How to recruit the best developers: 12 creative tactics

Branimir Hrzenjak

Tech companies used to be able to post job advertisements and watch the email inbox overfill with applications. These days, fierce competition makes recruiting and hiring a bit more challenging.

Developers are in higher demand than ever, which also means that applicants have higher standards in selecting employers; they want to see you work to get their attention.

To connect with top developer talent, you have to stand out from other employers. This article will show you twelve creative recruiting tactics to do just that.

So, if conventional recruiting methods aren’t producing satisfactory results, it may be time to turn to some of these atypical techniques.

Check out Quora contributors

Although Quora is a general Q&A forum, it’s the perfect place to scout developer talent. Many discussions there are centered around writing software, allowing you to identify top contributors and contact them.

Quora is a great place to look for developers because it shows you how they share their knowledge unprompted. After all, everybody wants a developer willing to help others on their team.

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Since developers often provide links to their GitHub repositories, your technical roles can get enough material to assess the coding quality. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to offer and accept a developer job.

Here’s an example.

quora
Source: Quora

There was a thread on Quora asking developers about their best Python scripts. Manoj Jayakumar, a Python enthusiast, posted about his script just to participate in the conversation.

Two weeks later, a member of a startup read his answer and offered Jayakumar a job interview, at which he excelled and got the job.

This could be your story, too. Browsing Quora programming spaces can help you spot top developer talent before your competition does.

Look through public Slack channels

Similar to Quora, programming-centered Slack channels allow you to find developers active in the tech community.

An added benefit here is interactivity, as Slack was primarily designed as a communication tool, so people are used to receiving messages outside of threads.

However, recruiting on Slack requires a bit of preparation.

Unlike Quora or Reddit, Slack doesn’t allow you to browse channels you’re not a member of. You first have to join the communities to see the members and their discussions.

slack channels
Source: Code The Web

There are countless Slack programming channels, so joining them all is not a realistic option. Instead, you should join only those relevant to the position you’re hiring for.

We went ahead and found two lists of Slack communities for developers you can use. This one has 46 communities, and this one has four hundred. Browse by keyword, and you’re bound to find a dev for your team.

Host developer meetups

Hosting developer meetups demonstrates you’re an active part of the dev community, boosting your visibility as an employer.

Since meetups are usually centered around particular technologies, they allow you to find professionals passionate about a framework or a language, or at least beginners interested in learning more.

For instance, the following picture was taken at a blockchain development meetup in Toronto.

dev meetup
Source: Meetup

So, if you’re looking to expand your iOS team, you could organize an iOS-related meetup with your developers as keynote speakers.

This would present you with two recruiting opportunities with different levels of involvement.

The active approach would be to identify the most engaged participants and email them after the event.

On the other hand, the passive approach consists of you organizing the best meetup you can, subtly announcing you’re hiring, and then waiting for the interested developers to contact you in the following weeks.

Either way, you shouldn’t be too pushy with pitching open positions. People attend meetups to connect with like-minded people; building relationships with potential candidates is just an added benefit.

Engage on social media

Your company may already have social media profiles for marketing purposes. But did you know that you can also use social media to recruit developer talent?

Social recruiting is on the rise. In 2021, 92% of employers reported using social media and professional networking sites to recruit talent.

Of course, the choice of social network is crucial. While Instagram could help you recruit social media managers, you should ask yourself what sites developers visit for professional purposes.

Your safest bet is LinkedIn. The platform allows you to build an employer brand and post job openings, as the following image shows.

linkesin jobs
Source: LinkedIn

Besides LinkedIn, you could also go for more mainstream social media such as Facebook or Twitter; just remember to browse relevant communities, groups, and hashtags.

Search for developers on GitHub

Regardless of where you find a dev, be it on Quora, LinkedIn, or StackOverflow, it’s likely they’ll attach the link to their GitHub profile. So, why not start your recruitment process directly on GitHub?

It can be difficult to discern between self-proclaimed junior, mid, and senior developers based solely on their titles. This is why most recruiters check out the applicants’ code on GitHub.

However, GitHub can show you more than somebody’s code.

You can also learn about a developer’s personal projects, interests, and contributions to the software community—each of which helps you assess whether they’d be a good fit for your team.

github stats
Source: GitHub

The previous image shows the profile of Vipul Amler, one of the top 30 contributors to Ruby on Rails. As you can see, he’s pretty involved in the community with his daily contributions to code.

Your average candidate will probably not be as prolific, but you can still browse Github to find developers willing to share their code and comment on someone else’s, constantly upgrading their knowledge.

Browse through Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow is one of the largest software-related Q&A platforms, which makes it an ideal place to scout for knowledgeable talent.

There’s no such thing as a developer who knows it all, and recruiters are aware of that. 

Browsing through Stack Overflow can help you detect devs who help others with their answers, but also those who ask intelligent questions.

Look up the technology you’re hiring for and find results with a higher number of responses and votes—that’s your window into the potential talent pool.

A more straightforward way to recruit developers on Stack Overflow is with the platform’s premium candidate search feature.

The feature lets you set clear parameters and presents you with suitable candidates based on their projects and experience.

Bear in mind that Stack Overflow has strict policies regarding how recruiters message developers. If the premium model isn’t an option for you, it’s better to scope out talent on Stack Overflow but get in touch with the developers using other channels.

Look around on Reddit

Reddit is far from a recruitment platform, but you can still tweak the way you maneuver it to fit your goals. There are many excellent developers on Reddit; don’t let their often ridiculous usernames fool you.

Just like Quora, GitHub, and Stack Overflow, Reddit lets you browse discussions about software development and peruse the participants’ previous activities.

Since Reddit was created as an anonymous forum, you probably won’t be able to see the posters’ real names and find them on LinkedIn. However, you can create an account to message the potential candidates.

If that sounds like too much work, you could go directly to subreddits created for hiring and job-seeking. You can post your offer there or browse to see if any job-seekers match your desired developer profile.

reddit job search
Source: Reddit

Here’s a list of some of the most popular communities for tech jobs:

These communities are about software development in general. To speed up the process and get more relevant results, try searching for technology-specific subreddits.

Ask your network for referrals

A limited talent pool can be a significant challenge when hiring developers. One way to overcome it is by asking your network for referrals.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find a dev before even writing a job description for the new opening.

The most direct method for getting referrals is to ask your employees if they know someone who’d fit the role. That way, the employees get to participate in the hiring process, which lets them know you value their opinion.

At the same time, reducing the number of steps in the recruiting process saves the company time and money, and offers many other benefits.

benefits of employee referrals
Source: Shake

Rewards and bonuses for referrals can help you motivate your team to participate in the referral program.

After all, the price of a weekend getaway voucher is hardly comparable to the price you’d pay for scouting, analyzing resumes, and interviewing tens of candidates.

Organize a hackathon

As opposed to browsing developer profiles online and reading about their past achievements, organizing hackathons lets you spot innovative talent and see their programming skills in action.

Additionally, hackathons present the organizer as a proactive member of the software community, adding multiple points to your employer brand status.

Hackathons are usually not organized with the aim of recruiting participants. They’re there to help developers network and get their creative juices flowing, while solving a particular problem.

For instance, Athena is an all-women and nonbinary hackathon centered around solving environmental issues. Here’s an image of the 2021 runner-up team and their solution for reducing the usage of single-use plastics.

However, if you’ve already gathered all that talent in one place, either offline or online, you could go ahead and make a note of the developers who had the most creative ideas or great technical execution.

You can reach out to those individuals once the event ends. The fact that you remember their accomplishments sets you apart from other potential employers who only see developers as faceless workers.

Recruit recent grads on campus

If a looming project deadline isn’t pressing you to hire senior devs, you may find hiring and training juniors a beneficial strategy for the long-term success of your company.

An effective way to recruit junior developers is to scout your local campus for recent computer science graduates.

Although recent graduates may not have impressive CVs just yet, they can still be a valuable asset, especially for smaller businesses looking to grow.

In addition to having broad theoretical knowledge, they are usually eager to enter the job market, providing you with highly motivated developers on your team.

So, if you need junior developers, universities are a great place to start looking. You’ll be able to present your company in person and attract candidates wanting to put CS theory to work.

Host a virtual job fair

Virtual job fairs allow you to showcase your company and demonstrate what makes you an employer worth considering.

Also, since COVID-19 has pushed numerous activities to the online sphere, attendees are already used to virtual recruiting and hiring processes.

You can participate in a virtual job fair by joining an existing event that somebody else organizes. For instance, Startup Virtual Career Fair lets startups represent their work and connect with potential hires.

Another option is to host your own virtual job fair, as the company Procter & Gamble does.

The company hosts virtual fairs for IT jobs to tell the tech professionals about current job opportunities and to create a space to communicate with industry experts through free webinars.

Whether you choose to join a fair or host your own, make sure you develop your concept and define the number of participants and attendees you expect.

You should also create original content for the event, determine the team members to represent your company and polish all the details to maintain a professional employer image.

Run a bootcamp

Our final tactic for creative recruiting is running a coding bootcamp.

This method may be the most complicated one and require the most resources, but it also provides you with a supply of programmers trained according to your preferences.

All coding bootcamps, regardless of the technology, share a common goal: to teach developers technical skills and give them a higher position in the job market.

Employment is a significant motivator for signing up for bootcamps, seeing that almost 80% of bootcamp graduates find jobs where they use the skills learned at bootcamp.

software bootcamp benefits
Source: Shake

Still, why would you train a developer and let your competitors hire them?

A good idea would be to expand bootcamps to hiring opportunities. Before the course begins, you could announce that the most successful graduates get an interview in the company.

The incentive would increase the motivation for participation; you’d get a pool of driven talent to choose from—a win-win situation.

Conclusion

As you can see, modern recruiting has shifted from posting job ads and waiting for candidates to come to you.

Instead, candidates are the ones who dictate the recruitment process. If they expect you to find them and convince them to join the company, you have no choice but to adapt.

So, you should get creative with how you approach talent. Whether you browse online spaces to look for developers or organize events where they can prove their skills, you’ll intrigue candidates with your out-of-the-box methods and motivate them to apply.