I am a PhD student in mathematics going into graph theory. I hope to either do a post-doc or (hopefully!) get a tenure-track position at a research-oriented university after graduation. I don't have a super high Math SE reputation, but it has been steadily increasing from answering questions. (I have only asked a few, but I answer a lot.)

While I don't think it would be a good idea to put my Math SE reputation on a CV (or am I wrong?) I could potentially see myself mentioning SE at an interview. While I know answering questions on Math SE isn't anything like publishing original research, I think it shows a dedication to mathematics and teaching.

What I want to know (hopefully from people who do interviews, but all answers are welcome) is if something like that would ever make a difference. (Especially if it would be frowned upon similar to having trivial papers on your CV.)

Note: answering questions on Math SE is something I do in my leisure time or times when I cannot work on my course work/research such as while I am on my daily bus ride to campus, so I don't need to see answers that say "spending the time studying/researching would be a better use of your time".

My main concern is in an interview setting. Only if you have reason to believe that it would be good to put on a CV am I interested in that as I already had a feeling that it would not be well suited for a CV.

  • 2
    Possible duplicate academia.stackexchange.com/questions/7552/…
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 23:52
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    @StrongBad after reviewing that page, I do not feel it adequately addresses my issue considering that the answers are all for adding it to a CV(which my first inclination is no, similar to most of their answers) while I am more interested in if it would be better suited for mentioning in an interview. Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 0:01
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    You hope to "get a tenure-track position at a research-oriented university after graduation." If you mean directly after graduation, this happens to basically no one in mathematics these days.
    – user37208
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 0:16
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    I think participation on MathOverflow is likely to count for much more, at least at a research-oriented school, on the grounds that it is dedicated to research-level math. I think that the biggest benefit is that your questions and answers might be read by, and make a positive impression on, people who might later have the power to hire you. As such I recommend using your real name.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 16:34
  • 6
    There are some people who have very large rep scores on Stack Overflow, but their names are jokes within the industry.
    – Magoo
    Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 7:40

10 Answers 10


I have seen Math.SE and MathOverflow activities mentioned by both grad students and faculty in connection with various applications and promotion-related materials. I don't see this as anything to scoff at; personally I find it intriguing and consider looking up someone's SE profile(s) a great way to get some insight into their mathematical personality (note that there can be a potential downside if said personality turns out to be uninteresting or unimpressive). With that said, I think this is only worth mentioning on your CV if it represents a major activity, say if you have been active for at least 1-2 years and have dozens of answers including a good number of highly voted ones. I wouldn't specify the reputation points as that seems like a silly thing to (admit to :-) ) be concerned about. And there can be a better place to mention it, e.g., in a research/teaching/personal statement.

As for mentioning this in an interview, like many other things this can be a good idea if done tactfully (in a no-big-deal, casual sort of way that shows a sense of proportion), or a horrible idea if done untactfully (saying it and expecting fireworks or a round of applause).

Finally, I wanted to mention that I noticed from questions such as this one that there is a common belief in the Grand Principle that for academic (and specifically math) jobs one should hide any information about oneself that attests to one being interested in anything other than doing math research all day, every day, and that any decision about what to put on one's CV or what to mention in an interview/personal statement should be considered in the light of this Grand Principle. I can't say if this is true or false as a general rule, but it's categorically false for me: personally I'm delighted if a job candidate tells me they are interested in archery, or chess, or surfing, or playing piano, or whiling away their time answering elementary questions on Mathematics StackExchange. Think about it this way: given that I already know the level of research they do (which presumably must be pretty good if I'm interviewing them), any evidence that they have other unusual skills or abilities outside of math research can only raise them in my estimation. Besides, when you hire someone you get a complete package, mathematician/academic+human being, and personally I rather like being surrounded by interesting human beings and not just paper-writing robots. But maybe I'm weird and it's just me who thinks this way, so handle this advice with proper caution.

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    I'm happy to learn these things about a person, but the CV is not the place for it, in my opinion. If you have a conversation with someone about archery or surfing, you learn something about them as a person. If they just list it on their CV, not so much. Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 15:18
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    @BenWebster agreed.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 20:14
  • Thinking about it, how about the title "top answerer in [relevant tags to the job] in MO"?
    – Ooker
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 6:22

As a committee member/voting faculty member (at R1 place) on relevant things, etc., I'd say that mention of "high reputation" would seem childish, but as "outreach", activity on such sites is a plus. It is "outreach", which is good, if not super-glam. In the future, it may be more than "outreach" (which is not exactly the right descriptor, anyway), but for the moment, this is a reasonably modest description... and does resonate with current "allowable" categories of "good things" on CVs and such. So, no, don't tell what "hats" you got around Xmas, nor "medals" or whatever they are, but perhaps mention _outreach_activity_. (Five or ten years from now, I imagine the descriptors and the ground-rules will be different...)

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    Thanks for your input. I agree that the phrase "high reputation" would sound childish and probably braggy. I would personally probably just mention that I am active on stack exchange with a reputation of X and if asked further about SE's rep system, I would elaborate on what a normal range is for reputations. Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 0:47
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    @SE318: Why should you want to mention reputation at all? It's nearly meaningless to anyone who knows how SE sites work, given that some people with rather high reputation earned it by answering elementary school mathematics questions that continually flood the website.
    – user21820
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 6:21
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    @AruRay For NSF proposals? Yes, definitely!
    – JeffE
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 7:06
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    @user21820 I don't want to suggest that active membership on MathSE guarantees that you are a good mathematician. A high rating though(even if solely due to trivial questions) may suggest a propensity towards helping others understand mathematics, which at a strictly logical level seems like a wholly good thing(but this matter is complicated because a small good thing can weaken a whole as in the case of a trivial publication) Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 8:32
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    I think "I am active on the Stack Exchange" might garner you a brownie point or two, but I think "I am active on the Stack Exchange with a reputation of X" runs the risk of turning your revelation into something negative. (Being active might show an interest in mathematics and teaching, as you say, but your X rep points is more of an indicator to your dedication to the Stack Exchange.)
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 12:36

I looked at your network profile, and knowing your MSE rep would not make a difference for a job interview at a research school. (I'm not belittling--my MSE rep is about the same as yours! (currently in the 800s)) For a liberal arts/teaching school, knowing you are active on MSE may help a little. So sure you can mention it as supporting evidence of enjoying to answer students math questions, and you could even mention in a teaching statement if it supports your claims. However, I would definitely not mention rep anywhere.

I vaguelly recall a similar question on MO or MSE (there have been many on other SE sites), where someone said just to mention it on your CV if you're a moderator, however I can't find such a post, so I may be imagining things. (I personally wouldn't find it offputting to see something like "MathStackExchange, active contributor" on a CV if your profile used your real name and you are pretty active. Note: I don't consider myself as active on MSE.)

  • Thanks for your advice. I am not too far through my program right now, so I still have two years or so to up my rating. Hopefully it will be more respectable by the time I am in interviews:) Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 1:20
  • I feel that you know more about this me. Can you estimate the minimum MSE rep that would make a difference at a research school. I feel if I wanted score X, I could get it by sock puppetry, so I would be surprised there is any score that would make a difference.
    – emory
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 1:39
  • @emory Knowing rep itself on MSE won't really make much of a difference for a research school, particularly since MSE is not about research level questions. (Sorry if my first sentence is misleading.) What would make more of a difference is if you're sufficiently active that your name becomes familiar to people at the department who look at MSE. That said, probably 10-20k or up would convince me you are pretty active. Brilliant MO posts are more likely to make an impression, but I wouldn't go out of my way to look at them unless the application already has enough to get me hooked.
    – Kimball
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 2:24
  • There's also the issue that people who don't use MSE may have no idea how to interpret an MSE rep, so really it's more about being seen as active and bright by people who are already on the site and may be in a position to help you get a job.
    – Kimball
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 2:25
  • You may be referring to this answer with "someone said just to mention it on your CV if you're a moderator"
    – ff524
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 3:43

I have never seen a stackexchange rep on a CV, and would find it off-putting. But, I would highly recommend mentioning your involvement in SE on your professional website (you have one, right?)

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    What about in an interview setting? This is what I am most concerned with. Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 0:38
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    Whoops I definitely misread your question. In an interview setting it can't hurt to mention it if it comes up naturally but I wouldn't force it.
    – Aru Ray
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 0:40
  • Okay, thank you. I appreciate the advice. I would hope there would be some kind of open ended question along the lines of "what other ways outside of your publications and presentations are you involved in the mathematics community?" Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 0:42
  • Earlier in the career, more technical activities are probably more important (as you have to prove you know your stuff and other people believe that, too), and you can move to less technical outreach activities later. So SE could be mentioned as a minor side point. If you organise a conference, however, that's a different story. Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 0:45
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    It's worth noting that math postdoc positions rarely involve interviews - you send off all your material on mathjobs and you either get offered the position or you never hear from them. For fancy-pants tenure-track positions (which I do not have), my impression is that it is entirely possible that you send off all your materials and you hear back with news of a campus interview or never hear back again. I don't think campus interviews involve the traditional interview situation where a bunch of people sit with you and ask you a sequence of questions.
    – Aru Ray
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 3:22

Would a high stack exchange rep make a difference in a job interview?

It could.

From an MBA's perspective (my graduate degree), to be successful in a crowded marketplace, a field of strong competition, you need to differentiate yourself.

To get the job you are aiming for, naturally, you'll need to demonstrate that you have the qualifications that are required for the job, which is necesssary, and perhaps sufficient.

However, a strong reputation on a stack exchange site also demonstrates that additionally:

  • You're a strong communicator.
  • You have earned the trust of a community (in addition to the institution awarding your degree).

By inspecting the content that you have provided, a potential employer may additionally find evidence that you are an expert in the subject matter of the site. In fact, they may infer it without inspection, but I would consider it part of necessary due diligence if I were considering a user's account in this context.

So you would also want to make sure your content reflects well on you (so consider curating your most prominent work).

If you can demonstrate all of these things, they could easily make the difference between an offer and being the second choice. So I think you've found a wise hobby to take up.

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    Nice answer! +1 for adding the useful and very interesting perspective of an MBA.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 7:47
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    Oddly enough, I have been told that I got an interview over another candidate (and was hired) not because of my SO account but for my answers on Puzzling (showed critical thinking and problem solving skills that the company liked) - so you never know. Though I should add that I link to my SO account not on my CV but in my email signature. Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 14:55

I have been consistently in the top 1% at CrossValidated aka Stats.SE for the past two or three years, and frankly of other top users, there are only two or three people with real names whom I could locate in "proper" academia in stats departments. When one of these stats profs posted a job ad on a mailing list (unrelated to SE system), I asked him whether the CV reputation could matter (not that I was interested in the job, but just curious). His response was along that in his opinion, it should, but in reality, most of the interview panel would not have heard about it.

Small print: (1) if a person does not want to put their real name in the profile, I take it they probably don't want to have their professional identity (name on papers, etc.) mix up with their SE outreach -- my username is a part of real name, and together with a non-English origin and a picture, there is little difficulty in figuring out who I am in RL; (2) there are also probabilists and sociologists and representatives of other disciplines among the top Stats.SE users with real names, as far as a I can tell. (Parenthetically, for a statistical world with about 17K members in the American Statistical Association alone, presence of "proper" statisticians at Stats.SE can be characterized as dismal. As a junior elected officer of the Association, I keep grinding my teeth about it... but I can't realistically change the rules of the academic game to make sure tenure is only awarded if you have reputation of 1K+/year on your discipline's SE site.)

My bet is that the best use of your reputation is to try to find somebody at the school you are looking at through MO/MSE, and introduce yourself via email, saying something to the effect of "I connected the dots between your department faculty list and MSE user list, and found you there on the MSE. I am applying for a job at your department. As you are obviously aware of what MSE is, you might be interested in looking at my profile and activity on the site to better see how I think as a mathematician". If nobody at that department knows what MSE is, then mentioning it is counterproductive, as the big busy people reviewing your application would just think you waste your precious time instead of doing research.

Applications to industry would be an entire matter whatsoever. Your ability to explain things well, as evidenced by your SE rep, is a great asset for industry where most of the work is done in teams, and you may be the most technical person on the team who has to explain why branch-and-bound is the only freaking way to solve this particular problem to other team members and to the clients.

  • 1
    "for a statistical world with about 17K members [...], presence of "proper" statisticians at Stats.SE can be characterized as dismal": This ratio is probably even lower for other disciplines, but you can't really force people in participating to a specific community in their spare time, and many people in academia don't engage with any online activity at all. For instance, I don't actively participate in any SE community related to my field. Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 21:25

This isn't something that you'd normally put on a CV and if you did, I don't think it would help your chances and might hurt them with some search committee members.

Having reviewed hundreds of CV's for math faculty searches in recent years, I can tell you that I've never seen one that mentioned the applicant's stack exchange reputation.

  • What about if I mentioned it in a job interview? That is my main concern, as I already had a good idea that it wouldn't be well suited for a CV as my post suggests. Thanks! Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 0:39
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    There's a good chance that many of your interviewers will never have heard of stack exchange and wouldn't place any value on it. On the other hand, someone who does care about this is likely to have checked your reputation before the interview. Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 17:51
  • You might consider linking to your stack exchange profile from your personal web page too. Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 17:52

I don't see it as helpful. In evaluating candidates for research oriented positions, the key factors are going to be: strength and number of publications, outlook for the research area, and letters of recommendation. People want to see that you have a lot of potential to produce high quality research. I don't see how participation in the stack exchange contributes to that.


While I'm not an academic, I've always maintained a "Participating in the Community" or "Giving Back to the Community" section of my resume. That's where I list things like long-term participation in relevant fora, any special roles I may have held (e.g. moderator, editor, front-page writer), and any special recognition I may have received (e.g. "only X% of participants earn "Mentor" level recognition"). I also include my contributions to open-source and open-documentation projects, as well as any work I've done with local user groups and conferences (e.g. content selection committee, speaker/presenter).

Whether I include that section when sending my resume to a potential employer depends largely upon that employer's public presence; if they sponsor conferences or host discussion boards/fora, or if they actively encourage their employees to participate in such things, I want them to see (up front) my experiernce in that area. If they don't have a strong public presence, I save that information for the interview (but make sure to mention it there).


I can't speak for other departments, but at every academic institution I've been part of, the faculty who sit on search committees--especially if they are senior faculty--are very, very busy. In addition to their careers, which include research, teaching, grant-writing, travel, and managing postdocs and graduate students, they often have families. A faculty search and reviewing the hundreds of CV's that come in, then interviewing, taking the candidates to lunch, etc. is a huge time suck. I am guessing that most such faculty do not participate much in sites like SE. In fact in my experience, mostly these committees consist of older professors who are not necessarily that Internet-savvy and probably have never heard of SE.

So I don't necessarily think SE would be helpful to mention at an R1, and in fact (like blogging) it could be a risk. I have seen R1 professors' entire careers implode due to blogs, plus there's a school of thought that says that if you are blogging then you aren't spending time on research. The search committee cares, bottom line, how much positive attention and grant money you can bring to the department. To judge this they look at how many highly visible publications you have, and also at who is recommending you.

At a liberal arts college, it may be very helpful--but again the faculty are very busy at these schools--comparably to the R1's, though their primary energy is going into teaching and course prep with high course loads, grading, service--and on the treadmills of their own jobs, so don't expect them to have heard of SE.

  • I think about 1/4 of our top page users hve been on hiring committees at R1s.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 21:07
  • It may depend strongly on field. I was very close to math, and never met any senior math faculty who were active on SE or similar. Even use of social media was limited or nonexistent. There was a lot of inertia, and no time.
    – ccbb
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 17:10
  • Right now 5 of our top 20 users are Math Professors and another couple are TCS professors.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 18:04
  • I'm sure that the profs who are active are valuable contributors. I can only speak to the culture of the institutions at which I studied or taught. It's too bad more of the faculty weren't more active online, because they could have gained a lot.
    – ccbb
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 19:32

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