Most blogs that teach you how to get a software development job will stress having a few projects available on GitHub, but do you absolutely need a GitHub account? This question isn’t as clear cut as it seems because technical recruiters value different things in a candidate. Some recruiters who only hire senior talent would probably focus on work history and white boarding performance. Others who have openings for junior devs may need more measurements that can adequately gauge the “readiness” of a candidate. In that case, having multiple repositories ready for inspection can make a junior candidate stand out among the crowd. On the other hand, a PhD in Computer Science and relevant research papers may make a GitHub account unnecessary to other recruiters.
TL:DR: A GitHub account isn’t necessary, but it’s a conversation starter. The game of interviews is a sort of Game of Thrones. You’re battling it out with other candidates vying for a single position. Being able to show a recruiter that you can write clean code and work with others can only be a bonus. That’s assuming that your GitHub account features polished projects and worthwhile contributions.
I often find answers like the one above unsatisfactory because it distills a range of opinions into a boilerplate answer. Though the answer may be satisfactory, I also like hearing from actual people involved in the recruiting process to see what they actually think. Here’s a conversation from Dev.to that I’ve culled to provide you a range of opinions.
If a candidate is active on Github I like to check their profile to get a sense of what they are interested in and what their code looks like.
If a candidate is not active I don’t hold it against them, I just ask different questions.
I believe nobody makes a decision on the candidate based on GH profile only. But if Jean has one and John has none, it tells me that probably Jean’s more engaged in development in general and in open source in particular.
I like to work with people who love what they are doing.
Also, GH profile completely covers the write-code/whiteboard part of the interview. If the candidate loves to do whiteboard—fine, let’s do whiteboard
I like doing this but not as a requirement. Basically, if you have a project on GitHub, I can bring it up at your interview and ask you things like:
- Why did you go with this arcitecture? Did it end up being ideal and could you have done it another way?
- This code looks really interesting, can you explain it to me?
Especially when I interview senior developers it’s helpful to know how well they can explain a concept to a stranger as that’s a big part of their job.
But a GitHub account is never a requirement. It simply helps steer the interview.
Here is my personal opinion about why I’d appreciate some GitHub account and why I value organizations that do.
- A public repo shows initiative. Either you took the initiative to learn something or you built something and have the courage to share it. In the end, you did more than what is expected of you.
- Open source enriches us all. Think of Linux and the millions of servers deployed thanks to it.
- It shows initiative. It is a special kind of action. Most people only react to change. But to initiate it, is quite different.
Any organization that cares enough to take a look at my profile instead of the average white board test is the kind of people I’d like to collaborate with.
Personally if I’m looking at a resume, I won’t discount people with non-super-active github profiles, but ones with it stand out.
Joseph Michael Casey
A well documented public portfolio is a much stronger representation of what a candidate can contribute than anything else because it is literally the closest thing you can get to the employee working for you. A public portfolio with contributions to OSS and personal projects shows so much more value than a 2 – 3 hour interview ever can.
The current interviewing process for software engineers heavily favors code golfers, and this attitude leads to an industry where startups, after the release of Pokemon Go, chase AR for investment dollars on unused product functionality. It results in tech giants that say things like ‘Move Fast and Break Things’. An employer who values a GitHub portfolio looks like an employer who wants engineers deeply involved in their community that can also provide real world value.
I know we don’t really look at them that much unless the candidate specifically pointed to it for samples of their work. Sometimes I’ll check and see if they have any cool stuff up there if they link it on their resume or portfolio site, but it’s extremely non-required. (Esp since, if you work for a private company that uses source control, most of your interesting work is going to be in private repos anyway, haha.)
GitHub can be really useful to get a sense of what someone is learning, what tech they have used, to see their code-style, etc. It can be a good talking point, E.g: What made you choose this framework? Why did you architect things this way?
Having a good GitHub profile is just one aspect of a candidate’s ability, but it can be an important one.
I am usually involved in front-end/cross-functional candidate interviews. It depends what role you’re hiring for, but as an example: if an engineer has been working in the front-end for 10+ years and can’t walk me through a single code example from their GitHub profile, then that same information has to be teased out in other ways.
If you are going to interview for a job as a software engineer, it’s reasonable for your prospective employer to want to see an example of your work. Candidates that can show lines of code they have written and demonstrate a good understanding of what they did, will obviously do better than candidates that show nothing.
I do check.
But I don’t rely on it.
It is just another conversation starter for me. It shows me what they might be tinkering with, where their non-work interests lie in the tech realm, what they might be studying.
I don’t code review them or pick a part their pull requests to things. I don’t use it to stalk them and see code quality.
Just one more thing to have in a conversational interview (so I can skip stupid things like whiteboard coding).
I just like seeing everything that people are working on nowadays. I think it’s fun to see what people work on in their spare time!
I don’t use it to make hiring decisions though. I like hearing about side projects and how people have worked effectively with a team in the past.
When I’ve interviewed candidates, it only comes up if they volunteer the information. I don’t go searching for their usernames on github based on what I find by stalking them elsewhere.
So it’s the candidate wanting to show their work. If they came to the interview and I had no idea what was on their github profile, they’d be justified in thinking we either weren’t interested or had taken on too many candidates to allocate time for.
Like others have said, though, unless they have a pinned project which is evidently awful, nothing I see there is going to put me off, even if they only have a bunch of empty hello-world projects.
For me it helps connect the part of their resume that lists “technologies I’ve worked with” or “languages I know” part a bit more practically. I still take it with a grain of salt, but it does help when your dealing with a large volume of resumes.
For example if they list react as one of their skills and I see any react project, and I mean you could make a few changes to a generic create-react-app, I sort of know that at least this candidate does indeed know something about it and it gives us something to talk about in the interview.
Again, massive grain of salt, and if they don’t have any projects it just alters the line of questioning a bit. Also larger projects they’ve worked on could very well be in private repos, but it doesn’t take long to skim through a github profile.
Disclaimer that I’m biased towards this type of checking, because I had a built up github profile before I started applying for jobs.