Having Trouble Hiring Developers? Here’s Why Developer Hiring Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Developer hiring has changed dramatically over the last two decades.

Long gone are the days when you could send out a blast email to every programmer on the planet and feel good about your chances of coming up with a shortlist of qualified candidates. Today’s reality is that most developers are currently employed—and nearly every company on the planet is trying to hire them. Still, employers are relying on old-fashioned recruitment tactics, and developers are finding it easier than ever to tune most of them out.

We’ve learned a lot about developers since Stack Overflow launched in 2008, and we realized that there isn’t a silver-bullet solution to resolve all of your technical hiring challenges. This year, over 64,000 professional programmers responded to our 2017 Developer Hiring Survey and reconfirmed that the secret to hitting your technical recruitment goals is understanding that it’s a process.

Here’s our approach to the developer hiring process, broken down into four key components:

1. Understand the market for tech talent and the candidates you want to recruit

I’m willing to bet that most of the developers you know have a horror story or two about a technical recruiter who didn’t seem to care about anything but hitting their hiring goal for that quarter. In some cases, that manifests in recruitment email that sounds like it was written by a robot. In others, your developer friends received unwanted cold calls from a desperate tech recruiter who needed to fill a position ASAP because their job was at stake.

Developers aren’t commodities. They’re human beings with very real career goals and concerns, and they want employers to get to know them on a deeper level before they start recruiting them. That means researching what they care about at work, where they spend their free time, where they’re located, and how they prefer to be contacted. Sound like a lot of work? Well, it is. But our Developer Hiring Library is a great place to start your research.

2. Build an employer brand that shows developers they’re a priority

The most talented developers can often choose where they work—and they’re willing to do a little digging to see if the companies they’re considering treat developers with the respect they deserve.

As someone who works in a non-technical field, I can safely say that employer branding materials helped me choose my current job—but it’s even more important to the developers you’re looking to hire. Everything from your careers page to your social media channel is an opportunity to show developers that you’re not only a company that offers incredible perks, but one that also fosters an environment in which they can thrive.

At this stage, you should also consider the messaging you use in your job listings and recruitment emails. Developers do not respond well to buzzwords, fluff, or spam. Let’s say that you want to tell tell a developer that you think their recent Android app is impressive. Avoid saying, “You’re a total Android rockstar and we need your ninja-like capabilities on our team badly!” Instead, keep it simple and be straightforward. A short sentence about how you’re impressed by how easy the app is to learn can go a long way in getting a developer’s attention. But whenever you’re stuck for conversation-starters, lean on the research you did in the previous step of the developer hiring process to guide your writing.

3. Source developers on the platforms they use on a daily basis

Fact: Developers do not spend a lot of time on traditional job boards. With so many employers looking to get their attention, why would they go out of their way to put themselves in front of even more of them?

However, they do spend a lot of time online sharing knowledge and learning new skills. The research you did in the first stage of the process should have told you where the candidates you’re targeting spend their free time. Use this to your advantage! In many cases, this will require you to engage in a conversation that’s not at all related to the positions you’re trying to fill. In fact, you might even learn a thing or two about programming as you get to know candidates. Going directly to the sites that developers rely on to do their jobs might seem intimidating, but they’re happy to chat with anyone who takes a sincere interest in what they’re working on.

4. Optimize your developer hiring strategy on a consistent basis

Raise your hand if you get everything you do exactly right on the first try. Unless you’re a real-life superhero, I’m going to guess that your hand is not currently in the air.

Even though you’ve done a lot of work to create a developer hiring process, don’t just sit back and wait for the applications to come rolling in. Set aside time on a weekly, quarterly, and yearly basis to review your performance. If your application numbers are low, review your job listings to ensure that your message is resonating with developers. If your applicants are located all over the globe, consider offering remote working options to the candidates you want to hire. No matter what adjustments you decide to make along the way, always ask yourself what developers want. Not only will this guide your current technical hiring strategy, but it will also help you be even more creative about how you attract and engage developer candidates.

A few final thoughts

There’s no denying that hiring developers is hard. It requires you to understand what they want, build a compelling employer brand, source candidates on non-traditional recruitment platforms, and continually optimize your hiring strategy. The best developers can take good ideas and create products that bring them to life—and if you’re willing to adjust your approach to recruiting them, you’ll have a dramatic impact on how quickly your company realizes its biggest business objectives.

Looking for more ways to improve your employer brand? Check out the "How to Create Your Talent Brand" eBook for practical tips you can put in place at your company. 

Rich Moy

Rich Moy is a Content Marketing Writer and Developer Hiring Expert at Stack Overflow, where he covers the latest in tech recruiting and hiring. When he's not writing, Rich can be found hanging with his wife, watching his favorite college football team with his dad, or running around Manhattan in preparation for his next half marathon.

Filed Under:

Recruiter Tips