Main image of article Your Open-Source Work Will Get You a Job

Tech firms are interested in developers who have a following (however small) in the open-source community. Develop enough popular projects on GitHub and other repositories, and you could find yourself on the receiving end of an unsolicited job offer. Even if you’re not building your own projects, submitting code patches or writing documentation on a consistent basis will get you noticed by others within the open-source community, which could attract recruiters and companies.

The Interview Process

If you’re solicited for a job offer because of your open-source contributions, be prepared to talk about them in detail during the job interview. At WhiteHat Security, for example, it’s one of the first things the interviewer asks, especially since many of the company’s current engineers are active in the Ruby, Perl, and Postgres communities. “As part of our interview process, we ask candidates to provide samples of their work—a pointer to their GitHub repo is perfect,” said Carl Orthlieb, senior vice president of engineering & IT at WhiteHat Security. “We review what they’ve done and are working on as part of our first screen of candidates.” But it’s just not about the coding. Under ideal circumstances, your record with the open-source community should hint at your ability to work in a team and take feedback. The applicants who look “promising,” Orthlieb added, will do a live coding exercise, which involves pair design and homework. There will also be a review of that live-coding exercise, and additional feedback from team members.

What’s the Benefit?

For companies with strong roots in the open-source community, it makes sense to tap into a talent pool that’s already proven itself. Hippo, for instance, has a robust community of open-source developers. According to Arjé Cahn, CTO and co-founder of Hippo: “Some of our most successful hires have come through that process. It’s a smart and easy way to see the quality of code the developers are writing without having them even walk into the office.” Hippo’s technical staff is perpetually on the lookout for technically creative people who are problem solvers, quick on their feet, able to improvise, and know how to cooperate. “In the open source world, you need to know how to communicate what you do and why and be open to feedback, especially when it’s not positive,” Cahn added. “Open source people can do that well and they can work in a collective, which makes them really good team players.”

A Push for Blind Hiring

For larger companies, the motivation to look at open-source contributions is twofold. Not only are they looking for people who can hit the ground running, they’re also searching for a way to make hiring a bit more blind. Red Hat, for example, uses an algorithm for identifying top contributors to open source. “A trend we’ve seen recently is an effort to remove unconscious bias from hiring by using more objective criteria to evaluate candidates, noted DeLisa Alexander, the company’s EVP and chief people officer. “Our culture is based on meritocracy, so we’re always excited about technology that can foster that.” In the open-source community, it’s not about who you are; it’s about the quality of your code.