Having a programming portfolio when you are a software developer can be the single best thing you can do in order to get the job you want. A portfolio helps by showing what you are able to do, even when you have just finished studying and have no real work experience. I am really surprised that developers do not use this useful resource more often in order to show what they can do.
Interviewers are tired of reading resumes
Resumes are broken for developer positions. That is true. I often have to review several resumes and it is not an easy or pleasant task. We don’t have time to interview everyone, so some filtering needs to be done. Almost all the resumes use the same words, same objectives. You know what I mean, and of course, my resume looks the same too.
What I want to see as an interviewer is what you can do and what you want to do. Show me that and you will probably be at the top of the list of candidates. The interview will probably be easy too, talking about things you have already built and know well. The decision might even be almost made before the interview, using the meeting just to get to know each other better.
What is a good programming portfolio
A programming portfolio is not like a designer portfolio. It is more difficult for developers to show what you can do. There is no golden rule when it comes to programming portfolios. When I read a resume, I always look for those first: a github account or a link to a website. If you have one of those, you are already on the top 5%.
An active github account can be a your best letter of recommendation. Some of us, though, are not as active in github as we would like to be, or do not like the openness of it. Not everyone wants to be popular, ninjas or hackers, and some of the best developers I know just want to get their work done right.
Another option is creating your own website or blog with your work or articles on it. This also implies being visible to everyone, but you can have control over it. You don’t even have to use your real name if you don’t want to. You can add pieces of code that you like and explain a bit about your side projects. If you are just out of school or college, I am sure you can put some of the projects you had to do there.
The last option if you really do not want to have an online presence is to have a paper portfolio. This is how I got my first job. I luckily got an interview, and I prepared a simple document with the work I had been doing at college and by myself.
You will get more exposure and chances to an interview by having a programming portfolio. Most interviewers are not used to it so it is a way of standing out of the rest of candidates. It is a way of showing what you are really capable of, something that a resume cannot explain.