One of my siblings is developing an app. I'm going to graduate soon and am looking for ways to add development experience to my resume - it seems to me that my options are either to help her out or to join an open-source project.

If I list this experience on my resume, would the fact that the project is headed by a sibling detract from its value?

Further, since my code won't be open-source, would that also count against me?

  • You could also just join other company. Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 14:50
  • I'm already on an internship - this is something I'd like to do to show enthusiasm and initiative. Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 14:55
  • Nice. I would consider open-source if I were you. Working(or what's worse, working and studying) is really exhausting and you might have limited time at your hands; however, since you want to show your enthusiasm, I'd choose something you're enthusiastic about. Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 14:59
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    @MatthewRock In my experience, most recruiters, managers, and HR reps (all of whom you have to get your resume past to get a job) care little about whether you open sourced it or not. They care about whether you set out to a task and accomplished it.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 15:03
  • @MatthewRock: In what way would open sourcing the app benefit him and his sibling? If a potential employer wants to see source code, he can show them source code (with permission of the sibling). And most business don't see open sourced as an advantage.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 15:06

6 Answers 6


would the fact that the project is headed by a sibling detract from its value?

In certain circumstances it could detract from the overall look of your employment record. For example, if it somehow looks like you were unemployed and your wealthy sibling did you a favour by giving you a fake job, then that would detract from the value of this job on your resume compared with a "real" one.

That's irrelevant to your case. You haven't even graduated yet so it doesn't matter whether or not you have a steady employment record.

So far as the project itself is concerned, the value comes from you being able to talk about what you achieved and what you learned, not how you got the job in the first place.

since my code won't be open-source, would that also count against me?

Unless you're applying for a job working for Richard Stallman himself, the fact you've previously worked on proprietary software won't count against you. Maybe not even then.

All it means is you likely won't be able to offer the code itself, in the event they ask to see something you've written. If you're applying to a company that asks for that sort of thing, do your best to find or create other code you can show them.

Since you say "my sibling is developing an app", I assume you'd be doing work-for-hire for them, and they'd own the result. So you could seek your sibling's permission to show the code. Chances are you won't get an interviewer to sign an NDA or whatever, so if your sibling is running a serious business around this app they would need to be chilled-out to quite a high level to agree.

So, if you're going to ask, ask in advance. You don't want to put your sibling in a difficult position where you're saying, "aargh, I've promised to show them something and this is my best work, please can I show them this, I need to know by 5pm?". Whereas if you say, "I might need a portfolio in future, can I include this work?" then they can say "yes" or "no" and you can decide whether that affects whether you work for them or not.

Also be aware that contributing to an existing open-source project doesn't guarantee you'll produce something worth showing. If you write a new component from scratch within that project, then great, that'll do nicely. But sending them a diff of your changes to 27 files, each of which you touched 10% of the lines fixing critical bugs, proves you made a great contribution to the project but it isn't exactly what they mean if they say they want to see a project you've written.

  • I believe Richard Stallman wouldn't be satisfied with code that's merely an open-source. Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 15:16
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    @MatthewRock: yes, and indeed mentioning the phrase "open source" in his hearing, instead of talking about whether the software was free or not, might provoke him to blast you with his laser eyes. Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 15:17
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    @SteveJessop he uses a katana, not laser eyes: xkcd.com/225
    – robert
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 17:39
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    I think everyone is reading too far into the "sibling is developing an app". I read this as a brother or sister that has an idea for some app, and OP is offering to work on it. Not a job, and no money being exchanged, and the app likely will never reach market (because there's usually a lot more than just making the app). So in essence, this "app" is merely a pet project in the eyes of an interviewee, and since it won't have any more senior supervision, it's quality is likely that of simple classwork. Perhaps OP will learn from the experience, but I'd hold working on an FOSS project is better.
    – SnakeDoc
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 18:53
  • 2
    However - new graduates are often expected to do maintenance work while they learn their way around the codebase. having a portfolio of open-source maintenance might be a great start for a new hire, demonstrating the diligence and patience necessary to modify another programmer's code without breaking or rewriting it. Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 20:23

Your relationship to the application leader has zero value. What is important to list on your resume is what you did and how you did it. For the cover letter and interview questions be ready to discuss challenges you faced during the development process and how you dealt with them. The fact that you are working with your sister? Never needs to be mentioned outside of "How did you come to work on this project?" "A family member was developing this and it presented challenges x,y,z which I found interesting because it would allow me......."

  • 6
    Although it's worth mentioning OP will gain a lot more than a line on a resume by joining an Open Source Project. OP is a young student, about to graduate, and like most students, likely has very little "real world" development experience. Working on your own is great and encouraged, but you may not do things the "right way". Working for an Open Source Project, you'll work with a team of folks who can mentor you through the process of working with a team, the tools and practices of the trade, and your name goes permanently on commits (contributions) to the project.
    – SnakeDoc
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 15:23

Any relevant experience will not hurt you - just because it is your sibling's app does not mean that the effort put into it was any different if it was not the case, and I mean objective effort (man hours).

As someone who interviews a lot of people I like seeing side-projects/freelance work in their resumes, it goes to show commitment and skill and it is definitely out of the box. It does not matter if its a private project or on GitHub, it is still real-world, hands-on experience and you should definitely add it to your resume.


In any case it can't hurt you (unless it turns out to be a virus). None of the developers of Clash of Clans's names are listed as "main developer" or "project owner" yet, their resumes will forever shine with that project in there.

I had a friend help me only with few ideas and a bit of testing, yet I've mentioned him as a contributor and he's listing my app as part of his projects.

When I was job hunting I had zero work experience, but had few apps and other projects I was able to show, or simply mention (provide link to the app store) I'm sure my employer had a look and that helped me too.


Speaking as someone who's developed websites both for a hometown church group and my own uncle, the person hiring you for the job isn't all that important when writing up your work experience on your resume - what is important, for your resume and for yourself, is what you do while you're working this job (and it IS a job, even if a relative is hiring you for it).

What would help is if you treat this agreement as a professional experience, and list your experience with it on your resume as such rather than listing it as 'helped sibling with app development'.

This doesn't mean there has to be a formal payment agreement, or even necessarily a job responsibility breakdown, but it does mean you should be keeping track of the work you're doing, and taking on a significant portion of it as well, while also tracking the time and hours you spend on this project with your sibling.

That way, when you go to write your resume, you can track the experience you've had developing the app, the various tools you used to do so, and discuss the type of work you put into the app itself, rather than dismissing it as trivial 'helped a sibling' work.

Bottom line: The more work you put into keeping track of what you do for your sibling's project, the more you'll be able to put on your resume about it, and the more impressive it will look in the long-run.


The "relationship" aspect of this question is well-covered, but the parts about open-source vs closed-source were not, so I thought I'd address that.

In short, experience is experience. If you did work on a project, as long as you are can discuss it with an interviewer, it's going to help. Contributing to an open-source project is a nice little bonus, as your work can be inspected, but many people work on closed-source projects. Developers at Apple often work on closed-source software, but they get to present their experience on their resume just like anybody else does, whether they write software for Debian or Adobe.

TL;DR: Closed-source: no penalty; Open-source: minor bonus.

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    The software is written by him and his sibling, so it can be inspected.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 15:08
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    @gnasher729: that of course is up to the sibling and any investors they might have. In principle, software written by me and Apple can be inspected if Apple agrees. I just don't expect they will. Also I don't really work for Apple, I made that up. Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 15:31

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