UPDATE 5/5/2021: I had someone from SE management reach out and apologise for the wording of the communications with me. They've clarified that the reasons are entirely geographical and time zone related – which is an entirely different issue, and that the text of the rejection email doesn't reflect the opinion of the team.

There's a few issues that naturally need to be looked at (and that's internal to SE – but hopefully this lays to rest the lack of suitability for the role.)

I'm not sure that the staff who I am aware helped out would be comfortable with me naming them, but I appreciate them reaching out and clarifying the issue.

I've generally not complained about my own applications for community manager – I've done it four times, and have worked closely with many of the folks who got hired . This time though, I'm seriously confused over the requirements, and am deeply unhappy with the language that was used in the rejection letter.

I do believe though there's either been a failure to communicate somewhere and I do hope this is an honest mistake. If so please delete this and let me know. While I have contacts in the company - in this case, I would rather have this done openly. Folks can review it and try to work out whether things went wrong, and if this was the intended response - the community needs to know.

If it isn't, well, there's no point in pretending you want to hire mods as CMs anymore. Frankly at this point, if this is so, I feel it's something the community would rather know. I'd love to know personally if it's intentional since I would be reconsidering my activity on SE based on who you do hire, as might others.

Now – while I have a personal stake here, I also have a longer term goal of getting more folks from the community in the community management team here and have been fairly vocal about this. In the interests of facilitating this - I'd love to know what the actual requirements for the job are.

I'll refer to my curt and rather disappointing rejection letter - which indicates I'm not qualified...

Thank you for your interest in pursuing a career with Stack Overflow, and your time and effort in submitting an application. Unfortunately we have to pass on your candidacy for our position at this time. Based upon the job requirements, we don't believe we have the best match, and we wouldn't be setting you up for success. If you would have it, I would welcome the opportunity to connect with you on LinkedIn. In the event things change with the job, I will circle back.

(for reference – this is the 'old' rejection form letter – which was much nicer)

And no, I don't really want to connect on LinkedIn. And while I'm interested in the job, if I'm still not the best match and "we wouldn't be setting you up for success" – I don't really feel like the company wants me in the job.

I'm rather confused about what the job requirements are right now based on this.

No one's actually gotten back to me personally on this so... lets talk. I'm not expecting a change in decision here, but I'd love to know what I'm missing here. Based on the job description...

3-5 years Stack Overflow or Exchange network experience as a moderator or high rep user (>2,500)

This of course is the first round in the current series of hirings that has been open to moderators and community members. This was of course, brought up by a member of the community

I'm over 100K reputation on 2 sites. I've easily more than that as a moderator alone (since 2014 on Super User, and I was one on SR.SE before) and been on the network for over a decade. Considering that the fact I had no formal experience worked against me this time, and community lobbying – I'm certain that I meet and exceed the criteria, least on tenure.

Experience writing communications that resonate with different audiences, sometimes with conflicting priorities.

Meta is pretty much my resume here.

Experience and enjoyment working with diverse moderator teams and processes.

I think many on the moderator community would attest to my abilities there. I've close working relationships with mods across many sites, and both on public Q&A and moderator only spaces I've worked with and mentored many mods.

Experience with positive collaborations with internal stakeholders including developers and product teams.

I believe many SE staff would attest to my abilities there – and I've always seen meta as a collaborative effort.

An understanding of Stack Overflow and the Stack Exchange network sites.

I mean, I'm not saying this on Twitter, right? I've significant experience as a user on the network.

Experience in successful conflict-management with online communities

I was part of the team that handled the mess on meta from 2019 onwards. We literally helped turned this place around.

Ability to think about problem solving individually and from triage while being able to identify longer term solutions.

I helped work out the current structure of the TL and have worked long-term in trying to help heal the rifts between the company and community. While many others have contributed more, I've been trying to get things back to normal on meta in some capacity.

A drive for facilitating communication between many groups, both internally and externally to Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange.

I've worked with almost half a dozen communities, including several that were part of SE and drifted off.

A desire/drive to work with technologists around topics that interest them.

Well – this is something you'd have worked out in an interview, or looking at my SE profile.

As such I'm wondering what a successful application for a moderator interested in transitioning from amateur community management to professional community management within the Stack Exchange network needs to be? What qualifications would such a person need that I'm lacking now?

  • 24
    Is Meta really the best place to complain about a rejection letter? Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 2:02
  • 27
    @forestdistrustsStackExchange Well - there's a broader context of the community trying to get more community representation in the community management team. More broadly - this affects any other mod who might be interested in future in the role. Its useful to know where the failure in communication happened. Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 2:04
  • 11
    Being rejected doesn't imply that a communication failure occurred. It's a candid response for sure, but I fail to see where communication broke down. Is your evidence just that "many people would attest to your skills" and yet you weren't picked up? Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 2:05
  • 17
    It is for them to respond, but I think this is too specific to your particular situation (a rejection letter in an email which you disagree with). 90% of your post is just you providing examples of why you believe you are a good fit to be a CM and what you feel you've accomplished. Perhaps if you could reword it to be more about the qualifications that are needed rather than why you feel you fit them, it might better fit. Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 2:09
  • 8
    " ... unhappy with the language that was used ..." - In North America that is a mildly positive rejection letter, at a minimum; referring to it as "positive" might be a stretch. --- Some people are told never to reapply, but not necessarily at this employer. --- I'll leave it at that.
    – Rob
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 2:36
  • 13
    With the recent uptick in outside hires for community-facing posts at a time when community-facing relations have frequently been abysmal the post addresses concerns I've personally had. I also know several other users with similar concerns. I find that this is an excellent place to present the issue. So often in Meta a comment is made suggesting that hypothetical issues are best left until they become "real" issues. The OP here as presented evidence that the issue is no longer hypothetical and has graduated to "real".
    – Chindraba
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 5:05
  • 14
    I think making this about your own application alone will inevitably sidetrack the whole discussion. A more interesting data point for starting this discussion might be simply looking at how many external vs. internal candidates were hired (though I assume the most recent position isn't publicly known yet). Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 5:29
  • 25
    Well, if you don't qualify who would?
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 7:49
  • 14
    More than anything else a company prefers an employee who will toe the line. If you've ever been publicly critical of a company, even if done respectfully, that automatically disqualifies you from future employment. Because at that point you're a liability. Can you honestly say that you would side with the company over the community if the company did something objectively wrong again (think 2019)? I don't think you would, which only speaks to your good character, but it doesn't endear you to the hiring manager in this case.
    – n8te
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 8:00
  • 9
    My humble opinion, comparing the two rejection letters, is that the old one is more in keeping with a "small company" (small team who all know each other, every serious application can be personalised) while the new one is basically lawyered-up corporatespeak for the same thing. You definitely seem qualified for the job, but others might be too, and they can only pick one person per position. The weirdest part is "Based upon the job requirements, we don't believe we have the best match". Could it be simply a poorly-worded rejection template? Wouldn't be the first time SE has done such a thing. Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 9:11
  • 9
    @n8te I can see that. The whole point is that not siding with the company at all costs is actual requirement for the good CM. Otherwise, CM is not doing a good job. Of course, company might not look it that way. If that is so, then the whole hiring CMs process is broken and this is the right place to discuss it (and hopefully make them realize that). Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 9:12
  • 17
    This is an on-topic question for meta; and I'll be voting to re-open it if/when it gets closed. Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 14:38
  • 6
    There's two questions here, one is What is the company looking for in a CM? or, differently interpreted, Is the job description accurate?, which is somewhat on-topic. The difficult question is Why did I get rejected? is intermingled with it, which is a question people often have, but are pretty much never able to get an honest answer on. It could be anything, from a random bad interaction with a staff member years ago, to the company preferring you continue doing (substantial) work for free instead of paying, to "we're actually looking for a diversity hire of group X".
    – Erik A
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 15:36
  • 14
    @JourneymanGeek "You're not a good match because of job requirements" is the canned legally acceptable rejection reason that's provided for nearly all rejections where there's not another solid, legally acceptable reason not to hire someone. In my experience, the chance they rejected you for another reason they're not willing to disclose is much more likely than the requirements stated being wrong
    – Erik A
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 15:48
  • 8
    @zcoop98 I really don't feel like there's any good options. Keep quiet and nothing changes. I don't have anyone else I know of who applied to back up. This feels too much about me but it's the option that I feel I can use most effectively for a graceful result if folks are willing to work with me. Or it could be a raging dumpster fire - or if I'm not on a block list already I might be now. Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 16:16

4 Answers 4


Update: I just noticed that the job listing says "US - Remote". I don't know if that was the case when you applied, but it would be a reason for HR to reject your resume out of hand. I would have hoped they would have said why directly instead of "based upon the job requirements, we don't believe we have the best match", but in my experience the left hand doesn't always know what the right hand is doing when it comes to hiring. It kinda looks like a form letter rather than someone actually considering your qualifications.

It's been a while since I worked as a CM and even longer since I was hired out of the mod pool. Back then community management was in its infancy and mostly limited to online gaming. These days "community" has become something of a fad and lots of places are looking for experts in the field. When I started looking for a CM job, the landscape was changed. So I'm not sure I can give accurate insight here. But I figure I'd try.

I'm disappointed for you that you didn't even get to the interview stage. As you laid out, you've got the required experience to be an exceptional CM. I'm biased, but I think hiring from the community makes sense for the company. Acclimating to new communities, especially communities as varied as the Stack Exchange network, takes time. Even relatively trivial things, such as understanding how to use chat effectively, can be roadblocks for external hires.

That said, there's a real advantage to hiring people who don't have a long history on the network. After I was hired, it became clear the community team was heavily weighted toward former moderators. So Jaydles went out of his way to look for candidates outside of the Stack Exchange bubble. In my opinion, that made the team stronger. The people new to the network, asked questions that helped those of us who had been around a long time think differently about our work. I feel like I provided the same outsider perspective to College Confidential.

While being a moderator does provide a foundation for community management, it's not sufficient. Everyone learns how to do their job while doing the work. For me, I needed to learn to represent the company to the community in addition to the other way around. Building trust with co-workers isn't the same as getting to know employees as a mod. I also unlearned habits I'd acquired over the years as a community member.

The other advantage to hiring outsiders is (how to put this delicately?) they don't have baggage of history. I think it's fair to say Stack Overflow has had a rocky couple of years with the community. It's entirely possible some people within the community have a "reputation" internally. (Full disclosure: as a community manager, I have opinions about people in the community and sometimes discuss them internally. There are lines professionals don't cross, but discussion of prominent community members is inevitable.) In my opinion, the right thing to do is to go ahead with interviews and see if those biases are based in reality. But I'm not the one making these decisions and I can see preferring to not get people's hopes up or whatever.

The thing that confounds me about you in particular, Journeyman Geek, is that I don't know what might be the basis for excluding you so early in the process. My impression is that you managed the difficult task of being a network-wide moderator in times of crisis with aplomb. While I can imagine other potential moderator candidates for the role being rejected for how they handled themselves, I don't see that in your case. So I'm at a loss.

  • 10
    I can only imagine what they say about me internally. Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 19:18
  • 8
    "That @GeorgeStocker. He sure is a hoot!" Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 19:32
  • 5
    Your posts often have a TV Tropes-like effect on me: as well as the one eloquently written post in front of me, there's also links to others, which in turn link to others, and I end up spending a considerable amount of time on your blog. Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 21:43
  • 2
    @Randal'Thor: I'm sorry I can't follow that link. I'm too busy procrastinating on my next blog post. Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 21:54
  • 6
    If memory serves - the CM role has always been listed as US-Remote, but admittedly if that's why I've not been successful, It would be strange the company having hired CMs in Nigeria and the UK. Also, this role was explicitly open to insiders, which is part of my problem here, Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 23:26
  • Thinking back - I've had one role where I was explicitly turned down because the company only hired in specific countries - I do recall they actually added it in to their webpage after I kinda complained about it. Its possible but that wasn't said. Commented Apr 30, 2021 at 2:31
  • 2
    This seems to be the official answer and SE has edited the job listing now to restrict the job to specific timezones. There's a good many problematic aspects with my communications with SE's recruiter but I'll probably need a good think before trying to work out what I want to do next. Commented May 4, 2021 at 15:48
  • 3
    If I may say, this time zone restriction still sounds more like an excuse than real reason. Yes, I know it can be challenging to manage people working all around the world, but as I see it, CMs are also support line for moderators. Since SE sites are alive 24/7, having one CM active when others are not seems more like advantage rather than disadvantage. Commented May 8, 2021 at 12:21

This of course is the first round in the current series of hirings that has been open to moderators and community members. This was of course, brought up by a member of the community.

The answer you linked to doesn't say what you think it says. This round of hiring is open to applications from the community, but the chances of a community member being hired are effectively zero. It's a very soft "no", but the 'no' is there. I liken it to a VC saying "no". It's soft, and if you're not actually looking for it, you won't hear it. (Fun fact, a VC says yes by the money going into your bank account, and not a second before. Same here.)

If and when someone from the community with extensive experience on our network is hired, then we will know that the people at Stack Overflow intend to hire Community Managers from our community, but not before.

In case you think I'm being hyperbolic, let me rephrase the answer in plain language:

Our goal with this round of hiring was to give the team more robust Community Manager experience. The reason this is valuable is that we have learned many similar companies' communities have faced challenges like ours in the past, and learning from them is helpful.

We need people who have professional community management experience from other companies that have community managers.

People that join us with a community-centric background spend time learning about Community Management as a discipline, through many resources online but most recently CMX Pro. Similarly, people with CM experience at similar companies need to spend their first few months with us learning more about our communities. They do that through blog posts, documentation, working with the team, and talking to our community directly.

We believe any professional Community Manager can pick up the nuances of this community more easily than we believe someone well versed in this community can pick up the experience of being a professional Community Manager.

We plan to continue to focus on a balance on the team, which means we will be relaxing the opening requirements and likely hire people with experience in our specific communities in the future.

When we have a full team of professional Community Managers with experience from other companies, then we'll think about hiring people from the community. But it's not set in stone because we don't know how much money we'll have to devote towards this.

Additionally, Community is an established discipline and having a diversity of backgrounds is always ideal. That being said, experience in our particular communities is also helpful.

If we had to choose between people from the Stack Exchange network becoming Community Managers and professional Community Managers learning the Stack Exchange network, we'd choose the latter.

There's no value judgement here -- Stack Overflow is hiring what they think they need; and as they've said, experience in this network is less valuable than professional experience as a CM elsewhere.

Now, do I agree with this move? Of course not -- I think it's a sign that they don't quite understand the community they're trying to 'manage', but again, that's just me.

  • 9
    Mostly in line with this answer, things are still like in 2019, SE doesn't really want to give the community any weight but pretends to, because that's their best asset.
    – Tensibai
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 18:52
  • 13
    An addendum to my answer, I'm including here because I didn't want to edit my answer: Communities operate on trust. Community Managers doubly so. It's far easier to teach someone how to be a community manager than it is to wait for them to spend the necessary time to build trust with the community they're managing. Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 18:52
  • 10
    Big asterisk on that one, @George: teaching takes time and energy from the existing team, which was a skeleton crew for a solid year before hiring resumed. If you go a whole season without planting, you're gonna just have to suck it up and buy your grain wholesale. Heirloom tomatoes are out of the question.
    – Shog9
    Commented Apr 30, 2021 at 1:31
  • 3
    I read that answer as a pretty straightforward statement that the company is looking for fresh perspectives and actively doesn’t want people steeped in the current SE community culture. I think this is just one of the steps they’ve already taken toward trying to shift the culture of the public sites.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Apr 30, 2021 at 10:11
  • 1
    This answer rings true, it's not a Community Familiar that they seek, it's a Community Manager.
    – Rob
    Commented May 7, 2021 at 0:37

I've worked beside you back in the days when I was a moderator here. I personally can't think of a better candidate for the role of a CM and I'm pretty astonished that you've suffered four rejections and not been given any guidance or feedback how how you can improve your chances.

It seems obvious that SE are including volunteer moderators as a matter of "form" and a sign of inclusivity, but have actually no intention at all of recruiting from the moderator pool here.

I'd be willing to blame this on strategic decisions within SE's upper management.

Sadly, this is indicative of how SE views the volunteer moderator base on the network (those with diamonds, and those high-rep superusers). I did see some movements toward mending and strengthening that relationship, but that intent only seems to only go so far.

I'd love to see some clarity and transparency from SE, but I doubt there will be much in the way of meaningful response.

I find this situation sad and demotivational.

  • 4
    I realise this answer isn't strictly an answer and will be downvoted accordingly. However, I don't see an answer being forthcoming from SE. I also wanted to offer my support for Journeyman Geek and my disappointment in SE for not stepping up to it's promises for transparency and inclusion.
    – user960635
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 13:51
  • 17
    I didn't downvote, but one thing that I struggle with, with this answer (and some of the comments to the question as well) is that it's expressing a sentiment that's very close to leaning a bit too much towards 'if you don't hire this specific person all your talk about wanting better community relations is worthless'... I know it's very hard to untie these questions from a specific person (that we all like and would happily grant this job), but to me that sentiment is just quite wrong as well, as it doesn't feel right to me to expect to have that kind of say in who is or isn't hired.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 14:02
  • 4
    @Tinkeringbell Yeah, I get exactly what you're saying there. My main concern here is that SE doesn't seem like it intends to recruit from the moderator pool at all. It's the lack of transparency that I really have issue with here mainly. If there was a reasonable reason for not hiring JG, then I'd be ok with that.
    – user960635
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 14:11
  • 6
    If there was a reasonable reason, I hope it wouldn't be shared on MSE... Just send another e-mail then, please. These things to me firmly fall under 'private information that shouldn't be shared'. Just an answer clarifying some of the requirements, or the promise of a better rejection template would do better for me.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 14:19
  • 8
    @Tinkeringbell you make good points. But on the other hand, JMG is kind of the definition of the perfect candidate as far as I can tell, so it is understandable that many of us will take the rejection as indicating SE has no interest in hiring from within the mod community. I would have understood it more if JMG had at least made it to the first round of interviews. Obviously, SE as a private company can have any number of perfectly valid reasons to choose someone else. But having someone who appears as eminently qualified as JMG be rejected without even an interview suggests a deeper issue.
    – terdon
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 14:56
  • 3
    @terdon I mean, I had sort-of the same expectations (Of JMG making it to at least a round of interviews again), after what he shared about the previous time (see e.g. this tweet). Then again, 'the last time' was just under 4 months ago, which isn't that long of a period. If an interview wasn't necessary this time though, they probably should've been more honest already back in January. The whole thing is confusing, I am not denying that... And I don't know what more to think of it, except of what I wrote above XD
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 15:01

I feel like the question that's not being answered is why you couldn't just be offered an opportunity to relocate if being on US time was essential to their requirements.

Ultimately though I've watched your struggle since late '19 on this, and I've been somewhat perplexed that you wanted to actually work for Stack Exchange. Being a diamond moderator is one thing - you're in a specific position and you choose to do this as a hobby; becoming an actual employee means that this is no longer your hobby, and you'd run a chance of your free time bleeding into your employee time (but you'd probably only be paid for the 40 or so hours you're meant to work).

I work these days as a team lead and I do a ton of interview screens. I've also been on the other side where a company just said "no" without really looking at my qualifications. I personally want to bridge the experience of saying exactly why someone wouldn't fit with my place of work so that others don't have to experience the same level of frustration or bewilderment when they're rejected.

Something else for me that I take personally is that a company is interviewing you as much as you are interviewing the company. If the company doesn't really want to talk to you, should you really want to continue to talk to them?

In this day and age of remote work, Covid-19 and telepresence, I feel like time zone differences are an artificial problem. I get the desire to want to interface with an employee on a semi-regular basis, but does it really matter all that much if they get the work done? They could pop by once in a blue moon - virtually or physically, hopefully - and it'd be all the same.

Understand that I as a mere mortal can't answer the rationale as to why the company decided not to look at your qualifications in spite of your timezone difference. But to be as blunt with you as possible, it might be the reality check you require when looking at or pursing a position with Stack Exchange.

The company has requirements that transcend your qualifications as a moderator, and they may not be willing to invest in you for a transition or as a satellite employee. As a candidate, this is a big red flag as it indicates that the company may be looking at a smaller pool of talent with slightly less qualifications, which...flies counter to the whole idea of trying to get members of the community excited about working for them!

(Does anyone else remember the era when Tim Post worked and lived in the Philippines?)

Related to this I happen to have a colleague who's trying to hire people based on their knowledge of the American education system. This is a problem for those who didn't grow up with the American education system and live in the United States as legal citizens. I pointed out to him that he's isolating a pool of candidates that could just be taught about it, but I don't think he's gonna budge, which is...quite depressing to say the least.

Not to get too pointed, but there's still a lot of unease about the company and its direction in the sense that, I don't imagine a lot of people who are a part of the community would want to work for Stack Exchange, and after seeing you and at least one other person get rejected or passed over for the position, it doesn't seem like Stack Exchange is that enthused about hiring from within the community at all.

So I would take the hint and probably not bother anymore. But that's me, and it's a very pessimistic position. You have your reasons, but with my experience in hiring, I can see the writing on the wall here.

  • 4
    I've actually been trying longer than that - My first attempt was when Cat got hired. Each time except this - I'd had folks internal to the company assist or encourage me to try. I'd take a simple rejection - I did the last 3 times. Its worth remembering there's a little more to this than 'surface' goals. SE's opened up this role to community - and this makes it difficult to say "no one applied from the community". There were issues with the way the recruiter communicated, and its been promised it will be looked at. Commented May 5, 2021 at 5:50
  • 3
    Ironically - the SE that'd hire me is probably the SE where there's probably a dozen CMs already, all better than me. On the other hand - even where I'm not hired, this gives visibility to SE's goals, how or if they fulfil the commitments to the community , and opportunities to do better. And of course, it gives opportunities for questions like this to be voiced, in context. Even if I don't get it, and end up somewhere happier, it could open things up for someone in future who could do good for the community. Commented May 5, 2021 at 5:56
  • I dunno...if this happened once in which you were rejected in this curt and abrupt way due to timezones (which was only communicated to you after you made noise about it), then I could almost forgive this and be willing to accept the messages from the employees about trying again. But after three separate attempts?? I get that there's a lot to be said about persistence; I follow some entertainers who said it took them X tries to get into Y company. But this still feels like a lot of talk about wanting to hire from the community as opposed to actually hiring from the community.
    – Makoto
    Commented May 5, 2021 at 16:24
  • Having the recruiter address how they communicate is basically the same as saying that the clerk at the store will work on a better way to explain to the customer why they're out of stock of something. Yeah, you address the way it's said, but not the fundamental problem.
    – Makoto
    Commented May 5, 2021 at 16:25
  • 4
    I'm still maintaining a healthy skepticism and distance from the notion that they want to hire from the community. You're in the community, afforded one of the highest privileges and responsibilities of any of us - being a diamond mod on MSE - and you've been doing that for eons. You've more than demonstrated your pedigree on community leadership and you've been drinking their Kool-Aid. If you don't get an interview based on that, the rest of us have less than a snowball's chance in Hell of getting in! (Based on how they're treated you, I don't really want to at this point.)
    – Makoto
    Commented May 5, 2021 at 16:28

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .