Two things a junior developer should have on their CV

We recently hired a couple of Ruby-on-Rails developers and we repeatedly came across some key things missing from candidate CVs. The following are critical for developers with little commercial experience, but probably apply across the board.

Side projects

It’s now a fact of life that in a the creative industries you have to be able to demonstrate that you’ve been doing the job for free before anyone will pay you to do it. Taking on someone without being able to see what they can do is a risk which few companies can take, so while illustrators and designers have always been expected to have a portfolio of personal work, now novice journalists must be successful bloggers, would-be broadcasters are expected to have podcasts or webseries, and event organisers must have real experience of putting on their own festivals.

The same is true of developers: side projects not only demonstrate that you can code and deploy something from scratch, but they also show you’ve got the right mindset – you’re fiddling around with code because it’s a fun and interesting challenge, not just because someone’s paying you for it.

A CV with interesting side projects will stand out in the heap, especially if you have no paid industry experience. A lack of any personal projects is a bit of a red flag, even in someone who has been working for a while.

A code sample

We ask for code samples to accompany all CVs we get for developers. There’s only one reason for this: we need to see that you can write non-trivial original code, from scratch. For junior devs we’re not expecting to be blown away by something tricksy and elegant (though if you have something like that, do show it off!), but it should be predominantly your own work and should be in the language/framework that is most relevant to the role.

If you have a github account by all means share it, but why make us trawl through a whole project when you can highlight something significant in a gist, or point us at a specific file which contains something you’re proud of?