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Is it necessary for an experienced software engineer to include personal projects on their resume?

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Anonymous User at Taro Communitya year ago

I am a backend engineer with 3 years of experience at a Fortune 500 company and I am planning to apply to Big Tech. I can fill the experience section with bullet points listing things I have accomplished on my team. Should I still include a personal project on my resume? Will it count against me if I do not include a projects section?

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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a year ago

    Is it necessary for an experienced software engineer to include personal projects on their resume?

    Definitely not, but you probably should work on personal projects and add them anyways. Here's why:

    1. 3 years is good but not huge - Across my 10 years in Silicon Valley, I have read 2,500+ resumes with hundreds in your experience bracket (2-4). With 3 years of experience, you will have some great accomplishments for sure (especially if you're working at a Fortune 500), but I've generally found that it's not enough to take up an entire page while also ensuring that every single bullet point is very strong. This will leave room for 1-2 projects.
    2. This economy is brutal - Every Big Tech company has a hiring freeze right now, so there are way more people trying to get into Big Tech than there are open roles. Also, 50k+ Big Tech engineers have been laid off over the past 6 months, and you're now competing with all of them for this shrinking number of positions. Working at a Fortune 500 company is great, but I assume yours isn't a Big Tech company based on the post. Big Tech companies heavily prioritize candidates who already have Big Tech experience (e.g. back in my day, ~35% of Meta employees come from Google, Amazon, and Microsoft), which means that the bar is very high for candidates not from Big Tech. Personal projects are a powerful way to stand out within this group.
    3. Side projects are great for learning - I built a huge portion of my career off of side projects, and they were tremendously helpful for me to break into Meta without prior FAANG experience. Side projects let you build skills in a way you can't do in a structured work environment, and they're just fun!

    Will it count against me if I do not include a projects section?

    Only if your work experience feels stretched out and thin (i.e. has some bullet points that feel weak). However, as I mentioned before, I think this will likely be the case with 3 years of experience.