a more formal approach to any interview process, you do want to form a connection with the hiring manager to stay on top of their mind when they think about hiring for the job.

It’s likely that they’ll allow you to ask questions in the interview, which you should prepare through the research process.

Asking questions specific to the opportunity will not only show the hiring manager that you’re genuinely interested but also that you take a proactive approach to your career.

These are both attributes that will give a memorable first impression.

2. Prepare an elevator pitch to remain clear and concise

It can be tempting to slip into a more relaxed tone over the phone, especially if you’re taking the call at home in a comfortable environment. But it’s important your responses are clear and concise.

Initial interview times vary, but they’re often around 30 minutes. Since you have limited time to get across who you are and why the employer would want to hire you, prepare your elevator pitch before the interview.

Practice speaking to a friend or family member about your educational experience, projects you’ve worked on, group work you’ve been involved in and any achievements.

Try to highlight parts of your projects that speak directly to what skills the job requires: how you thought about the process as a whole, how you approached it and what the outcomes and learnings were.

3. Ask about the next steps after every interview to show you’re interested

Ask the hiring manager what happens next in the interview process and clarify any steps you need to take. It shows that you’re keen to hear from them and still interested in the role.

This is a great way to showcase your communication skills in other ways to impress hiring managers.

You should ask when you can expect to hear feedback after every interview, as you can then send a follow-up message if they haven’t gotten back to you yet by that stage. Keeping communication going from your end emphasises your interest as well as your proactive approach to your job search and career, helping you stand out from other applicants.

You also want to thank the hiring manager for their time in these messages. Creating this friendly connection will keep you at the top of the hiring manager’s mind. It also gives them insight into what it would be like to work with you.

Resources to help you prepare for your introductory interview

Use the technical interview to show that you can do the job

Hiring managers will likely focus heavily on this part of the process to determine if you’re a good fit for the role.

4. Practice coding fundamentals and solving algorithm questions with the language of your choice

One of the most common ways hiring managers assess your fit for the role is a technical assessment. Before attempting the assessment or going into a coding interview, you want to practice as much as possible.

You’ll likely be able to pick the language you complete the test in. Make sure you’re using one that you’re already familiar with. Programming languages take time to master, especially if you’ve only just begun your developer career. You don’t want this to infringe on your ability to create a working solution.

Review computer science fundamentals that you’ve learnt through your upskilling process, specifically algorithms and data structures in your chosen programming language.

You can use a project you’ve previously worked out to type out, test and run code. This will give you instant feedback on what fundamentals you still need to brush up on. Alternatively, use Codewars or LeetCode to practice.

Make sure your code is clean when you’re practicing and run plenty of tests. Ensure you can adopt these good programming habits when you complete the actual assessment. An entry-level developer with habits like these will definitely stand out for hiring managers.

5. Keep the hiring manager up to date on your progress

Depending on the type of assessment you receive, you may be sent something to complete at home, and you may be given a due date and time. If not, it’s best to inform the hiring manager when you plan to submit your solution.

Keeping the hiring manager up to date on when you’ll be able to submit shows off your communication and time management skills. Remember that they’re assessing what it’ll be like to work with you.

You may feel nervous to commit to a timeline, but you can always inform the hiring manager in advance if you’re unable to deliver should unforeseen circumstances come up. It’s not a good idea to avoid submitting a solution for arbitrary reasons as this may convey you cannot stick to a plan.

Once you’ve submitted your solution, you’ll likely be invited for an interview where you have the opportunity to speak through your work, and address or ask your own questions.

6. Give the interviewer insight into how you think

You may need to complete an assessment in the interview itself and speak through your workings. If you get a take-home assignment, you’ll still need to explain your thinking to the interviewer.

Give them as much insight as possible into how you went about preparing to solve the problem, and why you chose the approach you did. Taking notes as you’re completing your solution will be helpful to refer back to when explaining your thinking.

Giving interviewers insight into how you think helps them gauge if you can do the job and fit in with the team, which you won’t be able to prove through previous professional projects.

This is the opportunity to allow the interviewer to get to know how you work. If you don’t understand a question that’s part of the assessment or one you’re asked in the interview, ask the interviewer to clarify what they mean.

You may feel this works against you in proving you can do the job, but it actually conveys that you’re aware of your knowledge gaps, you pay attention to detail and you’re eager to learn. It also gives you a better chance of succeeding in the assessment.

Resources to help you prepare for the technical interview

Demonstrate how you can integrate into the company’s culture in the final interview

Culture-fit interviews become more important the more experience you have as a developer, as senior software engineers have more influence over how a team works. But it’s still essential to demonstrate how you’ll integrate into a company as an entry-level developer.

Hiring managers want to know if you’re able to work as part of their team since you haven’t yet had this exposure professionally.

7. Demonstrate how you would work as part of their team

They’ll likely test this by giving you a scenario that could come up when working in the team and asking you how you would address the challenge.

Before you answer, take a moment to imagine yourself in the scenario. It can be difficult if you haven’t experienced a similar situation in a professional context. Remember that it doesn’t need to be within software engineering, but rather whenever you’ve worked in a team.

In your answer, clearly convey what actions you’d take to address the challenge, why you chose this approach and alternative options. If your answer is based on an experience you’ve had before, explain the situation in full. Giving the hiring manager these insights helps them understand if you’ll add to the team’s productivity.

Even if you ace the technical stage of the process, it’s more important for hiring managers to ensure you will integrate into the company. A bad fit may have a negative impact on the whole team.

This is also beneficial for you, as you don’t want to join a team that you cannot work effectively in.

In your first job as an entry-level developer, you’ll need a space in which you feel comfortable asking plenty of questions. A good culture fit is paramount to ensuring you can do this and grow your career from a good starting point.

8. Prepare questions to gather everything you need to evaluate the opportunity

Preparing curated questions at this stage of the process will show the hiring manager that you’re still interested in the opportunity. But it also helps you gather any final information you need to make an informed decision should you receive an offer.

Resources to help you prepare for the final interview

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