The 3 most common questions job seekers ask in open source

Top 3 questions job seekers ask in open source

How to get a job with open source
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As a recruiter working in the open source world, I love that I interact every day with some of the smartest people around. I get to hear about the cool projects they're working on and what they think about the industry, and when they are ready for a new challenge. I get to connect them to companies that are quietly changing the world.

But one thing I enjoy most about working with them is their curiosity: They ask questions, and in my conversations, I hear a lot of inquiries about the job search and application process. That makes sense; it's often opaque, never the same for any two people, and we are bombarded daily with new advice on every platform. So I asked my colleague at Greythorn, Mary Kypreos, to help me determine which questions we get the most often. With her assistance, I've answered the three most common questions we get.

1. What do recruiters and hiring managers want to see on my GitHub profile? All of my projects, or just my best?

That depends on your experience. If you have been working on lots of different projects, including some that are just okay is fine. It shows you were curious and tried new things along the way, which is often a characteristic my clients want to see in a candidate. If you have worked on a specific technology that a potential employer uses, however, make sure what you have on GitHub is solid; you don't want to create a bad first impression of your technical knowledge and ability.

The most important thing you can do is keep your GitHub profile updated. Hiring managers and recruiters rarely use GitHub to replace technical vetting during interviews, but they use it more as a guide to find active and high-quality candidates. If yours looks dead, they may pass you by for a potential dream job.

2. How important is it for me to practice for my interviews with books like Cracking the Coding Interview? Is there something else I should use instead?

Many companies talk about coding fundamentals, and since you may not think of this on a daily basis, studying up a bit will never hurt. But while you're studying for the technical interview, don't forget to practice for the soft interview, too. Think about how you would concisely describe your experience, your goals, and consider how you would answer behavioral questions like "Tell me about a time when you..."

It's hard to overstate the importance of your soft skills in an interview. Many companies, especially startups, are concerned with culture fit. If they bring you into a small team, your ability to get along and work with your colleagues (and even stakeholders) can make a huge impact.

3. What are the pros and cons to working with a recruiter versus applying directly? And if my recruiter isn't moving fast enough, should I just go ahead and apply directly?

Finding a good recruiter is important, and if you're not sure about the one you're talking to, ask them how long they've been working with the client or how many people they have placed there. A good recruiter always knows the client well, and knows how to position your resume to its greatest advantage.

Even the best recruiters, though, can end up getting swamped in their inbox and lag in responding, but going behind them to apply directly is never a good idea. Potential employers can interpret the situation as you not knowing who has been submitting your resume, or assume you are just applying to any job out there. Instead, talk to your recruiter, and if they don't respond, call and email again. Don't be afraid to keep them on task and don't let them ruin an opportunity for you.

The job search and application process can be a tricky one, but luckily there's a lot of good information available (like the articles in the Careers in Open Source Series).

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About the author

Lindsey Thorne
Lindsey Thorne - Lindsey Thorne has been in HR and recruiting for more than 12 years, and after narrowing her focus to the open source and data science market in 2012, she’s built a reputation for being the one recruiter “inside” the industry. Over the last four years, Lindsey has connected great candidates with companies across the Bay Area, Seattle, Austin, and beyond.

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