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Today I met a friend who is also using Stack Overflow. He had a job interview today at a small business and during the interview, the prospective boss asked him how he assures that he's alawys up-to-date concerning technical questions and what he's doing to seek for a solution for a problem he can't solve by its own. Besides some magazines, journals, books and blogs my friend also mentioned Stack Overflow.

The prospective boss seems very interested about that and asked him if he could tell him his username. It appears that was the most difficult during the whole interview ;) Would you tell your prospective boss your username? An the pro side one can mention that the boss sees that you're very involved in your business and community but on the other hand it is a really private thing and you can't post anymore in thread like "what was the worst working environment?"

My friend circumnaviagted this question by a rather lame answer (more or less: I use autologin, that's why I have to check the username later at home, I'll maybe send you an email.)

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migrated from May 19 '10 at 21:21

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Oh username is 'Jon Skeet' – dotjoe May 19 '10 at 20:50
I'm having flashbacks to Fight Club - "His name was Jon Skeet." – Justin Niessner May 19 '10 at 20:52
Lucky me... good luck searching for "mark". – mpen May 19 '10 at 21:05
If you said Geoffrey Chetwood, you would have been immediately escorted off the premises by security – Michael Kniskern May 19 '10 at 21:24
Frankly, this goes back to "don't post in a public place what you don't want others to see." If you think it might bite you some day, don't post it! "You kids" seem to forget that when it's out there, it's out there forever. – Michael Todd May 19 '10 at 21:32
Where's Jon Skeet answer to this question anyway? – Daniel C. Sobral May 19 '10 at 23:50
@Mark: "Oh, you mean this guy, Gravell?" "Um, yeaaaah" – Craig Walker May 20 '10 at 1:13
more interesting question would be "Would you tell... your Stack Overflow username and password?" – gnat Mar 28 '12 at 16:45

18 Answers 18

up vote 41 down vote accepted

If you're using StackOverflow Careers, there's no way around it.

If you're going to mention StackOverflow in an interview, you better be ready to answer questions about it (and, more than likely, give out your username).

If you're hesitant to give out your username because the prospective employer might find your questions/answers, I would question the quality of the questions/answers you've been supplying.

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Gold! "If you're hesitant to give out your username because the prospective employer might find your questions/answers, I would question the quality of the questions/answers you've been supplying." – Michael Pryor May 19 '10 at 21:25
Actually there is. You can choose to hide your stackoverflow username from the Accounts tab: – hexium May 20 '10 at 0:31

Yes, I would tell it. An employer who has a problem with my SO track record - containing, like the track records of most active SO users, decent contributions, but also some glitches, mistakes and things I didn't know - is most probably not an employer I would want to work for in the first place.

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I can say that if I were a potential employer and I saw a candidate with a similar track record as you have on SO, I'd move them to the short list of candidates! – The Unhandled Exception May 19 '10 at 21:47
+1 good point.. – systempuntoout May 19 '10 at 21:55

I see my involvement in StackOverflow as an extension of my professional career. I use it as a tool and contribute to it with that in mind. Though I'm not perfect in my postings, I believe there is nothing on here I would be overly embarrassed by should my employer discover my username and scan what I have posted.

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I think it is pretty unavoidable for me by now; any google search on my name is going to show some SO involvement, and the ♦ is a dead give-away.

But using SO is a good thing! If you get stuck at a programming problem, do you honestly think nobody has seen anything similar? Ask the fantastic community here at SO! Obviously you need to think carefully about what time you spend on SO; fortunately in my last job I had a loooonnnggg commute, so I had lots of time to spend on SO.

I've recently (i.e. this week) changed jobs; I'm still finding out what spare geek-time I have available, but (since it was clearly on my CV) I don't think my new boss objects hugely to my SO activities.

Regardless of personal involvement, I think a valid interview question might be: "the web-site stackoverflow; what is it?" - if they haven't even heard of it...?

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Didn't you work for Google? I thought their people were never allowed to leave. – Aarobot May 19 '10 at 21:54
@Aarobot - no, I've never worked for Google. I spent a month working at Microsoft's UK HQ, but that was as a partner project with my ex-employer; I'm not a 'softie either. – Marc Gravell May 19 '10 at 22:05
@Marc: Is the ♦ a dead giveaway that you're on SO because you write your name on your Resume as Marc Gravell♦? – The Unhandled Exception May 19 '10 at 22:11
@Josh - what - am I not meant to? – Marc Gravell May 19 '10 at 22:15
@Marc: I would if I could!!! – The Unhandled Exception May 19 '10 at 22:44
@Marc - Good answer - employers who hire people of your fame/skills/standing have to realise and accept that you give back in some way to the community. If anything it increases your value to the employer - if the employer is stingy about it then it better be a damn good job in other ways! – slugster May 20 '10 at 10:00

I can't avoid it. :)

In all seriousness, I don't post anything to SO that I'd be embarrassed for my boss to find. I sanitize any code that goes up, and as long as he stays away from Meta, I'm safe.

Now if he visits Meta, I'm in trouble ... :)

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But John... you changed your nick to Zombie Nixon! – The Unhandled Exception May 19 '10 at 21:45
And if your boss visits Meta, just hope he gets distracted by all the unicorns and waffles. – The Unhandled Exception May 19 '10 at 21:49
Yeah, that was a bit of a meme for a while there. Now the name changes are rate-limited. Anyhow, the boss can still find me by clicking the "accounts" tab on my profile, so yeah, it's obvious it's still me. :) – John Rudy May 19 '10 at 21:49
I think if your boss is taking a tech q&a site that seriously, there's an issue. But more likely that he's just regurgitating buzzwords. – user147263 May 19 '10 at 22:06
@Marcus: Depends on how pointy his hair is... – The Unhandled Exception May 19 '10 at 22:10
Hey, good point. We should set up a EULA before entering meta, prohibiting potential employers from proceeding. – Pëkka May 20 '10 at 14:47

Of course - my real name is Jon Skeet

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"My username is mmyers, but I also have a sockpuppet account called Jon Skeet because I don't want to look like I'm showing off." – mmyers May 19 '10 at 21:37

If your ability to maintain your job involves hoping that your past, present, or future bosses don't discover your Stack Overflow profile, you're doing something wrong. It's definitely possible to discuss bad situations professionally.

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My true identity is a closely guarded secret. If my enemies ever found out my real name, they might harm the peo... oh, wait. No, that's Spider-Man. Yeah, I'd tell them.

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I don't mind saying that I vastly prefer lizards to spiders. – mmyers May 19 '10 at 22:01
I'm with @mmyers. – The Unhandled Exception May 19 '10 at 22:09

No, because it would show that I spent as much time on Server Fault doing other people's work as I do actually working during the day...

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Yes, I would. As others have mentioned I see Stack Overflow as a way to represent myself professionally; it's how I demonstrate my technical knowledge and skill; I take time to answer questions and try to ask insightful/meaningful questions and I am proud f my activity.

Also, the OpenID I use to log on is my full name and the same as my website:, so I'd be pretty easy to find :-)

EDIT: My meta name, now, that's a different story... ;-)

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...not to mention certain items of psychotic underwear that you own! Sorry, I meant that own you. – Pëkka Feb 16 '11 at 22:42

Depends on the company and what you post, I guess. It could show that you're either competent or incompetent in certain fields. I would say that it is mostly circumstantial.

On a related note, whilst I was interviewing for my current position (which I found on SO), my interviewer took into account that we had nearly the same rep total and thought it was a good thing.

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Your SO username should be very, very different from the one you use on social networking sites. I have no problem defending anything I say here, but I really don't care to expose any potential issues from my personal life.

Asking questions shows you're exploring and learning. Answering questions demonstrates domain knowledge and a willingness to support your peers. Answering questions like the worst place you ever worked is actually a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what you said in your answer. An answer like 'I didn't like it because the physical layout was completely unworkable' is one thing. An answer like 'I didn't like it because all they'd give me was maintenance work and I'm far too talented to waste my time on work like that' is something completely different.

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I wouldn't tell an interviewer right away what my SO account was named, but I would expect him/her to google me and see what comes up. Since it's currently the #1 hit for my name in google, I'd fully expect him to know about my SO presence.

There are pros and cons to this; I obviously spend way too much time on SO, and some bosses might not like that.

But my questions and answers are (usually) pretty good, implying that I may actually know what I'm doing.

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I would say yes. You can show off your skills and interests.

Every time you post a question or answer, you should think if it will give a bad impression about you. You might be hunted down within a future by simple Google search.

Maybe you can use a completely anonymous user that cannot be traced with your email address, personal blog or any other type of info. However in that case you might be missing a great value of SO

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I'm not afraid of people finding out, but I don't advertise by using my real (full) name either.

I figure, if somebody really wants to know, they can, but you can never predict what a total stranger will take offense to, so I'd prefer to be able to make that call after meeting or interviewing with somebody in person. Maybe someday there'll be a company that I really want to work for, but the specific person interviewing me seems like a tight@$$ and wouldn't appreciate my particular... er, idiom.

At least this way I have the option, however rarely I might exercise it, of saying "Stack Overflow? Never heard of it."

It's also somewhat of a privacy issue - while I don't really mind a meatspace acquaintance or prospective employer knowing about my Stack Overflow account or any other forum account, I do mind the reverse. Trust me, because I've had it happen; you don't want random creepers on any site finding out who you are or where you live.

Bottom line: Yes, I'll tell people, as long as I'm satisfied that it won't be a privacy issue.

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Like my professional development blog, yes, I would. They show dedication, improvement, and skills in my work area.

Now vice-versa, whether or not I'd tell my name to StackOverflow... well, let's just continue being paranoid.

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Would you tell your prospective boss your username?

Hell yeah ... and if they have a problem with some of my more "controversial" views, I'm sure there are better suited people out there for them.

I'm proud of my Stack Overflow track record and do not have a problem sharing it.

On the other hand, if they asked me for my Meta login ... I'm not sure I would be super comfortable sharing.

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(deeply excavating) I am suprised by your answer (may come from SE evolution) since your meta account can be retrieved from SO. Assuming that giving your SO username provides access to whole SE galaxy potentially including controversial subjects such as boss-employee relations, politics, religion (or cake recipe) would you change your answer? – FabienAndre Apr 16 '12 at 16:39

I guess I consider SO a professional site like linked in. I would give my SO username. I don't think I would put it on a resume - just if community activity comes up in an interview or some other context I would respond positively.

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