So far Stack Overflow seems like a great place to help out fellow programmers and get excellent answers. Is the reputation one earns from this process marketable? Would you as a potential employer hire someone based upon data from Stack Overflow?

What would you be looking for? Good answers? Good Questions? Both?

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    i'm going to sell mine when it hits 10,000! – Steven A. Lowe Nov 10 '08 at 21:27
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    dang! ebay rejected my 10K SO Rep listing - maybe when the bounty system is in place ;-) – Steven A. Lowe Jan 8 '09 at 17:32

22 Answers 22


Similar question here: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/278485/stackoverflow-as-meta-job-interview-1

You are interviewing other people for a developer job in your own organization. You find out that the person has been a contributor on stackoverflow, submitting both questions and answers. You think it might be helpful to review their posts.

What would you look for, in what order of importance?

I agree with MusiGenesis's post: reputation is really more of an indicator of time spent on the site. The actual writing is what is really important.


I would and would pay close attention to:

  1. the quality of questions asked - do they reflect the level of knowledge expected?
  2. the quality of answers given - do they reflect the level of knowledge claimed?
  3. the tone used - smarmy, witty, sarcastic, helpful, or what?
  4. whether they used their real name or hid behind a pseudonym, and if the latter, what does their choice of pseudonym reveal about their personality?
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    What does my pseudonym reveal then? If anything, than it's certainly completely misleading and wrong. I would definitely be very disappointed if people judged me by my choice of pseudonym (which I chose when I was 19 and just so stuck with it). – MasterPeter Jun 21 '09 at 21:39
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    @[MasterPeter]: Yours does not reveal much. I would guess that your name is Peter, that you think very highly of yourself ("Master"), and that you're probably very young and may have some self-image issues (e.g. shyness - implied by using a cute baby picture instead of a current actual picture). The point is not whether I guess correctly, but what impression your profile conveys to a potential client or employer (if you care!) – Steven A. Lowe Jun 22 '09 at 13:18
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    Peter, you're naive if you think people won't. – Dustin Getz Aug 12 '09 at 17:23
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    Peter, if your worried about what people will think about you based on your pseudonym, you shouldn't be using your pseudonym; on a site like this, that's the first piece of information people see about you, and its what their first impression will be based on. – Brian Campbell Jan 20 '10 at 17:00

Realistically, most employers are never going to have heard of Stack Overflow.

  • Would you as potential employer ;) – CheGueVerra Nov 10 '08 at 21:08
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    I think the fact that I'm on here means that I've heard of it! ;-) – John Topley Nov 10 '08 at 21:16
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    Depends on how technical your 'employer' is. If you work at a software company where your immediate boss is a programmer... well, a lot of techies know about SO now. – Chris Boran Nov 10 '08 at 21:23
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    You could mention it at the interview. I have, recently, and got a good response in a technical interview. – DOK Nov 10 '08 at 22:02
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    On the other hand an employer that has heard of stackoverflow indicates commitment to the programmer community. These are things I look for when interviewing for a job. – Mendelt Jan 15 '09 at 10:04
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    I think they might have heard of it by now. – Jeff Atwood Aug 1 '10 at 9:56
  • lets starts setting up trend :) – Aamir Shahzad Feb 23 '14 at 8:43

I would say definitely no. The main reason why is because one thing I've noticed in SO is that asking questions seems to be rewarded much more than answering them. If you look through the users, you will find that a lot (not all, but a lot) of the people with very high rep simply ask a ton of questions.

Don't get me wrong, asking questions here is a good thing, it helps you become more knowledgeable while simultaneously helping the community. But the bottom line is that rep != knowledge.

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    Man, I couldn't agree more ! – Cerebrus Jan 30 '09 at 9:48
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    If the SO member had way more answers than questions, wouldn't that be a different story? – Dave Jul 7 '09 at 18:51
  • I will judge you based on what you post, not the rep points. So will any other competent techie. – Dustin Getz Aug 12 '09 at 17:25
  • I completely agree, and just add the fact that answer are divided too it seems that the best way to get a good rep is by answering subjective question or even a funny answer. – alejandrobog May 21 '10 at 4:41
  • I couldn't find one user on stackoverflow.com with rep>1000 which had more questions than answers. I randomly clicked users for five minutes and couldn't find. – cyborg Oct 12 '11 at 13:18
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    @cyborg: Well, this answer is about 3 years old :-) And i think that the system is a bit more balanced due to new policies and more importantly more users! I still feel that asking questions is rewarded greatly, but it doesn't seem to outweigh good answers quite as much as it did when the site first became popular. – Evan Teran Oct 12 '11 at 15:38

It is definitely something that I intend to factor into my hiring decisions. I already check out potential employee's prior art work if it is public, read up on their blogs, and look for community forums where they might have posted, before I make my final hiring decision. Now do I do this with every candidate before I interview them? No way! Too time consuming. But if I am down to two or three guys that I already like, it would influence my opinion positively if I see them contributing to the overall community knowledgebase, because I do feel that it is important that they can share what they know in a constructive manner.

  • I've done the same in the past. You'd be surprised how many interviewees respond to the question, "So what are some technical blogs/sites that you keep up with?" with a nervous "uhh..." – Jonathan S. Nov 14 '08 at 15:08
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    Oh and if you are an EEO you shouldn't limit it to "guys". :O – Jonathan S. Nov 14 '08 at 15:09
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    I was taught as a kid that in English male is gender neutral - I've never been able to adapt to the whole s/he nor alternating pronoun thing. – Chris Boran Jul 24 '09 at 1:41

As an employer, I see 'active involvement in the development community' as being highly correlated with candidate quality. Right now, SO is a 'hot' topic and so, yeah, I'll probably start asking about it when discovering 'how do you solve hard problems?' and 'what do you do to stay current?'

(To state the obvious: reducing the quality of a candidate to any single number, such as their SO reputation, is absurd. What I'll do is look at their questions and answers.)

(BTW: Will I get banned if I mention that I'm hiring?)

  • Congrats on being in a position to hire in this economy :-) – torial Nov 10 '08 at 23:48
  • will you pay relocation to Hawaii?!!!? – Steven A. Lowe Nov 11 '08 at 3:21
  • For an exceptional talent, we could talk. – Larry OBrien Nov 11 '08 at 20:06
  • Ah, well Steven is an exceptional talent :) Although I'm not sure he deserves Hawaii :) – Andrew Rollings Jan 17 '09 at 1:30
  • Actually, that is really bizarre... I navigated to Larry's website only to recognize it from an article I read on there earlier today while researching DSLs. Small world(wideweb)! – Andrew Rollings Jan 17 '09 at 1:31

Ever since Stack Overflow has come out of beta, the top hit on Google for my name is my Stack Overflow profile.

I'd imagine that regardless of whether they've heard of Stack Overflow, a potential employer is going to google my name, and find that page. They may not understand or care about the reputation score, but I'd imagine they'd click through to the top few questions or answers, and therefore the quality of the stuff I've posted on Stack Overflow is going to affect what they think of me.

Hopefully this effect is positive. Either way it's a tremendous incentive for me to post insightful answers, and not flame people, and so forth. I could have used an alias and not posted under my real name, but on the whole I believe that having my Stack Overflow stuff 'visible' will be a net win.

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    Heh, funny you mention about your SO profile coming top on Google, because the same has happened for me too. :-P – Chris Jester-Young Nov 11 '08 at 15:35

Answering as an employer, no.

Only your real skills are marketable. The quality of questions and answers definitely can be used evaluate written communication skills. The quality and quantity of your open-source project counts even more. OTOH, the Stack Overflow reputation number is completely useless as it has a very weak correlation with quality of the questions and answers.

  • 1.Time has come where companies have started to include in their skills and requirements in the recruiting process that a candidate should hold certain amount of reputation on stack-overflow account. 2.So then the candidate is given more preference over others. – user229261 Jul 25 '13 at 12:14

I think the FAQ states it very clearly: reputation points means one thing, and one thing only: how much SO as a site trusts you. If you want to hire a moderator for a social programming site, then reputation points may be a good indicator. Otherwise not.

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    The FAQ may say that, but low scores may only mean you just got here, or you don't spend a lot of time at work trying to build your rep, or you read SO for educational value. – DOK Nov 10 '08 at 22:22
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    Which just proves my point. If you just got here, SO does not trust you. If you don't spend time asking/answering questions, SO will not trust you to do things like editing questions, etc. – JesperE Nov 11 '08 at 7:11

When I interviewed for my current position, my interviewers had put my name in google, found my blog, forum activity, etc. They got a glimpse into my level of knowledge and interest to learn/help others and got to take a look at my writing skills.

The fact that I had a good amount of community involvement went over very well and it also allowed them to ask very targeted questions based on what they could infer about my experience. It was probably the best interview I've ever had and subsequently the best job I've ever had.

In a situation like mine, having activity on SO would have been a factor, so I wouldn't discount it. That being said, I wouldn't put it on my resume either. Employers that will take notice of this sort of thing will do the research on their own.


I would think a person very foolish to use reputation on any forum as a metric for prospective employers to use when appraising an applicant.

  • Maybe not reputation, but looking at the quality of their exchanges? – Chris Boran Nov 10 '08 at 21:24
  • Yes, perhaps, but if the decision comes down to this you are probably already in trouble. – Ed S. Nov 11 '08 at 1:09

I would argue that the three most important factors--in order--are:

  1. Attitude. Some people become jerks on the internet. I think this is very, very similar to the old adage about how people treat their social inferiors is the best measure of their character. If most of your posts are sarcastic or bombastic, then you're probably going to be difficult to work with--no matter how well you schmooze in the interview. Your ability to disagree with a position while still respecting the person on the other end of the disagreement speaks volumes about how you'll interact with co-workers.

  2. Communication skill. Every job requires this, and the ability to explain something clearly or to present an effective argument are critical skills for virtually any job in technology.

  3. Knowledge, both areas of expertise and actual expertise within those areas.

One nice thing is that, within reason, none of these criteria would necessarily count against a non-native speaker. Spelling and grammar has to get really, really bad before it makes your argument unintelligible.

The actual reputation score only matters in that it tells you how much of the candidate's writing you'll be able to judge on SO.


I don't think these have been mentioned yet:

  • Most common tags: what subject areas predominate? Are they relevant to the desired skillset?
  • Average number of votes received on answers, and how frequently the answers are chosen as the best answer. The higher, the better.
  • When written communication skills are a job requirement, this is one example of their abilities.

When I'm hiring I always google people's names after the initial screening interview, but before I bring them in to talk to the team.

If I found some posts on SO - or on a blog, or anywhere else - made by someone who was definitely the person we were going to interview, then I'd certainly regard them as being useful information about the person. Reputation would be less relevant.

  • 1
    You have to be careful with this. I just found out about another "Mark Ransom" who has some code out on Github. We're not the same person, not even related, and it's not a very common name. – Mark Ransom Oct 17 '12 at 2:38
  • That's a great point, I probably would pick something like that up if they were called John Smith but for a rarer name it would be easy to make a mistake. – Giles Thomas Oct 18 '12 at 11:30

This can be a bad thing for an employer... Yes, you can be a good programmer with a good answer, but, hummm, if you do Stack Overflow at your job instead of working it only shows to your new employer that you are someone who like going on the Internet instead of working... I do not think it's a plus value to show that to an employer.

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    Especially when all answers are timestamped. – jsl4980 Nov 10 '08 at 21:20
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    My employer has twice asked me to post questions here. They also encourage me to spend time on this site. A decent employer should do that, since time spent on the site only improves my skill - as opposed to other sites I could visit. – configurator Jan 6 '09 at 18:22

My co-worker Craig suggests that it will be a year or so before we have a real answer to that question. I tend to agree.

A hire/no-hire decision is based on many factors. Previous experience, references, and education weigh most heavily because it's easier to measure the value of those things. More importantly, they can be valued independently of what the prospective hire might say. Stack Overflow (SO) reputation can't yet be valued with measures external to Stack Overflow. Once it has been around awhile, that might be easier. For now, I think the vast majority of companies that employ programmers won't weight SO reputation much (if at all) in their hiring decisions.

There will be exceptions to this (of course). There are employers like mine, who are aware of Stack Overflow because we all read Coding Horror and Joel on Software (and in my case, managed to get on the Stack Overflow beta). If I'm in the interview rotation and a candidate mentions that Stack Overflow is a site they use regularly, it would give me a more positive view of them. Experience, references, education (and how well they interview) would still be the primary factors in my decision, but quality questions and answers in SO would only help.


I would look at what kind of questions that the user has asked, trying to spot the easy search that has been skipped. As for answers, I would look on how well the answers are formulated, but I wouldn't give much to the reputation, because it's always possible to game a system.


With careers evolving, you'd think it might be a little bit marketable - but IMO the quality of any questions/answers is more important than just the number; so as long as you are writing clean, intelligent, helpful and informative posts I wouldn't get fixated by this alone.

  • 1
    I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the quantity of their reputation but by the content of their – waffles Nov 22 '09 at 11:49
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    I like that the meaning of that comment is self-updating over time ;-p – Marc Gravell Nov 22 '09 at 13:00

Just hiring someone from Stack Overflow based on answers isn't that smart. I would like to see the persons previous/current history when it comes to work, skills and similar and a interview, since there are people that are very good but can't work in groups or similar.

And Stack Overflow is also very new, and very few know about it, at least when it comes to people that hire others.


Just like with open source software, you have potentially more to lose by showing a employer your online engagements than not.


If Jeff Atwood decides to normalize reputation points distributed per question, maybe.

The GameDev.net forums have a manual reputation points system which is definitely marketable in the game industry (amazing general programming forum, BTW, if you do use C++).

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    What does that mean, "normalize rep distributed per question"? – DOK Nov 10 '08 at 22:19

Having a good StackOverflow reputation is a good sign. I will share my experience. I wrote down on my resume that my StackOverflow reputation is 5K. A recruiter who did not know much about StackOverflow asked me if 5K reputation was good enough because she had no idea what StackOverflow reputation is. She asked me to write it as a percentage.

After the review, I modified it as,

"Top 11% on StackOverflow: My questions and answers have impacted around 1.6 million people."

This seems to be much more effective way to list it down.

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