Prospective employers want your GitHub link, but what are they looking for? I asked my friend Matt, a senior software engineer at Express Scripts, what he looks for in an applicant’s GitHub profile and what gets someone closer to an interview.
You’ve just clicked on someone’s GitHub link. What’s the first thing you’re looking at?
“If you have any repos that have a lot of stars on them, those will be what I look at first. Otherwise, I’ll just pick the first few that are pinned on your main page or repos that have an interesting name. It’s okay if you don’t have any stars, but it does give a good idea of how popular your particular repository is. Emphasis on pinning — make it easy for employers to find repos that you want them to look at.”
Tell me about your first impression of a repository.
“Once I’ve opened a repo, the first thing I look at is documentation. What is their documentation ability like? Does the readme explain what the project is? Does it explain why they made it? Does it have screenshots? Installation? Usage? Etc. There are a bunch of good GitHub readme templates out there if you need an idea.”
What do you look for in the code?
“Once I’ve looked the docs over, I’ll start looking at code. Is the code “clean”? There is a good book called Clean Code by Robert Martin that every programmer should read. Do the variable names make sense? Is the project organized well? If it’s an API, is it designed well? If it’s a UI, is code intuitive? How does the layout look?”
Any added bonuses that might make an applicant stick out?
“Tests. Does the project have tests? Do the tests convey how the classes and methods of the project should be used? Do they catch edge cases?”
Everybody looks for something different in an applicant. Any extras that you personally look at?
“What tech stacks does the person use? Do I find their projects interesting? Do they have any of their projects hosted somewhere so I can view their product or website live? This last question shows some DevOps type skills which are helpful in some tech areas.”
Any final thoughts on how someone can make their GitHub better?
“Try to showcase the repos you care about, and maybe hide ones that don’t matter to you. For example, one applicant’s repo had some machine learning projects that he had been working on, some video games he had made, and a portfolio website. Another applicant just had stuff that was like ‘Here’s how to write a for loop in Python’. The former is much more interesting.”
- Pin the repos you want an employer to pay attention to first.
- Write quality documentation/READMEs.
- Refactor and clean up your code.
- Go another level and add tests to your code.
- Bonus points: highlight your ability to use the stack your prospective employer uses.
- Showcase repos that you are passionate about and demonstrate your highest ability.