When I was younger I used to list side projects on my cv and employers used to take notice. I find now they don't seem to care, usually are only interested in employment history and tech tests.
I also wonder whether side projects speak to the fact that you're not concerned enough with your employer's bottom line. I remember when Ken Cosgrove, in Mad Men, had a side gig as an author and got published in a magazine. Roger Sterling told him, quite sternly, he had to choose between the job and the gig.
The thing is I would actually appreciate if a potential employer asked me about the above two projects. I think they demonstrate some of my skills and would be interesting to discuss.
What do you guys think: Do you guys still list your side projects? What about for jobs more senior than senior developer?
3 days agoCreated a post • 132 points @jcroll
To me it is a huge plus. There are a lot to tell by looking at the side projects. At earlier stage start-ups, where interview process is not that rigid, it helps interviewer (at least for me) to gauge many aspect at once. Candidates love talking about their own project than anything. For me side project is a shortcut to peek into applicant's mindReply
If you’re trying to get hired by a human, and you’re proud of them, then it can’t hurt. If you’re trying to get hired my a machine, then they don’t care and it can’t help.Reply
It depends on the culture and if it would be seen as a flight risk. If it’s less product type side projects it could be useful.Reply
I wouldn't place huge importance on it, but a side project is probably a useful way to show that you know some tech outside of your normal work, eg if you want to demo that you've worked on blockchains or k8s or whatever that your normal work doesn't use. That way your potential jobs expand by a fair bit.Reply
It depends on technical vs general management, and what it shows.
On the technical side, starting or leading a side project can show the right things. Just coding perhaps not.
For general or sales management, things like chairing the fundraising committee for the local symphony can look good. But not mandatory.
In both cases it should show interest but not distraction.Reply
Have the right pedigree and brand in resume is what all it matters in my experience for getting interviews easily. And all these with interview skills and having good profile itself would make interview round go really well and for people to even consider you worthy. From my experience here in India all these right credentials matter really more than Github and all these hacker type things.Reply
Last year, I interviewed for a senior role where the interviewer actively made fun of my side project. They suggested without directly stating it that they thought it was a dumb side project toy app, despite it being quite complex and not trivial.
Doesn't dissuade me. That interviewer was the stupid one, not me. My best lesson learned is to make sure that your side projects that are involved, look involved. If it is a big side project but you are humble about it, it's possible it will work counter to you in the interview. Senior roles need senior side projects and if you make toys it can definitely (stupidly) count against you.Reply
Your CV can sometimes show the whole person. As a result, side projects can give some insight into the personality a bit and generate subjective interest in addition to general “box-ticking” as it applies to the job description. Never underestimate the power of an even modest conversation starter like a side project.Reply
Yes, sometimes, but you need to have a good sense for what is actually impressive to the people reviewing you, not just impress yourself (and you are the easiest person to impress).
Merely the fact that you put in the time to build something isn't going to be that impressive for someone considering you for a senior role. They'll want to know that your work was valuable to others, that it had impact. So if you just built something for fun or as an exercise, I don't think it's worth showing it. But if you wrote or contributed to a popular open-source project, or built something that is used by a large number of people, or you got published somewhere respectable, or you were successful in achieving some impressive goal like helping a community you care about, do share.
Make sure to explain how your work was impactful with numbers, quotes, use-cases, etc...Reply
I would be more interested in refactoring work. How they have turned upside down a project and make it more scalable.Reply
It's funny - the reality is that it depends on the organization. It's not lost on me that everyone wants to hear about your side projects from a technical and general interest perspective. It serves many companies as a reasonable proxy for life long learning, and checking up on a passion.
At the same time, several of those companies would be mortified that you had, or continued yours once employed there.Reply
In the interviewing I've done, it's never about side project vs line of work. What I'm looking for is proof of competence. It could be a side project, it could be your work, it doesn't matter. However if you're side project is what you're looking to get hired on, it had better look and feel professional.
I think the bigger issue is to put your best foot forward and not dilute your message. If hopupon and audiobook mate are your strongest work, emphasize those. If your employement history is stronger, emphasize that.Reply
Historically when interviewing candidates I put more weight on side projects the shorter the resume was. A brand new college grad who made an impressive-looking portfolio web site got extra consideration.
But interviewers are still human beings, and so a link to a visually impressive, interactive and accessible side project will probably get you some credit. My favorites were multi-player games.
If the side project makes money, that's a whole 'nother consideration. Everyone is likely to be impressed.Reply
I list my side projects, i am pretty sure it helped me get my (senior) job. I am a fairly non-trad pathway in a niche language, so, keep that in mind. Also, listing side projects is probably more of a value-add if the code is open-sourced and interviewing engineers are likely to be curious (a good quality in a company you might want to work for) and likely to check up on the code quality you have in your repos. Otherwise, I would probably pass on listing them.
I wouldn't want a gig that obsessed about my owning my time so much they don't want me to have a side project, so that's a pretty good ultrafilter.
If you do have open-source side projects that you want to show off, don't forget to "pin them" to the top of your github/gitlab/sourcehut (if that's an option on the other services).Reply
The best way to get a job is not to need it.
Not needing it is conveyed in a thousand ways. Personally, I think being your authentic self is the most important aspect. If you’re proud of your work, list it! Side project or not, it’s still your work and is a reflection of the kind of work you can do for them.
I don’t think senior vs junior is particularly relevant. People care about your work history, but as long as your projects are listed under “other” then there shouldn’t be any confusion.Reply
Judging both from my experience and other comments here, the organisations that value side projects are not the majority, but they are exactly the places where you WANT to work at.Reply
I make brief mention of them. Like a couple sentence blurb about stuff I build when I choose to spend my free time that way.
That said, I work a full week as it is so I don’t invest a ton in them. Just when an idea grabs me.Reply
Short answer is no. At least if you're approaching unknown environment
If you been introduced - matters less. Could be positive convo point.Reply
I do a fair amount of helping interview senior positions at my current company. At the risk of saying something obvious: when interviewing senior people, the goal is to figure out whether they will do well operating at a senior level. Senior engineers usually bring two things to a team: a broader and deeper technical knowledge, and the ability to help influence and structure larger projects (doing larger scale designs, reviewing designs and code from other engineers, helping mentor more junior engineers, things like that). Side projects can sometimes help inform someone's technical abilities, but it's rare for people to have a side project where they are doing a lot of the "influencing others" part of the job.
But, yeah, if you put in the work, it shouldn't hurt to list your side projects. But also, keep them in perspective: don't bring them up simply because they would be "interesting to discuss." By their nature, side projects don't deal with a lot of challenges of professional projects: there's usually no deadline, there's no disagreements with other engineers, they deal with a smaller scale audience so don't deal with bugs and maintenance.Reply
I think the takeaway was actually Roger Sterling was mistaken there, and it later came back to bite him.
At any rate one question I have had in the last few years (maybe due to age) is how do you keep up on latest technologies - I then have side projects and articles I can point to as a way to learn new things.Reply
I've hired junior developers, and senior PMs, but never senior developers, so take my recommendations with a grain of salt. I would definitely continue to include side projects on your CV, especially if:
1. they are technologies you are unfamiliar with. It's an easy and effective way to demonstrate that you are eager to learn new things.
2. they are emerging technologies (crypto, VR, AI, etc). In most organizations being a senior engineer who doesn't get "stuck" or complacent is a plus.
I'm not sure why employers would not be looking at those things, they definitely should be, it's a treasure trove of information as to who you are and how you think.Reply
I suggest you zoom out a little and consider that landing a great job isn’t about checking boxes — it’s about demonstrating how you’ll be awesome at helping whatever organization you’re applying to do what they do, and hopefully do it even better than they’re doing it today.
So the answer to your question really depends on the specific job, and what you think the side projects demonstrate. Do they show off great problem solving ability? Organizational capacity? Team building? Tenacity? Etc.Reply
Sure. Toss them on the side or something. Just don't expect them to get brought up often. It shows you code outside of work which some employers value. Add a link to github if they are public.Reply
I wrote this a a while back, but I think it' still is true: https://russell.ballestrini.net/career-development-is-a-game...Reply
Oh god yes!
When I'm interviewing someone, especially for a senior position, I want to make sure that they know what they say they know on their resume. Having code up on GitHub, or an actual working side project is a great way to show those things off.
Even code that doesn't look great, but shows that some level of effort was made to learn a new technology is okay. If anything, it then gives me a jumping off point in the interview to ask the candidate about that project, why it's in that state, why certain decisions were made, etc.
I am seriously having a difficult time thinking of downsides in listing a personal project, so I say go for it.Reply
I put a section in my CV for open source contributions with a little summary of the patch. It's just a sentence with the Github link.
It's sometimes a good talking point for the question, 'describe a difficult technical challenge you solved'.Reply
I think personal projects help you get your foot in the door but they do nothing to accelerate or skip parts of the interview process.Reply
Definitely useful to be able to demonstrate you've implemented, tested, deployed, and maintained some sort of software on your own.
Also being able to talk through design decisions and tradeoffs from an engineering point of view is useful.
Finally, I would advise that if you are applying to a position through a recruiter, stop asking for senior level positions. Ask for staff level positions instead, you'll receive more autonomy and a higher pay as well.Reply
Depends on definition of "senior". If you are still an individual contributor and need to demonstrate technical expertise, fine. But if you are a manager, you need to demonstrate the ability to lead, create impact, and deliver results. Side projects are for entertainment / continuing education.Reply
From the recent bit of looking around I have done for Senior and Staff roles the typical process after screening is;
* Behavioral interview(s)
* Some form of pair coding excercise
* System design interview
Side projects have never really come up explicitly, but my GitHub profile is included in my deets and I'm sure people have viewed it.Reply
As an employer, I'm keen to see people show side projects that they follow through with.
It's one thing having the technical skills to be able to write code and build a product. It's another thing entirely to have the focus and discipline to actually get all the work done. The side projects you listed look as though substantial effort went in to them. You said you're proud, and you ought to be. They certainly should impress any potential employer!Reply
Different people review resumes differently. Here's my take:
Important questions for me include: Can they build things? Do they have enough experience dealing with real-world deployments to avoid common pitfalls? Do they care about the domain? How long will they stick around?
You're correct that they're going to be of the most help early on, because they demonstrate real-world experience with production software. It's a great sign you'll be able to take a vaguely-specified user need and get something valuable done in production. But even more senior resumes sometimes still leave me wondering if they've worked at sufficiently big/bureaucratic places.
Assuming your resume demonstrates competence without the projects, then yes, they could just as easily count against you as for you.
If the project is one that's related to the domain and/or the tech stack, that's a positive sign that you're interested in what we're actually doing, and so joining us would give you something you could be very engaged in.
Otherwise, I'm going to be concerned that we're going to have to compete for your time and attention with your side project. That this is a day job you're just doing until the side project takes off. I might hire somebody like that, but one of the things I think about when hiring is ROI on my time, so if I can get somebody as good who is likely to focus better and stay longer, I'll hire them instead.
The particular side projects you list are of the kind that would be most concerning to me. They look like attempts to build actual businesses. And you have two of them going at once, which is a bad sign: if you can't focus on one of your commercial projects long enough to make is successful, maybe you won't focus on your actual job either. And there's something cold and unappealing about both of them to me. They are trying to compete with full commercial sites and prominently say they're the best, but when I try them out it doesn't seem that way.
In contrast, the kind of side project that I'd react positively to in more senior engineers is one that demonstrates competence without looking like it will be competitive, and bonus points if it's related to the domain somehow. Modest open-source projects, for example. Twitter bots. Niche Twilio apps. Small, fun services like mcbroken.com or typelit.io.
To me things like that indicate enjoyment of the work, a desire to create things, and an interest in serving users, all positive traits. But they do so without giving me questions about whether they employee will be able to focus on what they're getting paid for.Reply
Yes. Resume is an instrument for getting through a fairly unintelligent filter so probably nobody will even notice that these were side projects at the resume filtering stage. Be prepared to answer interview questions about how you have sufficient spare time to work on two projects at once though.Reply
I've applied for senior jobs where the interviewer was very impressed with my side projects but chose not to hire me anyway. For the most part, they didn't seem to care about the other things as well - the fact I consulted for a tech giant the size of Google, or taught certifications, or architected a project with millions of daily users, or rewrote a year old social media app from Cordova to native iOS+Android in two months with a 3 person mobile team.
The decision seems to fall to the default, "What's the O(n) of a Set" or, "Tell me what you worked on recently." You could probably build an operating system or Dwarf Fortress as a side project, and they might not even notice it.
I'd say just pick whatever showcases you best as a person, and it will catch the eye of someone who's looking for a person like you. I ended up getting a job doing research, where I get to quickly hack together lots of prototypes, so it's a perfect fit.Reply
It's interesting because when I'm screening candidates (especially at the senior position), I never expect them to have side projects.
If they are excited to show me something, that's great but I certainly don't assign that much weight to them.
The things that I really do look for however are work/life balance, i.e do they have other hobbies besides software engineering?, what do they think about people in general? are they vocal about sharing their ideas? can they resolve conflict? etc.
I think a team that is formed of healthy, balanced individuals is a successful one and what really matters is having high cohesion between members than anything else.
Hence, I have been very vocal about designing a great interview process that puts the candidates at ease: no whiteboard hazing, no leetcode questions, no homeworks (though we offer the choice).
We simply give them realistic technical challenges that we face in our day to day work and walk through their solutions together. If something is odd in their implementation , we'll ask them about it and inspect their thought-process.
Further, we pay everyone the same rate in USD (based on years of experience) regardless of the location and try to offer a fair compensation as much as possible (admittingly, it's hard to compete with FANG).
This process is slow and costly for us but has been absolutely worth it.Reply
Off-topic feedback on your side project - audiobookmate.
I really enjoy the layout of the site, and it feels very natural to navigate. A feature I'd appreciate is a small modal popup on-hover whenever my mouse sat on top of an audio book's cover for a couple seconds, providing a synopsis and maybe the reviews for the current book I'm hovering. (See Goodreads for an example of this)
Otherwise, great job on both sites.Reply
To hiring folks: find better ways to evaluate candidates than a resume. Preferably an evidenced based assessment that measures actual skills for the job and not the esoteric witchcraft required to discern what _you_ think is important in a resume.
The only thing I look for in a resume is number of years doing development and a very rough assessment that the experience there fits with what we asked for in the job description. Beyond that, we have questionnaires that ask the specific questions we care about and real world work simulations that attempt to measure fit for the position.
To the OP: the better teams shouldn't care too much about something like this. But, I'd say add it. It shows you like programming enough to tinker. That's a positive signal to me. But, I'd never dock a candidate if they said they don't do side projects because they have other ways they'd like to use their time outside work.Reply
You should list your side projects if they've been influential in some significant way, e.g., if they've developed a large user base, become a dependency of some other noteworthy project, or changed how other people approach similar problems. If you're merely proud of the code, then don't list them directly; instead, pin those repos on your GitHub profile and link to it from your résumé.Reply
Recruiters are mostly interested in the things other people paid you to do - because it shows that it's safe to pay you as well.
I list such things as "web presence" along with my GitHub account, "technical blog"(heavy quotes here) and LinkedIn profile. I think only that last one ever gets clicked on.
Large companies especially don't care about such things, because they need you to fill a highly specific role, not one that would make use of the broad skillset required to release your own product.Reply
I definitely see those side projects positively and I'm hiring for my team. It wouldn't matter to me how senior the role you'd be applying for is. Of course, I am also the sort of developer that works on side projects.Reply
The best bang for buck would be to spend your spare time gaining a certification, for example Java, CompTIA, AWS, Azure, etc. This IMHO is far better on your CV then a side-project, as it shows a willingness to perform continued learning. Your side project could be using tools and techniques that you learnt decades ago, which could be fine but my org is only interested in cutting-edge stuff (for example).Reply
If you care about only FAANGM companies, leetcode is all that you need. No one at these companies care about your side projects.Reply
I've been hiring a couple of senior positions, and so far the most appropriate way I've seen side projects highlighted is with a link to the applicant's GitHub.
Honestly, finding a well maintained and substantive project in a person's GitHub would impress me, and that candidate would certainly stand out. So often people link their GitHub accounts, but when I visit, I only see toy projects and book exercises.
As part of my hiring process I've been giving out a simple take home coding challenge, but I offer to instead review a project you've already been working on if that's your preference, because I feel bad making people do work for a job they don't even have yet (I haven't been able to convince my boss to let me pay people for their time on the take home challenge yet).Reply
Personally I will always look through side projects or a GitHub if it's on a candidates resume. It's another source of signal and can be really valuable especially if there is code to look through.
That said as the role gets more senior the value of the signal goes down IMO. Side projects are typically done solo, and are small-ish in scope. Whereas a key function of a good senior IC, at least in my opinion, is to be a force multiplier more than a heads-down coder.Reply
There are two plays you can make by listing a side project. For example, if the project is in some way commensurate to the role. For example, if you are applying for a VP of engineering job at a large technology company and your side project is co-author and commit rights to a major open source project, say Python or a well known and use library and you're actively involved.
Or, if it's on the resume to demonstrate you're still actively hands on and you believe that is valuable to the role.
However, if you wouldn't talk about it in an interview, don't put it on your resume. If it wouldn't help you get the job, I wouldn't talk about it in the interview.Reply
You'll get answers on every which side. I think they'll tell you less of a perfect "DO THIS" answer that'll work in every situation, and more showcase that there are different employers and different hiring agents supporting different teams and different cultures.
You seem excited about your projects, eager to talk about them, and you seem like you'd implicitly like some recognition/appreciation of them & to have a supportive employer. So my personal, not professional advice, if you have luxury to do so, is to include them and use them as a filter of your employers.
Unless an employee is in urgent dire straits, interview should be a two-way process - not just employer reviewing employee but other way around too (when I interview potential team members, I try to spend at least a third time if not more about the work, team, company, culture, expectations, honest up and downsides, so they can make an intelligent choice if we are a good fit too).
While I am actually currently practically in a camp that doesn't hugely care about people's side projects due to nature of what my team does, if you have something that's important to you, make it part of interview and figure out if the employer/team is the one you'd like to join.Reply
I think most views in this thread already presented are valid, even if contradictory, as it depends a lot on the hiring side.
As a single datapoint: for senior positions i will look at all side projects presented in a CV after the first phone screen. However, it can only serve as a signal amplifier for traits established in the CV by experience or education. So if a candidate does not have side projects, we try to get a better signal in a different way. That said, i have never seen someone getting hired because of their side projects (or someone not hired because of the lack of them)--but i have seen us pass on candidates that accidentally provided negative signal with their side projects.
For junior positions having or not having side projects can be a deal maker or breaker.Reply
I'm a professional resume writer and former tech recruiter, and I'd say "it depends".
Does the side project demonstrate a specific skill that you don't have in your day job that can/will be attractive to the hiring company? (if yes, include)
Does the side project have any popularity or adoption that would potentially make it impressive? (if yes, include)
Does the side project demonstrate your ability to solve problems within the hiring company's domain? (if yes, include)
Does the side project show some level of versatility that your professional body of work lacks? (if yes, include)Reply
My experience is that side projects are 90% ignored. They are treated strictly as line items like education.
I got furious tired of this so on my last resume I treated my employment history strictly as employment history. A list of employers with dates and dates of promotions plus a sentence or two what I worked on. Supremely lowered emphasis.
I also put my personal projects into a separate section above my employment history. Between my personal projects and employment history I put in a small two paragraph section for personal bio. In this bio I mention how long I have been programming, some of my accomplishments. I also explicitly mention to carefully consider my personal projects to make an informed decision if I will be a good fit for their organization and that two of my personal projects contain over a thousand commits. I follow up that up with a mention that I am not waiting on administrative approval or a budget authorization to innovate and that these personal projects are years of experience other developers do not have.
This a recent change I have made so I cannot say if it’s successful.Reply
Depends on if you are concerned if your new potential employer has an issue with employees moonlighting or not.Reply
Do side projects for you, not for them. List them at the end of your CV if you want but don't expect them to care. Some do. Most don't. Just keep that passion alive and continue doing side projects - who knows, maybe one day it will become your primary job.Reply
Personally? I don't care about side projects. What I do care about is "have you worked on a hard problem that fascinated you, and can you explain to me what that problem was, why it was difficult, and why you liked working on it".
I want to know what you care about, and if you can explain well. Side projects make great examples of that, but most people encounter one or two interesting things in their jobs once they're seniors, too.
In short, run side projects if you have fun running them. Run side projects if they help you learn something. Don't run them for the sake of your CV. (And don't take your cues on behavior from a fictional dysfunctional ad agency if you can ;)Reply
If you're qualifying for a true senior position, and if you haven't done something outside of work in the decades of your professional experience, it's a bad sign. If by "senior position" you're thinking something that can be done by a 25-year-old with over 5 years of experience in a specific product, your resume is already on the discard pile.
I recruit a lot of work-term students (and have filled a few senior positions in the past). I always look for side projects. I always check github accounts for unmentioned side projects. Side projects tell me more about who the applicant is than a resume does. I hire people, not resumes and not previous positions of employment. Folks who are interested and enthusiastic about their field are better to work with.
Honestly, it's pretty rare that anyone lists a side project on their resume, so it's not absolutely required. When it's there, though, it usually makes the interview better ("tell me about your side project") and it's often the difference between getting an interview and not.Reply
I do mention my side open source side projects, but not side hustles.Reply
You want your side projects to help you get the job. They must demonstrate as achievements instead of hobbies.
For this reason, I'd default to no, don't list side projects, unless you make it a strong argument for the position you're applying to.
Are you a major contributor to a tech used in company? Have you written a book about it? Did you grow a community? Have you reached significant traction or revenue?
Any yes to one of the above, if they relate to the position, can hint you into mentioning your side project.
Other than that, your side project will be seen as a hobby and not an achievement, and will be disregarded.
Note: some nuances may apply, so take this as the generic advice it's meant to be.Reply
As echoed from others, if the project is relevant and communicated in a way that brings value. Page space is an important consideration too.
We've been working hard to build a library of the best engineering resumes we've seen - you can get an idea for best practices here - https://www.rezi.ai/resume-templates?search=developer&resume...Reply
I don't think it can hurt. It's definitely impressive when candidates have diverse and interesting side projects on their resume. If nothing else, side projects can make for a good talking point in interviews.Reply
I always ask candidates if they have anything to show off. I am _always_ more interested in what people do as a side project than I am of what they have done professionally.
Hyperbole time but I think it conveys the message: People do side projects for better reaons than they do professionally. At worst it's because they want to quickly learn/achieve something for their next job. Compared to professional experience, where at best it's because they were paid to do it and any fun or whatever altruism is a byproduct.
There are lashings upon lashings of caveats and nuance of course. For a senior role I will still be looking for interpersonal skills not just technical achievement. Part of being a senior is managing yourself, selling your ideas/concerns, mentoring and managing peers, and to some extent managing your managers.
FWIW your side projects are great examples and I'd would be impressed.Reply
If they are impressive why not show them off?Reply
I’d honestly list a side project that highlights the skills relevant to the job over a job where you used irrelevant skills.
But you have to come strong with the side project. The site/app better be up, you better have a repo, and it better be something beyond a todo-app or a bootcamp project.Reply