Here’s what 5 Boston tech employers really look for in your GitHub profile

by Justine Hofherr
January 13, 2017

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 Boston's fastest growing 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.

 

WHOOP is a performance optimization system that helps college athletes, trainers, Olympians and the U.S. military understand and improve their performance. WHOOP’s platform provides continuous information regarding everything from strain and recovery to balance training, reducing injuries, and helping predict performance.

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

At WHOOP we look for a long and varied profile history. We like to see developers who’ve worked on many open source projects using a variety of languages. We tend to steer clear of someone who will claim to be an “expert” in the latest and greatest but has zero commits in projects using that language.  — Rob Hocking, Lead Software Engineer in Test & QA Manager

Tips for engineers as they begin their job search:

  • Include tests in your repo, this shows a reviewer that you value high-quality code and view testing as an integral part to development

  • Use the issues tab

  • Actually make branches/pull requests

  • Show your ‘process’ by including more than just code (design docs, sketches, ideation)

  • Contribute to open source projects

  • File well-defined bug reports/issues for other projects

  • Be involved in projects with more than one collaborator

Are there any big pitfalls to avoid?

One pitfall in a candidate's GitHub that often stands out is the organization of individual commits. Often times a repository will be forked or cloned from a learning exercise, and the developer will take a shot at answering the question but leave all of their work in poorly labeled and separated commits, or even worse, a single commit.

It’s great to see a personal journey of learning and exploration. When a reviewer dives into your repository they’ll be able to see you incrementally solving a challenging problem. Just like back in school, showing your work is part of how a potential employer that you want to impress can assess your engineering skills. — Jeff Blanchette, Senior Software Engineer

 

Hopper is a Cambridge-based travel startup that provides data-driven research that helps travelers make better decisions about where to go and when to buy plane tickets. Co-Founder and CTO Joost Ouwerkerk let us know what they look for in prospective candidates. 

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

I’m always interested to see a candidate that has created or contributed to open source projects. You can’t really cobble that together quickly though. GitHub is a reflection of your open source contributions over time.

GitHub will let you add a bio, which can be helpful to direct attention to something in particular, explaining for instance that you used to be very active in open source projects, but that you have less time for that since you started working at this new company.

Are there any big pitfalls to avoid?

Don’t bother pinning school assignments, exercises and test projects to your profile. We’re looking for evidence of exceptional engineering talent, and these don’t demonstrate much depth of understanding of real-world software engineering problems.

Make sure that your own repositories have a descriptive README file that explains what the project is about. What is the purpose of this repository? We generally don’t have much time to review GitHub code, so the README really helps to direct our focus to the more interesting aspects.

 

 

Gamer Sensei is a platform for competitive gamers that connects players with the world’s largest collection of professional, certified gamers across all major eSports titles. The company provides personalized coaching and skills development to help gamers of different levels improve their performance. CTO Jiapeng Ji told us what they're looking for.

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

At Gamer Sensei, we love to see a link included to a personal portfolio in the GitHub bio section. This is especially true for Front-End developers or designers, who have had the opportunities to work on projects and creatives that are not fully owned by them. Linked or cropped images of the finished product, annotated with the developer's detailed comments, can become an interactive experience for the potential employer.

Use the stars section to show enthusiasm and passion about different areas of development interests. It is very likely that not all of the starred projects are projects the developer has contributed to in terms of submitting code patches. For these starred projects, a developer might have been answering pull request comments, opening up issues, helping to augment documentations, or just simply watching and learning about the repository. These kind indirect involvements provides the potential employer a supplemental view into the developer, in terms of interested in programming languages and collaboration abilities.

Are there any big pitfalls to avoid?

Make sure that submitted personal projects are well tested. Provide a proper README.md or SETUP.md file to help the audience understand how to interact with the library. Use a GitHub handle that is not offensive. Be professional with the GitHub avatar. When I'm scouting new talent for Gamer Sensei, one of my biggest red flags is seeing a lack of consistent professionalism.

 

 

EverQuote is an independent insurance marketplace that offers a free service helping consumers compare quotes on auto insurance. Mike Raimondi, Technical Lead for Consumer Applications, answered our questions.

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

Contribute to popular open source projects! Even minor contributions show that a developer is engaged with the community, able to follow GitHub etiquette, and can respond to feedback.

Are there any big pitfalls to avoid?

When examining personal projects, absence of a test suite is a big red flag. The ability to write flexible, informative tests is in my view a big part of being an effective developer. Lack of a test suite can also be a turnoff for potential contributors or end-users of your project.

 

 

Bynder provides marketing software that helps brands create, find and use content like documents, graphics and videos. More than 150,000 brand managers, marketers and creatives use Bynder’s brand portals to collaborate, produce, review and approve new marketing material and circulate it throughout the company with the click of a button. CTO Roland Keijzer explained what they're looking for in new developers.

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

We mostly look for developers who are passionate about their job. Collaborating on open source technology is a huge plus. Don't focus on just one technology or programming language and don't be afraid of trying out new things once in awhile.

Are there any big pitfalls to avoid?

A lot of companies (including ours) send out test assignments during the interview process. Don't put these assignments on your public GitHub page, as it immediately shows where you're applying. Don't say you're a rockstar or ninja, because you're not. You are a developer, and that's cool enough.

 

 

Photos via Shutterstock and social media

Have any tips for your GitHub profile? Let us know

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