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Is it considered a good idea to bring along a programming portfolio of your previous work when attending a programming job interview?

By portfolio I mean a collection of screenshots, brief description of the product and maybe a couple of code examples. Obviously the code examples would need to be of non-private works.

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As a developer, I have been looking to gauge what can be considered to be included in a portfolio, and what might look like bit over the top. This question opens the discussion in this direction attracting some useful answers. thumbs up! –  newbie Jan 31 at 23:34
    
Is there some reason you feel you could not ask when being invited to a technical interview? –  JeffO Feb 3 at 2:27
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4 Answers

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Yes.

Interviewers will be interested in what kind of work you have done before (whether for a programming job or more generally). If you are the sort of person who gets a bit nervous at an interview, and might forget to mention something in the heat of the moment, a portfolio provides you with a handy reminder of what work you have done, to talk about.

Images showing your past work (e.g. screenshots, for a programming interview) are a particularly good idea to include, if your work had a suitable visual depiction. From the interviewer's perspective, seeing an image depicting the work can really help to quickly get an overall picture of what the interviewee is talking about. Also, if you end up explaining some technical point about the work, an image might be handy to point to, to illustrate.

If you are not sure whether to include a screenshot (or another document) or not, try imagining yourself in the shoes of the interviewer and ask yourself whether this would help the interviewer see what you have to offer better. I find it hard to imagine whether examples of code would help, unless an interviewer has specifically requested them.

A portfolio also makes you look well-prepared and keen, an added bonus!

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I'd like to add, a lot of developpers claim to know Android or IOS. If you actually show the app working on your phone, it will be much much better than just talking about it. –  Fabinout Jan 31 at 11:44
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The only caveat I have here is that you want to make sure you do not include anything that would be considered as falling under any type of confidentially agreement or that you would not want to show to a competitor to the employer you did the work for. –  HLGEM Jan 31 at 16:15
    
When displaying software made for a previous employer it would be hard to determine what they would consider private or confidential. If the software is your own then its easy to know your on safe ground displaying it. –  Stormy Jan 31 at 16:38
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Yes, of course. The interviewer's job is to evaluate you in order to determine if you can get things done. A proof of that is if you show him past things that you got done. Actually, since we're talking about programming, there are TONS of ways you can do this:

  • have a website with your projects. Domains and webhosting are so affordable these days and it's not that big of an effort to put together a few HTML pages presenting your applications: screenshots, user manual, changelog etc. It looks very professional, I would be impressed by something like this. Also, this shows that you know how to (or at least you try to learn how to) communicate your ideas. If the website is targeted at actual users (which I recommend), then it means you have the ability to skip over the technical details when presenting your ideas and instead focus on user/customer requirements. Since you'll be dealing with managers and customers a lot in this profession, the quality perception of your work will skyrocket if you get this right.
  • if such a website doesn't seem to be worth your time and/or money, consider hosting your projects on some online repository, like GitHub
  • if you're applying for a Mobile developer job, install your apps on your phone and do a quick demo during the interview. A picture is worth 1000 words ;)

The things you present will spark good healthy conversations. If you have more than 2 - 3 projects to show, you can be pretty sure that you won't run out of things to talk about.

In conclusion: software companies look for passionate employees. For most of them, this means someone who works on his own personal projects outside of the regular job. Maybe this is a fair assumption/expectation, maybe not; it's just there. Show them you're passionate by showing them your portfolio, it always helps :) .

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Yes, I think it's a great idea. I would also recommend including items in the portfolio that demonstrate your expertise in all areas of the software development lifecycle.

Some items to include:

  1. Architectural Diagrams
  2. Requirements Documents (if possible)
  3. Application Screenshots
  4. Technical Blog Posts
  5. Technical Slide Presentations

Show that you don't just code, you know how to communicate effectively as well. That's important.

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"Show that you don't just code, you know how to communicate effectively as well. That's important" - I agree completely. If you can eloquently talk through your portfolio, that shows you are able to communicate with users/non technical people which will increase your value –  Mike Jan 31 at 15:31
    
In all honesty, showing what you actually did is such a great step forward, compared to others. By bringing all this stuff together, I think you may cause "la petite mort" to your future employer :). –  Fabinout Jan 31 at 17:03
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Yes, I did exactly that. I sent in a portfolio with short descriptions and screenshots with my application. I also print it out and brought my App to the interview. Every interviewer I talked to responded positively to it.

I handed my tablet to the interviewers, got up and walked around the table to look at the screen with them and explain them what they see. That seemed to make a good impression, too.

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Thanks for your input. This is great but only really works if you are a web developer or you specialize in making applications for the mobile market (iOS / Android). If you do database projects or Windows desktop applications this might be trickier. –  Stormy Jan 31 at 16:47
    
Don't call me web developer, I do medical signal processing. ;) Maybe a short write up of the projects you did would be good, stating the size of the projects and the technologies involved. –  Georg Feb 1 at 9:45
    
My only hesitation with listing the technologies you have used may be that some of that is confidential. For eg listing a specific SDK could assist a competitor with learning how to solve a specific problem. If may also be bad to list how security was implemented due to hacking etc. –  Stormy Feb 2 at 9:53
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