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How To List FOSS Experience On Your Resume 103

maximus1 writes "If you're selling skills gained in an open source project, you have additional opportunities to shine, say experts in this ITWorld article. But what is the best way to explain your FOSS experience? 'Someone stands out because of how they talk about the project, says Zack Grossbart, author of The One Minute Commute. His advice is to describe the project and discuss your contributions in detail: '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?' If the FOSS experience is part of your background but not a shining beacon or job equivalent, it's common to list it under 'other experience.' Andy Lester, author of Land The Tech Job You Love, says: 'Think of each project as a freelance job that you've worked on. Just as different freelance gigs have varying sizes and scopes, so too does each project to which you contribute. The key is to not lump all your projects under one "open source work" heading.' Good examples are worth a thousand words. Grossbart offers up his resume as a sound but not perfect example (PDF) that includes open source experience. (His article on how to format your resume might also be of interest.)"
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How To List FOSS Experience On Your Resume

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  • "Meetings"? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @08:32PM (#29781063) Homepage

    > Did you lead meetings?

    What are these "meetings" you speak of?

  • by adonoman ( 624929 ) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @08:32PM (#29781065)
    except that that resume looks like crap. He spends all this time worrying about serifs and ligatures, when as a whole it's nearly illegible. It's all crowded into the page in what seems to the eye like one big chunk of prose. It hurts my eyes just trying to read the text. There are places for bullets - and lists of things is a good place for them. A separating space or line here or there isn't going to kill anyone. Also, it's not a sin to use two pages so that you don't have to pack everything in.
  • by Shados ( 741919 ) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @08:35PM (#29781077)

    Aside for the formatting of skill lists and stuff, its pretty good, which means one thing, in my opinion: he is another victim of the "YOUR RESUME MUST BE ONE PAGE REGARDLESS OF YOUR EXPERIENCE!!!!!111!" school of thought.

    The one page resume rule: hurting professionals everywhere since....well, ever.

  • Re:"Meetings"? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Threni ( 635302 ) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @09:10PM (#29781211)

    If you're putting together a resume then you're looking for a job, and if you get a job, you're going to have to endure brain numbing meetings where your boss will ask you the same question you've answered at least 3 times that much, knowing full well that he won't understand and will ask you again in a few days. The meeting will waste your time, and not express any information you couldn't have committed to writing in an email. But it will pass an hour of your - and more importantly, your bosses - time, and given that bosses don't work but instead just attend meetings and try and make comments to suggest that they in some way add value to the company they work for, you'd better get used to it sooner rather than later.

  • Uh easy... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Blakey Rat ( 99501 ) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @09:19PM (#29781253)

    Press "enter" after one of your job bulletpoints to make a new list items. Type in your role on the project, the name of the project, then the dates during which you worked on it. Provide a short description of the work you did, and how it impacted the success of the project.


  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @09:28PM (#29781303) Homepage

    > Is not "worry about the content, not the presentation" the mantra around
    > here? If we are supposed to follow that for the web-pages we produce, why
    > should the resumes be different?

    Resumes have to get past HR drones and PHBs in order to reach anyone who can comprehend the content.

  • Re:profit ! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @09:31PM (#29781315) Homepage

    > Please tell us so we know what we're getting.

    You are getting what you see. Are you incapable of judging it on its merits?

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @09:33PM (#29781335)

    One's resume should be in XML, from which various other formats can be produced automatically (and consistently)...

    It's an interesting gimmick, but not sure what purpose it'd have for anyone other than XML monkeys. The problem is that a resume is about presentation as much as it is about content.

  • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @09:42PM (#29781375) Homepage Journal

    Perhaps a better way to express it is: Your resume can be as long as you think is necessary to describe your experience. But you should be aware that very few hiring managers will read past the first page. So the first page should list the experiences that you would like managers to know about when they're deciding whether to hire you.

    The rest of your resume may be read (or skimmed) by lower-level managers (and your friends), and it may be searched for keywords by HR's software, but it usually won't contribute significantly to any hiring decisions.

    This may all be disregarded if you know that the company's hiring managers are intelligent and knowledgeable in the company's field. Such people do tend to read entire resumes, and even understand them. This mostly applies to the smallest companies, since in large companies hiring is done by professional managers, not by people knowledgeable in their subject area.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 17, 2009 @09:48PM (#29781397)

    opinion? Blah blah blah, try 30 different fonts. Blah blah blah, try 20 different text editors. And HR will still want a copy in word format or plain text format, ignore any formatting, and keyword scan.

    My resume is done in latex. Better font, better justification, better appearance.

  • by kestasjk ( 933987 ) * on Saturday October 17, 2009 @09:57PM (#29781431) Homepage
    This guy is so good at writing resumes that he tells the rest of us how to write them as a job; what more proof do you need that he must have an excellent resume?
  • I agree that one page isn't enough for people with lots of experience, but his solution is not the best to address this either. --WAY-- too much to read.

    Note. I actually see the reason for keeping resumes under one page; most people that think they need two usually don't. I think it's only appropriate if the position is really important, since the pool for those positions are smaller and, thus, those who make the hiring decisions can (and will) spend more time on the person's merits and personality.

    The methodology my school uses for resume writing is that people should list three key responsibilites for each job listing, in list format. This can make keeping a resume within to a single page even more difficult because many people have had numerous interesting experiences at their previous workplaces that may or may not be able to get listed on there. Then again, if that person does claim to have many of those experiences, they should be able to list a few which will grab an employer's attention fairly quickly.

    After hearing of several interviews in my co-ops and speaking to a few managers about this, the logic behind this makes a lot of sense. Even though HR uses a bland filter to separate the "wheat" from the "chaff" (or, more appropriately, the ones who know the system and the ones who don't), those resumes still need to be passed down to management, as the decision is ultimately up to them. What this means is that they look at TONS of resumes, sometimes on a daily basis. Most of those resumes are ill-formatted, poorly written and are eyesores to look at. Additionally, they usually want to spend less than a minute looking at one before deciding whether to yay or nay a second interview (the nays don't get saved; they get binned).

    It's for this reason that having a resume in list format helps so much; hiring managers or others with decision power don't have to think as much when looking at one. They can sift through the list and see if they make the cut (for an interview, that is).

  • Re:Open source. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 17, 2009 @10:46PM (#29781579)

    There's nothing even close to dishonest here. If your code was so meaningless to you that you don't care to do the extra work to get it into a better category than "hobby" or "coding in spare time", then you deserve what you get.

    Yes, i'm suggesting that if you want optimal resume lines, you adjust the type of FOSS development you do, than you otherwise would, and do a little more work.

    14 lines in the Linux kernel is not an accomplishment that is the least bit indicative of a good developer; the hiring manager's unlikely to be impressed, even if they are a big Linux fan. Coded an OS from scratch is comparatively much more interesting, in fact, and much more likely to be an asset, the person who makes a huge, significant contribution to an unknown piece of software, than the person who gloats over a small insignificant addition to a popular piece of software...

    You want to be able to say something like Wrote the USB Driver for a major operating system, not "fixed a bug in the Linux coffee pot power control driver".

  • Stretching it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dirkdodgers ( 1642627 ) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @11:21PM (#29781711)

    Listing FOSS contributions outside of Other Experience can look like stretching, and is stretching unless it's either something you're spending, say, 20+ hours/week on, or you're applying for your first position out of school. If you're not, it's not really the kind of professional experience you want to showcase, is it?

    Even if you're spending substantial time on a FOSS project, you still may not want to list it outside of Other Experience other than to explain what you have been doing in the time since your most recent employment.

    What you don't want to do is give the impression that you're trying to cover up for being under-qualified, for lacking in professional experience, or that you're not employable in a traditional position.

  • Re:Open source. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jurily ( 900488 ) <jurily@g m a i l . com> on Saturday October 17, 2009 @11:22PM (#29781717)

    Coded an OS from scratch is comparatively much more interesting,

    Not really. I think you're forgetting the level of quality required for any code to make it into the main branch, much less stay there. Being able to read and change other people's code is also a big plus.

    You want to be able to say something like Wrote the USB Driver for a major operating system, not "fixed a bug in the Linux coffee pot power control driver".

    14 lines of code that thousands of people use regularly is more valuable than something big noone ever heard of.

  • Re:Stretching it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cenc ( 1310167 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @01:15AM (#29782045) Homepage

    You obviously do not have sufficient experience as either an employee or and employer.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @01:17AM (#29782049) Homepage

    And some people have become millionaires on selling "How to become a millionaire" books.

  • by Hymer ( 856453 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @05:29AM (#29782875)

    You are so right... except for the font. Humans read a serif font about 20% faster and with less errors than a sans serif font so use Times instead of Helvetica (which btw. is not available on a std.Windows PC... Arial, Tahoma or Verdana are not good substitutes for Helvetica).

  • On that note... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by puroresu ( 1585025 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @06:32AM (#29783081)
    ...if you have what would be termed an "unconventional" appearance by more narrow minded employers, consider the kind of companies which are more likely to hire you.

    I have long hair, facial hair and tattoos. I recently took a temp contract with a publishing company. They didn't have a "dress code" as such and the atmosphere was pretty relaxed. A few weeks later they asked if I'd run the department. Plenty of businesses operate under similar conditions, and unlike places which mandate a particular look, they tend not to treat employees like shit.

    Will you alienate some employers by not having a short back and sides and a clean shave? Yes.
    Are they worth working for? Not in my opinion.
  • Re:On that note... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by upuv ( 1201447 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @08:19AM (#29783401) Journal

    Clean just improves the odds no matter the company. My self personally I like someone not afraid to self express. So I tend to take a liking to the ab-normal. Hell I drive a H.D. to work and sport the odd tat myself.

    I was just speaking of the average. As you have probably experienced in your own life there is a degree of higher resistance to you and your chosen appearance. Are these people that give you the "slanted" look narrow minded and a bit backwards? You bet yah.

    "Worth working for" is a lot different than "working". When it comes to food in the childs mouth you go the safe route.

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @09:37AM (#29783771) Homepage

    I think he didn't list his FOSS experience very well. It says:

    Sole engineer for the GoTD program (, an open source program for directing Go tournaments. GoTD integrates registration, player pairing, handicapping,
    conict resolution, and results reporting into one easy-to-use interface. GoTD is the rst and only open source program available for managing Go tournaments.

    It sounds like he is selling the project, not himself. In my experience, you don't say what the project did, you say the technologies it uses and what YOU did. I might write:

    Sole engineer for the GoTD program (, an open source program for directing Go tournaments written in C++/Qt. Ran on Linux, Windows, and Commodore 64. Maintained project in source control via sourceforge. Prioritized bug reports, applied fixes, and determined new features. A forum was established to solicit feedback from customers.

  • by Shados ( 741919 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @10:44AM (#29784213)

    This talk of school and co-op make me think you're mostly talking about early career resume. Thats different. IT is a volatile job market, and aside for a few people who like to settle down early, many IT professional and software engineers will frequently bounce from job to job. By mid career, having 3, 5, or 10+ -significant- jobs on your resume isn't uncommon. Add additional -relevant- trainings and certifications, and relevent publications, and a consultant will need 3-5 pages even if they keep it to a minimum.

    I worked for HR departments, head hunter agencies, consulting firms, you name it... and the recurring theme is this: If you have significant career experience (read: you're not straight out of college, and the part time job at BestBuy isn't career experience), 1 page won't cut it. Or any kind of "rule" for that matter. Those are just guides for people who don't know how to judge for themselves what is important (which is fine: not everyone has experience in the matter).

    The first half of the first page should have everything that an hiring manager with ADHD would need. Beyond that, you should have everything important, but in a format that is easy to skim through. Different companies have a COMPLETLY different opinion on what should be in a resume, and you need to catter to all (well, most) of them in one document, since you don't know them in advance. You just have to make sure its in a format where the noise of what they don't care about doesn't prevent them from finding what they want.

    But if you made your resume too short, or in a draconian format following arbitrary "rules", the company that may have hired you for your dream job may skip on your resume.

    While mine is nowhere near that long, one of the most successful IT guy I know has a 15 page resume, and he never had issues with it. I know a heck of a lot of great people who had problems with their silly 1-2 pagers. I even spend a lot of my time rewriting the resume of some of my friends, after they bitch they can't find a job after 3 months. Rewrite the resume to put everything relevant on it, not worrying about page count, format things correctly, bang, the week after they have a job they like. Happened douzens of times!

Evolution is a million line computer program falling into place by accident.