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I would like to revamp my resume to reflect several off-job, personal projects I have worked on in my spare time, and their associated technologies.

While I think this can't be a bad idea, I am unsure what the best format to incorporate it would be since my resume (like most) outlines paid jobs in the descending chronological order.

I am also interested in hearing feedback on how seriously such experience is taken. In my experience of talking with recruiters and hiring managers, they were mostly in contempt of any experience not gained in a formal, professional setting. The vibe I was getting was that they were looking more that such opportunity be given to you by a formal employer to work on something cool and if you just started something on your own initiative, well that's not serious enough. Or something to that effect. Then again, the area where I live is filled with relatively rigid standards of obsolete style of conservative professionalism (i.e. is not Silicon Valley) -- you can be really smart but if you don't conform to the look and feel of the environment, it is hard to make it.

What is the best way to advertise off-job relevant technical qualifications?

  • It's easy to talk about them in an interview, too, and explain why they are valuable, etc. – enderland Sep 25 '12 at 22:05
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    @foampile I would never look down upon involvment personal/side projects or open source involvement, it is just not a replacement for direct career experience. You could have single-handedly implemented MySQL, or you fixed a few cosmetic bugs in a mostly dead project before playing Minecraft all day. Career experience tells an interviewer that you have work ethic, the ability to get up every morning to go to work, take orders from management, not cause problems for people, be a professional. – maple_shaft Sep 26 '12 at 11:51
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    Those stodgy conservative companies you decry make money, and they intend to keep making money by bringing in people that are highly professional and are proven to help them reach that goal. Silicon valley on the other hand is all about chasing venture capital and is thus filled with the carcasses of dead startups. Any company that actually starts to make money and have a proven business model becomes pretty conservative very quickly. So ultimately, being smart isn't good enough of its own merit, you have to be a proven business man as well these days or you won't cut it outside of startups – maple_shaft Sep 26 '12 at 11:58
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I have a section in my resume called "other relevant experience." I use it for related volunteer work I've done. (I'm a technical writer and copyeditor, so the fact that I've edited a newsletter or maintained a website for a non-profit organization is relevant.) "Other Relevant Experience" is a generic enough term that you could use it for volunteer work or personal projects.

As far as how seriously they're taken, I think it depends a lot. Skills are skills, so it shouldn't matter where you learned them if you have them. On the other hand, there's no formal review of a personal project you've done on your own, so the person looking at your resume can't judge the quality of your work unless they see a sample. If you've done something professionally, then someone thought it was good enough to pay you for it. I think that if you've worked on a large-scale community-run project that has guidelines and standards, that might demonstrate the quality of your work more than saying you built something on your own.

Another option is a "Skills" section, where you list programming languages, software, etc. Because those things aren't tied to a specific job, you can list it all in that section no matter where you picked it up.

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Why not blog about it? I find that I have landed lots of interviews solely because I have a blog that includes my favorite tips and tricks, opinions, and code samples. These enable potential employers to directly see what the work I do (even when not being paid) is like, and also says that yes, I like this stuff so much I'll do it even if no one is there with a paycheck.

I usually list the blog under "Personal Projects," and then have a summary of the most relevant/interesting code samples. If this piques their interest, they then know what to look at on the blog to be able to see the most relevant parts of the blog.

Many recruiters do downplay the importance of a blog, and that may stem from the fact they are not developers themselves, or it might be related to the fact that many hiring managers aren't technical enough to read blogs or know what's involved in contributing to one over the long haul. However, if you go to interview for a company or manager who is highly technical, it can definitely get you in the door.

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Unlink the projects you have worked in and your employment history.

It's a common misconception people are only doing what's on their job responsibilities.
A good professional always has side projects. This indicates so much: professional attitude, ability to find free time, passion to study, and many other factors.
For example, your participation on StackExchange is also a great asset to your career! :-)

So, make two sections on your resume:

  • Projects
  • Career

This is why:
Projects indicate the most interesting activities you have participated in.
Indicate tools and technologies you have used (and supposedly you're familiar with).
You may arrange them in order of your preference. Place the most interesting ones on top in order to direct the interview topics toward what's best describing your professional expertise.
It does not matter who's the project owner. List what's best for you.

Career is a section where your employment history is recorded.
List company name, branch, position name, etc. List only general responsibilities there, like "software developer and DB admin"; the rest goes to the section above. Some would also place professional references here (manager and colleagues).
It always has to be ordered by time.

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