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How to Land a Job Using Open Source

The way job recruitment works has changed. Your skills are far more valuable than your degrees. During an interview for The New York Times, Laszlo Block, former VP of People Operations at Google, stated that the proportion of Google employees without any college education had steadily increased through the years.

Employers are now focused on what the candidate is able to do , and not which graduation he went to. To measure the fit of applicants, recruiters are looking mainly to:

  1. Problem solving skills
  2. Variety of backgrounds and industries
  3. Experience

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

The recruiter needs to know whether you’ve got relevant expertise with the skill set reported on the job description or not. Let’s suppose that you currently are a Java developer wanting to work with a Microsoft stack. You’ve taken some courses and maybe got a certification in the C# language. But now you have to prove experience, and only courses and certifications can’t do it.

Fortunately, there are some ways to have a stand out profile that can get you hired without having actual work experience with a specific tech stack. According to GitLab, contributing to open source is the most effective job-seeking hack you can take advantage of right now. Here a few tips on how to use open source as a powerful job hunting tool:

Contribute to an open source project

By contributing to open source, you will get the opportunity to work with production code , with stabilized projects. The open source contribution environment is diverse, you will show to the recruiter that you can work in multicultural teams. Also, by contributing, you are going to help with project and people management , by solving conflicts, prioritizing work, organizing teams, and much more. That is valuable to an employer.

The leading open source contribution website is GitHub. If you still don’t have an account there, there is a lot you’re missing out. Find a project that you engage with, and start contributing. There are lots of repositories looking for maintainers:

  • Mozilla, the not-for-profit behind the Firefox browser
  • Electron, the cross-platform desktop apps framework (C++)
  • Sinatra, a Ruby microframework for the web (Ruby)
  • phpMyAdmin, a web interface for MySQL and MariaDB (Java)
  • ElasticSearch, one of the most powerful search engines (PHP)
  • NeoVim, the future of Vim

Company-targeted contribution

If you are targeting to land a job at Google, for instance, you could contribute to Google projects on GitHub. When you start contributing, you’ll grasp knowledge of the product , the way they work and the stories behind it. That will really set you apart from the other candidates, because it lowers your onboarding time , earning lots of extra points with the interviewer.

Large-scale projects contribution

If you want to land an interview in a big company, they might need you to have past experience with large-scale and high-availability projects. If you actually don’t have experience with it, you could pick a big open source project that you can benefit from. There are a lot of large-scale projects needing help, such as:

Build a side project

Photo by Rick Mason on Unsplash

By nature, we, software developers, are curious people. Whether you want to build a new JavaScript framework, a coffee machine with Arduino or a new startup: build it! But don’t forget to make it open source. Technical recruiters will be able to check your project, your coding style, and the decisions you have taken in your side job.

During an interview, the difference between “With Python and sklearn, I’ve built a machine learning model predicts rental houses prices in my neighborhood” and “I’ve been studying machine learning for X months” is clear. This will help you to show you can build things from the ground up , and that you know the tools you’re using.

Build a personal brand

When you start contributing to open source, you will build an online reputation. When employers see you are an active member of the community, that adds trust. And that is why employee referral is still a thing.

Also, having online presence on StackOverflow can also help you to land that job. That shows you care for the community and are willing to help other developers.

Mention open source during the interview

When you’re changing your tech stack, it’s common to recruiters to ask you why. Not that the technology you use is that important, but to understand how have you learned this specific language if you have never worked with it before.

This is where open source contributions step in. You don’t need actual work experience to prove you know C# or the language you want to work with if have contributed using it before. Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, said that there is so much talent to be had if people are open to finding this talent in different places. That means it doesn’t matter if you learned by a university, by an online course, or by contributing to open source software. What matters is whether you have the skill or not.

Next steps

Open source contribution has become more and more accessible to everyone, from padawan to Jedi. It’s time for you to give back to the community using the force your skills.

  1. Create a GitHub account, if you haven’t
  2. Choose a project so you can help or create your own
  3. Have your first pull request merged and hooray!

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