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Ashwin Hariharan
Ashwin Hariharan

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While applying for jobs, do you mention skills that you learned via side-projects but never used them at your work?

Hi everyone! I'm a software engineer who recently transitioned into Developer Relations. I like programming and enjoy learning and tinkering with new technologies - and they aren't necessarily stuff that I use or require everyday at my workplace. Pretty sure that I'm not the only one! ๐Ÿ˜‡

When I look at the stuff that I know, I can divide them into 2 broad categories:

Grade A skills:

These are stuff that I require very less ramp-up time, because I've had enough exposure with them and use them almost everyday at work. For me, they happen to be the following:

  • JavaScript / TypeScript
  • Node.js / Express
  • MongoDB
  • React

If I'm ever asked questions like "How many years of experience do you have in x", and it happens to fall under Grade A, I can answer it somewhat accurately (for instance, 2 years or 4 years or whatever).

Grade B skills:

These are skills that I never had a chance to work on or use in production at work, but I acquired them while working on my side projects. Here are some of my own skills that fall under this category:

  • Python
  • Django
  • PostgreSQL
  • Docker
  • Scikit-learn
  • Keras
  • Figma

For this category, answering questions like "how many years of experience do you have" becomes difficult, because I use them every now and then, not every single day. However, I can still get things done with them and would like the person going through my profile to know that. I may not be as comfortable in these as my Grade A skills, but I still know much more than just writing a simple hello world program (or its equivalent).

If you can relate with the above, I would love to know from you on:

  • Along with Grade A, do you also mention Grade B skills in your resume, CV or in job applications?
  • If the answer to the above is yes, how do you list them? Do you make a distinction between Grade A and Grade B, or do you just club them all together?
  • If you're asked "How many years of experience do you have in x skill", and that skill happens to be a Grade B skill, how do you answer it?
  • If in a job posting, you find that 60% of the required skill-set fall under your Grade B and 40% fall under Grade A, do you still apply for the role?

Top comments (6)

billraymond profile image
Bill Raymond

As a manager that hires developers and product designers, what Iโ€™m interested in is your skill set, your ability to work on my team, and your ability to solve complex problems. I would suggest highly that you re-think this concept of graded technical skills.

If I ask you: do you have experience with Figma? And you have graded yourself, you might answer with something like this: โ€œno, but I have played with it on the sideโ€. Hearing that does not help the conversation because I donโ€™t know what you did, if you liked it, or how it might help your career.

If you answer โ€œyou know, we donโ€™t use it where I work, but I wanted to learn the basics, so I designed this cool app with some friends and learned a bit about collaborative design and am trying to get my company to get a licenseโ€, then Iโ€™m going to see someone that may not have all the experience I need, but is willing to step up and learn the skills required.

If you grade yourself with โ€œAโ€ and โ€œBโ€ I guarantee your answers will come out soft and not as strong for anything that is โ€œBโ€.

From what I read in your question, I get the sense that you like to try new technologies, arenโ€™t afraid of them, and will pick them up if requested. Use those โ€œBโ€ experiences to your advantage because thatโ€™s the stuff managers want to see: someone that tries new things and is willing to form opinions on technology stacks.

cotcotcoder profile image

Do you also mention Grade B skills in your resume, CV or in job applications?

My resume contains a specific section "self taught" for Grade B. Mention theses skill in your resume show to the recruter:

  • the ability to work with the technology; you have some basics, you know the vocabulary, you understand the GUI ...
  • your interest to this technology or domain; if you learn something outside your current job then you're probably motivated to explore this point deeper
  • your open-mindedness; you're not addicted to a specific language, you use the rigth tool for the right job, you'll not start a revolution if we don't use your favorite language...

So I list only Grade B that I love, I want to use and I'm proficient with (for a enterprise use). This rule applies for Grade A too.

booleanhunter profile image
Ashwin Hariharan

Do you list them as soon as you've got some basic skills and vocabulary, or only when you become proficient in them? What if you haven't used that skill (yet) for an enterprise project but only within personal projects?

madza profile image

Imo the golden rule is to present just the grade A skills that you feel proficient and are relevant to the position, otherwise you might end up being tested on B skills, score average and leave an impression that you are 'jack of all trades, master of none' ๐Ÿ˜‰

booleanhunter profile image
Ashwin Hariharan

Good point! However, for roles such as a full-stack developer you typically know a few set of skills very well, while having average skills in others. With the growing list of things to learn, it seems pretty impossible to know everything to perfection. How do we square this?

dgloriaweb profile image