What is programming experience? (With tips and examples)

Updated 16 May 2023

Careers in programming, such as software engineering, web development and data science, are gaining popularity as technology advances. Tech specialists often encounter questions in interviews assessing their programming experience. Understanding the answer to ‘What is programming experience?' and knowing how to describe yours to a potential employer could help you proceed to the next hiring stage. In this article, we define programming experience, discuss how to outline it in your CV, explain how to discuss it in an interview and provide examples.

What is programming experience?

To answer the question 'What is programming experience?', it's the projects, internships or previous responsibilities you've had where you've applied your programming skills. Programming experience comprises a tech expert's background in designing computer programs in various languages. Jobs in tech, such as software engineering, require an in-depth understanding of different programming languages. As you apply for a tech position, you may encounter job descriptions that specify the programming experience the role requires. How you express your skills depends on whether you're writing your CV or answering an interview question.

Tips to help you describe your programming experience in a CV

The following are tips you can use when explaining your programming experience in your CV:

Highlight it at the start

Mention your relevant programming skills in the professional summary at the beginning of your CV. This section introduces you to the hiring manager and summarises your skills and experience. Highlighting your programming experience here may encourage potential employers to read your entire CV. You can give examples of programming languages you're proficient in or state how long you've worked as a programmer.

Related: Different types and examples of job qualifications

Outline your professional experience

Your work history may interest potential employers because they can use it to gauge how beneficial you might be to the company. Frame this section to highlight the experience that relates to the job description. For instance, if a job posting specifies that the position requires experience in Python, specify roles where you used Python. You can also include quantifiable results to show your value in your previous roles. If you have limited work experience, you can mention all the coding projects you participated in and list any internships you did.

Include keywords

When posting a job opening, hiring managers frequently receive numerous applications and might use recruiting applicant tracking systems that automatically scan them. This software looks for certain words in the job posting to determine which CVs match the job advert. Review the job description, note the keywords and include them on your CV to increase your chances of getting an interview. In a job posting for a software engineering position, you may find phases such as SQL proficiency or experience with JavaScript. Include these keywords in your professional summary or the work experience section.

List your certifications

Including your programming certifications on your CV shows a potential employer your coding experience. Add any relevant qualifications, whether it's an advanced course in software development or an award you received in a programming competition. If you've worked in programming for a short time, any recognition you've received as a programmer can increase your chances of getting hired.

Related: 12 programming certifications (plus relevant skills)

Add your portfolio

Include a link to your portfolio on your CV. An organised portfolio can increase your chances of getting an interview because it distinguishes you from other candidates. You can also illustrate your programming experience in detail in your portfolio.

Add your projects, internships, contributions to open-source repositories and coding competitions in which you competed. If you write a tech blog or you're a respected responder to coding challenges on programming websites, then include these. A diverse set of programming experiences can emphasise your interest in coding, which may impress a potential employer.

Related: 8 programming careers (with salaries and primary duties)

Show your skills

Include a skills section on your CV to display your relevant skill set. Focus on those that relate to the open position. You can use this part to further emphasise your programming experience. For instance, if the job description specifies that the position requires expert programming in Java and Python, you can include proficiency in Java and Python in your skills section. Your soft skills can also contribute to your efficiency and expertise in programming. For example, creativity, problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration help those in this field to overcome challenges and work as a team to achieve objectives.

Related: What are functional programming languages and why use them?

Tips on describing programming experience in an interview

An interviewer may ask you different questions to assess your programming experience. Here are some topics potential employers may cover:

First programming language

The interviewer's aim in asking this question is to learn more about your previous experience with programming. People who started coding early may have done so using interactive website coding languages, such as JavaScript, whereas those who started with Python or Java may only have started in university. If mastering simple languages helped you develop an interest in coding, mention this in your response.

Related: What are the most popular programming languages to learn?

Last programming language

A hiring manager may ask you about the last programming language you learnt to understand your approach to ongoing learning. This field continues to grow and new programming languages emerge, so the interviewer may want to know if and how you stay updated on developments in coding. In your answer, discuss the last programming language you mastered and where you learnt it. You can also include your reasons for learning it to show the interviewer that you're aware of changes in the field and are adapting to them.

Related: How to get into freelance programming (with steps and tips)

A successful past project

Potential employers may ask you about a coding project you're proud of to discover what you find enjoyable about programming. It can also show them whether you're suitable for the position depending on the role. As you prepare your answer to this question before an interview, review the job description to understand what qualifications the employer seeks in a candidate. Choose a project related to the open position, and explain in detail how you overcame challenges to make it successful.

Collaboration in a team

Coders typically work in teams to complete projects. A hiring manager may ask you if you're comfortable collaborating with others on projects to determine whether you're a team player. In your answer, you can mention projects you've worked on with colleagues and the role you often assume in group settings. You can also add why you think it's necessary to collaborate with others on projects.

Related: 8 fun activities at work to increase team motivation

Most challenging project

Programmers often overcome several challenges when tackling a project, so you require problem-solving skills and critical thinking to be successful in the job. A potential employer may ask you about your most challenging coding project to understand how you handle pressure. Recruiters may also want to know whether you can accept responsibility for your mistakes. In your answer, you can describe the project, what issues arose and how you reacted to the situation. Include details about how you overcame these setbacks and what you learnt from the experience to show that you use challenges as learning opportunities.

Related: What is programming? A complete guide to this career path

Ways of showing your programming experience

The following are some examples of how you can demonstrate your programming experience:

Answer questions on coder forums

Programmers typically share programs on online forums to seek assistance from other coders. Any user can answer questions or suggest fixes to the code posted on the forums. You can answer questions and contribute to overcoming challenges in the programming process to improve your ratings as an expert on the forum. Using the reputation you earned in such communities can help you showcase your programming experience to a potential employer.

Participate in programming competitions

Some websites offer coding challenges that you can complete to earn a score. Share this score with an interviewer to demonstrate your programming experience. You may also participate in coding competitions to test your programming skills. If you performed well in the contest, you could show your award during an interview to illustrate your programming skills.

Start a tech blog

If you're good at writing, you can share your programming knowledge in articles. Start with simple concepts, such as the basics of different programming languages. As your knowledge grows, you can write about more complex topics and even share information about updates in the field. If you prefer making videos, you can follow the same process.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


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