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I've noticed more and more mentions (both in posts here and in actual job descriptions) of programmers' "portfolios" - typically their public profiles on sites such as this, GitHub, etc.

How important is this, and would companies (startups in particular) reject (or immediately discard without even interviewing) otherwise outstanding candidates who don't have an online presence?

Personally, I prefer to keep a very low profile online. My name here cannot identify me, and I have other handles for other sites. I have a very spartan (and completely private) Facebook page. I do code on my own, but the code lives in local repositories. In general, the less information online about me, the better.

I could see a designer needing some sort of online portfolio, but for a programmer, is this really a big negative when job-searching?

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It must depend on the field; I've never heard of this being a factor in the hiring process at any of the places I've worked (although, to be fair, most of the places I've worked were more concerned about your ability to pass a background check than anything else; didn't matter how good you were if you couldn't be cleared to work on sensitive data). –  John Bode Apr 9 '12 at 20:43
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I've certainly noticed I'm getting additional job offers due to an online presence, granted I just graduated college last year so I didn't really have a presence otherwise. –  Ben Brocka Apr 10 '12 at 12:34
    
I've also received more interview offers due to being online. I try to keep my linkedin profile updated just in case something does happen, then I have a nice record of what I've been doing. Also, it's a good way to keep up with your accomplishments when review time comes around –  Reid Mac Apr 10 '12 at 19:35
    
I always know which of my friends are looking for a new job - their profile pick changes from beach casual to business formal and they post more profound statements. Don't make your online presence look like it is built just to get a job. –  james Apr 16 '12 at 0:49
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@JeffO I'd say it's because they have jobs, they like their jobs (because they're good they can be picky), and when they are looking to change jobs they stay quiet about it (and generally are swept up quickly by one of their friends). –  Jer Apr 16 '12 at 15:29
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13 Answers

It entirely depends on where you want to work. There is no universal answer to this.

Many (all?) employers will google your name and look you up. You really should do that as well to see what comes back.

The best way to control what they see is to have your own presence - something that will push any results that you don't want them to see way down the list, where they won't click through.

However, having an online presence is different from having a presence that shows you are active in your programming community. Blogging, answering questions on forums or Stack Exchange sites, participating in open source (or starting such) projects, writing articles etc show that. All of these are bonuses as far as good employers are concerned.

None of the above are requirements for getting a job, but they are all good to have in order to increase your chances. In other words, given two candidates that score similarly on the points the employer cares about, if one shows participation in the community and the other doesn't, the one that does will have a better chance at getting the offer.

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As a corollary to OP's question, how would you prevent being misidentified online. I don't really have an online, but there is some other programmer with the same name as me who does. –  jiggy Apr 9 '12 at 20:04
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@jiggy Have an online presence that you can point to, that will positively identify you, and that will help keep you from being mistaken for somebody else. –  Eric King Apr 9 '12 at 20:16
    
We'd all like to kind of believe this, but with the exception of searching for character flaws, does anyone actually do this for technical background? We only do this to do a kind of character background search. –  anon Apr 10 '12 at 3:18
    
@anon Every time I interview a developer, the first thing I do is Google them. I want to see what they have publicly available. It gives me a chance to review their "best" code. I work in Web Development, so having an online presence is almost universal among my developers & people I interview. –  MattBelanger Apr 10 '12 at 20:23
    
Hmm .. I Googled myself and found several people of the same name. All of them were either way more successful than me, were arrested and had a mugshot, or had a Facebook picture of themselves drinking/acting irresponsibly. –  Explosion Pills Apr 21 '12 at 18:32
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If a start-up immediately rejects you, an otherwise outstanding candidate, for lack of online presence, it would be a strong indication of questionable hiring practices of the owners of that start-up, and so you should be glad that they did not hire you.

I worked for three start-ups over the course of ten years, and every time a major part of deciding to join had to do with my trust of the owners. I would not trust an owner with demonstrably shallow approach to hiring, the most essential part of growing a start-up into a company of respectable size.

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I don't think it would be that the applicant gets rejected for no online presence but more that somebody else with an online presence outshines the one without one. –  Jetti Apr 9 '12 at 19:38
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@dasblinenlight Why not hire the worst individual ever then? Nobody would want to hire him/her away from you either. I'm not interested in any cult of personalities that can form online but if I can tell genuinely that a person is able to code by their online presence, then I would definitely tend to want to pick that person over somebody who hasn't yet proven themselves. –  Jetti Apr 9 '12 at 20:02
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@Jetti hiring "the worst individual ever" is your suggestion, not mine, so I have no answer for you on that one. There is also a big difference between not proving oneself, and not "advertising" the fact that you have proven yourself: one of the best programmers I know is not allowed to talk about a major part of his achievements, because he worked for the government on projects that remain classified. –  dasblinkenlight Apr 9 '12 at 20:29
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Why would how someone performs at an interview necessarily be more important than how they interact with a community of coders over a period of time (as demonstrated by their online presence)? –  robertc Apr 9 '12 at 22:33
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@RobertHarvey Why do you assume 'online presence' means Twitter and not GitHub accounts, contributions to open source projects and mailing lists? And who said we were trying to measure people skills? I specifically said 'interact with a community of coders' rather than communicate with management. –  robertc Apr 9 '12 at 23:20
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would companies (startups in particular) reject (or immediately discard withouth even interviewing) otherwise outstanding candidates who don't have an online presence?

I would not want to work at a company, startup or otherwise, that rejected otherwise outstanding candidates on that basis. It seems like a foolish thing to do.

If I get a resume that says that the candidate is a StackOverflow user, or co-authored a paper, or worked on such-and-such a project, then I might check out their user page, or download the paper, or go to the web page for the project to learn a bit about it. These things help me streamline the interview process, so that I am not completely ignorant when I ask the question "So, tell me about the such-and-such project that you worked on."

I would not, however, do a general web search of a candidate's name in the hopes of learning more about them, for three reasons. First, names are not unique identifiers. Second, I'm unlikely to learn anything that will help me make a hiring decision. And third, and most importantly, I do not want to expose the company making the hiring decision to legal liability. If during my web search I accidentally learn that the candidate is married/unmarried/has children/is childless/is in the military/was once arrested/was once charged with a crime/was once sued/has a medical condition/etc, and then the candidate ends up not being hired, then the candidate potentially has an opportunity to bring an unfair hiring practices lawsuit.

In short: I wouldn't worry too much about it. It can help, but I don't think a lack of online presence will hurt you much.

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names are not unique identifiers is very very important i think. –  Soner Gönül Apr 12 '12 at 6:35
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+1. I would have guessed that you work for a company with 1000+ employees as soon as you mentioned the "unfair hiring practices lawsuit" even without looking at your profile. I guess once your company gets past certain size, it quickly become a target of completely absurd, groundless litigations. –  dasblinkenlight Apr 16 '12 at 21:50
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Having a strong online presence surely helps a lot, but not a must.

As an applicant to a job, you need to show them a bit of what you are capable of to get an interview generally, assuming the firm has a large pool of applicants to choose from.

The review process really changes a lot depending on type of the firm, location and the open position. Some firms doesn't even bother to search online, and some will only do a small search. But, especially for popular firms and for good paying positions, here is what goes on generally:

  1. They will post some ads for the open position, requiring you to fill out a form or asking for resume or requiring a solution to a problem they posted.
  2. They will sift through the applications, eliminating some percent of them by looking at the answers or resume.
  3. They will search the applicants that passed the first stage online, on Google and other social sites. They will check blogs, github, bitbucket, SE like sites, mailing lists, forums etc. to get to know you a little bit more, to see if you worth an interview. They will eliminate some of the applicant at this phase also.
  4. At this stage, generally they will only have a small amount of applicants left, and they will start interviews.

Now, if you have a strong resume (work experience in related areas, good references etc.), the online search part may not matter much.

But, if you don't have much to write at your resume, your online profile becomes the main resource for the interviewer to learn about you. If you don't have much to show at that stage, and there are other applicants that have a resume like you but have a strong online presence to show them they are capable of doing good work, they will get bonus points.

The main point is, you need to get ahead of other applicants to get an interview, and having a strong online presence helps with that. It's not a must, but generally its a plus.

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I can't imagine and employer turning you down because you don't have a presence online, however I can see them turning you down if you have a negative presence online. Certainly participation on sites such as these can really make you look better when your employer looks you up, so it's not a bad idea to expose some of these types of sites online.

You can check out tools like WebMii to find out your internet presence. Employers often use tools like this on top of simple Google searches.

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WebMii appears to only work if you have a unique (or at least uncommon) name. It generated several screens of data for other Daniel Neely's; but nothing for me. My Google results are similar; one hit on pages 8, 9, and 10. None of them for communities I spent significant amounts of time on. –  Dan Neely Apr 9 '12 at 21:14
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Definitely true about the negative online presence. Finding blackmail-worthy material within 30 seconds of googling the email address from your resume does not speak well of you. –  John Straka Apr 10 '12 at 12:31
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The necessity of an online profile varies with what kind of work you are applying for. Freelancing web designers need a more robust online portfolio than a senior developer for embedded systems. Just keep in mind that some fields may be a bit more challenging to get in to without an online portfolio.

I too like the idea of trying to keep as minimalist as possible my self created online profile, companies are capable of getting enough information about me other ways without my help adding more. Just always make sure once in a while Googleing your name doesn't turn up anything too damning.

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Something else to bear in mind is the Fake Candidate.

Some unscrupulous recruitment agencies pose as candidates in order to get details of a job going. They'll create a great looking CV, farm it out on job boards and wait to get an interview. Once they have the details of the interview and the company that's hiring, they'll cancel the interview for a variety of reasons (already got an offer/changed mind/couldn't find the office/etc).

Having an online presence is a sure fire way to check if a candidate is real, so for me, it is essential that someone has either linkedin (with more than a couple of connections), twitter, a blog, facebook, stack overflow. If they have none of those, alarm bells start ringing and I'm immediately on my guard.

Not having a profile online won't stop me looking at the CV and interviewing, but it certainly doesn't help.

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It is definitely good to have an online presence, as most companies will look you up. It's probably good to have some rep on SO or Programmers, or be active in another social community, as that is just another way to showcase your skills. Be careful about having too much of a presence here, as companies most likely would not like to hire someone who is on SO 24/7, also, be careful what you ask, as that may show some flaws in your knowledge-base. Definitely be active on github as well, that will not only help your career chances, but will also make you a better programmer.

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I think this is tough to answer. For the jobs being posted and filled the old fashion way, you probably don't need this and I doubt anyone there would check to even see if you are online. The question is, how many jobs are being filled based on finding individuals online? Your online presece may help make connections that lead to a good job. This can be a great substitute for devs with little work experience.

We all want to be evaluated on our merits to do the job. Often we lose the "luck of the draw" because we only have 4 years instead of the required 5 (I know no one ever sticks to that.), or didn't go to the right school, or obtained a particular certification, show tatoos or don't, put on a suit and tie, didn't comment your FizzBuzz test or you lack communication skills have prevented someone from getting a job one time or another.

Some may feel that you won't fit into the team or corporate culture if you're not a blogger. A specific project may be a perfect match, but does that web service framework you built mean you know nothing about mobile apps or you won't like that type of project?

Like everything, if you do it right, it will pay-off in the long-run.

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I fully agree with Oded, lack of online presence might hurt when looking for new position but keep in mind that developers usually dont have online presence or keep it under wraps just like you so at this moment this might not be such an issue at all.

Since you are already present online, probably the best solution would be to add links for your online profiles into CV so those employers can get info about you but others cant.

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Here's an article on branding by Inc magazine.

Coming from an internet marketing background, it is the equivalent of "street cred" as far as branding who you are is concerned. Of course no large employer who is worth their salt would hire without passing you through a skills assessment and background check. But 75% of all employers look on Facebook regarding a candidate to see if he/she would be a good "fit" more of an asset or liability. When I hire coders (I am a one man show), what puts them on top of the short list is when I see that they are not novices and have exhibited knowledge and experience in forums and on the web..they have a web presence.

If your qualifications matched someone else's, or if it was even a little bit below another's, but had many notable associations to credible industry websites, you would look better than the next guy with no "branding". Think of it like Coca-Cola, do you want to buy a drink everyone is after or one that no one has heard of...

Also, keep a Facebook profile for you (personal-non searchable or restricted) and one for your business profile (searchable with relevant topics relating to your industry experience and testimonials from people you helped if applicable). Linkedin is good too... a huge runner up in business branding following facebook.

Being marketing savvy is a plus, not only by getting your visibility to prospective employers/jobs but an easy way to contact and/or refer you from potential clients and previous clientele.

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Depends on what's meant by "online presence"

No presence

  • Github (because it is hard to associate a real person with a nick).

Bad presence

  • Facebook (reviewers uses Facebook for reject candidates)
  • Twitter (candidates are considered that likes to skip the work)
  • Online videogames (ditto)

Good presence

  • Personal website (professional and focused in computer and software)
  • Sites done by you (customers sites), i.e. "hey, i do this site"

Excellent presence

  • Get a Microsoft MVP.
  • Be a renowned beta tester of some popular technology (Java,PHP,C#..)
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What is a "renowned beta tester"? I fail to see how that would help at all, unless you were looking for a job as a tester. You also might need to explain "Linkeid" (or fix the spelling if you meant something else) –  Bryan Oakley Apr 9 '12 at 23:23
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How is it hard to associate a real person with a github account? It contains (or at least can contain) a real name and an email address. –  svick Apr 10 '12 at 6:29
    
You claim that Facebook is a bad presence, its only bad if you make it bad, if you actually use it to communicate with your friends ( and make it private to only friends ) you don't really have a problem. Furthermore since when at Twitter users connect to people who skip work? Your list is just plain wrong, while certain people might hold you in a negative light for playing "video games" I would argue that I don't want to work for anyone that judges me on what hobbies I have. Furthermore I can easily play video games and have an online profile, and keep it 100% seperate to everything else. –  Ramhound Apr 11 '12 at 14:03
    
About Linkeid is was a typo, about github, in a resume, you should put 3 identified, your name (obvious), your cellphone or landline and your email. Additionally you can put other information but most of the time, reviewers don't care about it (with some rare exception). And for facebook, reviewers check it only for find personal weakness, Facebook it is not (anymore) a place to put your professional profile but your personal record. Anyways, my workers spend so much time in facebook and most do, so i won't recommend a guy that is addict to facebook over a worker that does not use it. –  magallanes Apr 11 '12 at 14:10
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I was recently asked by a startup company to give the online references to showcase my work and the technical prsence, I suppose the domain matters a lot, If you look for a job in Android/iOS/games and web apps related jobs then be prepared to show your work. If you are into embedded/financial/banking/DB looking for a job in larger firms then the track record matters more.

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