How to get a career in open source

Ever since I became a manager and started hiring people, I've felt privileged to know what it's like to be on the other side of the interview desk. I almost wish that everyone had the opportunity to know what it's like to hire people, because it helps you to understand and fix deficiencies in your own approach when applying for a job.

Not everyone has an opportunity to learn these things, so I'll share some of the most important things to focus on when hunting out your dream job.

The first area of focus absolutely has to be your CV. With the open source industry being so popular and so many people wanting their dream job, positions often get many people applying for them. Each and every position I've ever hired for has had a queue of people who want to get the job (Canonical is a place that a lot of people want to work at) - and the CV is their first point of contact with me, and what I use to decide whether I want to interview them or not.

CVs come in many different forms. Some are a single piece of paper, some are a short novel. Some are boring and flat, and some are vibrant and colourful. The trick lies in getting the balance right. A flashy, colourful CV with little or no content is not impressive. Neither is a boring CV with reams and reams of content. Some CVs are littered with spelling mistakes and other rookie errors.

My recommendation is to stick to the following guidelines: Keep it short and sharp. Cover all of the key bits of information that you want the employer to know, but don't overload someone with too much detail. Present your best attributes and do so honestly and clearly, without jargon. Ensure the important points stand out.

While I read every CV I receive in full, I know many managers who don't, and who merely skim-read them. To counteract this, make sure the key pieces of information - such as your skills, educational achievements and employment history - are highlighted in a bold font to make them stand out.

Cover the major bases. A CV is a document with the purpose of presenting you and the skills that you can offer to a prospective employer. Make sure that you give them all the information they need. There is plenty of reference material online on how to build an awesome CV.

Remove all traces of ego. I've read some CVs in the past that have been filled with self-congratulatory fluff. This doesn't send a positive message. Sure, your CV is there to sell you, but let your skills and experience speak for themselves - rather turning it into a long, corny advert.

Don't lie. This seems obvious, but it bears repeating: don't lie. While you may get away with it on your CV, the interview will usually uncover any untruths. Getting caught telling fibs puts your future opportunities at risk.

Once you've got a rocking CV, it's on to the interview! The advice for this stage of the hiring process is simple: be modest, honest, and answer the questions as best as you can. Also, when the interviewer asks if you have any questions for them, use it as an opportunity to learn more about the role. Always have at least two or three questions ready in your mind.

Getting your dream job is a large topic, and there isn't room to cover it all here, but I hope that some of these tips will help you progress along the road. Good luck!