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Here is the opportunity I've been given.

I'm currently a freelance web developer and completely self-taught. I have but an NVQ in Business Administration. However, I am passionate and committed to programming and building websites and applications, of which I've been doing for a good 3-4 years.

Instead of being offered an interview, I've been offered a day trial for what could turn into a 6 month contract. The pay is good, but I'm more thirsty for the commercial experience.

Thing is, I know there are gaps in my knowledge. I lack fundamental programming concepts, I never studied computer science and I use google to find optimal solutions to problems I come across. I feel more experienced programmers in the team will see this almost instantly. But will they sympathize having hopefully been at my level once?

I'm thirsty to grow and I've spent a good 15 hours a day working in web development and honing my skills - but they are very particular. I know html, css, javascript, jquery, ajax, php, git...I'm a good developer but I don't think I'm good enough for someone to pay me £100/day.

The way the trial works is during the first half of the day I am introduced to the team and the different departments. During the second half, in the afternoon, I am given a 'live task', a duty I'd perform if I'd be working there. I already know in advance it has something to do with converting a word document into html using php..it seems like they are trying to bend the language to do something it isn't meant to do, and the first place I'd start is Google to research php libraries.

Advice? Should I go even though I know I probably won't make it past the first day and probably embarrass myself, just for the experience? Will this help me grow as a programmer?

I don't want to waste people's time. I will still give it my all.

Appreciate input from people who have been in similar situations.

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The fact you don't know and are willing to admit it already puts you in the top 50% based on my experience with candidates. –  Doug T. Dec 27 '11 at 22:34
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Even if you don't get it, every interview is good practice for the next one. –  Paul Tomblin Dec 27 '11 at 22:48
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Do you know if they are looking for someone who must have fundamental programming concepts, or something else you lack? You do have skills to contribute, so if there's a chance those are what they want, why not go? If you want to tell them you're entirely self taught and don't know how you stack up, you might get some feedback about that - but you would probably have a better shot at landing if you emphasize what you can do for them. –  psr Dec 27 '11 at 22:57
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Remember, this is day one. No one expects you to understand everything in one day. Do your best, ask intelligent questions, and don't have an ego, and you'll succeed. –  Tom Dignan Dec 27 '11 at 23:05
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I once went to an interview with little expectations on myself. I was given some hairy thread-related coding assignment that was completely beyond my level. Instead of raising my hands and giving up, I calmly wrote some total crap solution that certainly didn't even compile. I got the job. –  Joonas Pulakka Dec 28 '11 at 9:00
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6 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Of course, you should give it a try. Software development is a quickly changing field and you will never be 'qualified enough', it's better to gain industrial experience asap. Learning how to solve problems is your job, so don't be afraid if you don't know something. If you know what you have mentioned (html5, git, etc.) in detail, you already know a lot.

But beware: if you don't know very much about the organization you are applying to, there's a possibility that they deceive you, e.g., they are not going to hire you, but only solve that specific problem using your brain. So, if it is possible, pay more attention to it.

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Yeah. There's basically two kind of programmers one might want to hire:

  • Someone who knows a lot in the specific domain the company's working on and can hit the ground running and be productive now... and gets paid a lot
  • Someone who can learn and become a long term asset... and doesn't get paid a lot

The problems you say you have seem to take you out of the first category, but not out of the second. If you can learn new stuff, you can be a good hire at most places.

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nice distinction –  ZJR Dec 28 '11 at 2:15
    
"cheap good hire" and that's even better than regular one :) –  DXM Dec 28 '11 at 8:53
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Go, give it a shot. Keep in mind that there are relationship dynamics here that you don't really know but may seem to think you know. How do you know that you'd be left all alone to perform that "live task"? How sure can you be of what you were told as they may change it at the last minute to be something else?

If you do give it a try and really pay attention to what you do, I'm pretty sure you'd grow from the experience in some form on some level. While I can remember how little I really knew in 1998 when I started web development work, I also remember that tenacity, learning and educating myself were big keys in moving forward in that position to get me where I am today.

Are you willing to look at it like an experiment and see where it takes you? Would you rather give into the fear and just avoid trying if you think you'd embarrass yourself? Only you can decide how you want to see this opportunity.

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Don't waste anybody's time, but go if they are fully aware of the situation.

If this company is aware of your limitations and they are wiling to give you a chance, absolutely you should go. The experience will be good for you.

However, if they have a mistaken impression about your skills, don't waste their time. Be clear with them about your abilities and limitations. While you obviously could use the experience of interviewing, be mindful that these people are taking valuable time out of their day to wrk with you. Be respectful of that time.

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I'm not clear as to your potential reason for rejecting this opportunity. For you, I see this as a win-win situation, either you get the interview and the experience that goes with it, or you get that PLUS the job.

You are not wasting their time, you are using it, but for a purpose they consider worthwhile. Either they believe you may fit their business requirements and be a suitable hire, or they are constrained to interview you for some reason (company policy to interview x number of employees before hiring for a position). In either case, that is their concern, your concern should be honesty. Be honest about your abilities, interest and personality.

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Hell yeah!

Job interview is a skill.

If you're going to bomb it ask them everything that you have on your mind.

I knew half way in an interview I wasn't going to get the job. So I asked them all the answers to the questions they gave me. I wanted to learn anyway. I asked them many things. One of them was, "Why do you guys go through head hunters, job agencies to get programmers?"

His explanation was that their company isn't name brand, etc.. so they don't have programmers coming in drove trying to get hire at their small company.

So my very next interview, I didn't see the company in any of the listing. I got luck and was refer to by a friend. I asked why they don't use job listing or head hunters? They complained about how it's costly and the CEO hate head hunters apparently it cost too much and they're vultures. I knew I got the job since they have such a small pool of programmers to select from.

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