Q&A: Junior Positions, Experience Required

Most junior programming positions I’ve seen so far require 2 years experience, did you apply for jobs that expected more knowledge then you had at the time? If so, were you honest saying that you didn’t meet all the criteria?

First off, have you heard the joke about the job that asks for “5+ years of experience with the PS4” (or another, equally impossible, endeavor)? If you haven’t heard about this… well, it’s not just a joke – it’s something that actually pops up in job listings. Business people without knowledge of technical details and startups are particularly bad about listing qualifications that describe senior level responsibilities, but for a junior position. Beware of these. They are likely looking to underpay you, or have unrealistic expectations of the amount of work you can do.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s get to the details of this specific Q&A.

Two years of experience is not to much to ask for a junior position. The question then comes down to, “What counts as experience?”

Personally, I would consider upper-level coursework, internships, and time spent on personal (but substantial!) projects as experience. You need to be honest with yourself, though. If your programming reflects a couple courses taken over two years… that’s not two years of experience. If you graduated with a CS degree and did some independent projects that are directly related to game development (or to the position in question), then maybe that’s enough to qualify.

It does require some introspection. Take a look at all the other qualifications listed and ask yourself if you are actually able to do that kind of work. Don’t apply to a senior position if you are obviously not a senior level candidate. If a company asks that you’ve shipped a game on a specific console, you should probably only apply if you’ve done that since it means they are looking for specific experience. If a company asks for someone with a few years of C++ and all you took was a couple courses in college, you probably aren’t what they are looking for.

But “two years of experience” is one of the fuzzier job requirements. If it said “five years of experience” then they are looking for people who have worked in the industry previously as professionals. Two years is short enough that all it means is that they don’t want someone brand new and doesn’t know what they are doing. They are trying to weed out fresh-faced college grads that will apply to jobs in droves because the vast majority of them are terribly underqualified. If you otherwise fit the criteria for the job, then go ahead and apply.

Whatever you do, don’t admit you don’t meet the criteria. That’s like saying “I read the rules but decided they didn’t apply to me.” Just apply. Just remember to only apply to jobs that you believe you’re reasonably qualified for. If you aren’t, your resume may not just end up in the trash but also on a blocklist with a long cooldown timer.

(And yes, I applied to positions that I was not qualified for based on years of experience. I don’t remember if I ever heard back from any of them. Take that as you will!)

As usual, if you have questions about game development, feel free to email me. Sometimes I’ll ask permission to post a question to my blog anonymously if I think it’s something others may want to know.