Does a great idea matter for a personal portfolio project to demonstrate your software development experience?

New developers starting out with little to no hands on/real world experience are often encouraged to build a portfolio of personal projects that they can share with a prospective new employer. It’s a great idea too, as a technical interviewer if I’m interviewing a new developer with no experience, an example project that they share online can give a useful insight into how they build a solution to a problem, and demonstrates that they’ve at least had some hands-on experience, even if it is with a personal project.

A question that is always asked in online new developer communities, is ‘can anyone recommend some good ideas for a personal portfolio project?’. This is missing the point and the purpose of a personal project. It’s not to show you have a good idea for a project, it’s to show you can develop code in a professional way that would be comparable to other developers on a team you are applying to join.

It’s really doesn’t matter what the project is or what it does. Build anything that can demonstrate you can write code that’s easy to read, is well structured, is not overly complex, and has good unit tests. It doesn’t matter what it is. As a technical interviewer if you show me a link to a portfolio (Github or anywhere else), I’m going to quickly browse the code to get an idea if you can write code that would be acceptable to my team (meaning, meeting the above criteria).

There seems to be a misunderstanding with some new devs that if you have an awesome idea for a portfolio project that will impress an interviewer, but it really does not matter what it is or what it does. Focus on developing clean code with good unit tests and that will be far more impressive to your interviewer than the project itself.

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