I have a job opportunity to work for a large corporation on their mobile application, and that mobile app, which is used by thousands of people, has been very poorly received.

It's a dilemma for me, as I could have the opportunity to improve its quality/experience and claim any changes in its ratings as an achievement. With that said, this is a large corporation not directly in the mobile game, and surely they have deep politics. It's unlikely I would be granted the freedom to make the broad range of changes required to improve its rating as an app. I am worried that they are only hiring me to do bug fixes.

I don't have much mobile experience on my resume. The last mobile app that I worked on is performing well in the market, and I don't want to add a 1 star app to my portfolio.

It would be difficult to even mention the company name on my resume without someone easily finding the mobile app under the same name.

Am I just being paranoid, or should mobile app developers avoid poorly developed apps to protect their reputation?


11 Answers 11


Can working on a mobile app with 1 star affect my career?

Yes, it most certainly can.

Typically, I would not install a one star rated application for all kinds of reasons. Based on my hiring experience, I would suggest you leave it off your resume unless you have no other option. If you have to leave it on your resume, do whatever you can (fix bugs, enhance, etc.) to improve the reviews.

Listing an ill-received application on your resume can definitely influence people's opinions of your coding ability and hinder your chances of obtaining an interview or being hired.

If you list it on your resume, the reviews will most likely be looked at.

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    I agree, you don't have to list the app, but you should list the company to avoid a career gap. Also, putting it on might be good if you can give it a positive spin, like boosting its rating from a 1.3 to a 1.8 - that's pretty substantial! – corsiKa Jan 9 '18 at 15:16
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    There's a basic choice here. Either work with this company or not. If you do work for the company, you have to list it on your resume or explain away that gap. If you don't want to be associated with this app/company, then don't work for them. You can't do both. – user44108 Jan 9 '18 at 15:35

You're potentially being employed to work on the app with a view to improving it.

Even if the app never gets above that one star, there's nothing wrong with working on the project and adding this to your portfolio. After all, with large companies, there's an awful lot of politics, red tape, processes, mis-management that can all contribute to a bad app experience in spite of an otherwise excellent app development team.

Go for the opportunity and make the best of it you can. If you find you can't work with these people, or things aren't going in the direction you want them to then move on.

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    In addition, afterwards, you could write/mention how you improved the app, and how that reflected on the user rating ("I improved X, Y, and Z and we saw user ratings increase en retention tripled"). – Edwin Lambregts Jan 9 '18 at 15:21
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    You can even spin this to show that you are willing to pull up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. That last thing an employer wants is someone who will only work on things that are already perfect. – JimmyJames Jan 9 '18 at 16:19
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    @JimmyJames: Oh, that's good. This comment could be a great answer as is. – Eric Duminil Jan 10 '18 at 21:33
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    Experience with failure gives you valuable skills: recognizing early warning signs, managing elevated stress levels in a team, and better risk estimation. If you hide a failed project from me and I find out, I will assume that you learned nothing and will enthusiastically repeat the same errors. – Simon Richter Jan 11 '18 at 3:18
  • This is a far better answer than the accepted one. – Keltari Nov 4 '19 at 21:06

It depends on how you tell the story.

If, in your future resume, you just write that you were part of the team that worked on this terrible app, then yes, that could go poorly for you. Don't do that. If you instead write that you were brought on to help fix the terrible app (after it was already known to be terrible), then it's a lot less likely to damage you. If you can help turn it around, even being part of a team that dragged it up from one star to two stars could look pretty good (especially if you like the idea of getting more jobs of the same kind in the future). Even if you don't manage to fix it, you can extract lessons learned from it, and share those at the interview. Companies like it when you can learn the ugly lessons on someone else's dime.

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    "It depends on how you tell the story." - That's true with anything in life. I know people who barely graduated high school and got into upper management level positions. They're able to take things, sometimes things they have no clue about, and explain it very well and get people on board. – Dan Jan 9 '18 at 17:10
  • +1 this is one of the best possible approaches. Also, OP should keep in mind that if the work there isnt going as planned and they re not let enough leeway to help boost the app, they can always just leave... – Leon Jun 20 '18 at 8:12

As Snow mentions in his answer it's likely that you (if you take the job) would be being hired to improve the app - and hopefully raise it's rating in the process. If you manged to pull such a thing off then it could be a very beneficial thing to have on your resume, and one you could justifiably use to blow your own trumpet.

So can you do this? In my mind there's a couple of things to consider:

  1. The number of negative reviews the app currently has - if it's got millions of people rating it as one star then it's going to take a significant number of better ratings to see that average shift upwards. And unless it's a very popular app that's going to take some time.

  2. The reason(s) why people are rating it one-star - if the app store in question supports user reviews and comments then have a look through some of the negative ones and see if the problems are something you think you'll be in a position to resolve if you take the job. If yes then you'll hopefully have a fair chance of making a difference, if not then, well it can be quite depressing having to try and make improvements with a metaphorical hand tied behind your back.

If (for whatever reason) you aren't able to effect an improvement to it's rating during a period working there then I don't think it will do too much harm (if any) to your professional reputation. After all it should be obvious to anyone looking to hire you that the app existed (complete with poor rating) before you even started working there so I think they would be unlikely to determine that it's your fault as a developer and it's something you can expand upon in an interview if necessary. Given it can't exactly go any lower than where it is right now you can't really come out of it looking bad - if you were hired to work on an app with, say a four star rating and it tanked to one star in your tenure that might be a bad thing for your career but since all it can do is stay the same or improve I think you are in a win-win situation.

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    Excellent advice. Also keep in mind that a bad/low review on a corporate app can also be a bad/review for the company in question as much as for the app itself. – user44108 Jan 9 '18 at 14:05
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    "it's going to take a significant number of better ratings to see that average shift" If there's a way to filter reviews by date, it might be useful for the OP to put wording such as "reviews submitted during my tenure were on average .5 stars better than prior" on their resume. – Acccumulation Jan 11 '18 at 17:22

Here's something from a different perspective.

I have made a career of cleaning up messes. If you are confident that you can turn the app around, this is a wonderful opportunity. Me personal best was taking a process that was 10+ hours to run and bringing it down to 6 minutes.

"improved XYZ app, brought it's rating up from 1 star to 3 stars".

Now, if you end up not being able to budge the rating that much, you may want to leave the specific app off the resume, but at an interview say "I'd like to mention that I also worked on XYZ app. ABC corp was having a hard time with the app, and it was getting a one star rating when I came on board. I brought some reviews, and as you can see, they improved since the time I started".

If you are bold enough, and think you can turn it around, go for it. Nothing gives you better bragging rights than taking a sinking ship and sailing it safely to shore.

That said, it is a risk. If you aren't good enough to turn a mess into a masterpiece, it can only hurt you. But if you are up to the challenge, it can give you a reputation as a risk-taker, a self-starter, and the person to call on when things go off the rails.

It's your choice. If you are up to the challenge take it, if not, walk away.

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    I like your answer. I'm just scared that I won't have control over the decisions that would yield a better app. I worry that the same people who built it in the first place have already decided what to do next. I have no idea if they are right but I doubt it. – user7360 Jan 9 '18 at 14:46
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    @cgTag: "I'm just scared that I won't have control over the decisions that would yield a better app." That's a good point to worry about, so check that. Ask questions in the interview about how they are improving the app - if you feel they are not going in the right direction, consider if you want to work there. – sleske Jan 9 '18 at 15:56
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    I built my entire career fixing severely broken applications and systems. It is highly rewarding. You are right about effecting change is a challenge. You need to bring different skills to the table other than coding. I happened to be good at this. This is the real question, Can you effect change? This is determined before taking in a task. You will not always succeed, however, I found that most of the time when a company is truly ready, you can. Determine if the company is ready for change and having a leader take charge. Otherwise, forego the opportunity. Find another. Cheers!! – closetnoc Jan 9 '18 at 18:06
  • My personal best is a PL/SQL procedure that took 15 hours to run, rewritten it ran in 7 seconds. I love doing optimization work like that, too bad these instances are few and far between. Usually if processes don't crash too often our clients are content enough to leave them be, even if they're hilariously slow and inefficient. – Demonblack Jan 11 '18 at 16:59
  • @Demonblack yeah, I'm always mindful not to think I'm a genius, but may well just be the proverbial one eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. – Old_Lamplighter Jan 11 '18 at 18:26

I worked on a mobile app that got 1 star reviews. There was nothing wrong use wise, just lacked features.

I put that app on my resume and never got anything mentioned about it. I simply said we were entering the mobile app market and we used X, Y, and Z. I focused on the technologies used and if the 1 star review topic came up, I would have mentioned we just launched with minimal features just to get the ground work in.

Today the app is ranked 3-4 stars, so it is improving a lot but I don't work there anymore.


I'm just scared that I won't have control over the decisions that would yield a better app. I worry that the same people who built it in the first place have already decided what to do next.

Find this out before you accept their offer. This is what the interview process is about. Ask to meet your team. See where you will be seating. See what equipment your co-workers are currently using. Ask probing questions. Figure out if they're already decided what to do next. Figure out why the app is so bad in the first place.

If upper management is meddling with the app, find out what they can do to guarantee you this won't happen again. If the environment is toxic and bureaucratic, it's time to find this out now. If the job was re-listed multiple times, that could mean the job is toxic for some reason. If there is no version control system in place, or the company doesn't know what they're doing technically, that would be good to know too.

This is the time to ask questions. This isn't just about your reputation, this is about making sure you're given all the resources to succeed, because no doubt, this will affect your day-to-day sanity and your overall satisfaction.

And if they make you promises, make sure to get them in writing. If they accepted your demands verbally, but won't write them down, that's ok, write them down yourself on the contract they give you with your initials (and ask them to initial them as well).

The hiring manager and HR may have the best intentions in the world, but if the day after you're hired, the company is purchased, or one of them gets promoted to a different department, any verbal promise they made you will be very difficult to prove.



Nobody would know that you were related to that app, outside the company? As the app is already out there, it is out under the company brand. Unless you transfer official ownership of the app to your own account, nothing will change.

Another question is whether it will impact your resume, and again, no. Generally, it is normal to not include the names of apps or other softwares on your resume. You will list your company, with a generic "mobile apps" topic.

While commenters noted that some companies indeed ask for individual apps you worked on, a good hiring manager should understand that a single developer working on a large, bad, application, is not necessarily the one to blame. You can always use a line like "I worked on this large app XYZ as a personal challenge, but was not in a position to really change what I thought was needed to get it out of its stagnant state. I learned X, Y and Z from that experience."

So, don't fret. The thing you should worry about is whether you are landing in a cesspool; a bad brownfield project with disillusioned colleagues, bad political landmines, etc.; but not whether your app store rating will suffer.

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    "Generally, it is normal to not include the names of apps or other softwares on your resume." I've seen a staggering amount of App Developer job postings asking for the names of apps that you've worked on and if they're in the App Store. – 8protons Jan 9 '18 at 17:09
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    If you work for company XYZ as an iOS or Android developer, and that company has a single abysmally rated app - then yes, people would probably assume that is what you worked on. But hopefully future employers are smart enough to realize that an individual developer working on a larger corporation's app is a very different situation in terms of ability to determine overall outcome, from a lone developer personally authoring the entirety of a startup's app. If they aren't able to see such logic, then they're probably not people you'd want to work for... – Chris Stratton Jan 11 '18 at 2:13
  • Thanks you two, I've added your point of views to the answer. – AnoE Jan 11 '18 at 9:29

The quality of the team you work in is far more important than the quality of the product you work on for most software developers.

Does the team have good mentors for you? Do they have dedicated QA and DevOps? Do they practice code reveiws?

While I'd be concerned about the quality of any team that releases a poor product, I know that many apps are built in large teams and if the reasons the app is poorly received is not due to poor software engineering, why would I hold that against a developer from that team?

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    I think the question is if this low score app would reduce my chances of getting future interviews working on mobile apps. It's safe to say that I would then explain the reasons why in those interviews. It's about a poor app reputation preceding my job application. – user7360 Jan 9 '18 at 14:42
  • @cgTag Don't give an employer a reason upfront to eliminate you from contention. – Neo Jan 9 '18 at 15:15

The star-rating system of apps used for assessing developpers involved is not acurate.

The rate is calculate as a mean value of all the user reviews. As other already mentioned, if you help to move 1.0-star app to 1.8-star one it is significant progress. If you bring 4-star app to 1.8-star one it is significant incompetence. Yet, who knows how the app was rated month, year, decade ago?

The user rating is not rate of the app quality rather user attitude towards the app. You can have high quality app but expensive and ranking goes down due to poor feature/cost ratio. You can also have app with aggressive advertisements but with high quality feature, you worked on. Again, final rating is low. On the other hand you can have poor, but free, app that can get higer rating than it deserves.

The number of users rating the app is significantly smaller than number of users using the app. And noone can tell for sure that the rating represents the overall attitude of all users. Maybe the users tah would give the app 3+ stars keep silent, but those who are significantly unsatisfied, or just 'haters gonna hate', rate it 0.

If you are about to be refused because of working on poorly rated app, don't worry, you would be assessed only by the first glance and you don't want to work for them in the first place.

If they will ask you to tell more about your work on that poor app, it is a signal to you, that they mind your skills more rather than your appereance.

In short, you can turn this expirience to work in your favor as an indicator whether the possible employer is worth becoming your actual employer or not.


You have to evaluate 2 aspects of this:

  1. Yes, the reviews matter. I have been in the same situation and didn't put the app in my resume (client wanted to have full iOS UI/UX in an Android app) because it was bad. I was actually to ashamed to have something like that associated with me.

  2. The problematic app is work done for someone else. It was not you who came up with the idea, UI, UX, and everything else user-facing. A developer can't really be blamed for any negative reviews except for performance issues. I understand that I was "forced" by the client to implement bad features because he insisted.

In the end it sums up to wheater you are confident enough in your code that you can say the code is not the reason for the bad reviews. And that you want to have an employer that also understands that the developer is not really to be blamed for bad reviews (the app was approved by all upper management for release, meaning QA, designers, managers, clients, etc). The only thing user sees from developer is if the app performs well and doesnt stop/crash etc.

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