How to Use GitHub to Get (and keep!) a Recruiter's Attention

March 9, 2020
A student working on a laptop with another laptop on the table

GitHub is a web platform for web developers where you can store your projects, collaborations, and curated personal information for prospective employers and curious admirers of your work. Getting started may feel daunting, but once you have all of the core components, it will act as a constantly evolving, forward-facing representation of who you are and what you can do as a tech professional. 

GitHub contents 

While every professional’s GitHub will be unique to their background, experience, and interests, a recruiter will look quickly to understand who you are and what skills you offer. To make this easy, keep basic components simple and let your projects shine. 

When thinking about what you will need, focus on these basic GitHub contents: 

1.     A professional picture. Your photo should be high-quality and represent who you are without distracting hats, sunglasses, or logos. Remember that a blurry or darkly lit photo may communicate the wrong message about your taste, so stick to something visually appealing. When in doubt, use the photo from your LinkedIn, or ask a friend to take a well-lit headshot for you!

2.     A professional username and email. Consider this, if a prospective employer were to Google your username, what would they find? Add your email address using these simple steps, and if you need to change your username before adding your info, start here. Select a username and email that represents you and your particular brand of tech, but if possible, keep your username consistent across platforms.  

3.     Links to other relevant profiles. Be sure to include links to your website and LinkedIn, but only link to sites and social media profiles that are tech relevant. 

4.     A custom domain. GitHub pages support using custom domains or changing the root of your site’s URL from the default to any domain you own. Remember, for web students in particular, hiring managers prefer personal websites using a custom domain name such as firstnamelastname.com. Obtain a custom domain at Namecheap.com, and then use GitHub to host your portfolio. If you’re a Bloom Institute of Technology (formerly known as Lambda School) student, you can get your first domain for just $10!

5.     At least five green squares per week. Your contribution graph will chart how regularly you contribute to your GitHub, with each square representing one day. The darker the green, the more contributions were made that day. Setting the pace of five active and productive contributions per week will show your commitment and hard work, while demonstrating your ability to step away for breaks and self-care. After all, a 300-day streak may seem impressive on your graph, but may show a prospective employer you have unhealthy habits. Aim only to demonstrate your love for coding, which will show a recruiter you will be successful in a workplace. 

Pro tip: Making small, frequent changes will make finding errors faster and easier (ie less code to sift through!). 

6.     Pinned projects curated at the top (first impressions count!). List your best project first, and think strategically about the order and variety of other projects to showcase your breadth of work. If you’re further along in your job search, consider adding projects you build outside of BloomTech, or a project that contributes to open source code. Finally, every pinned project must have clearly structured folders and a README that includes a complete description of:

·      What it does. Include a short sentence listing the working functionalities.

·      What it is. Describe what the code produced, including what technologies were used, the stage of the project, any known issues you are working on, and the ultimate goal of the project. Though you might be searching for technical positions, communicating your narrative clearly and concisely will highlight your writing abilities, which is critical in every field.   

·      Other relevant descriptors. Include an installer or link to your webpage, screenshots or gifs of the application, and a unit test with clear explanation of how to run it. 

Pro tip: Utilize functions such as GitHub Pages to see your projects in real time. 

Gather GitHub feedback

It may not feel comfortable to get advice from others, but as you pull together your GitHub, consider all of the resources you have on hand to validate, verify, and critique your work. Here are three ways to turn feedback into something to be proud of.    

1.     Get instructional advice. Have your code reviewed for readability and functionality by a Career Coach or a BloomTech instructor. Use feedback to improve your GitHub at each stage of its development, not only before you start to apply for work. 

2.     Get peer advice. Proofread your own spelling errors and typos, and ask peers to do the same. Test all of your links and check all of your pages to ensure navigation within your GitHub takes you to the correct places. Ask peers to be harsh critics of your content so you can be more open to making changes early rather than late in the game. By the time a recruiters views your GitHub, there should be no red flags. 

3.     Follow peers and professionals. Seek out the portfolios, projects, and archives of others you admire in your field, and learn from how they present their material within their platforms. You never know what might inspire or motivate you in your own work.

Now that you know the GitHub basics, you will be ready to showcase your projects for future recruiters and other professionals like you.