How to describe free software involvement in a CV?

I’ve started to write an updated version of my CV. This is the first version which should mention my involvement in free software, and I’m not sure what exactly to write.

As I don’t know who would be the next employer, I don’t know how many term I can I is actually understandable. I could write I’m a Debian Developer. But how do people understand that? I added I do package building and maintenance. But I’m not sure a lot of people also understand that.

I’m also not sure how to describe involvement in project, like, which I’m not officially a member. Although I have a lot of interest in this project, and I invest time on Hebrew related bugs, I don’t think I can write much more that “a community member”. Remember this is a CV and I don’t think I can put a few passages to describe my work in each project.

The last thing I’m not sure about is how to mention integration work done based on experience. Most of them are too small to be mentioned by themselves, but I have a lot of them and that would be a waste not to mention them at all.

I’ll be happy to get examples from other people who had to deal with the same problem. Thanks.


Filed under Proud to use free software

11 responses to “How to describe free software involvement in a CV?

  1. I always put those things as they are (contributor to $project, $project developer, member of $project). They, as you said, don’t always understand those things, but they ask on the interviews and then i can explain what i do on each project i’m involved in.

  2. Anonymous

    I have a fairly large section in my résumé about my Free and Open Source Software project experience. I separate it by project, and have about 5 sections in it; it takes up 3/4 of a page in my two-page résumé. I try to describe the work in terms of what I contributed, rather than what I currently do, though I do mention things I maintain. Things like “Official maintainer of the Foo project.” and “Responsible for reviewing and merging contributions from the Foo community.” work well. I can say with no hesitation that that section of my résumé had the biggest impact in getting me my current job, which lets me work on FOSS full-time.

  3. I most admit that the FOSS section in my resume is the major one and I put my focus on that section more than the other ‘standard’ sections, and as suh it gives me more value than other people interested on the same position.

    As of the local market, I don’t know how much Debian maintainer skills are required, so I don’t think you should mention it in more than one line, but other activities, more known to the ‘regular’ persons out there, such as community foss activists you take part of. You can even put links in your CV to a webpage listing of all your contributions if you want to, but remember that most of the HR people have no clue in opensource activities.

    Poke me if you need some help. Good luck and happy holiday.

  4. I’m not in the software industry, but according to my experience with CV for the tech industry it’s perfectly fine to write something like:

    Debian Developer – I was mainly active in the development of ABC, but also to less extent in UVW. This work included an extensive use of tools like bla bla bla etc.

    you should also write a little about – although it doesn’t look like much to you, it does show that you take initiatives (ראש גדול)

    Good luck 🙂

  5. Your prospective employer (for all values of ‘you’) wants to know that he’ll benefit by employing you. So when writing your CV, think about how to tell him what were the benefits from what you did. For example, “helped get important bugs in foobarbaz fixed by triaging them”.

    If you put your CV online, you can put hyperlinks to more information. For example, in my CV I routinely put hyperlinks to employers’/clients’ Websites.

  6. Jon

    One aspect of frustration I have this problem is how you describe yourself if you are not a developer. I usually start with “I contribute to Debian” and that is usually met with “so you are a Debian developer?” No, I am a debian-maintainer at present, to be a developer I must first pass “new maintainer” which involves, amongst other things, the “new maintainer’s guide”. Thoroughly confusing 🙂

  7. Erich

    What worked for me in this regard, was to list the projects I contributed to as follows:

    *$project_name ($project_url) – $one_sentance_description

    The description can be as simple as (taken from my resume):

    “I test beta code and report bugs, as well as try to help people with questions regarding the project”

    Then prune the list on 2 criteria:
    A. how well known the project is
    B. how well the contributions highlight my relevant skills

    Like someone else said, they will ask if they aren’t sure what that means. Some will outright decide that free software involvement is “dumb” or whatever, and not call you, reject you whatever. More won’t. It may sound snobish, but I decided that the employers who understood free software, or at least tried to do so, were a far better fit for me. This may be a correlation rather than a causation, but whatever it is, it helped. Further of the group mentioned, many were more than happy to let me continue my work on outside projects (usually provided it was not with company resources, which I find acceptable).

    Of course some if this weaning was from my end, as I decided that being able to contribute/start/etc free software projects is important to me. I was willing to accept that not all potential employers would agree to this, and I was shutting some doors of opportunity. ymmv


  8. oron

    A brief mention of your involvement
    in open source projects such as Debian should
    be enough.

    If a potential employer does not google your
    name after this hint (or before) and connect
    the dots, then I think you deserve a better

  9. troll

    Just put a picture of RMS. They’ll understand.

  10. Hi,

    In the past I have put free software experience as a job. It’s an important part of what I’ve done, and an important part of the reason people hired me, so putting it in “Interests and achievements” or whatever people put at the end of their CV that never gets read doesn’t cut it.

    This has led to some interesting conversations, where recruiters wonder how I managed with 2 jobs, another who said “oh – volunteer work. OK, doesn’t count”, and passed along (guess who I didn’t go to work for).

    Putting the things that are important to you at the top of your CV is generally a good thing – it means you’ll be considered for positions where the things that are important to you are also important for the employer.


  11. Lior Kaplan

    Thanks everyone for the comments. I mentioned the projects names and a very short list of what I did in them. I used footnotes to give links to places which describe my work in more details (e.g. blog posts).

    Jon – The DD part doesn’t help much, I still need to specify what exactly do I do (and all of that can be done by non DDs).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s