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I want to start a career as a web developer (though all my previous jobs are server administration). To supplement my resume, I'm making web sites that demonstrate my proficiency. An example: This weekend I'm putting together a simple order tracking site for a restaurant. Waiters enter customer orders; food prep team marks each item when it's prepared; waiters update the order when it's delivered and when the customer leaves. All the actions take place in a web app connected to a MySQL database. It's simple, but it demonstrates proficiency in SQL, PHP, and AJAX.

I can put a bullet point on my resume that says: "http://restaurant.mysite.com. Demonstrates proficiency in MySQL, PHP, JavaScript, AJAX". And an employer can visit the site. But how does the employer know that I'm proficient? If he/she visits the site, all they say is the JavaScript. They can't tell if my PHP is well-written or if my database is properly organized. For all they know, I might have just ripped off a template and filled in the blanks.

Is there a way I can post my source code somewhere? The sites in question are mine, so there's no question of IP. They won't be live sites, so there's no risk of exposing customer data. If I made a link to "http://restaurant.mysite.com/SourceCode.zip" would an employer be interested in that?

Forgive me if the question isn't specific or appropriate for the site. I'm starting my career completely over, and I'm a bit overwhelmed.

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You can post your code up on a public repository using a free GitHub account.

However that should be supplementary to presenting it on a resume. You probably have limited if any work experience in programming so you should use a Projects section on your resume. The restaurant system would be one project. Use about 4 bullet points to describe what you did and the technologies you used, and shows more than just listing a url or the code. Such as:

  • Built restaurant ordering system allowing interaction of orders and cooks
  • Dynamic front end interface using Javascript AJAX and HTML/CSS
  • Backend processing using PHP/mysql database to persist and manage data
  • Example + source: restaurant.mysite.com, github.com/jsmith/orders/

This shows that you've worked with several technologies and effectively used them to build something functional and practical. Such that you could do it again for something an employer needs. The url and source are supplementary, mainly for curiosity sake.

If you have any programming experience in your systems work, even in Bash/Perl, etc.. try to work that into that job desc.

  • Thank you very much. I wasn't sure how to put this on my resume. Now I know. You are correct that I have no work experience. I've been a Windows server admin since 1999. If you saw my resume, you'd hire me on the spot to maintain your AD, but you wouldn't think of employing me to develop your web site. This portfolio will overcome my lack of work experience. Thanks again. – Michael Cornn Mar 2 '14 at 11:47
  • Keep at the projects, definitely become proficient at it as a self-learner. Then present your resume as showing you can already do this stuff (and always have been able to maybe, just not practicing professionally), and express honestly in cover letter or resume intro your interest in shifting fields at this point. – Miro Mar 2 '14 at 14:32
  • +1: In addition I would recommend a detailed "readme.md" file in a github repository that includes the full story of the project from inception to completion. It should include goals, assumptions, decisions, problems and adaptations to those problems in an anecdotal format. – Joel Etherton Mar 3 '14 at 4:32
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Is there a way I can post my source code somewhere?

Absolutely! Version Control your entire project and push a copy to an online public repository. One of the best options is GitHub.

By allowing your work to be hosted on an online public repository, you can demonstrate your source code without risking customer data. Moreover,this will demonstrate your proficiency in the languages that you claim to demonstrate knowledge in. Version Controlling your code will allow all the actions you have conducted within your career to be demonstrated in an agile fashion.

For more information on the paradigm of version control, check out my article.

  • Thank you. I always viewed GitHub as a place to collaboratively work on code. I see I can also use it as a sort of online portfolio, even if I don't want anyone to edit my little projects. – Michael Cornn Mar 2 '14 at 11:42
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    Hello KLVTZ, welcome to The Workplace. On our site, we're looking for answers with some depth that explain why and how. Our goal is to build a library of knowledge for navigating the professional workplace. Please consider an edit to expand, and be sure to answer the full question, not to link to another resource. See How to Answer for details. – jmort253 Mar 2 '14 at 19:05
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    Hello jmort253, thank you for addressing my short answer. I have added a further explanation to my answer. If the link is not appropriate, I will remove it. – justinpage Mar 2 '14 at 23:28
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But how does the employer know that I'm proficient?

Proficiency isn't demonstrated simply by showing some code (or pictures, or text, etc in other contexts, for other positions).

Proficiency is demonstrated by talking, and by doing.

An interviewer will likely ask you technical questions with the idea that your answer will or will not demonstrate your proficiency.

Some interviewers will pose a problem and ask you to work out a solution on a computer or a white board while talking about your approach.

As you have indicated, anyone can lay out some code and say "see how pretty this code is". Maybe they wrote that code, maybe not. Maybe they had real requirements that guided the coding, or maybe they just whipped something together unguided, on a whim.

But unless you are proficient, you won't be able to explain the whys and ways of the details. And unless you are proficient, you won't be able to whip up some solution code on demand.

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    -1, technical interview questions on the spot have been shown to not correlate well with actual technical proficiency...but long format take home style tests and code examples have been shown to correlate well with proficiency – daaxix Mar 2 '14 at 5:43
  • Thanks. As I work on these mini-projects, I'll repeat them over and over so I can work out a solution during an interview. Writing a web app with an IDE and Stack/Google/MDN a click away is very different from writing code on a whiteboard while a potential boss is staring me down. – Michael Cornn Mar 2 '14 at 11:45
  • I need to clarify, it has been shown that assessments (tests and code samples) are the most accurate predictors of proficiency, oral interviews are some of the worst predictors, even when technical questions are asked...interviewers being human are subjective and change day to day, so even structured interviews are worse that paper or computer assessments. – daaxix Mar 2 '14 at 17:10
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The way I have understood this is that you will want to keep specific examples of your work (publications/source code/letters of recommendation/etc.) to a Curriculum Vitae or CV (for example, teaching position) or for when the prospective employer requests it. If you think about a large company like a Microsoft, Xerox, Intel, etc. their HR Departments (and even smaller companies too) have to scan a significant number of resumes. The scanned resumes are categorized and consumed by keywords and specific phrases. If you include source code or example works with your resume, you will cloud the submission process and you will be overlooked no matter how talented you are.

Big thing is that a resume is usually 1 to 2 pages in length. A CV has no length in pages. However, if you were to put yourself in the place of a hiring manager and received 30 pages of source code, I know I would be a bit offended.

Reference: Doing a quick search, did find the following reference to differentiate between a resume and CV: What is the Difference between a Curriculum Vitae and a Resume?

For a resume, starting right at #1, it starts with "Highlight accomplishments." Then, #2 states to use bullet points and this implies keep the bullet points brief and quick for the reader. For the automated scanning systems, we have to go down to #21 in the list.. 43 Resume Tips That Will Help Get You Hired

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