Can Github, StackOverflow and Linkedin replace the traditional CV?

by Sean Fanning | Oxford Knight

Hiring and job search concept in word tag cloud on white background

To be clear – this is case specific. I will only be discussing the traditional “technology” CV or more specifically the traditional CV of a software engineer. It will become clear as to why later on, but for now you will just have to trust me.

The Traditional Model – The problem:

For as long as technologists have been looking for jobs, the door-opener in most cases has been a detailed technical CV stating not only their interests but also their experience and the range of technologies that they have experience with. Unfortunately the art of CV writing seems to particularly afflict technologists with the main complaints equating to a bare bones two-line description of 5 years work or a particularly verbose description of each and every algorithm/system/DB. Neither option adds value as the hiring manager will either be mystified by the candidate’s brevity or he/she will probably nod off as you describe each line of code!

I don’t doubt that it is difficult for a technologist to accurately summarise your experience, interests and expertise into a few pages and it would seem that many companies would tend to agree. Fundamentally the key to this debate is this: does a candidate’s supposed experience translate into valuable experience for this new company. For instance does 3 years of Scala experience translate into a deep understanding of the language or is it in reality 3 years flirtation with the language while mucking around with the JVM? How do you quantify and contextualise someone’s experience when all you have to go on is the system they worked on.

The proposed solution:

It seems the answer lies in Github, StackOverflow (ie Code Repositories) and to a lesser extent Linkedin. Many employers, particularly in Silicon Valley and the tech-hubs of North America have embraced code repositories as a key discriminating factor in their interview process. What this boils down to is this: “you’re applying to a role requiring a deep understanding of X, show us what you’ve worked on in X that can help us verify that you have potential / expertise.”

From a purely business-orientated point of view this is great. I can reasonably assess someone’s core skills without even issuing them with a test. This is a huge timesaver. If I dive in and see this person clearly knows what he is talking about, I can not only spend more time having a targeted and interesting interview with this candidate, I can avoid wasting time on candidates who may sell themselves well but ultimately amount to very little.

These try-before-you-buy approaches definitely seems logical on the surface of it, but let’s consider the potential pitfalls.

The Next Generation CV

With reference in particular to the London technology scene, the main problem is accessibility. With a vast proportion of London’s engineers engaged in the financial arena, the most obvious concern that they might raise with this new approach is the practicalities of getting their best code into the public domain.

Take for instance an engineer working on a complex front-office trading system using Java and Scala, working long hours and doing their best work for their employer. Two problems arise – 1) my employer would not be impressed if code started appearing publically 2) to circumnavigate the first issue, I would have to reproduce this code in my spare time, which is few and far between. All of this seems like unnecessary hassle.

The Recruiter’s Perspective

Is this good for a recruiter? Hard to say! Certainly I wouldn’t miss the endless reformatting of awful CV’s to get to the bottom of good candidates skills but in the end, I am not super technical, and would it be practical for me to judge candidates on their Github accounts?!

The whole point underpinning this is to make sure that the best candidates are interviewed and the process is efficient for these companies. Realistically speaking this is not feasible on a large scale. It would be great for me as a recruiter to make sure the best candidates always get the job as that puts more emphasis on finding these gems as opposed to winning a race for CV’s under the manager’s nose. This of course means we can spend more time on people and less on paper which would be great, but I don’t personally think this will catch on in London.

The Tandem CV

The obvious solution therefore is to have the traditional CV in tandem with code examples where available. Indeed many of the savvier candidates seem to be providing links to Github etc already and this is a welcome development putting them ahead of the crowd already. Ideally the more example code the better, but then like a CV, it is important to make sure the code is accurate, complete and attractive. Ultimately it has to be personal choice, and nothing is going to replace a good, well structured CV in the foreseeable future.

By Sean Fanning




Oxford Knight is a technical recruitment agency. None of our consultants have written a line of code… yet. We apologise if this article doesn’t keep some purist happy, but we’re trying to build a new generation of technical recruitment agencies…. We listen, participate, and deliver.

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