How to make open source experience shine on your resume

Describe the open source project. Discuss your contributions. Talk about the team.

"By anyone's measure, skills in open source software are very much in demand," writes Esther Schindler in a recent article, but, as she is quick to point out, you still need to get yourself noticed.

Here's how to make your open source experience and accomplishments shine:

Zack Grossbart, author of The One Minute Commute, who also is a software engineer consultant for Novell, offers a great overview for how to position yourself. "Someone stands out because of how they talk about the project," Grossbart says. He advises:

  • Describe the project. Don't assume the hiring manager has heard of your open source project."You must be able to explain what the project is, why people use it, and why I should care," Grossbart says. "I don't mind if the project has a small audience as long as it met the needs of that audience."
  • Discuss your contributions. "When I ask what you did on an open source project I want more than a vague answer," Grossbart says. "If you were a committer, what did you do to earn that status? What features did you work on? Did you design new areas, or just implement predefined functions? Did you lead meetings? Define new architecture? Set the project direction?
  • Talk about the team. This may fit better in a cover letter, but hiring managers are always interested in team dynamics. Did you know any of the other contributors personally or was it all virtual? How did you handle conflicts within the team? Why did you join in the first place? "Much of this information will come out in an interview, but before I interview someone I want to read something about their open source contribution," says Grossbart.

[ For more on how to explain your FOSS experience during your next job hunt, read What to Include in Your Open Source Resume ]


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