Ethical Dilemma

Well fellas, as I have posted elsewhere, I’m trying to look for a job as a developer, one better than the one I have right now anyways. I’ve been working for 2 years but I feel that the projects I have worked with at my current job, are not that impressive. My work consists of making parsing programs and they’re not really that complicated and/or outstanding I think. Anyways, when you apply for a development position, and they ask you to talk about the projects you have worked with, I tend not to consider the ones I’ve made for courses and college, I only put the ones I’ve done at my current job, which basically resumes to two important projects, and a bunch of small ones that are not even worthy of being in a resume.

Many people have advised me that I should lie and put everything that I’ve done, and include the projects for classes as job related things, and include that I have done freelancing job and whatnots, in fact, I taught my two cousins how to program, and they landed jobs earning more than I do right now, and they lied their asses off in their applications, even when they had no experience working in anything. I’ve always considered that I don’t have to lie and that my work will speak for me on my behalf, but most of the time, I feel that what I’ve done so far is not that impressive, and people at Human Resources seem to think that way because I keep applying and applying and so far I’ve gotten 2 interviews in two years, and no offers so far.

What do I do?

At work I have done two big parsing programs, one that parses a big PDF (relatively) 1.8gb, using the MVC pattern, which consists on extracting pages from the big PDF, and generating a bunch of small ones and an index, to be sent by email (I have nothing to do with the program that sends the emails, I just generate the files to be sent).

The other program is for parsing a new file format for a customer that changed it, and that’s it for the big projects (big in the sense that they’re critical for our customers, but not big in the sense that anyone is going to be impressed by them), in this second program I try to use Strategy pattern, and I am refactoring in such a way that I should be able to implement a DAO to it, and a Factory pattern.

The thing is, should I put everything I’ve done so far in programming as jobs and lie my ass off to make my resume seem more impressive or not? because I feel that this honesty thing is not working out so well for me…

First off, I want to tell you how impressed I am that you’re thinking at this level. I wish everyone was–I wish that I was–as honest as you are.

But I don’t really see what the problem is. Why not list everything you’ve done, but say “I did this in college, I did that as a side project, and this thing I did in my current job?” It’s work you’ve done, it does shed light on your abilities, and your potential employer is given the chance to discount it as he thinks appropriate, if he thinks appropriate. (I wouldn’t, but what do I know about what your potential employer’s way of reckoning?)

That’s the problem, in the last application I filled it asked you to list the projects you’ve done and to exclude the ones for college or courses, they were only interested in job related things. But they sent me an example resume so that I changed my format to match the one they wanted, and I could tell that the resume they sent was “inflated” just by reading at the projects listed there. Note: they didn’t send me an empty template, they sent me another resume filled by someone else.

Really? They specifically exclude non-job projects from consideration? That really surprises me, and I don’t have any good suggestions for you, except maybe to look for another potential employer–one smart enough to realize that your coding skills are better captured by everything you’ve done than just by what you’ve done at the behest of a former employer.


As weird as it sounds, so far the interviews I’ve had, and from what I’ve heard from other developers in my country, employers tend to consider that if a project is not job related, that it is not that important, I don’t know why or this is only a trend here in the Dominican Republic, but if you put those projects as things that you’ve done for classes and for a hobby, they consider you “inexperienced” and most probably won’t hire you, unless they’re looking for a Jr. which, in fact might have to do work that’s more suited for a Sr.

At my current job, when I got there, the posting was asking for a Jr. developer, but I’m the only programmer there and those two projects I mentioned, I had to build them from scratch, for the first one I started from analyzing the data, and that was when I had like 6 months in there; the project was picking dust for a whole year until someone took a look at it, the former Sr. programmer that was there first (10 years working there), said that the data didn’t match the documentation that the customer provided us with and never touched it again, and when I analyzed the data (remember, one year later; surprise, it matched exactly as the customer documented), I build the program in less than a month, my boss even told me that no one had taken a look at the data until I started messing around with it

Really weird. I don’t know what to say, then. If they only want to see work projects, then yeah, it would be dishonest to pass off non-work projects as work projects. That really does put you in a bind. If you’re looking for a job right now, this probably won’t help you very much, but maybe you could look for some freelancing projects? Something meaty, and since someone’s paying you for them, you could eventually put them on your resume in good conscience?

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First of all, if they tell you to “only list job related” coding, I’d still list my classwork, pet-projects. Maybe I’d list them last. And I’d only list really, really good projects. You coded a bubble sort? Who cares. You worked on a team that built a full stack social medial platform with a cell phone app to access it? Now, that’s impressive.

I’m not sure why they don’t want classwork, except that maybe they’ve seen too many rinky-dink little programs that may or may not have been all that much original work. But I would include anything that is impressive. Sometimes what job applications say and what they mean are two different things.

I would definitely include any pet projects. If they complain that they’re not job related I’d simply say that I was trying out ideas for potential startups and I definitely consider that a job, even if it hasn’t (or hasn’t yet) panned out. Actually, it was my understanding that companies like to see pet projects - it shows initiative, creativity, and drive. It show that programming is more than just a job to you.

As far as “lying”, I would definitely advise being careful. I wouldn’t outright lie. That being said, a certain amount of puffery is expected. I think most people are exaggerating a little on their resumes and that is what you are being judged against. I think a little exaggeration is OK, as long as you know you’d be able to back it up with some hard work if you had to. But don’t outright lie about things that you could never pull off or things that you never built.