How to Use GitHub to Strengthen Your Resume

9 minutes

Boasting over 100 million users, GitHub is one of the leading online development environments. Programmers use GitHub every day to work on projects and collaborate with others. If you’re looking for a tech job in today’s competitive developer job market, having GitHub skills can give you a leg up on the competition.

When Codecademy learner Stina Niemann was interviewing for her first data analytics position, she was able to talk about her knowledge of Git and GitHub. She completed our course Learn Git & GitHub, and felt comfortable making Git commands and using open-source lingo. “Those small basics, I think, really helped me stand out,” Stina said.

In our course Learn Git & GitHub, you can grasp the ins and outs of how GitHub works, learn the markdown language Git and its important operations, and get a primer on how to collaborate with others using GitHub. Whether you want to start contributing to open-source projects or are preparing your resume for the job search, this free course is a solid introduction to the go-to platform. You’ll also learn how to use GitHub Copilot in this course, a popular language-agnostic tool that harnesses AI to speed up the development process.

Keep reading to learn the benefits of using GitHub to bolster your job prospects, some of the possible downfalls and how to approach them, and how entry-level, mid-career, and seasoned professionals can use GitHub to make their resumes pop.

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What is GitHub?

GitHub provides internet hosting for developers who use Git — a software used to track changes made to code. With Git, programmers can work with each other to design and improve source code.

Developers use GitHub to manage and store different versions of projects. For example, if you’re working on a web application, you can upload your code to GitHub, invite others to help you work on your code, or simply store it there to work on later.

Plus, as you develop new versions of your app, you can use GitHub to get easy access to what you’ve already made, giving you a straightforward way to compare, improve, and troubleshoot your solutions.

How to put GitHub on your resume

Even though you can describe your skills and experience on your resume, adding your GitHub profile adds another dimension. Most people include a link to their GitHub profile in the header section of their resume, alongside contact information. If you have a paper resume, you can include the full URL of your GitHub profile.

Here is an example of a resume for a fictional job seeker named Joshua Parker. As you can see, there is a link to his GitHub profile right at the heading of the resume, next to the contact information.

In many ways, your GitHub profile is like a developer-specific social media profile. A strong GitHub profile features diverse projects, each with unique concepts and well-crafted README documents that communicate your work to fellow developers through clear code documentation.

During his job search, iOS Developer Matthew Ogtong worked on Docs, our open-contribution coding documentation for common programming languages and concepts. Docs is built and maintained on GitHub, so Matthew got hands-on experience working with tools that he uses every day in his role now.

“Before you even start applying to jobs it’s important to have a strong GitHub profile and a README in place for yourself, at least just to give a little intro for anyone that’s visiting your page,” Matthew said.

It’s worth taking the time to make sure your GitHub profile looks polished and thorough. You want to make a good first impression with recruiters and hiring managers who are browsing your work for the first time. We break down some more features that make a “good” GitHub profile in Learn Git & GitHub.

A good GitHub profile is one more way you can stand out in the job search.

The benefits of including GitHub work on your resume

Here are some of the top benefits of including your GitHub profile with your projects and contributions on your resume.

It shows you know how to write code

It’s easy to claim you’re a programmer, but it’s another thing to prove it. Showcasing GitHub work on your resume gives a prospective employer tangible evidence of your skills. (This is especially important if you don’t have professional programming work experience yet.) Showing some of your best work also gives your interviewer something they can share with decision-makers and other stakeholders, like the rest of the dev team.

Showing your work can be intimidating, especially if you feel like your project still needs some fine-tuning. Don’t let this stop you because analysis of what you could’ve done better is a great talking point during an interview. It shows you’re introspective about your work and capable of evaluating it with a critical eye.

It shows you can read code

When you showcase projects you’ve contributed to on GitHub, you let employers know you’re proficient at reading code. For many programmers, reading other people’s code is very challenging. Employers know this, and while they’re often ready to invest time into improving a new developer’s reading skills, they’d prefer someone who already has experience.

To make your reading skills shine, you can:

  • Collaborate on different kinds of projects
  • Work with multiple developers
  • Contribute to projects that are out of your comfort zone to broaden your horizon

Doing this will add diversity to the kinds of code you can read and work with, giving your employer the confidence they need in you to move forward.

It shows your collaboration skills

The ability to collaborate with others on GitHub shows you know how to produce quality work with other programmers. While many developers create excellent products working alone, working within a team environment is a necessary element of today’s DevOps teams.

When you connect with others on GitHub and include links to your work on your resume, you show an employee you know:

  • How to take feedback about your work
  • How to provide constructive feedback that improves the end-product
  • How to maintain a focus on higher-level objectives while working on smaller pieces of a project
  • How to annotate clearly, explaining your coding ideas to others

It lets the employer know you can use Git

Granted, not every employer is going to have Git as part of their production process, but some do. Someone who knows how to use Git will require less upfront training for these companies.

Also, some other development platforms, like Helix Core and AWS CodeCommit, have a few similarities with Git. Even if the employer doesn’t use Git, your experience with it could be a bonus and give you an edge over the competition.

It shows your passion for coding

Developers who use GitHub to contribute to open-source programming have an admirable passion driving them. The time, energy, and effort it takes to invest yourself in open-source solutions—usually without any compensation—shows you have a sense of commitment to your craft that may set you apart from others applying for the position.

Potential downfalls of using GitHub on your resume

While the benefits of showcasing your work on GitHub outweigh the drawbacks, there are a few things you want to keep in mind when deciding if and how to showcase your work.

Older work may reflect past weaknesses

Showing older work is great—as long as you have the opportunity to explain how you’ve improved or how you’ve grown when it comes to that specific kind of programming.

Be careful to provide context for any work you showcase, especially products that have clear deficiencies. This will make your introspection and improvement stand out instead of the errors you made.

You may overemphasize your dependence on others

If you primarily use GitHub to get help when you’re stuck, it might seem like you rely on others to solve problems versus tackling them on your own. Do your best to avoid a narrative like, “I got stuck so I went to GitHub for help. I got stuck again, and GitHub bailed me out. And this other time when I couldn’t figure an error out, I went to GitHub…”

If you use GitHub only when you need help, be sure to highlight what you’ve learned from each experience, including:

  • How another programmer’s thinking improved your own
  • New skills you picked up by working with others
  • How watching someone else improve your code helped you improve your troubleshooting abilities

Long periods of inactivity may undercut the benefits

If you choose to showcase GitHub work on your resume, there’s a chance the hiring team will focus more on your GitHub work than the rest of your resume. If that’s the case, inactivity on GitHub may convey inconsistent performance, passion, and work ethic.

To avoid this, explain why you chose to take a break from GitHub, perhaps because you got busy with other work that paid more or had to focus on more important projects.

Advice for different kinds of GitHub users

The way you show your work on GitHub will vary based on whether you’re applying for an entry-level position, mid-career position, or if you’re a seasoned professional. Here are tips for each stage of your career.

Entry-level applicants

As an entry-level applicant, GitHub gives you a chance to show the kinds of skills many can only acquire with years of experience. By working on GitHub, you can show employers how you can:

  • Accept feedback from others
  • Improve the work of experienced programmers
  • Systematically adjust products until they meet core requirements

To ensure you have the skills you need to produce on GitHub, and for a traditional dev team, you can enroll in any of our Career Paths. For new developers, some of the best choices include:

Mid-career applicants

As a professional in the middle of your career, GitHub offers you a chance to show how you can solve more complex problems and adapt to new types of programming, including learning new languages. The ability to acquire and apply new knowledge is crucial to the skillset of a mid-career applicant.

Even if you haven’t produced stellar work with a language you’re still getting comfortable with, showing what you’ve been able to accomplish using newer skills can convince an employer you have the agility necessary to work in a flexible environment.

Seasoned professionals

GitHub offers seasoned professionals a chance to flex their knowledge and help others with their projects. Showing the hiring team how you support up-and-coming developers on GitHub is a great addition to any resume.

Also, if you’ve been working on a pet project on GitHub, letting employers see this work can be just as beneficial. A little passion project lets them know you’re still hungry, innovating, and ready for challenges.

With the help of our courses, you can acquire and improve the skills necessary to shine on GitHub—and your resume. We teach you not just skills, but also provide valuable experience working with others. Also, you can develop a portfolio of work to upload to GitHub and show to potential employers. Get started today, free of charge.

This blog was originally published in September 2021 and has been updated to include our new GitHub courses and resources.

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