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This is the first post stemming from Improving the Help Center (take two). It is listed as so that the community can add to and comment on the contents. We can clean up additional answers and comments later on, so don't hesitate to point out if you think something should be added, changed, or removed. We can edit this portion of the help center freely, so let's make it splendid.

So I read the help center, but I'm still a bit confused about what is off-topic and why.

The help center mentions the following types of questions as being off-topic:

Could you help me understand why certain things are off-topic here?

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"Please review my resume/CV"

As explained in our about page, "This site is all about getting answers." Asking us to review your resume/CV is not a good fit for our format since there will be no answer that will help future readers.

Asking us to critique your resume will not help future visitors, as each person will have different experiences and writing styles, and we aren't designed to be an individual resume/CV review service.

Rather than asking us to review your resume, try to generalize your question so that it can help future visitors. Asking us, "Please review my skills section" is not okay, but asking How Should I Indicate Language Proficiency on my Resume? will let you know how to update your resume and help future visitors.

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"What salary/hourly rate should I look for? How much should I charge for X?"

How much people are paid depends on supply and demand in the market. Asking us how much you should be paid is asking us to determine how much demand there is in your market for your skills, how good your skills actually are, and what your relationship with your (potential) clients is.

We are going to be worse at that than you are. Rather than asking, why not take a look at what similar positions are paying in your area, going on a few interviews, or re-negotiating with your clients to see if they are willing to pay more than they currently are? That will get you an answer far more quickly than asking us here.

If you want to ask how to approach clients to ask for more money, or about salary negotiation in interviews, do a search to make sure it hasn't already been asked, and then feel free to ask a specific question about that instead.

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"Is it legal…"

The Workplace is not a substitute for proper legal advice. If your question asks us to tell you whether or not a specific situation is legal, or to interpret the law to let you know what to do, we aren't going to be able to help you and strongly suggest you consult an attorney.

If your legal question could be answered by an HR professional (not a lawyer), then it may be okay here. Asking about payroll tax may be okay, but asking if you can retrieve unpaid employer tax contributions that were not paid after you were terminated is something you will have to ask a lawyer.

Before asking a question about the law, think to yourself, "Is this something that comes up regularly for people in the workplace?" If not, you should probably consult an attorney rather than asking it here.

Sample questions that fall in to this category:

  • Was it legal for my employer to fire me?
  • Can I sue my employer if they do not honor a verbal agreement?
  • Can my employer enforce a contract with an illegal provision in it?

Despite this prohibition there is a legal component in almost everything we do in the workplace. As such questions that are asking for facts about the law or how perform some action that is legal are on topic.

Sample questions with a legal component that are on topic:

  • What is required to take extended leave using FMLA Protections?
  • Under what circumstances should my employer be required to pay me overtime?
  • A former employer refuses to grant my relieving letter how do I proceed?

For more information on legal questions please refer to this answer to another question:

We need to make a distinction between questions about what the law is and questions about how the law should be applied to a particular situation. I think the former are valid questions here and the latter are trouble waiting to happen...

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    This answer is currently +8/-0; can it be mined for an answer here? – Monica Cellio Apr 22 '14 at 18:12
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    @Monica, sure can! You've just been nominated as a miner! Here is your hard hat. Safety first! – jmac Apr 22 '14 at 20:17
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"I need advice on...", "What should I do?", or "Which job should I take?"

Everyone sharing their opinion is great for forums, or discussions with your friends, but aren't a great fit for The Workplace. As we explain in our about page, "This site is all about getting answers. It's not a discussion forum. There's no chit-chat."

When you ask what you should do, everyone can only tell you what they would do in that situation, and there is no way to provide an answer that will work for anyone or that can be marked as correct.

If you find yourself asking a question asking for advice, try rephrasing your question in a way that gets you information that will help you make your own decision. Instead of asking "Should I quit?" try asking "How can I solve [the problem making me want to quit]?" If you can't solve the problem, then you can make your own decision on whether or not to quit your job.

Sample questions that fall in to this category:

  • Should I change careers?
  • Should I ask for a raise?
  • Should I quit my job? (etc.)
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I think these two reasons may need to be split out in to two separate ones -- asking what degree to get or what career path is required to get a certain job is quite different from asking how to do your job. Both are off-topic, but for different reasons

"How do I learn to be a..." / "How do I perform the job of a …"

While we understand that many people want to know how to change careers or how to get a certain role, they aren't a good fit for our format. There are millions of careers out there, and in many different companies -- each has different requirements.

Those requirements should be listed in the job description. Rather than asking us, you should take a look at those job requirements and talk to the companies about the roles you want to work in, since they are the only ones who can tell you what you need to do to get those positions.

If you already have the skills and want to improve your chances, why not ask a question about how to improve a certain aspect of your resume or cover letter to better appeal to that company instead?

Sample questions that fall in to this category:

  • How do I become a game developer?
  • What certification should I get if I want to work in sports data analysis?
  • What languages are best to learn if you want to be a UN interpreter? (etc.)
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    BTW, SE allows us three custom close reasons, so while we can separate things in the Help Center, some will need to be combined (or generalized) in the close reasons. That might be how these ended up together (don't know, just guessing). – Monica Cellio Apr 22 '14 at 18:08
  • It'd be great to have a link for a good example here (like in some of the other answers). Anybody got one to drop into the last paragraph before the "sample questions" list? – Monica Cellio Apr 22 '14 at 18:10

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