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Note that linked duplicate has 0 mentions of how Stack Exchange on resume relates or doesn't to problem solving skills, so it does not address my specific question.

Within the context of jobs for which I am applying - Python development and Linux system administration - does profile on Stack Exchange sites count towards problem solving ?

Typically I participate on Unix & Linux and Ask Ubuntu, and within the context of such sites I address three types of questions:

  1. OP has a problem with their system - a feature they want to disable or something doesn't work as expected

  2. OP wants to know if there is an application that can do x,y,z

  3. OP wants to know how to parse data with set of existing tools

In these types of questions, I usually try to answer from knowledge I already have, research extra, and/or implement OP's desired functionality as script/application. A good example of the later is filesystem usage indicator, which I wrote for OP's specific question.

So with consideration of the above, does Stack Exchange profile count as problem solving on the resume ? If it does, how do I appropriately present that on my resume ?

marked as duplicate by Kate Gregory, solarflare, bruglesco, Dukeling, gnat Feb 25 at 5:57

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • 2
    Short answer: No. Long answer: Already answered in dupe thread. – solarflare Feb 24 at 22:10
  • @KateGregory The dupe haz 0 mentions of "problem solving skills". Can you explain the reasoning for the duplicate ? – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Feb 24 at 22:15
  • @solarflare cc comment ^ – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Feb 24 at 22:15
  • @JoeStrazzere So it's a hit or miss, in other words ? – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Feb 25 at 0:56
  • the simple answer is "NO, not at all", @SergiyKolodyazhnyy . It's just not how recruitment works. Good luck! – Fattie Feb 25 at 1:04
6

StackExchange answers aren't proof of problem-solving skills. They are proof of being able to find and write answers. Two very different things.

When employers ask about problem-solving skills, they aren't simply looking for someone who can come up with theoretical solutions. The key things that employers look for in problem-solving skills are:

1) Ability to identify a problem. This becomes null and void when it is literally given right to you a la StackExchange.

2) Ability to assess the urgency of said problem. You can't possibly tell the consequences or lack thereof if a question goes unanswered, but this would be something you'd probably be aware of in a company situation.

3) Ability to identify solutions and pick out the best one. This is really the only one that StackExchange is good for.

4) Ability to safely implement said solution. It's all well and good having a good theoretical fix until your fix inadvertently knocks another service offline because you didn't think about the configuration of the system. If you aren't in a position to do this yourself (or it is otherwise unwise to), coordinating with those who can is a good substitute.

  • "It's all well and good having a good theoretical fix until your fix inadvertently knocks another service offline because you didn't think about the configuration of the system." Well, that's a bit of a stretch that assumes an answer doesn't consider effects on other services/applications. Sure, that happens, but that's not a consistent rule. "You can't possibly tell the consequences or lack thereof if a question goes unanswered" That also assumes answerer's incapability. – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Feb 24 at 22:47
  • "Ability to identify a problem. This becomes null and void when it is literally given right to you a la StackExchange." In cases where OP has only an error message or something not working as the only leads to go, you still have to troubleshoot, figure out causes of said error. A symptom of a disease is not disease itself, no ? – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Feb 24 at 22:49
  • @SergiyKolodyazhnyy but the point is, a StackExchange user cannot know what else is on that system and therefore cannot take it into account. If a SE user asks for help with their SSH server and the best answer is a fix that just happens to screw with a HTTPS server on the same box due to configuration nuances only the asker will know, it is still a valid answer on SE but would still create another problem for the asker in practice. – 520 Feb 24 at 22:51
  • "In cases where OP has only an error message or something not working as the only leads to go, you still have to troubleshoot, figure out causes of said error. A symptom of a disease is not disease itself, no ?" Most technical SE sub-forums would simply close the question for being vague or ask the user to dump the logfile/verbose output if there isn't enough detail in the question. in most cases it is usually spelled out there. – 520 Feb 24 at 22:55
  • No, we can surely operate only on the information OP provides, but wouldn't it be evident from a good answer itself that the answerer considered multiple sides of the situation ? Additionally, if it messes up with specifics of OPs nuances, wouldn't OP reject that as a solution in the first place ? – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Feb 24 at 22:56
1

You have 61 questions on Ask Ubuntu. I've not looked through all of them, but some of them do demonstrate that you can identify problems.

I haven't looked through them all, but the few I looked at didn't demonstrate the sense of priority or the ability to avoid causing more problems in the process of fixing the one you started out with.

I believe that is to be expected in this format. When you ask a bunch of strangers online, your priority isn't theirs, and it can easily turn some people off if you assert your sense of urgency in the wrong way. While one is panicking, one is very likely to talk like your urgency is theirs if you talk about your urgency at all. Depending on your employer, you may also be on a gag order regarding the urgency or impact of the issue you're asking for help on.

Some of the better answers I've seen do a very good job of explaining some precautions that are likely to be important when applying fixes. I haven't seen if any of yours do, but it's theoretically possible.

Therefore, if you were giving your resume to me, I would at least consider your SE profile in evaluating whether I wanted to call you in for an interview. It's not the best possible show of problem solving skills, but it's something.

If I chose to call you in, I would absolutely make some resume questions out of your SE profile. Finding things to give in depth questions about without probing into things that my employer would expect your past/current employers to have under NDA is frequently a challenge in my interviewing experience, especially if it's a phone interview where the person could consult SE for answers while being interviewed. I mean, one could still come up with questions, but getting the balance right so you don't accidentally disqualify a skilled honest candidate but still disqualifying dishonest candidates is really tough.

But that's me. And I'm not hiring - it's not currently even a likely probability on my potential "other duties as requested" list for the year. Most employers I've interacted with would want to just look at the first page and make a decision from that, and as 520 asserted, that page says nothing about your problem solving.

If you get to talk with the hiring manager before submitting your resume, or someone who knows them, you may benefit from asking about their views on stack exchange. But otherwise, I'd just follow Frank Hopkin's advice, and list it as a hobby.

  • Well, 61 questions that's in addition to 1985 answers, where I do have to deal with other people's situations/systems. The reason why I'm asking this question is because Stack Exchange is at least some tangible form and numbers that seem to prove problem solving much better than a verbal account during interview of situation that may or may not have happened during past employment, especially where you're in customer-service position and customer cannot co-relate what you've stated. As for those questions that you've looked at, could you provide examples so I could at least improve them ? – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Feb 25 at 0:51
  • I'm not saying 61 is a bad number. It's something. It just takes one good question to show a thorough understanding of problem solving, apart from the priority bit that we expect to not see mentioned. When you're on the other side of the table, you're not doing a thorough review of everything the other person has done. If I were reviewing your profile to consider you for a job, I'd probably just look at your top three and your bottom two questions and answers, as well as searching for closed or duplicate posts. – Ed Grimm Feb 25 at 0:57

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