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I worked for about a year on an application before it got cancelled by the company. I am quite proud of the work I did, and am considering adding a description of it along with some screenshots of the unfinished product to the Projects section of my portfolio.

The project scope was pretty impressive and the screenshots look great, however it's pretty obvious that the product is unfinished.

When starting the project, I was young and optimistically said "Sure I can have this done in a year", and a year or so later we realized it would require much more time and manpower to finish completing the project. The company decided they didn't want to hire more programmers, and that they wanted me back on my regular duties full-time, so they cancelled it. So I suppose it was kind of my fault for not understanding the scope of the project and giving a bad estimate, however, I am quite proud of the work that got finished, and think it is a great showcase of my skills.

Would adding an unfinished and cancelled project to my portfolio make a bad impression?

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When I fill in my resume / portfolio I include all of the relevant work I've done.

As a general rule of thumb the company will care more about the technical experience you gained from that endeavor than they will about the success of the project.

There can be any number of reasons for a failed project, lack of funding, client is bought out. Client no longer wants the application. Your company goes under, cancelled for lack of other employees, cancelled because a new technology makes it redundant ect.

There are a thousand and one ways it can fail that are out of your control.

Not to mention you don't even need to say it failed, I've certainly never seen a resume that says "Worked on X for Y years for Z client: Success" ect.

So I would encourage you to list all relevant experience, it's part of your job history and that knowledge doesn't just disappear.

If asked about it in an interview then there is no harm in saying "This project was cancelled because of Y but dealing with these problems helped me learn X, Y and Z."

Focus on how this had a positive impact on your career and show them that you can even turn failure into a personal success.

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I don't think it's a bad thing if you highlight the new skills and techniques you learned and how your experience on the project will benefit potential future employers.

For instance, I worked on a .NET project, with fairly complex requirements, and it was built in a very short time frame. I left the organization before it was completed. I have no idea what the fate of it was, but I included it on resumes to illustrate my ability to to quickly pick up new languages and frameworks, efficiently gather requirements from users and implement them in a timely fashion.

Whatever management did to the project after that has nothing to do with the skills I can offer to future employers.

I also have read resumes, I know others who read resumes. No one ever seems to care that much about the status of the final projects that are listed (because that's often beyond what a humble developer does, and if it's not: who will admit on a resume to killing a project through incompetence or mismanagement?) - there is much more interest in the capabilities and skills described.

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    I think this answer doesn't meet the criteria for a good answer on this site. At a minimum, you need to supply examples from your own experience that show why your experience suggests this is the right answer. – Amy Blankenship May 29 '13 at 1:43
  • @AmyBlankenship: My personal example doesn't quite fit, but since you asked, here goes (briefly): It was a .NET project, fairly complex requirements, and built in a very short time frame. I left the organization before it was completed. I have no idea what the fate of it was, but I included it on resumes to illustrate my ability to to quickly pick up new languages and frameworks, efficiently gather requirements from users and implement them in a timely fashion. Whatever management did to the project after that has nothing to do with the skills I can offer to future employers. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner May 29 '13 at 16:16
  • @AmyBlankenship: And generally, I don't think a personal example is needed for a good answer. I also have read resumes, I know others who read resumes. No one ever seems to care that much about the status of the final projects that are listed (because that's often beyond what a humble developer does, and if it's not: who will admit on a resume to killing a project through incompetence or mismanagement?) - there is much more interest in the capabilities and skills described. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner May 29 '13 at 16:18
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    I edited in the information from the comments to make this a complete, standalone answer. Please feel free to tweak further if I missed something. Hope this helps! :) – jmort253 May 30 '13 at 3:14
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In business managers look for people with a history of success. Including a project that was cancelled can allow a hiring manager to focus on a failure. Even though this failure (I am assuming) was not your fault, managers tend to ignore where the blame belongs and focus on the people on the team that were not able to save the project. Including this project could expose you to a series of uncomfortable questions that could end up in answers that sound like you are bad mouthing your former company.

So if you have a portfolio that looks good without the cancelled project I would leave it out.

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however it's pretty obvious that the product is unfinished.

IMO if it's good work, you should do what you can to include it. Is it possible to present the material in a way that it's not so obvious that it's unfinished? No need to lie: Simply present the samples as examples of your work that you consider well done.

If the interviewer asks "So, how did the customers (users...) like the product?", or something along those lines, at that point you will indeed have to deal with the fact that the project was never completed, but you should be able to 'finesse' that in a manner that doesn't reflect on you negatively. (But be careful not to put blame on others for the failure!)

I think that most interviewers/potential employers would be far more interested in the quality of your work than the overall outcome of the project you worked on for someone else, particularly since that outcome is often completely out of your control.

  • A good example of why it looks unfinished is the button's have letters instead of icons on them. I no longer have access to the source code, only screenshots, so it is not something I could modify. – Rachel May 29 '13 at 16:07
  • You could put the appropriate label on the screenShots. Depending on what kind of work it is, that sort of change could be inconsequential and not necessarily a misrepresentation. But everyone has their own comfort zone on such a thing. – Vector May 29 '13 at 17:33

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