How to Create the Best GitHub Profile

Your GitHub profile connects you to other software programmers and showcases your work to future employers. Learn how to create a GitHub account, including picking a GitHub username.
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Christina Payne
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Christina Payne has covered bootcamps, careers, and higher education for BestColleges since 2019. An experienced writer, Christina also works for a nonprofit organization in Seattle. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a BA in histor...
Updated on January 17, 2023
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Kelly Thomas
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Kelly Thomas is an editor with BestColleges and specializes in alternative education. She covers topics like coding bootcamps and the tech industry, as well as skilled trades and certifications. She holds a BA in political science from the University...
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  • Headhunters use GitHub to recruit software developers.
  • The open-source collaboration platform serves as a must-have for programmers to show off their work and connect with fellow coders.
  • Your GitHub profile tells recruiters about your expertise in different programming languages and projects.
  • GitHub offers a free basic plan for small companies and teams.

Did you know that some 1.7 million developers use GitHub? This open-source coding community started in 2008 to make it easy for people across the globe to collaborate and track software projects. And your Github profile can also connect you to job recruiters.

Hiring managers use GitHub profiles to see a potential hire's activity in the community and the span of their contribution history — which is especially important since the platform serves as a version control system. While it may not substitute for a resume and interview, a GitHub profile is a free way of showcasing your coding expertise. GitHub can also link you with other programmers so you can tinker on a side open-source project.

Discover more about GitHub and how to curate a stellar profile that gets you noticed.

What Is GitHub?

GitHub combines version control needs for developers with social networking. To understand GitHub, you first need to look at Git.

Git is an open-source version control system. When software developers design a program, they often update the code during development or after the official release. A version control system stores these updates in one place.

This allows a team of developers to easily make changes, collaborate, and ensure that they're working on the newest version of the software. Developers can also use version control to revert to an old version of the code.

GitHub hosts Git repositories — locations where all the version control files and content for a single project are stored. GitHub also offers a social network for developers to connect, work together, and demonstrate their professional programming experience.

GitHub emphasizes networking and collaboration and helps developers find and contribute to different coding projects. For example, if a company puts an app on GitHub, developers on the site can suggest changes to the code, fix bugs, and improve the app’s usability. GitHub users can also create new projects based on code that already exists on the site (called "forking").

GitHub offers private and public repositories. Users who house their projects in private repositories cannot take full advantage of the collaboration features on GitHub. However, programmers with private repositories can still use the project management tools in GitHub, which facilitate communication between managers and coders.

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How Do You Create a Strong GitHub Profile?

Let's explore a few ways to make your GitHub profile stand out. This list is not comprehensive but does give GitHub users an excellent starting point for creating and maintaining a good GitHub profile.

Pick a Username

Your GitHub username should incorporate your legal name. If that is not possible, use the same name (or something similar) to your other social media profiles for consistency purposes. Remember to keep it professional. You want to feel comfortable revealing your profile name to an employer. If your name is Joe Berry, your profile could be J.Berry, or simply JoeBerry.

Add a Profile Picture

GitHub allows users to add a profile picture — a valuable tool for recruiters looking for new hires. Programmers should use a professional headshot with a neutral background; try not to use selfies or photos with other people in them. If possible, use the same photo that you use on other professional profiles, such as LinkedIn, which will make it easier for recruiters to recognize you.

Set Your Status

Programmers currently looking for a job should indicate this in their GitHub profile. This simple trick lets recruiters know they can approach you with an offer or an interview opportunity. Coders should also add a publicly visible email address so companies can easily make contact.

Write a Bio

Adding a bio allows software developers to advocate for themselves and their skills. You should include details such as past projects, known coding languages and frameworks, and what kind of future work you would enjoy. Programmers should also consider adding links to other online professional profiles, such as LinkedIn.

Feature Repositories

A strong GitHub profile contains examples of coding projects. Programmers should post their own work to give companies a sense of their skill level and allow other programmers to contribute to the project.

Include ReadMe Files

Ensure all repositories featured on your profile include a well-written ReadMe file. In general, these files explain the purpose of the code and lay out the goal of each project in a clear, concise manner. ReadMe files might also explain why you make changes to the code as a project develops.

Programmers should also include crucial information for other coders who might contribute to the project. For example, a ReadMe file can include instructions about how to install the code. Additionally, the file should include instructions for contributors about ongoing project needs and any other critical information they should know before adding to the project.

Make Contributions

Software developers on GitHub should also contribute to other users' projects to maintain a strong profile. All GitHub profiles track the user's contributions to other projects through a contribution chart.

Recruiters want candidates who can collaborate with others and make meaningful contributions to projects already underway. Adding contributions to other projects on GitHub allows programmers to showcase their coding and communication skills in real-time. It also helps coders network with one another, which may lead to career connections.

Contribute Frequently

GitHub not only tracks a user's contributions but also how frequently a user contributes. A good GitHub profile shows frequent and consistent contributions throughout the year, both to personal projects and to others' projects. GitHub publicly displays the user's current streak of work — the number of days in a row that the user made contributions to a project — and the user's longest streak.

To maximize this feature, coders should make small changes to code often rather than large changes infrequently. Consistent use of GitHub shows dedication, passion for coding, and a strong work ethic — all attributes that recruiters look for in new hires.

GitHub Portfolio Examples

Our attention spans have only decreased thanks to social media. This means that anything online —including your GitHub profile — needs to be concise and well-organized. When you can, use bullet points and short sentences. For example, look at Kat's profile (featured below) with a brief but effective biography. Despite its brevity, the bio offers important information about Kat's job experience and specializations in Rust and C#.

Screenshot of a Github profile page.

A good GitHub profile also shows your activity and consistency in the community. Carter Anderson's profile demonstrates a graph with consistent activity, creating pull requests, repositories, and commits. These contributions tell viewers (especially recruiters) that you have made good changes to your project or collaborated with other community members on projects.

Screenshot of a Github profile page.

Why is Having a GitHub Profile Important?

Coders should create a GitHub profile for two reasons: to showcase their work and connect with other developers.

GitHub's collaborative features allow programmers to write code and develop projects for repositories that don't belong to them. However, GitHub saves all code written by the developer in their personal GitHub profile. A good GitHub profile acts as a virtual resume, displaying the practical abilities of each programmer.

GitHub profiles make it easy for coders to showcase their work to potential employers. Over 3 million companies worldwide use GitHub, giving them viewing access to public profiles on the website.

When starting a new career, software developers can point potential employers to their GitHub profiles to demonstrate their coding abilities.

Creating a GitHub profile also allows you to interact with other programmers and public repositories on the site. Programmers can reach out through GitHub and find creative solutions to coding problems for their own projects and offer advice to other software developers. You may be able to gain experience with new tools or hear about open positions through your GitHub connections.

Frequently Asked Questions About GitHub Profiles

How does a GitHub profile differ from a portfolio?

A portfolio contains examples of completed projects, coding language proficiencies, and learned technologies. A GitHub profile allows users to show completed projects, as well as current projects. GitHub also allows software developers to demonstrate their work ethic and passion for coding through the contribution chart feature.

Should I use my real name on GitHub?

If you can, use your real name on your GitHub profile. Many GitHub members go by their full name or simply their first name. Sometimes usernames are variations of their names. Using the same name on Twitter, GitHub, and other social media sites keeps consistency. If you choose to use a pseudonym, make sure it's not offensive.

Which personal websites should I include a link to on my GitHub profile?

Coders should consider GitHub as both a professional networking tool and a software development repository. Therefore, all links included in a GitHub profile should remain professional. GitHub users can add links to websites such as LinkedIn, professional blogs and/or portfolios, and CodePen.

Are GitHub profiles more important for entry-level or experienced developers?

Recruiters view GitHub as a valuable tool for both entry-level and experienced developers. While GitHub does not replace the need for a resume, it allows interviewers to evaluate the skills of a potential employee of any level.

Is a GitHub account free?

You can secure a basic GitHub membership for free. This free membership serves individuals and small companies, offering 2,000 CI/CD minutes a month and unlimited public and private repositories. However, if you want access to GitHub Codespaces and more storage, you have to pay for a team or enterprise membership.

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