Are side-projects good to list in lieu of work experience? I have a few on my resume, because I haven't had a job yet, and I want to demonstrate my ability. But some of the recruiters that I have spoken with lately have implied that they don't count if I'm not getting paid.

Does this sort of experience matter when recruiters consider entry level applicants? Are side projects acceptable experience to list in my resume?

  • 1
    I edited your question a bit but I think it can get some good answers now. As per the FAQ while subjective/experienced based answers are okay, "open ended" is something we discourage
    – Rarity
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 0:24
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    What kind of side projects have you done?
    – Bernard
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 1:55
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    Whether or not you get paid is irrelevant unless you can't articulate your learning properly.
    – Permas
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 2:03

5 Answers 5


IT depends on the following.

  1. If you are a fresh graduate, projects in academics and aside are very valuable because they are the primary factor to evaluate your insight while you still had no opportunity to face real world. But it truly depends on the depth of the project.

  2. Even if you are graduated and yet to find a job (this happens quite often in some countries) and you show Additional project, it applies as above for evaluation and on top of it, it backs your claim I wants to constantly learn

  3. If you are continuously employed, sometimes additional project is a great way to show capabilities you have otherwise learnt. For example, you want to switch to new technologies, but if you don't get opportunity in your current employment, additional project is a great way to tell your new potential employer that you are already learnt these things on your own and you are so keen that it will worth the employers' investment to grow with these area.

  4. But, if you have a deep gap in employment and just to show that you were busy - it will never give you at par rating as much as doing things on the job. This definitely is significantly dependent on quality and depth of the work.

Don't only do it - seek evaluation
University projects gets evaluation grades, and company projects gets appraisals. This must be true for self starters as well. A most critical point in projects where you actually want to ensure is that some how you should get a reference to evaluate. For example, if you develop a piece of software (for this purpose), it might be best to publish it to end user or open source it - so user critic and stats tells (anyone neutral) how big deal it is. If you do some other kind of project - seek who can be a potential user - may be donate your prototype to some academic lab or something for actual use and get recommendation in return. And if it is pure theoretical see if you can publish that somewhere. (like some magazine, blog etc.)

Peer reviewed work has always highest value in any science and engineering work..

In general, like any other projects during the job, additional project which is based on relevance to the position you are applying, but a listing of additional projects shows that you are self-driven enthusiast and that is always a great point.

See this: https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/134532/does-contributing-to-open-source-projects-to-boost-a-resume-make-sense/134538#134538

  • Where is the source for "Peer reviewed work has always highest value in any science and engineering work"?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 9:03
  • @Pacerier All scientific journals are peer reviewed. Large projects like Linux kernel, Mozilla are reviewed by multiple people in community they are essentially peer reviewed. Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 11:38

Absolutely yes. Though at the end it depends on the nature of your side projects.

  • Did you write Hello World in 10 different languages? Practically no worth
  • Did you create an app, get good amount of downloads and 4-5 stars review? Sounds very positive
  • Did you actively contribute to open source project? Another awesome point!
  • Did you write a calculator in 5 different language? Nice, but probably not important.

etc etc, see what I mean? It depends on what kind of things that you do.

"getting paid" has nothing to do with the value of your experience.

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    An additional thing about paid experience that's important to an organization that is looking to hire you, is the fact that you were able to get (and keep) a job. There's tons of intangible things that go into what makes a great team member (many of which cannot be seen in commit messages, and many of which have nothing to do with coding at all). Of course, so long as you break out what projects were paid work vs. open source/other projects, then you're fine on this point, and should absolutely include them on your resume.
    – jefflunt
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 4:26
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    In some respects, large side projects are better than work experience as they show initiative and love of programming.
    – user749
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 2:42
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    Did you send school homework, that doesn't even execute, as side project? Congratulations you've been black listed. I'm not kidding; this actually happened with one applicant we had who did this twice on separate occasions. So this is a definite a DON'T.
    – Spoike
    Commented May 31, 2012 at 16:16
  • @Spoike, What do you mean by "did this twice on separate occasions"? How could it have been "twice"?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 9:08
  • @Pacerier on two different job postings about a half year apart
    – Spoike
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 9:19

It's definitely a positive thing no matter which way you slice it. I think for an entry-level person even more so as the employer is looking for evidence that you can do the job so even though its not as good as real work experience (ie. dont hold off on getting a job to build up your 'projects portfolio') its better than nothing.

In my opinion, doing freelance work or a volunteer project for a business/charity is worth as much as Open Source stuff because you've had to deal with 'the client' which is an important skill to have in the workplace - even though typically the OS stuff will be more challenging technically.

A brand spanking new open source project doesn't have the limitations and real world challenges such as getting changes approved by superiors, dealing with existing 'bad' design decisions, technology choice limitations etc.. therefore can't be considered as valuable experience as the above.

I would rank it like so:

  1. Work Experience
  2. Paid freelance work
  3. Unpaid freelance work/contributing to established OS project
  4. New OS project
  5. Sitting on your a$$ :)

My first job as a web developer was won based on already having a Github account and having a quick javascript tutorial and a small script on there. Doing anything differentiates you from everyone who's done nothing.

When you have very little experience, it can only help you to mention small positive items. Some companies won't be impressed, but I don't see anyone saying "we would hire you if you hadn't done a little but not much work on your own time".


When I screen resumes, side projects are worth more (for technical jobs).

Let's say I have the choice between someone who is a "senior programmer" with 4 years experience and a fresh grad who programmed a game when he was a teenager.

The guy who has 4 years may or may not be good. He could be promoted solely on seniority. There's little sign of him actually being competent at his job. Unless he has a portfolio or could demonstrate skills during the interview, he's on par with many fresh graduates.

On the other hand, the guy who made a game actually made something. He's got an understanding of how programming works. He can pass a FizzBuzz test.

When I screen resumes, I look more at the side projects and hobbies section more than the work experience section. If this guy has 7 years of experience, a long list of programming languages and certifications, but hasn't made one hobby project, that's a massive red flag.

It means that the guy probably doesn't love his job and lacks the creativity required in programming. One of the key things in hiring is looking for attitude instead of skills.

Of course, many people drop out their side projects from their CV so they may certainly be competent. But I'm saying that it certainly doesn't hurt to include them!

However, please don't include your assignments, unless it was really cool (like some elite colleges practically expect you to make a sellable product).

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    Honestly, lots of terrific programmers spend their programming energy at work and have no need to do side projects. To say they are worse than people who do them is ridiculous and unfairly discriminates against those whose personal life (like mothers) do not allow the luxury of time to crete personal projects. This attitude is a cancer in our profession. It not a sign of professional commitment. Other professions don't think it is a good thing to spend 16 hours a day at them. It is actually bad to go home and program when you have a job because you need the physical break from working.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 15:38
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    Fair enough. But the top programmers are often starting their own companies, freshly graduated, or too expensive because they've proven themselves. The cheapest way to get top talent are from interns and freshies. And the fastest way to identify them is searching for any sign of excessive passion. When even startups get hundreds of resumes, anything that's rare and stands out makes a big difference. It's an unfair simplification, but to be blunt, it's what works for us.
    – Muz
    Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 15:21
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    Ata the intern level yes anything to make you standout. For experienced devs it is bad policy. But Then again I have no love for most of the ways the start-up culture works and it is damaging our industry frankly with its "boys will be boys" culture and its emphasis on only hiring cheap junior people and working them to death. There is a reason why many women don't feel safe or comfortable working in software and it is because of that startup culture and its frat boy mindset.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 17:05

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