Job advertisements for software development roles are increasingly listing contributing to open-source software as a prerequisite for applying. Typically, they ask for a applicant's github profile or equivalent open-source project profile for evaluation.

It seems unfair that programmers level of competence for job roles are partly (or perhaps entirely) determined by their efforts working on open-source projects. It suggests that programmers are supposed to go home after an 8 hour work day and then... continue coding.

Why do some employers require participation in open-source? How should one handle being asked about this if they don't contribute to open source code?

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    While I see having this experience as a plus, I have yet to see that listed as a prerequisite. It can be very useful when the candidate can not share any code samples from their job due to IP restrictions. – cdkMoose Jan 24 '17 at 23:35
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    Typically, they ask for a applicant's github profile - that doesn't mean they require you to have contributed to an open source project. Maybe they just want to see some of your sample code. – Brandin Jan 25 '17 at 9:12
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    Do you have an example of such a job posting? I've not seen it before. – Erik Jan 25 '17 at 11:40
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    Anecdotal but I have essentially never made any contributions to open source projects and I am doing fine. The only people I've come across who care about this are clueless independent recruiters. Most people I've worked with acknowledge that it has essentially no bearing on your competence as a programmer. I have never come across any company listing it as a requirement (occasiaonlly a nice-to-have) but if I did I'd see it as an immediate red flag. – Ant P Jan 26 '17 at 8:55
  • @AntP for them it's the same as "I have a linkedIn account you can see me on the net" I guess. – Walfrat Jan 26 '17 at 10:24

Open source contributions are one of several ways to demonstrate your ability to be a programmer. Others include:

  • having worked at other tech companies
  • answering difficult technical questions in an interview
  • being recommended by the hiring manager's friend
  • straight A's in college

All of which are valued to different degrees by different people. Many very talented programmers have no open source work because they work very long hours at their prestigious tech jobs where they write other software. Their careers go on fine.

But, on the flip side, if a programmer wants to go home and write challenging open source code, I think it would be very unfair for an employer to not hold that in high regard, if the candidate additionally interviews strongly.


This is location specific at best. I've never seen it in several countries and such a requirement would disqualify almost every programmer I know and 100% of the ones in my current location.

So, no, it's not a reasonable expectation for programmers applying for a role.


I think you are making too much of:

Typically, they ask for a applicant's github profile or equivalent open-source project profile for evaluation.

I don't take that as they expect an open-source project or even a github profile. They would like codes samples from you and want to know if they are available.

If you don't have code samples then they will either need to forego code sample(s) or give you a problem statement and ask for a code sample.

Anymore employers are going to want code samples especially with little experience. Create a github and post a couple code samples that show off your strengths.

As for how to respond? Simple, I don't contribute to any open-source and I don't have a github. Don't imply it is an inappropriate question.

  • That's a good point. We ask for a github profile/personal website on applications at my work and we honestly just want to know if we can skip giving a code test because that's more work for us to arrange. – Mel Reams Jan 27 '17 at 2:49

How should one handle being asked this if they dont contribute to open source code?

You can try to avoid the issue by networking more. If someone already at the company recommends you, the application requirements may relax quite a bit. You can also ask if they have a coding challenge you can complete instead.

If they directly ask why you don't contribute to open source, you should tell a nice story about how much more productive you are at work when you do something different during your off hours and how much you've learned from doing [some interesting hobby of yours] (for this to work you may need to acquire an interesting hobby).

Depending on how the interview has gone until then and whether you're still remotely interested in the job, you could turn that question around and ask why open source contributions are so important to them and whether they might be ruling out excellent coders who simply want to do something else with their evenings and weekends. This may remove you from consideration for that position, but it doesn't sound like you would be happy at a company that expects programmers to train themselves on their own time anyway.

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    "I have kids" Is usually a good reason for not contributing to open-source software, more so if some of them are toddlers! – T. Sar Jan 26 '17 at 12:10

If I was asked: I have a family, and I don't work for others for free. If you think I should spend working 10 hours a week for free on open source projects, that's fine with me if you give me a 25% raise. Otherwise, I have better things to do.

If your business is creating open source software, that's also fine with me, but I'd be curious how you are making money, and I prefer to work for businesses that make money and can afford to pay me.

BTW. I've never been asked.


This question is still rare where I live, but the answer I give is no different than the answer I give when asked for samples of prior work in an interview:

I cannot provide anything current as it is still covered by various NDA's

Generally most places are going to ask for some form of NDA over something anyway so they usually do not balk at this answer.

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