July 17, 2013, 6:00 AM —
Image credit: flickr/rickpilot_2000
Last week, Bethany Marzewski, the Marketing Coordinator at Stack Overflow Careers 2.0, wrote a post on SmartRecruiters about the five criteria that Stack Overflow uses to evaluate potential developers. Among things like “an ability to communicate,” a “variety of experience” and “completed projects,” Marzewski also lists a high Stack Overflow reputation score as a must-have attribute in a programmer.
25 million people come to Stack Overflow every month, and it’s seen as a site of record for all programming topics. We look for a high reputation score on Stack Overflow and sort through their code samples on Github to find evidence they show potential and depth of knowledge.
Checking code samples on GitHub certainly makes sense in evaluating developers, but how much should your actual Stack Overflow reputation factor into the hiring equation?
I asked a few folks in the developer community to weigh in on the value to them of a Stack Overflow reputation when considering a developer for a job.
David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of Ruby on Rails and partner at 37signals, said they don’t consider Stack Overflow scores at all when hiring developers. “That's just another indirect way of assessing a candidate,” he told me in an email. “We prefer to look at the work itself. So open source contributions or demo sites or other work products.” As I wrote earlier this year, 37signals also prefers to take developer candidates for a test drive before hiring.
Doug Gaff, Senior Director, Technology at NPR’s Digital Services division, said that while they don’t currently look at Stack Overflow reputations when hiring, he felt that it's “not a bad idea.” He said they do, however, currently look at a candidate’s Certified to Rock score, which measures a user’s contribution to Drupal.org (NPR DS is a Drupal shop). They also consider activity on GitHub and Ohloh for evaluating general contributions to the open source community.
The value of a Stack Overflow reputation for getting a programming job is an ongoing debate in the developer community. Some feel your actual score is an important indicator of your skills and abilties.
Getting a high rep on SO means, that you are eager to exchange thoughts, that you are knowledgeable enough to solve the problems your peers pose you... and that you are able to communicate your ideas. These are key abilities for good developers.
Common sense, team play and people skills are as much important as technical skills. It's better to have a decent score overall.
It's theoretically possible that a highly reputed Stack Overflow user could be an awful programmer at work, but I'm sure that the intersection of "highly reputed SO users" and "people you'd regret to hire for a programmer position" is a very tiny set.
Stack Overflow reputations are based not just on answers given, but also on questions asked and even votes cast for the questions and answers of others. Others feel, then, that the actual numerical value of your reputation can be deceiving when viewed as a measure of programming skill and shouldn’t be relied on for hiring decisions.
If I'm looking to hire someone, their reputation on SO is not going to be a consideration. At all. Their rep on SO is going to tell me nothing about their work habits or their suitability to the job.
There is no reason why a high reputation (or "score") on any site will get you a job at all.... you are more likely to get a job by maintaining open source projects, writing proficiently, leaving good impressions, and making personal connections within the community.
I would say that the actual rep is not as important as the quality of your questions and answers.
So, will a good Stack Overflow reputation ultimately help you get a job? Unfortunately, there’s no clear cut answer. Only one thing is for sure:
Stack Overflow reputation demonstrably helps your chances in getting a career with Stack Overflow. Beyond that, it really depends on the company.
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