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I'm a programmer, and while updating my CV I asked myself if I should add my experience using Stack Exchange, and especially Stack Overflow, as a relevant technological skill.

I've seen some example resumes going as far as listing e-mail as a skill. Since knowing where to look for answers to problems can be important, would there be value in adding Stack Exchange use as a skill?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – enderland Jul 28 '15 at 16:36
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    You mean tell them, I spend at least an hour of my employer's time every day on the interweb, reading and writing stuff not immediately relevant to my job? Ah, not that I do that myself, of course not... – RedSonja Jul 29 '15 at 8:24
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    I'm a little surprised that no one has mentioned that the Stack Overflow Careers PDF generator lists Stack Overflow under "Projects & Interests," e.g., "Stack Overflow -- (URL): Written n answers. Active in (list of tags here)." Is that wise? I don't know that it hurts anything... – Andrew Jul 29 '15 at 23:47
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    You can demonstrate/impose skill by showing them your badges, like a gold-badge in Python, for example. But just being able to use the search function is not a worthful "skill". Right now, I don't see anything mentionable on your network-profile stackexchange.com/users/3117875/gusk?tab=accounts. – phresnel Jul 30 '15 at 12:58
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    Any CV I get that has a StackExchange account ID that demonstrates the person can answer some decent questions goes right to the top of the list. – Kenzo Jul 31 '15 at 10:12
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Is “Stack Exchange use” a valuable skill on my CV? (originally: "should i list stackexchange use as a skill?")

No.

While taking advantage of a great site like Stack Exchange/Stack Overflow is a wise choice, using it isn't actually a skill, any more than using Google is a skill, or asking your coworkers for help is a skill or using a dictionary is a skill.

Listing it as a skill on your CV/resume would come across as rather odd.

Even if we could agree that there is some skill involved, it's pretty weak, and doesn't set you apart from the masses. Few people would claim that they don't have the skill to use Stack Exchange. For a programmer, indicating that you are able to use Stack Exchange would be about the same as indicating that you are able to use Microsoft Word or Internet Explorer - it would be assumed that you could. (And I've done a lot of interviewing, but I have never seen a programmer's CV/Resume that listed email as a skill.)

You could mention Stack Exchange and other sites you depend on when asked "What do you do when you don't know X" during an interview. Just make sure it doesn't come across as the only way you solve problems.

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    I would argue that using Google effectively is a skill having seen many people who have not mastered it. However, there's no common understanding of that skill or what it consists of, so it's not useful information on a CV. – Alan Shutko Jul 27 '15 at 20:23
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    What if you're contributing to StackOverflow, does that change your guidance? – deworde Jul 30 '15 at 15:20
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    While i would not list it on my resume as a skill, Depending on your CV layout/design.. It can be listed as a resource or worded in as the ability to use all resources available... So would not list as a skill, But can be placed in a CV still. – Angry 84 Jul 31 '15 at 1:37
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    Perhaps not a skill, but it could be part of a personal "get to know me" section if you can't think of anything else (for active members). If I saw someone with a high score, at least I have a bit of an idea that they have the ability to answer and ask good quality questions given time which (but don't bank on anyone knowing what it is!) – James Jul 31 '15 at 10:38
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    "it's pretty weak, and doesn't set you apart from the masses." I wish... I'm afraid it does set you apart from the masses. If it doesn't, you have been around a pretty good bunch of people for a long time. – nvoigt Sep 28 '18 at 12:48
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+50

I've used my Stack Overflow profile to help me with my job hunts before. I've got my specific profile ID listed on there, too.

But I don't have it listed as a skill. I have it listed under what I refer to as "Community Contributions".

Participating on a website isn't a skill. It's something you learn how to do over the course of many years, and there's no fine art to it. Anyone could contribute to Stack Overflow and not be an ideal candidate in the slightest.

However, it does say something when they are an avid user of Stack Overflow, and have contributed lots of helpful knowledge to the site. It helps when you can demonstrate clear and concise communication between yourself and others. It also helps if a prospective employer can thumb through your contributions to see whether or not you're up to their standards.

So I'd advise you to list it on your resume or CV, but not as a skill.

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    Exactly. Searching SE for answers is NOT a skill. Writing answers which others find valuable IS. – Peter M. Jul 27 '15 at 23:38
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    You could also use an SE profile as evidence of a more conventional skill like problem solving, communicating technical solutions, etc – user568458 Jul 28 '15 at 9:59
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    It's also evidence of an interest and enthusiasm for software and technology. Reading answers in order to perform your day job is one thing, actively keeping up with developments and being involved in your free time is quite another. – Jon Story Jul 28 '15 at 15:28
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    +1 for listing your SO profile under "Community Contributions" along with a Github account, Blog page & all other relevant pages. This is assuming that your SO profile does have some value though, just "using" SO does not mean that you actually contribute to the website (write or edit questions & answers). – Adrien Be Aug 1 '15 at 8:17
  • In addition to being evidence of being able to communicate technical solutions, for non native speakers it is also evidence of being able to communicate in written English on technical subjects. – Pere Jun 3 '17 at 17:00
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Should it be listed as a skill?

No. Other's have covered those reasons admirably.

Should it be listed at all and, if so, where?

You didn't ask this question, but I think it's the more relevant one. In general I'd say proceed with caution.

If your recent question history on SO is such that it paints you in a very bad light then you probably don't want to highlight this. For example if you are applying for a MS SQL DBA job and last month you asked how to create a trigger - that would be bad.

However, if your answer history shows you have great communication and tech skills by giving relevant / perceptive answers then you should put the link to your SO profile in the resume. The place for this is with your contact information.

One last thing to consider. If your SO history shows that you are routinely collecting the max 200 points a day - you might just keep your profile link to yourself. People familiar with SO will know that the amount of effort it takes to consistently reach that level means that you spend all of your waking moments on the site with little time left over for actually getting Real Work(tm) done.

Unless you are Jon Skeet or posting to SO is your actual full time job.

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I'd say no.

I'm generally against explicitly listing skills in a resume or CV anyway. I feel that they should be incorporated into a larger context, when you are discussing work experience, education, or personal projects. If you have contributed a significant number of positively rated answers to a Stack Exchange site that is professionally relevant, it may be useful to identify your profile and your key contributions (highly up voted and/or accepted answers). Visible and active participation on a professionally relevant community of any kind could be seen as some kind of volunteering or professional development that may be worthy of a notation on a resume or cover letter. Alternatively, if you need to providing a writing sample to a company, questions or answers (preferably those that are well scoring, indicating their general usefulness to the larger community) may be useful.

If you do decide to go with a skills section, I would not reference Stack Exchange. It's not an essential skill for the job and it's not something that HR screeners, recruiters, or hiring managers would look for. For a technical position, even mentioning "email" or your basic office applications isn't necessary, unless your in the context of configuring, scripting, or extending these types of tools in some way.

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    A skills section is useful for getting your CV past HR and/or recruiters who have been told to look for people with certain skills and have a pile of CVs to sift through. Having that quick reference immediately shows you are a potential candidate (assuming you have the correct skills for that position of course) – cowls Jul 28 '15 at 7:12
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    Not all positions ask for application forms or the application form is only filled in after the CV has been approved. Lots of recruitment agents know very little about the jobs they're recruiting for and can easily overlook a skill when described in the context of previous work experience. I think you are much more likely to be overlooked for not having a skills section than you are to be penalised for having one. – Dave Jul 28 '15 at 10:57
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    @Dave I've never applied for a job like that. Either a job takes a resume or CV or they take a resume or CV and application. And if a company is hiring recruiters who don't understand the jobs they are trying to fill, is that really a place that you want to work? My recommendation is, and always will be, to never include a skills section on a resume or CV, unless you're using something like Stack Overflow Careers or LinkedIn that has a section for keywords and skills, and I would recommend disabling that section in output when exporting to PDF or printing a paper copy. – Thomas Owens Jul 28 '15 at 11:45
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    @ThomasOwens ...those are all very good questions to ask a candidate in an onsite interview. I treat the skills section as the actual abstract for any resume I screen. Treating it like an array of string tokens, I expect the string tokens closest to index 0 to be primary skills and the ones closest to the end of the list as ancillary skills.If I'm looking for a developer with specific skills, I'm not going to read your entire résumé to know whether I should ready your entire résumé. If one does not have a skills section on their résumé, the only use of submitting it would be to laugh at. – K. Alan Bates Jul 28 '15 at 17:03
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    @ThomasOwens [continued] I very rarely read the Executive Summary of résumés until after they've already been screened; those are written by recruiters. I inspect the skills section to get a quick glance at what they have been doing. If their skills are somewhat in-line, I read through their experience. I expect "the skills" one is most proficient with to be closest to the front of the list and not buried in the middle or near the end. The point of the "skills" section is not to list everything you can do. It is to identify that you possess qualities that match our expectations. – K. Alan Bates Jul 28 '15 at 17:07
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As someone who helps pre-screen technical résumés, selects candidate lists, and conducts technical onsite interviews of potential software developers, I say

Yes, proficiency at finding online information is a skill that I seek.

Being effective at finding accurate information online goes directly to a candidates projected productivity. Whenever I interview any candidate, there is always a specific portion of the interview devoted to finding arbitrary information online (à la www.agoogleaday.com) By watching you interact with a web browser while performing a search task, I am given insight into your reading comprehension, understanding of logical structures, analytical mindset, and proficiency with web browsers which are part of our development tool chain.

The way that I do this is I pose search puzzles during interviews, usually with a layer or two of indirection from the thing they are supposed to find and center embedded phrases to test their ability to decompose complex logical structures into clean and consistent lines of thought. I then observe their process. If StackExchange is the site they wish to use for accomplishing the tasks I set them out to complete, then I would observe them using se;otherwise, I would not.

However

I have never seen this listed as a skill phrased as tersely as "I can use Google" or "I am a member of StackOverflow" (and I would advise against doing so) but seeing something to the effect of

proficiency with finding complex online information

in your personal qualities, skills, or work experience section is something that I feel is perfectly acceptable. Seeing it reinforced with some certification or continuing education helps me try to know you from Adam.

If you're trying to craft a way to tactfully draw desired attention to your "proficiency finding online information" I would suggest finding the time to take Google's free online courses in Power Searching and Advanced Power Searching and listing them in a [Continuing Education] section after you identify your alma mater. I don't think those particular courses would be too terribly helpful to you as a developer already proficient at finding things, but it gives you something to list on your résumé that is more than just your word.


Identifying that you are proficient at finding useful information is one of several ways to differentiate one's self as a candidate that can be provided a seed of an idea without a thorough explanation and run with it, which our team values. I would suggest to anyone that it is not harmful to say something to the effect of "I am resourceful enough to find the things that I need to complete my job." It goes directly to adaptability.

Considering all other comparisons to be equal, if I theoretically were to have two candidates vying for a single on-site interview, I would favor the one that allocated the limited space of a résumé to identify that they are good at finding things. I don't disagree with you that listing "Google" among one's skills is likely a clunky way to profess this skill, but I feel that "problem analysis & solution discovery" is a very appropriate skill to list...especially on a technical team. There are hundreds of technical documents published by the IEEE, the IETF, the ISO, ANSI, the W3C, etc that contain reams and reams of information. I don't expect anyone to be able to simply recall the information in industry standards by RFC and section, but I expect them to be able to find it if necessary and use it to springboard their thoughts.

We also deal with business problems that don't result in stock solutions. There will be research; there will be consumption of hundred page industry specifications, and cross references between google group threads with stack overflow exchanges with editor blog posts with the official RFCs.

Finding the piece of info that leads you to your next point of research is arguably the most valuable skill a developer can possess. If you have that, you can sling code, and you don't smell bad; you're gold to me.

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    by the way, if you would like to take a shot at a search game, refer to www.agoogleaday.com. I don't really take scores into account, I'm more interested in someone's process and the decisions they use for identifying nodes in their search process. But, scores are fun to compare. Try to beat the one that I got when I went through it just before posting this: 2067. – K. Alan Bates Jul 29 '15 at 20:54
  • Thx. Never heard of agoogleaday before. – Mayo Jul 30 '15 at 16:27
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I'd not list it as a skill, any more than I'd list 'encyclopaedia reading' or 'dictionary lookups'. It is something you probably use every day - if relevant to a given field, of course - but it's almost certainly assumed that you'll draw from appropriate sources.

That said, if you are an active StackExchange member, participating in answering and moderation, as well as just browsing and asking questions - it could be of benefit, but I'd think of it more as experience, or even its own separate small sub-section.

If I was reviewing a CV, I'd absolutely consider non-trivial SE activity to be relevant evidence of skills, especially if the experience was relevant to the job - e.g. StackOverflow for a programmer, or just about any mod role with regards to people skills. That said, I'm on SE already so I may be biased ;)

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There's another thing to consider, I've noticed a bit of a backlash against StackOverflow, where some more traditional coders are starting to get annoyed because they feel that some less experienced programmers do little more than consult StackOverflow for every programming problem they encounter and so are not actually learning to problem-solve and creatively code for themselves.

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    I read this as "traditional coders are annoyed because someone asked for help when they got stuck, and assume that everyone else must learn how to do things the way they did". – StingyJack Jul 29 '15 at 15:21
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    @StingyJack I think the inference is that coder A has had the requisite training/exp/education to do his job well and his coder B peer comes along and gets the same level job, same pay etc...coder B doesn't know shit, but he can skate by using the free help of stackoverflow. – coburne Jul 29 '15 at 15:59
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    Coder A's training/exp/education does not obviate the need to ask for help sometimes. People are paid to produce, and if B's output is equivalent to A (and by pay scale) then A is just being grumpy. – StingyJack Jul 29 '15 at 17:37
  • Justified or not, it's a prejudice that I've seen. Perhaps they believe that you learn more from actually figuring things out yourself than what they perceive to be copying and pasting from SO. And while a manager type might be happy that you know to look for help rather than waste hours trying to figure something out on your own, the senior developer might not be so impressed. – colmde Jul 30 '15 at 7:14
  • That's weird. I start to get annoyed when someone didn't consult SO first... – nvoigt Sep 28 '18 at 12:40
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I would say during the interview if they ask how you look up resources, you should mention that you like asking/reading for answers on Stack Exchange. I've been asked a few times on how I look/research information.

Otherwise, your resume should only include skills that market the position you're trying for. If you list other things that don't really fit into the pattern of what you're looking for, then it'll look like a sloppy resume.

It wouldn't hurt to get a professional resume writer to look over your stuff.

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I'm not certain if it will prove a useful thing as far as a CV goes but I do believe it will begin to play a role in finding talent for sure. One of my fellow Stanford alumni friends had got a job as a data scientist and I inquired how he found his job. He told me about hired.com and how he really liked the experience with it. I was recently looking for new gigs in the last 30 days and created a profile. I was pleasantly surprised to see StackOverflow listed as a link that they care about. Is that validation enough, I'm not sure, but if you trust and believe the folks at hired.com know what they're doing then I'd qualify that as a yes that a StackOverflow profile would serve value in a developer career setting.

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    I think most of the other comments and answers have hammered out the "but is it a skill" aspect, which from a language point of view is probably not all that meaningful. I guess I'm reading his question more along the lines of StackOverflow being a "display of my skills". Not quite what he asked but close enough to warrant the connection with the related online profile phenomena that a CV can justifiably point to. – jxramos Jul 29 '15 at 19:36

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