I'm semi looking for work just now, and I've got a careers.stackexchange.com profile.

How fancy!

Anyway, I was just responding to someone's question here on "The Workplace" with my thoughts on how they should consider burning all their bridges and seducing the boss's partner and maybe visiting a mystic so they could haunt the office in the afterlife when, suddenly, i thought

"Hold on, I'm visible on careers. And that means it's fairly simple for a company that might be interested in me to check what i've said on The Workplace". So i redacted the bit about burning all the bridges (because companies like people who are inclined to network!) and posted my answer.

But now I'm wondering - should all my answers here be typical "you should bleed for the company all the time and never ever consider hiring a mystic so you can come back and haunt the company toilets"?

Or should I just plain hope that the people who might think to hire me via careers wouldn't take the fairly obvious next step of determining my company character by looking me up on "The Workplace"?

  • @JoeStrazzere well, that's not technically true, is it? I can log into reddit or whatever the kids are using these days and sit and post all sorts of fancy opinions. Heck, if i didn't have a careers profile, i could do that here too, with perfect impunity - after all, nobody here really knows who i am (although they probably know what your name is, but that's something you did by choice) – bharal May 2 '14 at 18:52
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    @Chad hm, actually, this is more about representing ethical (in a workplace sense) opinions that are relatable to a hirable person, rather than asking technical questions (and thus showing a lack of knowledge at some stage in one's career), no? – bharal May 2 '14 at 18:55
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    Actually, I think this is a valid workplace question, not just a meta question. I don't know if the asking/answering difference is enough to make this not a duplicate. – thursdaysgeek May 2 '14 at 18:58
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    FWIW, it is an incredible value-add (and selling point for SE) for hiring managers to link directly to people's SE & see who they are, what they think, & how they code. I'm not the only hiring mgr who does it, and I've been on the other side of the table as well (my answers used to gauge who I am). So, as Joe says in the first comment, assume everything online could be read by a potential employer, and I would add that in the specific case of Careers 2.0 & SE, assume it will be. Now, what you post is up to you; if it's not the true you, your employer will find that out on their own in time. – jcmeloni May 2 '14 at 18:59

I have an online presence (11000 references to my name in Google) that's just too big to hide. If anyone from HR investigates me:

  1. I'll blame my thoughts and shenanigans on my evil twin - OK, we are both evil but whoever is investigating me doesn't have to know that :)

  2. I am going to brazen this thing out, and claim to be the victim if I have to :)

In life, it's not what you do that differentiates you from the rest of the pack but what you get away with, and I actually expect to get away with this :)

Having said that, I was aware that every site I participate in is a sound stage and echo chamber, complete with recording equipment. If I say anything truly stupid, anyone who does opposition research on me even several years from now may find what I said. Strong impulse control is my best friend. Flame wars are fun but be careful about crossing one bridge too far. Express your strong opinions in the appropriate forums not necessarily everywhere :)

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    Most of those 11,000 references are double-counts from the same page/site. If you go through the list you'll find that there's really only 83 distinct sources. – aroth May 3 '14 at 8:49
  • @aroth Sad :( Thanks for the feedback. 83 distinct sources is much more manageable than 11000 references, but I still can't hid my fingerprints in these 83 distinct sources. – Vietnhi Phuvan May 3 '14 at 11:02
  • Not so for everyone: there are exactly two people on the web with my firstname+lastname, as far as I can tell from the more popular search engines. Since the other is in an unrelated field in a different country it's pretty obvious who is who. – Móż May 4 '14 at 2:53

Not exactly an answer, but I couldn't resist.

enter image description here

Then again, it might not be smart to use xkcd for career advice. (then still, it might actually be)


More and more, companies are checking out an online presence as part of the reference check (although many companies skip or do very casually). (Here's one relevant link.)

However, if you're providing GOOD advice, even if it is not always Rah! Rah! Go Management! type advice, a reasonable company will recognize that. A not so good company could dun you for that, but that is part of the vetting process of determining if you want to work for them.

If you must provide an answer pushing toilet haunting services, it is possible to make and use an alternate ego, and thus protect yourself.

  • so the answer here then is "no"? – bharal May 2 '14 at 18:58
  • Yes, it's better to not link hexing workplace advice with your real persona. However you don't have to take the opposite extreme and be a mindless company drone to be attractive to many companies. – thursdaysgeek May 2 '14 at 19:07

The opinions you express anywhere online, on profiles publicly linked to you, should be 100% in line with what you're okay with current or prospective employers knowing about you.

I'd actually refrain from expressing any especially controversial opinion (of the type that might make it particularly difficult / impossible to get a job with someone who knows you posted it, or that might get you arrested), even on a profile not publicly linked to you, as nothing on the internet is truly anonymous.

Consider the extreme example of being asked one of these questions in an interview as a hypothetical - your answer here should probably be similar to one you'd give in such a situation.

If you want to be known as a "yes-man" ("a person who supports the opinions or ideas of someone else in order to earn that person's approval") (I don't), any answer to an employee-vs-employer question should probably involve telling them that the employer is right (although that will probably get you the occasional flood of downvotes).

If you want to be known as someone who will speak up when something is wrong and who won't stand for getting mistreated (among other things) (and perhaps even more significantly - someone who gives good advice), then happily give good advice to the employee, even if that won't be in the employer's best interest.

However, I assume a potential employer is fairly unlikely to look at one's profile here at all, but you never know (they'd probably be more likely to check out your profile on an industry-specific site, such as Stack Overflow if you're a programmer). If they do, they may look at the highest and/or lowest voted posts, and perhaps a few selected ones here and there.

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    If you post anything controversial, just make sure you post under an alias that is not traceable to your real life name. I've seen people complain about their boss using their real life name, with a link on their SO profile to their LinkedIn profile. That is definitely a bad idea. – Paul Hiemstra May 3 '14 at 8:53

One thing I've learned over the years is that people are people. If you are some troll on the internet, that sort of behavior will seep into real life. If you have a fiery temper at home, you'll eventually have a fiery temper at work.

Pretending to be something you're not is a temporary solution at best. If you don't want your company to think you're a vengeful, boss-hating loose cannon then maybe you should work not to be that guy...

Though personally, I find it easier and more satisfying to simply accept it. I am a curmudgeonly cynical, anti-social super-developer. Companies need not worry about what I'm hiding. And I don't need to worry that what I post is going to please people - so I can focus on what I'm actually doing rather than how I appear doing it.

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