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I realize that the more you go towards the spectrum of "freelance", there is a need for a portfolio (at least for web development) but I would think that a structured contracted job (like a 3 month duration contract to hire, for example) would be a bit more professional in realizing that a professional programmer spends most of their time writing proprietary applications for companies and thus has no portfolio of these to show off.. The area where I live is not a major tech center so a lot of employers and recruiters here seem a bit less than professional when it comes to tech stuff (but it is a big U.S. city) and I get, fairly often, recruiters asking if I have a portfolio to share, etc.. Sure I have done my own projects but I don't keep them up to date and the work that I do for my current employer is my main focus.

Anyways, I guess this is just a generalized question about how to differentiate between "freelance" and "contract" (even though I thought I had been doing so on my resume)

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6 Answers 6

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For a contractor, I would vote for references instead or a portfolio. Unless you build websites or retail software.

Many of the project I worked on are confidential/internal so impossible to show. I can just name the company and describe the project (when my contract/NDA allows it). Forget about the source code.

Provide the interviewer with a list of references (bosses) to call from your previous missions. The interviewer want to know if you will be able to solve his problems.

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yeah, but you don't just give this out to anyone right? I don't want a bunch of recruiter morons calling my references just to see if they should "send over my resume" to a potential employer –  programmx10 Dec 16 '10 at 21:31
+1 for references. Not all web programming involves a pretty front end (server side applications anyone?). –  Gary Rowe Dec 16 '10 at 21:46
@Rick A good agent will only require references after you've had a successful interview with the client and it seems like the contract is in the bag. Don't cite your references in your CV/resume. –  Gary Rowe Dec 16 '10 at 21:47
I generally just put 'References available upon request' on my resume; anyone who wants them can have them, but I don't have to expose them to potentially inconsiderate idiots. Also: gives me a chance to warn my references to possibly expect a call so they're not taken completely by surprise. –  pjz Dec 17 '10 at 7:29
I skip adding 'References available upon request'. That's expected in interviews nowadays and just clutters the page up. –  briddums May 22 '12 at 16:04

Its probably a good idea for every developer, contractor or not, to maintain a portfolio of the projects they've worked on so that potential clients or employers can see the types of projects a developer has worked on. Even if the developer worked on proprietary systems, unless there's some legal restriction, there's no reason not to have a description of the project and maybe a screenshot in a portfolio.

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Ok right, so just having some info about it should be good enough them, I figure they are asking for me to show them the actual application and, for my current company, its not some free product they can just try out as it costs thousands for them to buy so I just get put off sometimes by what they're asking (thinking they expect me to have a bunch of apps that I have built that I can just send over for them to "play around with") but maybe I'm misreading their intentions –  programmx10 Dec 16 '10 at 21:28
Thats what I do at least - I have a page or so for each project I've worked on that describes what it does and what I did for it. Like you say, most people cant just hand out software to prospective employers since its not freeware. –  GrandmasterB Dec 16 '10 at 21:33

For products I have built in the past there has often been marketing material and collateral produced by organisation that I bring along to interviews to show if people ask for examples of the system I have been working on.

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yeah thats a good idea, I've been doing that somewhat too, unfortunately my company mainly relies on sales people pushing their product so there isn't much out there explaining what it does but should be enough to give them an idea –  programmx10 Dec 16 '10 at 21:25

What to put in a portfolio may be based on the type of work you do and the publicity of that work. It is great to show UI marketing shots of your work. But, even when they are available, I'm not sure it always a good idea to use them. It seems a bit lame to say "It's part of this system here. No. That's not my UI. My part didn't have one. It only ran on the server." If you have created flash, flash it. If not, refer to it another way that doesn't promote the flash of someone else.

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yeah I know what you mean, I'm just frustrated by the way people here approach it, the people I talk to initially usually know nothing about programming and they may even think its just "web design" when its mostly server-side code that I am doing... at least I lucked out for my first job here in that the guy was an IT guy who contacted me but I want to look for some additional contract projects to work on –  programmx10 Dec 16 '10 at 21:35

In my opinion everyone should have a EDIT: list of project descriptions.

However if are going to have yours public you should know that many companies don’t appreciate that. It’s kind of security risk in their opinion. However you are of course allowed to have that in you CV.

Edit: I worked for a corporative that didn't want me to have their name on my homepage. However I was allowed to have references and project description in my CV. Since it was less public.

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If you have proprietary code in your portfolio, you can't show it to anybody anyway. It becomes public the second someone unauthorized looks at it. Best to keep it to project descriptions like what GrandmasterB described or sanitize your code samples to remove sensitive stuff, if possible. –  Anna Lear Dec 16 '10 at 21:46
yeah I agree with Anna, I mean there is legally / ethically no way to include any sort of working code / demo apps from code worked on for an employer. I have experience working on fairly high volume web based apps so I don't think having some little apps I coded all by myself in my free time is going to convey to them properly what I can bring to the table.. however I definitely agree with the descriptions, etc and have been re-writing my resume more with that in mind. –  programmx10 Dec 16 '10 at 21:50
@Anna By portfolio I mean a project description, no code etc. –  Amir Rezaei Dec 16 '10 at 21:51
Ahh, that makes sense. I misunderstood you. Portfolio usually means samples of work around here. –  Anna Lear Dec 16 '10 at 21:56

I think you should use open source software as your portfolio. It should double as you way of learning new technology and show any employer you are actively driving your career by learning new things, and that development is a real passion for you - it's not just a day job. This counts for full timers too but is even more important for contractors. Your twitter handle, blog and stackexchange profiles are equally good to show you have some professional brand and show what your interests are.

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