Here's what 3 Chicago tech employers really look for in your GitHub profile

December 8, 2016

GitHub can be an invaluable tool for developers. By collaborating with others on open source projects and making the code behind their pet projects available to fellow engineers, users can garner feedback on their code and pick up a trick or two from other people’s work along the way. But GitHub is also a great tool for jobseekers because it serves as a showcase for what you can bring to an organization — if you use it correctly.

We spoke to some of Chicago’s most exciting tech companies to learn more about what they look for in an applicant’s GitHub profile. As it turns out, employers look at way more than just your code.

 

kCura builds legal software used by the U.S. Department of Justice and 190 of the country’s 200 highest-grossing law firms. As one of Chicago’s biggest tech employers, kCura knows a thing or two about spotting great developer talent. Senior Engineering Manager Sameer Doshi said he looks for quality over quantity when scoping out a prospective employee’s GitHub account.

How can a developer improve their GitHub profile before starting a job search?

It’s very easy to get started on GitHub and put code out there, but I want to see a thoughtful approach to the projects developers undertake. If someone carefully takes on projects, pulls code and gets their work approved, it might indicate commitment and skills better than a user who takes on too much and has a larger amount of unfinished work.

GitHub is a great way to see the pluses in a candidate. I don’t typically use it to see any negatives. I would simply caution that employers can’t always see context. You might have a good reason for having many unfinished projects — like excelling at your day job — but I can only see results, not those circumstances.

Are there any big pitfalls to avoid?

It’s always important to stay professional, so I’d avoid things like profanity, misspellings and memes. I would also discourage submitting pull requests for the sake of boosting contribution. GitHub isn’t there to prove you can code; it’s there for you to work on your passions. Skip the easy problems and focus on the ones that bug or impact you.

 

In four short years, Raise.com has grown from a scrappy upstart to one of the world’s biggest gift card marketplaces, scooping up a sizable chunk of Chicago’s best engineering talent along the way. Lead Software Engineer Dusty Burwell said his main piece of advice for jobseekers is not to be afraid of letting their GitHub profiles get a little personal.

How can a developer improve their GitHub profile before starting a job search?

When searching for your next career move, think of GitHub as a window into your growth as a developer for employers. Don’t be afraid to show off your personal projects — these highlight your passions and interests as an engineer and show that you look for new challenges. Customize your pinned repositories to showcase what you're personally most proud of. Your bio and a link to your personal page (if you have one) give you an additional chance to tell employers about yourself.

Most importantly, GitHub is a great place to show how you collaborate and communicate with others. Show off your soft skills by filling out the READMEs in any personal projects. Be polite when commenting on pull requests or filling out issues. A history of professional interactions will tell employers far more about what it's like to work with you than a million lines of code.

If you haven’t built anything that you feel is compelling on your GitHub — don’t stress! We recognize that open source contributions are dependent on the luxury of free time and that not everyone has that luxury.

Are there any big pitfalls to avoid?

We like seeing everything you're willing to share on GitHub — even partially finished projects. Use it as a scratch pad for new ideas! We know it's uncomfortable putting your work out in public, and that first pull request is always the hardest. But, since each repository is dated employers can compare your older projects to what you are working on. This shows your personal development, providing more insight than a resume ever could!

 

A Chicago-based member of the Priceline Group, Rocketmiles helps travelers reach their vacation goals faster through offering airline miles and loyalty points for hotel bookings. Director of Engineering Kirk Lashley said he doesn’t mind seeing take-home assignments for other companies or incomplete personal projects on an applicant’s profile.

How can a developer improve their GitHub profile before starting a job search?

Having an active GitHub account with some recent repositories related to the stack of the companies you're applying for is ideal. Additionally, if a candidate has done several take-home assignments for other companies, or even pet projects that are somewhat incomplete, they could be on GitHub. We probably won't make you do another take-home assignment if we can see one of your projects on GitHub, complete with test cases and readable code.

I like to see pet projects because we get an idea of what the candidate does in their spare time. One of our recent leads had a Divvy Bike tracker that he wrote to find the fastest way to the train station. A simple, yet useful, app that demonstrated his ability and his passion.

Are there any big pitfalls to avoid?

Your GitHub account should match the position you're applying for. For example, if you're applying for a senior software position, and your GitHub only has class projects from “Intro to Programming” from the summer of 2016, it just doesn't align with your ambitions. If it has a selection of your work, or even forked repos you're interested in, employers are looking at that. For example if you have a long history of Ruby projects and you're trying to apply for some Scala jobs, I would hope to see some repos where you started making the transition to Scala.

 

Images via listed companies.

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