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Will high reputation in Stack Overflow help to get a good job? (stackexchange.com)
30 points by bytesong 1905 days ago | past | web | 29 comments



Please don't forget that your real reputation is what definitely gets you a great job.

"Hey bossman, my great friend XXX, who I worked with at YYY, is getting bored over there. He's a great programmer and would be a great fit for our team and the infrastructure position we have open."

And bossman will definitely give him an interview and massive bonus points for the personal recommendation and relationship, and wisely make him a better offer than some stranger that comes in from StackOverflow or GitHub.

This cuts both ways.

As an engineer, you want a job that a colleague recommends to you, far before some random posting you see on StackOverflow Careers.

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I read the article a while back by the chap who got headhunted based solely on his Stack rep. It made me think "heck. I'd best get started on that".

So I made a conscious effort to answer questions. I loaded up the questions list and ... nothing. Not an effing thing. All these questions from such a broad base of so many topics. I didn't know the answer to anything.

F I thought. Then a little later I asked a question that I needed an answer to... and I got points. Lots of them. And "badges". And I voted on an answer - more points and badges.

So I thought WOW I can ask my way up to 100k reputation! Fells a little like cheating doesn't it?

Then I reconsidered. Actually the 100,000 questions would be just as valuable as proof of skill, since it's all contributing to your 10,000 hours of practise (See Malcom Gladwell) - furthermore - as you contribute questions, you help build the encyclopedia of knowledge and someone else might find your answer in their "first go".

I think it's really neat that Stack is this odd sort of community where it's virtually impossible to give more than you get from it but simply by participating, even as a supplicant, you contribute to the greater good.

Just last night for example I learned about using chrome for profiling in Javascript. http://stackoverflow.com/questions/4240416/reverse-engineeri... and it was good :)

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Yes but anyone can look at your profile and see your rep was earned via asking instead of answering. Whether SO rep is relevant or not is debatable, but if it is, rep earned by answering is almost certainly more valuable.

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I understand where you're coming from - but - I'm of a mixed opinion of whether that's actually true. Asking a lot of questions might be equally valuable if they're questions of increasing complexity, that show growth and development over time.

Back to Malcom Gladwell's "Outliers" (in which he states that the requirement to master anything seems to be 10,000 hours of practise).

With 10,000 'hours of questions', assuming progression and growth, would you not find yourself at the same or similar level of mastery as someone who'd provided 10,000 hours of answers?

Quite frequently nowadays, I find myself at work seeing a question about something not functioning quite right - (height and width of a graph, cross browser/OS page performance & display) and I find that I've got an immediate answer, because I asked the question on stack over the weekend (when I'm doing my fun projects).

Another interesting point - that I've just noticed this morning, is that I think there may be an Algorithm in Stack that "bubbles up" questions about things that you've asked questions about in the past.

My initial attempt to "give back to stack" were met with nowt because I couldn't find any questions on topics that I have relative expertise on - but - now that I've asked a number of questions on the things that apply to me (DOM, jQuery, Ajax, Selenium, PHPUnit etc...) Questions with those tags seem to be closer to the top of my list.

Maybe you've got to ask enough questions for stack to know what questions to ask of you.

It's really neat. I actually quite like it there :)

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Depends on what your employer asks for. Some might rather employ somebody who knows how to harvest free labour off the internet, rather than `waste' their time solving other people's problems for free.

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Data point: As someone with a five-figure Stack Overflow reputation, I have received zero (0) job offers related to my Stack Overflow account.

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I also have a five-figure rep on SO and haven't received any job offers. However, I was just on the hunt for a new job a few weeks ago, and I'm fairly confident that my rep did help me get in the door in certain situations. No way to actually know for sure, but it was mentioned.

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Well it can't hurt.

Of course, you can't fully describe a person by just a number. It's theoretically possible that a highly reputed Stack Overflow user could be an awful programmer at work, but I'm sure that the intersection of "highly reputed SO users" and "people you'd regret to hire for a programmer position" is a very tiny set.

I think that number contains much more significant information for that kind of position than whatever you could extract from a CV or an interview.

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From a CV, yes. From an interview?

Maybe I'm just naïve.

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How thorough would an interview need to be to match thousands of thumbs ups by thousands of tech-savvy (to say the least) people?

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OK, point taken. But it's very different kinds of information that you can pick up in an interview vs. some kind of metric (Be it SO score or diplomas).

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Well it can't hurt.

Sure it can, if I think you are more invested in your badge-earning game mechanics than in the money-earning game-mechanics for which I pay you.

Of course, the chances that I review your SO score with this mindset seem relatively low, since in order to cover this possibility, I also need to check out your GamerTag, gear score, and Wikipedia edit history.

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What gets you headhunted is posting intelligent answers to tech questions on Linkedin Answers. Because that's where the HR people and recruiters hangout.

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But do they read tech questions? Is it worth their time trawling for random technical people there? Even for recruiters outside the San Francisco area?

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They certainly look at who the top-rated people in each category are, I used to regularly get calls from recruiters who saw me there (this was in London).

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I wouldn't be swayed either way by a high Stack Overflow rating.

That said, asking and answering technical questions can be really beneficial. It's much harder to write about something clearly than some people realise, and a great skill to develop.

Also, rather than the whole reputation, I might take interest in particular answers: a single solid answer to a difficult question demonstrates a lot more than many point scoring answers to easier ones.

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Last year when I was interviewing, I didn't mention my rank (which is so-so), but mentioned that my answers could be found, and if they wanted to see how I answered, and determine my competence, they would be able to do so. I believe that for at least one set of interviews making the additional information available helped me to get further.

But that was not my "rep"...

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I doubt it would harm you. I certainly don't expect to get headhunted through SO (my score is low 4-digits), but I will be putting the link on my CV - as I probably will my NH profile - I don't have any other online presence (no fb, no blog, no github, no li). And although my score isn't super-high, I don't spend a lot of time on the site. I'll ask a question from time to time, and a couple of times a week see if there's anything I can answer. Hopefully my profile will give a reasonable overview of my general competence.

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I don't think it helps at all, maybe a little bit of publicity but I think if that is your goal, you may be better served to place efforts elsewhere. I would wager posting on HN has better odds of landing you a job due to exposure than Stack Overflow. In the end networking is the golden rule for finding employment. HN or Stack Overflow can be used to that end, you just have to remember to foster relationships in the community. Doing so will pay far more dividends that pure knowledge displays.

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It's part of your reputation portfolio which includes personal references, blogs, open source activities, and whatever else the employer believes to be predictive of the value you will add to the company. If the employer only cares about your SO reputation then it will certainly help. More often than not, I suppose it is only one data point of several which are considered.

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A Google recruiter cold-called me -- well, cold-LinkedIn me -- based on my Stack Overflow responses. I did a phone interview even though I wasn't really interested in leaving my current job.

That, plus my location requirements, plus a so-so interview, plus the fact that I wasn't particularly qualified for the job, surely led to the following "Thanks, but no thanks" followup call.

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oh. this is interesting. Is there a place on Stack or Linkedin where I can tie my profiles together? I did a quick scan and couldn't see anything (or should I put it in my stack-bio?).

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I don't know of any way to link them. I post using my real name on StackOverflow, for precisely the reason of "brand management" or what-have-you. Presumably my name and current employer were unique enough for the recruiter to put two and two together on his own.

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It would be sad to see someone get a job solely on his/her Stack Overflow reputation, but I wouldn't object to it helping you get an edge over other candidates.

If I was an employer looking at a candidate, obviously I am more concern about the quality of each answer than the quantity of each answer.

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I wouldn't expect many random job offers from simply being a user on StackOverflow, but shortly after posting a CV on the StackOverflow Careers site (which displays your StackOverflow reputation on the CV), I was contacted by an Amazon.com recruiter.

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It might not hurt, but as an interviewer I'd be curious to know if you earned those karma points during office hours.

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Did you see Joel Spolsky's note about people spending all day on StackOverflow when they should be working? He suggests that they're underemployed, meaning they have not been given the appropriate balance of challenge and workload at their current job.

Imagine you have two applicants or roughly equal aptitude/suitability. When asked why they're looking for a job, both state that they are not being challenged in their current position.

One seems to have done a lot of posting on SO, HN, and so forth during business hours. You like their posts but not that they were made during business hours.

They other has no record of HN or SO posts. Do you assume that the other person was hard at work at the last job and hire them?

You might be right, but then again, it could be that they were watching the clock in ways you can't detect so easily. Maybe they read books about programming. Maybe they read all these sites but didn't contribute. Maybe they took a lot of smoke breaks.

You know that one of the two did a lot of non-job stuff while being underemployed, but you also know that you like their posts. I think it's reasonable to hire them anyways, and also reasonable to pass on them.

But what isn't reasonable, IMO, is to give the candiate with less information a "free pass" by hiring them without further investigation. I would ask:

"You say you weren't challenged in the last job. You must have had some free time. What did you do with it?"

If they tell you about all the extra value-add they created for their employer, great. If they tell you about surfing job boards or reading books about programming, great. If they stare blankly at you, dig deeper.

This is speculative, of course. YMMV.

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I initially meant the comment one way: that is, the person was probably spending more time cruising StackOverflow instead of paying attention to work tasks.

But you have a point. We all have small spaces in the course of a day where we're not actively engaged in real work (as I am right now). Once can spend it on Facebook, or one can be looking for things to keep the knives sharp.

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I post on HN and spend some time or IRC or similar discussing programming during "work hours" (though I have bizarre self-inflicted hours). It's actually become pretty crucial to my work flow; I am able to get some down time while still keeping the gears running. Short but somewhat-frequent lurking sessions keep me motivated and on track without burning me out.

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