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I have just completed my Master's degree in Computer Science and have gotten my first job interview as a developer. I do not have much experience in large scale development projects, but I am hoping my university education counts for something.

I am wondering, what materials should I bring that would impress my interviewers? What do most interviewers expect, especially from a new graduate?

**Edit:

The job interview went OK, except I forgot my pants.

Thanks for all the great advice!

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what was the point of migrating this question from SO just to close it? could have closed it on SO and saved a step –  Steven A. Lowe Dec 1 '11 at 23:28
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migrated from stackoverflow.com Nov 30 '11 at 19:17

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closed as not constructive by Anna Lear Dec 1 '11 at 0:27

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25 Answers

Take some sample code from projects you've worked on and are proud of.

This code should show how you've solved some sort of problem or how you were able to overcome obstacles during development.

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A calm mind and open heart.

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A notepad! Think of some questions/concerns ahead of time, and take some notes when they describe the job to you.

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This helped land me my job - the preparation, that is. I did all phone interviews, but my interviewers were impressed that I had prepared ahead of time with questions I wanted to ask them. –  Erik Forbes Feb 6 '09 at 6:13
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Calm and confidence. Don't bring any code, I can tell you that based on my experience in interviewing others.

If you can't talk confidently about what you've achieved, code's just going to get in the way.

In fact, don't bring any external materials unless asked (except something for writing down details). Just show up, answer questions honestly, show a passion (or at least an interest) for the sort of work you're interviewing for, and I believe you're 80% of the way there.

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If an interviewer wants to see your portfolio, they will ask you to bring it. –  paxdiablo Feb 6 '09 at 6:09
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A notepad and pen are good, but bring some humility and enthusiasm - that will impress the interviewer the most ;-)

And pants - remember to wear pants.

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man, the pants tip is gold dust, I wish someone had told me that 5 years ago... –  ninesided Feb 6 '09 at 6:16
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+1 for the pants! "No, you put on YOUR pants!" –  AviD Feb 6 '09 at 7:33
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+1 for the pants tip! Great advice! ;-) –  RuudKok Feb 6 '09 at 7:59
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+1, I hadn't thought about the pants tip until you suggested it, but after thinking about it I agree... you should wear pants. –  Simucal Feb 6 '09 at 8:15
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I forgot the pants once and got the job on the spot. –  WOPR Feb 6 '09 at 8:15
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Frankly, I would suggest taking nothing at all. It won't affect the interviewer's opinion of you at all if you turn up with nothing. - My opinion from experience

If you must take something to an interview, take some CDs of projects you have worked on in the past for the interviewers to look at later.

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  • Your resume

  • Perhaps a laptop with some work on it that you may demonstrate if the conversation ever comes up.

  • A shortlist of links of pages you might have contributed to, if applicable

  • Energy.. its amazing how many people I interviewed with no energy/motivation whatsoever..

  • I don't say you should take it with you to impress anyone, but don't be afraid to have something non-interview-related with you, like a newspaper if its something you usually have.

Whatever you take with you, take it in an organized fashion, just proving you are organized with the stuff you carry with you gives out a few + points

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+1 for the resume, and especially the energy. –  AviD Feb 6 '09 at 7:34
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I agree with the others, don't burden yourself with anything except maybe a small notepad. Maybe a book to read because you might be left sitting around waiting. Just show up, be confident, answer questions honestly. You might want to bring a cheat sheet of questions to ask them about what the job will be like, if that sort of thing helps you. Remember, you're interviewing them as much as they're interviewing you. Worry more about meeting and getting along with the people then being grilled about technical questions.

I disagree about code. Don't bring code, but make sure they already have a sample of your code on some real project. Make sure it's code you're allowed to show people, so no code from a previous job. Open Source code from a real project is ideal. Realistic code samples answer a lot of questions about what sort of programmer you're going to be, and it shows you're not just a 9-to-5 programmer. That you're going to expand your skills outside of work.

You should spend most of your time preparing by investigating the company, what they do and how they do it. Bone up on whatever it is they do so you're not completely blind sided, even if it's just reading a few Wikipedia articles. This will also let you show honest interest and ask more questions, which is good.

Finally, get a good night's sleep, eat a good meal before hand, err on the side of being early, go to the bathroom before heading in, and turn off your cell phone.

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Bring one printed copy of your resume for each person you'll be interviewing with, plus another copy for yourself. Chances are, they've already printed and distributed your resume, but it never hurts to have a few extra copies handy. I once had an interviewer ask for a copy of my resume, and I had to say "Sorry, I didn't bring it." I felt like an idiot and never repeated that mistake.

Other than that, bring a pad of paper and a pen. Sometimes, interviews will be conducted in rooms without whiteboards, and sometimes you just need to draw a quick diagram to explain an idea. If you have paper and a pen, you're golden.

Things to NOT bring: cell phone, laptop, sample code (brief rant: I wish it was acceptable in the industry to bring sample code; I hate writing whiteboard code, but I have thousands upon thousands of lines of code in my personal portfolio that I'd be proud to show).

If possible, I also try to keep my pockets completely empty. I leave my wallet in the car, and I remove my car key from its usual keyring, carrying only the single key. For some reason, having stuff in my pockets is a distraction during an interview, so I prefer to travel light.

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Just knowledge and nothing else.

Although maybe a cool gadget will make a slightly better impression in interviewers eyes but I wouldn't count on that.

No one is going to look at the code, they won't be sure it's you who wrote it anyway. And they will have paper and pen ready for you, that's for sure.

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Breath mints, nothing ruins first impressions more than gagging when a candidate speaks first to you!

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From my experience hiring coders:

  • Be ready to undergo a coding test
  • Wear a suit that fits!
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Bringing along code (of some form) that you consider "good code" and then being able to explain clearly why you think it is good, is one of the best ways to prove and demonstrate that you are passionate about your work and are willing to stand by it.

This may be code you worked on yourself or could actually be open souce code for example that you happen to admire for certain aspects.

Of course many companies will not specifically request code at an interview, that doesn't mean you can't have it with you anyway. Some interviewers might not even think to ask, but would be interested in seeing it anyway. Offer it, but just don't force it on the interviewer if there is little interest.

As Joel and Jeff have spoken about on the podcast/blogs, "Why would you hire someone to be a programmer and not want to check that they can actually write decent code?".

In fact, the way in which the interviewers respond to your code, their level of enthusiasm and the depth of the questions they ask you about it, are very insightful in helping you to decide if you this company is for you.

Sadly I've never been asked to present/discuss some code in an interview. The nearest I've come to is a basic (very) coding test.

However, from what I've seen, software companies should ask for code at interviews more often, software quality could only improve by at least eliminating people who "would be better in another career".

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Just bring copies of your resume. On-site interviews that I have been through usually last 1/2 - 1 day with multiple interviewers.

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Be specific to the interview -- try to gather some info about the job you're applying to and present relevant facts to the interviewer, i.e. if it's a Rails development shop they probably won't get too excited about that Gtk+ Widget you wrote, but that could change if the code repository is available on GitHub.

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Courage. The courage to decline the position if your would-be boss or your would-be peers treat you rudely or unprofessionally on the interview. Be confident and be perceptive.

Now, more practically, I would say you need to bring a pen. And that's about it.

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And he would stab the interviewer in the eye with it - after all his name is Bond. James Bond. –  Treb Feb 6 '09 at 9:24
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Re: bringing code or not bringing code. The one sure thing about interviews is they'll want your resume (if you haven't already provided it). everything else is up to the interviewer.

Interview 101 - when arranging the interview, you ask "Is there anything you'd like me to bring, some example code perhaps?"

Let them tell you, don't try to guess.

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Honesty and modesty.

Dress appropriate for the job (ie: don't wear a nice suit for a mechanical engineering job)

Ask the employer what they would like you to bring. You need the job, so find out what you need

Be ready for an on the spot code-test. If this happens, don't try and impress the employer with something fancy but doesn't actually work. Make it functional, what they want, nothing more, nothing less.

Be yourself.

And best wishes to you! I hope you get the job you want!

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Bring some questions to show interest in the employer and their business!

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The answer depends entirely on the type of company you're interviewing with.

I can only really answer for the company I work for (a fairly relaxed agency) - but if you wear a suit to one of our interviews, we'll be wondering whether you're a fit for the culture.

As for taking 'things' - nothing that you wern't asked to bring, unless you don't have an option (eg travelling to the interview by public transport).

The only exception is, as others have said, to bring a bring a few copies of your resume - at least two.

Knowing your stuff is the key thing to 'bring' to the interview. Do your research about the role and the company.

Be up-front when you don't know an answer. Ask clarifying questions if you don't understand the question.

Interviewers shouldn't (imo) be asking trick questions, but they might ask you to give an example of how you would implement something. Listen to the stated requirements carefully.

Be prepared for a code review.

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Bring nothing but yourself unless asked to.

Don't worry about a lack of track record. If I were interviewing you, I'd home in on how you approached your masters project: How you dealt with difficulties as they came up. I'd try to get a feel for how quickly you acquired skills and techniques. More than anything else, I'd be keen on seeing how good you were at finding things out without help.

One of the most tiresome sort of people I've ever had in a programming team are those who aren't self-motivating, and who don't 'take ownership'. When they finish allotted tasks, they sit there inert, or trawling social sites under the apparent impression that this is acceptable behavior. If you show that you can take initiative, work under only light supervision, have the social skills necessary for team-work, and will stick at tasks then you are every team-leader's dream.

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Hypothetical Question:

What if you built a spherical robot similar to the one described in this XKCD comic.

alt text + alt text

And wrote a custom iPhone app for it so the robot transmitted it's video over a wireless network to my iPhone, and I controlled the robots motion by tilting the iPhone via its accelerometer?

Could I bring this thing to a job interview or would that just be too distracting?

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@[Simucal]: if you build it, send the robot to the job interview instead –  Steven A. Lowe Apr 29 '09 at 16:14
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@Steven A. Lowe, Genius! I could do two interviews at once that way also. –  Simucal Apr 29 '09 at 21:29
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Give your name on stackoverflow, they will see how high your reps is ! :D

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Never do this. They will se how low your rep is… compared to Jon Skeet's (and of course WTP's). –  rightfold Nov 30 '11 at 19:47
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Some food in your belly.

One time I went for an interview that lasted for 4-5 hours and I did not eat much beforehand because of nervousness. My stomach started crumbling and hurting halfway through the interview and it was not comfortable at all.

So eat food beforehand that will give you energy and stays with you for hours but does not weigh you down. A light lunch an hour before should do. If you only want to snack, some almonds and a little protein shake will do.

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Enthusiasm, knowledge and background info on the employer.

Don't bring physical artifacts. Seriously, its 20111 your applying for a job in the tech field. There's this fantastic new thing called the internet. Have a decent portfolio of work available online (a GitHub profile is awesome), have a CV available online and have a website or profile with a link to both of these. Be able to give them this address. Bonus points if you get a domain, even if it just redirects to a profile, it's less than the cost of lunch to register one for a year. If you're really need something physical have a thumb drive with this content on it you can leave with them, or a card with your name and this address.

1 Yes, I know the original question was from '09, but still relevant.

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