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Any advice for how to read resumes (non-careers 2.0) with Stack Overflow achievements on them?

Obviously the reputation must mean something but does it also mean the candidate is spending a lot of his work time doing stuff that is not directly work related?

There was also some debate in TechCrunch about using Klout as an initial screening tool last week so it would be great to get your opinion on that aspect of using Stack Overflow scores as an initial screening.

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No, not at all. The person could have been using Stack Overflow for a long time, or outside of work hours, or have been unemployed, or... –  minitech Oct 4 '12 at 19:47
@minitech - good points indeed. Thanks for that –  Jessica Wilson Oct 4 '12 at 20:29
This should be migrated to programmers.stackexchange.com or workplace. –  Justin Dearing Oct 4 '12 at 21:09
How do I do that? –  Jessica Wilson Oct 4 '12 at 21:11
@JustinDearing I believe this question is fine here. It could've been asked on the Workplace, but it's not particularly off-topic here either. –  Anna Lear Oct 4 '12 at 21:29
@AnnaLear I'm not sure its meta. Make it a question about msdn forums, code project, or other gamified site rep on a resume, and its still on topic in the workspace. –  Justin Dearing Oct 4 '12 at 21:36
@JustinDearing Sure, but since it happens to be about Stack Overflow, it's also on-topic here. :) –  Anna Lear Oct 4 '12 at 21:45
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3 Answers

up vote 32 down vote accepted

I've met a lot of programmers with high Stack Overflow reputation, and they are all either extremely accomplished and productive people, or people who are under-challenged at work and dying for an opportunity or a career where they could really do some good work. They're certainly not slackers goofing off on the clock... slackers are lazy and do passive activities (like reading Reddit), not active activities like helping other programmers with their problems.

The real benefit from finding a Stack Overflow user in a resume pile is that you can check out their work on Stack Overflow. Reading a few of the answers they wrote will give you a good sense for what level programmer they are, how good they are at explaining things, etc. It's not a complete replacement for an interview, but it can serve as an excellent first screen.

Disclosure: I'm the founder and CEO of Stack Overflow.

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I find it funny how you feel the need to disclose yourself. :) –  Mysticial Oct 4 '12 at 21:01
I'm honored - thanks for taking the time to answer me. Now I'm not sure what to do with the selection of the right answer :-) –  Jessica Wilson Oct 4 '12 at 21:04
Just to offer a different perspective: I’m a slacker who’s reading Stack Overflow (as an alternative to reddit, say). But people are oh so wrong! I just have to correct them. And, hey presto! I get a lot of rep for it. (Purely fictional account. Any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.) –  Konrad Rudolph Oct 4 '12 at 21:17
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If a candidate told you they wrote 137 blog posts, that doesn't really tell you much about the candidate. You'd go out and read a few of them, correct?

The same goes for Stack Overflow.

Stack Overflow "achievements" (reputation, badges, etc) aren't a bad start. It shows that someone's earning consistent recognition by their peers.

But... diving into the content of a Stack Overflow user is where you really get to see how the candidate works behind the scenes in the real problem-solving world — to see how they write and express themselves; to see how they solve problems and explain those solutions to others; and to see how they work when their only motivations are self-direction, helping others, and the drive to get better at what they do.

Most Stack Overflow users are not here because they have to be. They're here because they are motivated by the autonomy that comes with working on what really interests and intrigues them. Being a great programmer takes a lot of time and self-motivation to constantly learn and improve their abilities. It's a bit incongruous to think that accomplished Stack Overflow users got that way because they're slackers at work. They're here because because they are driven by factors that lead to better performance and personal satisfaction.

I work personally with some of the top-scoring users on this site — and believe me, those top scores are certainly reflective of their work performance — not some cautionary tale that they're somehow spending too much time doing stuff that is not directly work related.

Take advantage of the insight you get by reading someone's actual work in a live setting. We hired a significant portion of our staff from their work on this site. It's certainly more insightful than a listing of their previous jobs with all the oft-repeated buzz words that come with it.

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I always knew Grace Note was a cactus. –  Robert Harvey Oct 4 '12 at 22:10
@RobertHarvey Stack Exchange is an equal opportunity employer. –  Anna Lear Oct 4 '12 at 23:09
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That's a valid question to ask the applicant: How has your extensive use of SO benefited your employer? Ask for specifics. I personally can cite many times my employer has benefited from my SO activities. I'm sure there are cases where the opposite is true, too.

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I'd hate to be asked this question. I don't think tying my SO activity to an employer's benefit is a reasonable expectation, since SO activity is not one of my assigned duties. It's like asking the question "I notice you bicycle to work. How does your bicycling benefit your employer?" Well, it makes me more fit, probably improves my clarity of thinking, etc., but really this is none of the employer's business. –  Robert Harvey Oct 5 '12 at 0:23
@RobertHarvey: but you don't claim to ride to work on the company's time. –  Chris Gerken Oct 5 '12 at 0:35
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