On June 2012, two of my friends (let's say john and smith) and I worked full time on building a mobile application from scratch. Long story short, john left the team in July, and smith and I did not get another developer to replace john's role. Smith and I agreed to continue working toward the launching date (planned September, 2012). However, we weren't able to launch the project and had to postpone project launching indefinitely. Smith and I worked on this project full time for 13 weeks total.

Smith and I are claiming 50% each for the rights of project we have worked on, and we still have not made any progress since last summer as we had to attend university classes full time.

This summer, I am thinking about applying for summer internship as a mobile application developer. How should I explain this experience in my resume? Is it helpful/harmful to include such experience?

Few points here:

  1. I worked on building a mobile application last summer for 13 weeks; it has not yet been launched (indefinitely postponed).
  2. I would only like to share technical details about the project (e.g. programming languages, project management, tools we used) with my employer.
  3. I would not like to share resources about the project (e.g. logo, app name, objective of the app) with my employer.

List it as a side-project, disclosing only what you have done and the target industry of the app.

Don't say what it does, don't say the name, don't say whether it was commercial or not. Be prepared to have to disclose more information in an interview, or to reject questions politely.

Basically, do the same as what you'd do if you were to list a project protected by a rather strict NDA. And keep in mind that it technically isn't "employment", so be upfront about that (hence the listing as "side-project").

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  • Would you recommend me to list the reason I wasn't able to successfully launch? It was because of my lack of proficiency in server-side programming knowledge. – J. Berman May 24 '13 at 9:13
  • @J.Berman: did it prevent you to launch because you need to learn more, or because you hit a roadblock, hadn't foreseen the problem, and the whole problem got more canned than it got "postponed"? I'd say you don't necessarily need to mention it. It could be interesting to talk about it in an interview and explain what happened and what you learned from it. But on your resume, that'd probably do more harm than good. You usually don't list entreprise projects that fail either, or you don't mention if they failed or didn't meet expectations on ROI... :) – haylem May 24 '13 at 9:15
  • John (who left the team early) was responsible for building server side codes. I knew I was not going to build sever-side API before I started the project with them. As John left the team, Smith and I decided to use SaaS or hire server-side guy upon completing full local functionality. This app was running great on local phones (tested UI & performance). Because of this app was intended to be a social app, we weren't able to launch it without server-side part. – J. Berman May 24 '13 at 9:24
  • @J.Berman: Yeah I don't see much value in explaining that in a resume. Just say what you did. But if your app was never released at all, even to a few users, then it's not very valuable in any case. It's a bit like the case of students telling me "but I worked so hard on this!" or those handing over a 30 page paper for an assignment that could have been done in 3: if it's all off-topic or doesn't deliver, it doesn't matter. It's 'E' for effort, but it won't get any higher than that (but it may very well go lower...). – haylem May 24 '13 at 11:14
  • Of course, in the professional world, we (should) value what you learn and not just what you delivered, but it's hard to quantify and qualify. – haylem May 24 '13 at 11:14

The point of a resume is to get you an interview. To do that you should only list those items that apply to the position you are applying for and that you want to talk about during an interview.

Personally I do not think I would list this project. It points out that you failed to work with a team to meet a release date. It is quite possible that this should not be seen as a negative but the truth is business managers look for a record of success. This does not help you build that record. In addition it appears that there was difficulty with the team and that also looks bad. It happened during your time at the University so you will not be expected to show work history so there should be no problem with the gap that might appear if it happened post graduation.

If you talk about the project during interviews emphasize what you learned from the project, do not bad mouth your team members in any way, and be prepared to talk about how you would tackle the problem differently. If you can not do that then I would refrain from speaking about it during interviews as well.

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I agree with @Chad's starting sentence, but I think the answer is more nuanced than his assessment.

Your resume is nothing more than an advertisement of your skills and qualifications, intended to land interviews. As Chad says, you will want to customize your resume for each job application. Some positions—particularly corporate ones—may not appreciate the experience gained through a failed entrepreneurial venture. Others—particularly small businesses—will understand that you've gained invaluable leadership training and management skills, and that your experience has given you an understanding of cash flows, marketing, personnel management, and handling stress.

To that point, if you think that the person reading your resume will appreciate such experience, definitely list it. When doing so, list your intended product and your responsibilities. Do note that anything on your resume is fair game for questions during the interview, so you'll need to be ready to provide good answers to questions such as, "why did the venture fail?" and "what role did you have in the failure of the venture?" If you can think of good answers to questions of that nature, feel free to list it. Good luck!

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Given your few points here, I would not list this project at all.

Take a look at it from an interviewer's perspective. How would you trust someone genuinely did what he claims he did, but does not want to back up his/her claims with additional details ?

What if you were to list this as a not-launched project (and if you are not in the state of California) and the future mobile app employer actually employs you and makes you sign the standard agreement contracts (which basically means any work you do when employed is the employers IP) ? How do you prove your IP owner ship if someday you finally launch this app. This, IMHO, just leads to a lot of unnecessary questions and a difficult position to be in.

If I were you, I would mention the skills on the resume and in the interview mention developing a mobile app(s), out of interest.

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  • I was never officially hired as a software developer. I've only worked on my own projects and never released it. If I am questioned with technical details regarding the projects I've worked on, I am very confident I can answer them all. But, how do I prove it on resume that I actually have such experience? My work can be found nowhere on the Internet (which is why I'm trying to get an internship, rather than working on my own project again). – J. Berman May 24 '13 at 22:07
  • Ironically, you cannot actually prove it. You can only mention that you are either an expert/inter/novice user of the skills required for such projects. To prove you have the said grasp of the subject, you will have to fare well in the interview. Again, articulate your answers after you've put yourself in the interviewers place, how does he know the candidate isn't fudging ? – happybuddha May 25 '13 at 22:26

I wouldn't include this, you risk coming across as too committed to your own interests. It's good to have side projects but being defensive about the details makes you sound like you're committed to doing your own thing over and above, say, projects at work.

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    Depends, if he was employed at the same time, then "side-project" may indeed give a wrong idea. It's all about how he presents it though. Doesn't need to say he was going at it 80hours a week or anything. If he wasn't employed at the time, then that's fine, that sounds like a valuable sabbathical to me. – haylem May 24 '13 at 9:17
  • I agree that it's good to have worked on something while not employed. However, if you're not even willing to share the objective of the app, I would take that to mean that you potentially still see this as your number one priority. That might worry me as a recruiter, as I'd want work projects to take priority. – Matt May 24 '13 at 9:21
  • @Matt This project was a "main-project". I wasn't employed nor attending classes while I was working on the project. And, I have no intention to work on this project if I get hired. I would just like to appeal my experience as a junior mobile developer because my university does not teach anything about mobile development (therefore this experience takes up huge portion of my mobile development experience). – J. Berman May 24 '13 at 9:31
  • I completely understand wanting to communicate this experience. I am talking purely about the future here. As an employer, an unspecified, unfinished project gives very little to go on. You may be better off discussing it as dedicated, structured self-driven learning, describing functionality x, y and z which you can now implement. Since you're not giving detail about the app, I'd feel that the context of an unfinished app adds little value to the discussion and may come across as defensive, which some recruiters won't like. – Matt May 24 '13 at 9:44

I personally feel that it is ok to write any experience that allows your skills to shine rather than keeping your resume shallow and full of keywords (which everyone does these days).

You can explain on your resume what you learned so far from your mobile application development experience and what tricks and skills you picked up which shapes the way you look into development roles in the future. You can also keep in mind what you can offer to a company based on your experience while constructing your resume which you feel might land you bonus points from the company reading your resume.

Basically what I am trying to say is, try to avoid the negative of things you cannot change (experience with your team) but still find a way to give yourself some light by molding how you tell your story.

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    nvm didn't realise it was 2 years ago. Hope it all worked out! – Anum Nov 13 '15 at 5:02

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