How side projects can help you land your next job

Side projects can be a game changer in coding interviews.

How side projects can help you land your next job

Coding interviews can be daunting. 

But, having relevant side projects in your portfolio can significantly bolster your chance of landing a job.

In 2018, I really wanted to become a Blockchain engineer. But I had no actual work experience in Blockchain.

And the current company I worked at was definitely not going to do any Blockchain dev anytime soon! I had absolutely no chance of getting Blockchain work experience unless I switched jobs.

I set out on a mission to get some experience in Blockchain! And I did that by building side projects in Blockchain in my spare time. 

It worked and I landed a job in Blockchain a few months later. And I was able to get an O’Reilly book deal and land another Blockchain job after that as well! I even ended up speaking at conferences and meetups about Blockchain development!

Let’s discuss the importance of side projects and how to leverage them to increase your chance of getting the job.

Why Coding Projects Matter in Coding Interviews

In the highly competitive job market (especially right now), technical expertise and theoretical knowledge alone might not land you a new job.

You’re competing with engineers from Google and Facebook. 

Practical experience is instrumental in differentiating yourself. This is where coding projects come in handy! 

They offer tangible proof of your coding skills and prove that you can effectively launch a project.

Side projects are especially important if you don’t have prior work experience.

For instance, a project creating an e-commerce website's backend can prominently display your efficiency in handling databases. A project that creates a website for a local boutique can show off your frontend skills. 

Moreover, your approach to a side project gives interviewers an insight into your thought process. Let’s talk about that next.

Added Bonus of Side Projects 

Side projects can also highlight qualities beyond just your technical skills. 

They can show your passion for coding, your skills, and that you can teach yourself. By building a side project, you have proof of how you keep learning and advancing. 

A side project showcases your ability to find issues in everyday life and solve them. And that you can create and deploy a full project.

Tips for Choosing and Developing Projects

When finding an idea for a new project, prioritize something that aligns with your target positions or dream companies' technical stack.

These projects are more likely to catch the recruiter's attention and provide them with evidence that you're equipped with the specific skills they need.

Usually, recruiters look for a match up of skills and engineers that will interview you will appreciate having something to review before the interview.

For side projects, focus on something you are truly excited about building. That’s the only way you’ll be able to finish it!

Quick tip? Start with small, manageable projects and gradually increase the complexity as your skills grow.

Presenting Projects in Interviews

An effective presentation of your projects in interviews is super important. 

Remember to describe your projects well and focus on the technical challenges you faced and how you overcame them. Don’t forget about showcasing the extra work you did and what you learned as well. Did you write tests or learn a new framework for the project? Mention it!

It’s also important to share the lessons you learned through these projects. Did you learn how to estimate how long something would take? Mention it. Did you realize the scope was too large and you had to cut it down to launch? Talk about what you learned.

Side projects can be a game changer in coding interviews.

They provide proof of your skills and dedication and can often be what makes you stand out in a competitive market. 

Each project is an opportunity to showcase your new skills as a coder to potential employers. 

Randall Kanna


Senior Software Engineer at Trim with almost a decade of experience. Published O'Reilly Author. Ex Eventbrite, Pandora, Gumroad, Ticketfly.