We're launching a new, experimental feature tomorrow on Careers, and wanted to get people's opinion on it.

As always, our goal is to help awesome programmers find great jobs. However, we've found that:

  1. People don't always want to signal that they're looking for a job
  2. A lot of candidates don't even realize that there are better opportunities out there
  3. Creating a complete CV is a lot of work

So, what we want is a way for people to be "passively" looking for a job -- they're willing to get an occasional offer from a company, even if they're not actively looking for a job right now. And we want it to be frictionless, because if somebody is passively looking for a job then by definition they're not going to do anything to seek it out.

Enter "Passive Candidate Search"

Passive candidate search is basically just a glorified version of the Data Explorer, but for employers. It lets employers search people's public profiles based on tags and location. For example, they could search "Python" and "San Francisco" and find a few dozen SO users who have "San Francisco" as their location and have answered questions in the Python tag. They can view their public profile information, including their top answers.

If they find a candidate they really like, they can request to contact them. Say I want to contact Mr. Punyon -- he'll get a message in his global inbox that says "David Fullerton wants to contact you on Stack Overflow Careers". If he wants, he can block all future searches and messages and be done with it forever -- or he can view the message, and decide if he's interested or not.

We'll be closely monitoring how employers use this to make sure they don't just spam tons of people. To start with, we're limiting them to 20 open messages at a time.

What They See

Starting tomorrow, you can see exactly what employers will see by going to http://careers.stackoverflow.com/cv/employerview. You'll also be able to test-drive the search interface at http://careers.stackoverflow.com/employer/candidate-search to get an idea of how they'll be searching. To summarize it here, they'll see:

  • Your user name, location, and gravatar from your public profile
  • Your reputation across all our sites
  • Your top answers by score

In other words, what they'd see on your profile page on any of our sites.

You'll only rank for a tag search if you have at least 5 upvotes in answers in that tag, and won't show up at all if there are no tags you have 5 upvotes in.

Other Details

  1. We never reveal anything that's not already publicly available. The only thing that couldn't already be done is sending someone a message, and we'll tightly control that.

  2. Messages will only show up in your global inbox -- you'll never get an email (or a phone call).

  3. Starting tomorrow, you can pre-emptively block all searches and messages by going to http://careers.stackoverflow.com/cv/employerview.

  4. Viewing a message from an employer won't change how you appear in their searches -- you'll still show up as a "passive candidate" who probably isn't looking for a job right now.

  5. We geocode your location, so if you don't have a location or it's gibberish, you won't show up.

  6. Initially, we'll only include SO, but eventually we want to include other sites that make sense (SF, SU, gamedev, etc).

Once again, this is experimental. If it's not working, we'll get rid of it. Our goal is that if there happens to be an employer looking for someone awesome in your area, you'll get an occasional message asking if you're interested.

  • 3
    How can we know if our location is being parsed correctly?
    – jjnguy
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 20:00
  • 3
    @jjnguy tomorrow you'll be able to see it on Careers, but you could experiment with it by going to careers.stackoverflow.com/jobs or careers.stackoverflow.com/employer/search and entering things into the Location field...that's using the same Yahoo API to geocode your input Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 20:02
  • 2
    Is it possible to include candidates who have a public CV with other locations they are willing to work in the search?
    – jjnguy
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 20:13
  • 3
    I <3 this idea. Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 20:58
  • Is it tomorrow yet? I'm still getting 404 errors.
    – jjnguy
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 14:45
  • 1
    @jjnguy No. It's the day after tomorrow. In Iceland.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 17:12
  • @jjnguy try now... Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 18:04
  • I'm getting a 404 on the messages page, but everything else seems fine.
    – Brandon
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 19:01
  • @Brandon could you open a [bug] report with the details? Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 19:09
  • Sure, meta.stackexchange.com/questions/80396/…
    – Brandon
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 19:13

4 Answers 4


I greatly look forward to this feature. I'd love it if more UK-based employers would use this service, too.

We'll be closely monitoring how employers use this to make sure they don't just spam tons of people. To start with, we're limiting them to 20 open messages at a time.

Employers aren't the problem here. Recruitment agencies are.

I propose you bring in what StackOverflow does best: reputation. If I get a message from an employer, and it's good, but I'm not interested, I can say "good message, but currently happy where I am" and they get some reputation for being nice people. However, if it's a badly written job spec, spammy, incomplete, irrelevant (Hi Ninefingers, fancy a job coding ruby on a mac...? (see my cv)) I get to downvote.

So I'd get a box:

Reply to this message:

* I'm interested!                          (ajax wizardry, give me WMD. 
                                            Maybe a gold star is implied here)
* No thanks, but it was relevant, well written and interesting.
                                           (gives employer a golden star)
* No thanks, it was poorly written, incomplete or irrelevant to me.
                                           (removes said gold star)
* Disable this feature RIGHT NOW!          (disables this feature. Right now)

So it's like voting, but with an approve/reject sort of sense. Then, employers can have scores. You might even reward high scoring employers with say more messages or a cheaper rate. Conversely, low scoring employers should get less messages, so they are encouraged to send good adverts to get their score back up.

Of course, it would need monitoring for abuse. I could send out 20 messages a day getting extra rep for each one I wrote well. So perhaps make the weight a little less visible than SO's rep, or maybe make it apply on a more long-term basis (so consistent good use is rewarded), and of course monitor it.

Edit having proposed that, I don't want the ability to vote directly on employers at any time, only on their interactions. This is because such voting might be unfair (didn't get the job) or subject to gaming using career sockpuppets. I'm only interested in rewarding employers who take the time to invest in their people and recruitment process.

  • 5
    this is an interesting idea! Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 21:47
  • I love this idea more than I love the idea of passive candidacy
    – jcolebrand
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 22:01
  • 2
    Bourne out of frustration with recruitment agencies mostly. There's nothing worse than irrelevant job opportunity spam or people looking for "talented, ambitious developers for truly multinational nobel peace prize winning company" etc with spelling mistakes in their advert, no advertised salary, no details beyond "strong C++ skills" (boost? Linux? VS? SVN?), no background to the sector and no location. My inbox is full of this sort of junk.
    – user142852
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 22:04
  • 2
    But we're sat on a goldmine of talented people here who deserved to be approached in the right way and we can reward employers for making the effort, and get them great talent at the same time.
    – user142852
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 22:06
  • 2
    +1 for an awesome insight, although it would be amusing to get a form letter recruiting for strong skills in "const", the tag for my #1 answer at the moment. At least it would be amusing the first time :-) Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 1:14
  • 1
    For those who are interested here's an idea of what I consider bad recruitment: careers.stackoverflow.com/jobs/8762/… A generic, catch all advert. What the hell is that doing on stackoverflow careers? I'm a programmer. I don't care about trains, except that they're always late (this is the UK). I might care more about trains if there's a specific task, like, "Network Rail is {obligatory waffle}. We're looking for erlang developers for high performance continually up train monitoring systems" for example.
    – user142852
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 13:15
  • 1
    And by contrast here's a good example: careers.stackoverflow.com/jobs/5991/…
    – user142852
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 13:21

Beyond employment, I can see this being a boon for someone looking for consultants or contractors for particular projects. As it is, I get many people contacting me with proposals after reading one of my answers and following the information in my profile. This would formalize that process.

There are many developers out there who are fine as independent consultants and don't necessarily want a fulltime job somewhere else, or people who are happily employed somewhere but don't mind some nights-and-weekends side projects. These people wouldn't put in formal CVs, and wouldn't be interested in job offers, but might jump at the chance to work on interesting consulting projects.

As long as people can opt out of appearing in the search results, I think you should promote the consultant angle on this, because I think you'd find a lot of people who would jump on this.


I know it's less profitable, but I honestly think the stand-up thing to do would be to

Please make this an Opt-In procedure

Rather than implementing what you've described, which is an opt-out procedure. Advertise it via the blog. Add a global inbox message pointing to the blog and/or the page where they can opt in.

But don't just blindly force everyone into the corral, and then make them request a pass if they want to get out, or shove an employee contact in their face at some random later date without their knowledge that they were being advertised in the first place.

  • 2
    P.S. I otherwise love the feature - I think it'll lead to great things for members of the site and for Stack Overflow Internet Services.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 21:59

How can I see my percentile scores like shown in Joel Spolsky's sample profile here, where he is 90th percentile in some tags, and 80th in a few others?:

For example, I'm currently the #3 ranked user overall in ASP.Net and VB.Net, #9 in tsql, #10 in sql-server and .net, and #12 in C# and sql. That ought to translate to some decent percentile numbers, but I can't find that on my own profile.


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