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I was curious if the recruitment team at high-demand companies such as Google takes a lack of hobby projects into consideration when evaluating candidates.

I'm a straight 40 hour/week programmer, who is lucky to spend an hour or two a month outside of work on anything programming related. I love hanging out on SO/SE during my breaks at work, and love answering questions, but after work I leave the programming world and go back to my life.

I already understand that you don't need hobby projects to be a good programmer, but does this lack of hobby projects affect my chances getting a job at a company that always has a long list of candidates trying to get in?

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closed as off-topic by gnat, Kilian Foth, GlenH7, MichaelT, Robert Harvey Oct 24 '13 at 20:43

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This isn't the question you should ask yourself though. If you are the kind of person that has a life outside of eat, sleep, bathroom, code then do you REALLY want to work for a company like Google in the first place??? Everybody I have met who worked or used to work for Google had a nervous breakdown at least once during their stay. It isn't all its cracked up to be from what I gather. –  maple_shaft Aug 19 '11 at 20:20
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I'd even go as far as to say that a company I'm to work for has nothing to do with my personal life, and as such should not dictate - either before or after the hiring process - what I do in my spare time. I've admitted to not doing much development in my spare time at work (can't find the energy / motivation), and I get frowned upon for that. From now on, I won't go into such inquiries, none of their business. –  Cthulhu Aug 19 '11 at 21:28
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@Kevin, Without naming names I knew one developer who worked at the Pittsburgh office who said that he had no time for his family and after 3 years and many panic attacks he had to leave for less pay. The other was an important manager at Google Russia who was shunned for making simple un-Google suggestions to common problems. She apparently didn't drink the collective kool-aid like everybody else and everybody there made a point to make her stay there as miserable as possible. –  maple_shaft Aug 19 '11 at 23:16
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I used to keep personal and professional lives separate and I was much happier. Now the technology I was waiting for for decades (smart phones, mini laptops, etc.) has arrived there is no separation. So I go skiing instead. –  junky Feb 28 '12 at 19:27
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This question has been asked in such a way that it is relevant to more people than just the asker. For instance: I found it helpful. Not to mention it was asked & answered two years ago and only just put on hold now. What is the point of this? How deleterious could the question have been if it remained unchallenged for two years? –  Excrubulent Oct 25 '13 at 5:30

8 Answers 8

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Definitely. Hobby projects certainly look nice and demonstrate passion, but if your work is demanding and you're learning a lot and contributing amazing things during work...why would they care what you do in your free time?

These companies want to see passion, motivation, and skill. Having hobby projects can be one way to show this, but there are a myriad of other ways.

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Yes. I know a number of people who have done so, including myself. I've also done interviewing on behalf of high-profile companies. In my experience, they are more interested in your professional experience and what skills you can demonstrate in the course of an interview.

The most important use of hobby projects would probably be to demonstrate aptitude if your professional/educational experience is otherwise lacking.

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Sure it's possible. I didn't see anything related to hobby programming in thier hiring process. Sounds like if you have the skills and can demostrate those skills effectively, you have a shot of being hired.

https://www.google.com.au/about/jobs/lifeatgoogle/hiringprocess/

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The key point is "demostrate those skills effectively". Having a side project helps in the demonstration. You can do it without but it makes the processes harder. –  Loki Astari Aug 19 '11 at 22:44
    
Link re-directs to google.com/about/jobs/lifeatgoogle/hiringprocess which is also good. Here's another decent link about the hiring process that I found while I was looking around just now google.com/about/jobs/lifeatgoogle/… –  Feral Oink May 17 '12 at 8:01
    
Just made an edit - the redirect was no longer happening. –  Excrubulent Oct 24 '13 at 8:16

Absolutely.

But participating in open source projects (if it is a high profile project, it is definitely better) shows passion about your craft. It will help them to review your coding skills and how you approach problems.

I had been interviewed by the big G in the past even at that time I wasn't participating in any open source projects.

So submit your Resume and let them reject you, don't reject yourself :)

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It's completely random.. I interviewed with them as a SDE. You will go through a series of interviews, and one person might think hobby projects are 100% crucial to having talent, and another might not care, or think they're distracting and an overall negative....

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Why the downvote? This answer is based off of first hand experience... –  red-dirt Aug 20 '11 at 11:28

You should think carefully about whether you really want to work for Google if you only want to work 40 hours a week. There is nothing wrong with being a 9-5'er; it's a totally valid life choice. But it's not compatible with working at a startup, and it's not compatible with working for a number of tech giants, among which is Google. There's a reason why they provide free dinners - it's that they want you there.

I was invited to interview with Google twice on the basis of my hobby projects, so I can confirm that hobby projects make you more visible. I can't confirm that they will select against you because you don't have hobby projects. However, what I can tell you is that if you're not completely obsessed with computers and software, and willing to work a ton of extra hours, you won't be happy at a company like Google even if you do get hired on. If you want a balanced life, look for a place that has a slower pace like a financial institution or insurance company.

Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the choice you have made - but it has consequences, and you need to reconcile yourself to that.

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+1 for saying nothing wrong with a 9-5er –  Jon Raynor Aug 20 '11 at 2:09

For the company that is, as you noted, high-demand the hiring market is a buyers market - they get to choose who they want, and they have ample supply of candidates. The natural motivation for them is to choose a candidate that would be most profitable for the company. Now who is better for them - somebody who doesn't have a life outside of code and would obsessively invest his time into cool projects the company throws at them - or somebody who does his part but clocks out every day at 5pm sharp (I am exaggerating but you get my point)? Now, it may be that the latter person is way more productive than the former - but the reality is that you rarely love to do something that you are bad at, so usually they can hope that person that codes a lot for his personal enjoyment is reasonable good at it. It's not always true, but it's a good heuristic and a big part of hiring is about finding good heuristics that would predict your future usefulness for the company. So yes, I think it is inevitable that you will be getting lower marks on whatever scale they are using in Google or likes than somebody with a lot of hobby projects. That doesn't mean you won't be hired at the end - but it must reduce the chances compared to other candidates.

But this is the time you need to ask yourself if you really want to play by these rules? There are a lot of companies that are positively starved for good developers, and many of them are ready to offer you very good conditions and be completely content to get you only for 40 hours a week - provided that you are a good developer. They don't have Google's glamour and fame, so they can't be as picky with talent. Sure, you are taking a bet - some of them might be next Twitter or Linkedin, some of them would forever be a footnote on the dusty pages of history, some of them would be neither - just old boring regular business. But a lot of them desperately need good people to work for them, and it's sellers market there.

So the decision is - which rules are more fit to your lifestyle?

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I've recently been interviewing senior CS students for software developer positions.

The graduate who can show he worked on an outside project has a big leg up with me, especially if their outside project delivered some sort of product that somebody else used.

It's not that I want a developer with 'no life', it's that new CS graduates who only take CS courses and does nothing else lack a lot of valuable experience that a graduate who has actually delivered some kind of product to someone else has.

For new graduates an outside project is a major positive factor.

For more senior position it still impresses if the candidate has done 'outside' projects, but it's not a show stopper if their work experience is fairly relevant to the open position.

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