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When deciding whether to hire a new graduate, is it reasonable to expect them to have a software development portfolio, where they have produced at least something equivalent in complexity to a blog software?

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For a little context: Are you the new graduate or the hiring manager? –  JohnFx Feb 15 '11 at 23:46
    
I'm one of the interviewers, looking for a recent or nearly graduated student. –  blueberryfields Feb 16 '11 at 5:14
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I barely expect anything from new graduates, let alone create a comprehensive well thought out system designed for public consumption. –  Josh K Feb 16 '11 at 5:23
    
A new graduate in what? –  Peter Taylor Mar 7 '12 at 14:39
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12 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Blogging software specifically? No.

That's a very specialized skill set, and I would hardly expect someone who had specialized in compilers at UC Santa Cruz or Waterloo, or graphics at Utah, or networking at UCSD, to be competent at writing blogging software.

Heck, I've been in the industry over 25 years, and I wouldn't even know where to start, because that's not where my career path has gone.

produced at least something equivalent in complexity to a blog software

Ah, now, that's another story.

Yes, that would be ideal, but it would also depend a lot on the individual, and also whether the school they went to expected or encouraged working on projects of that size.

In my experience, doing a project of that complexity would put such a person in the top few percent of CS graduates. So - speaking as an employer - while I wouldn't rule somebody out if they hadn't done that, somebody who had done that would certainly get more attention from me.

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Define blog software.

If you mean something like wordpress; then no.

If you mean a web interface that saves text input to the file system and can show the last three or four items on a web page then that depends on what language you expect them to be using.

I would not expect this to be part of a portfolio unless the candidate had a specific interest in blogging software (or a course project had started them in that direction (like a third year CS project that counted towards the final mark)).

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Was just writing the same thing :) –  Jonathan Khoo Feb 15 '11 at 23:31
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+1 As it depends on what someone is looking for. A simple little application that stores some information to a database and displays it might be doable while a multi-user application may not be. –  rob Feb 16 '11 at 13:46
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I think it is unreasonable. For starters, most graduates can barely program anyway. Of the ones that can and will make good developers, only a small percentage are enthusiastic enough to be working on side projects. The top 1% might have developed something like that.

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And you want the top 1%, don't you? –  alternative Feb 15 '11 at 23:34
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Maybe, depending on what you are doing. You might just want another seat to do what their team leader tells them. –  Craig Feb 15 '11 at 23:37
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@mathepic: Not really. The top 1% find it hard to work as a team member (lone cowboy syndrome). Big software project require teams of developers working together. –  Loki Astari Feb 15 '11 at 23:37
    
If they aren't enthusiastic enough to be working on side projects, would you still consider hiring them? –  blueberryfields Feb 16 '11 at 1:21
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I know a lot of very good developers who go home and shut off, not go home and turn on and start developing again. –  Craig Feb 16 '11 at 1:49
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I think you should expect him to be able to develop something like this but not to have it done.

If they have enough applicants they can try to find someone who has done such a thing already. If they find one the chance that he is passionate about programming is relatively high.

They will probably also miss a lot of talented people who just didn´t do it.

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Many new graduates has different experiences.. They have Software Development project(Web etch..) in during their college years. some has develop some small scale website and some are not... some is really good in programming and some are not...

It still depends on how you level each new grads applicant and filter them how they answer your question interview.

And of course don't expect them too much...Offer some Boot camp and training courses..

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Yes, definitely. If a graduate can't develop even something that simple, I wonder what he has learned at all. That doesn't mean he necessarily has to have it in his portfolio, but he should be able to produce it on demand.

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+1 For Recognising that blogging software is simple –  Mumbles Feb 16 '11 at 9:25
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Simple! Ability to know at least 5 languages really well. HTML/CSS/Javascript/PHP/SQL. Skill in several key areas: DB Admin/Security/Development/UI design/Web Scriptting. Ability to compensate for underlying instability of platform IE/Firefox/Chrome. –  Loki Astari Feb 16 '11 at 19:12
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Martin, you forgot RSS, and thus XML. –  Christopher Mahan Feb 17 '11 at 2:19
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Christopher: Obviously we have different ideas about the feature set of a blog software. In my mind I have the most simple program that could be used to write a blog. Not Wordpress. –  user281377 Feb 17 '11 at 7:41
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+1 in essence a blog is simple –  Darknight Mar 7 '12 at 14:50
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It depends on your goals as an organization. If you run with a couple senior developers, each with 3 programming assistants, the assistants don't need anything special in their portfolio (except for a little curiosity).

On the other hand, some organizations take pleasure in hiring only the best and watching sparks fly off members of the team. In this case, even new hires should have a substantial project in their portfolio: at the very least a message queue or thumb drive app or music collection organizer. You get the idea.

Personally, I like a mix of abilities (including the ability to write blogging software). I've found it's possible for a team to learn a lot from each other, even when some of them don't know anything.

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Its absolutely reasonable.

I dont even know how someone interested in the field could go through four years or more of Comp Sci/IT/etc and not at some point be curious enough to try to create something of some complexity on their own or with friends, be it a website, a game, a phone app....something.

With some exceptions (such as the kid working 4 jobs to pay for school), I'd interpret the lack of such projects as a lack of curiousity and self initiative. Not good traits for a developer, imo.

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Could I have programmed something equivalent to a blog, straight out of university? Hell no.

My CS degree was focused on a lot more theory than actually programming - I could've explained things like race conditions, L-R parsers, implementations of sorting algorithms, etc. to you without batting an eyelid, but there was zero focus on producing production-ready working software.

What I learnt about web development (or equivalent) was completely self-taught, even though it ended up being my field - I did one class on database systems, it was pretty much completely theory-based.

Though then again, I'd probably term myself as one of GrandmasterB's exceptions - I held a full-time job throughout university and seriously didn't have time for anything other than work, class, projects for class, sleep.

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No.

Its not reasonable to expect a graduate to have a portfolio of developed software - not as a generalisation.

On the other had... Yes.

It may be reasonable to set as a selection criteria that the graduates you recruit have a demonstrable portfolio - but you may find those a bit thin on the ground.

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If you are looking for someone who is a self starter and is passionate about their craft I think that it is reasonable to expect a new graduate to have created something equivalent in complexity to blogging software. In my senior year of college I created a simple blogging application and a dynamic bar graph component I hosted on my own professional site. In retrospect the code quality was not up to public consumption. However I believe this did get me interviews at companies that I don’t think I would have gotten otherwise.

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If you can find someone who has, great. I wouldn't use it as a qualifying threshold though as you'll end up searching for a while. Also, the ability to crank out some piece of software in your dorm-room is hardly indicative of how a candidate will operate in a professional setting and as a member of your team.

It sounds a bit to me like you have a candidate that your gut-feeling says is wrong and you might be trying to rationalize that by inventing some criteria the candidate is sure to be unable to fulfill. Trust your gut, if you think a candidate is right or wrong, you are probably correct.

As always - Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill.

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