Finding developers who want to work for startups is easy.
Recruiting tech talent for startups has gotten smoother since tech giants like Amazon, Google and Facebook have transformed the overall perception of joining high-growth companies from a risky career move to a promising opportunity.
As Daniel Gulati said in Harvard Business Review: “Startups are no longer niche; they have gone mainstream.”
Unfortunately, finding that superstar who not only looks good on paper but can also code in real life, can be challenging. The ideal candidate will be solid in at least one or two applicable programming languages and will have transcended rote memorization to actually “thinking like a programmer.”
Translation: He or she will quickly grasp the unique problems your startup is solving and adapt to your frameworks, languages, and workflows without a problem.
The ideal candidate will also have an entrepreneurial mindset, enjoy managing several projects at once and thrive in an autonomous work environment. So, how do you find this coding unicorn of wonder?
Recruiting top tech talent for startups involves several components. You must:
- Know where the best candidates hang out.
- Accurately identify key indicators of high-caliber talent.
- Write cold emails that peak interest (and get a response).
- Create seamless interview processes that are enjoyable.
- Issue 100 percent realistic performance-based assessments to accurately evaluate skill levels (and avoid costly churn down the line).
In this article, we’ll be addressing the first step: Where to source top software engineers, developers, and coders.
Unsurprisingly, the most talented individuals can be found further developing their skills, working on projects (with real user numbers) and collaborating with peers. While the following list is by no means definitive, use it as a launchpad when you begin recruiting tech talent.
Let’s get started:
Where to Begin Recruiting Tech Talent
While the best recruiters never rely on one recruiting resource exclusively — a mixture of offline and online methods is ideal — the easiest way to source talent is from the comfort of your Macbook (or your Windows device of choice).
Here are our favorite online resources for sourcing tech talent:
Did you know LinkedIn now has more than 500 million users? Since launching in 2003, the website has become the definitive social network for professionals seeking opportunities to further their knowledge, network with peers and identify new career opportunities.
The platform has a ton of special features specifically designed for recruiters, including Recruiter System Connect (an applicant tracking system), organized project folders and advanced search filters.
With that said, top developers have grown accustomed to receiving generic InMail messages from recruiters on a weekly basis. What does that mean for tech recruiters? Your targeting must be super specific, accurate and personalized. We recommend combining LinkedIn with SourceHub — the digital tool allows recruiters to build Boolean strings of synonyms that can be used to run more targeted candidate searches — and strongly personalized cold emails.
AngelList launched in 2010 with the mission of democratizing the investment process and helping startups find funding. Since that time, the platform has evolved to become a resource for job-seekers, angel investors, and founders alike.
If a developer has a profile on AngelList they are either already working for a startup or are interested in working for one. In some instances, they might even be launching enterprises of their own.
At the time of this writing, the website features more than 1.7 million active candidates, including 522,533 developers and 120,909 designers, with more than 6,000 new candidates added weekly. The best part about AngelList? Candidates drawn to the website are often high-caliber, and the service is completely free for those recruiting tech talent.
With 28 million users, GitHub is the world’s no. 1 open-source projects community. At the heart of the platform is Git, an open-source project started by Linux creator Linus Torvalds. What makes Git unique?
Unlike the previous generation of version-control software, Git was designed to track software written by individuals in different places. For example, a developer in Morocco and a developer in San Francisco could work on the same code, before seamlessly integrating changes when finished.
Due to the platforms advanced capabilities, GitHub is used by both large companies working on commercial projects and programmers experimenting with personal projects. What makes the platform a precious tool when recruiting tech talent?
Every developer using the platform is required to create a public profile with a ton of useful information, including:
– Current employer
– Email address
– Websites they have chosen to display
– Number of Followers: Single-digit follower numbers are good, double-digits are great, and anything above 30 is outstanding.
– GitHub Contributions: Look for keywords, such as programming languages mastered.
– Repositories: Open-source development projects the developer is hosting on GitHub and projects they have copied (“forked”).
Whether you’re looking for more information about a current candidate, or are scoping potential candidates, GitHub is a fantastic place to find developer talent with projects supported by real user numbers.
Stack Overflow is the world’s most popular online community for developers wanting to enhance their professional knowledge, grow their personal networks and explore potential job opportunities.
More than 50 million programmers visit the site each month to ask and answer questions. Peruse the community’s message boards, and you will find discussions pertaining to everything from coding problems to upcoming technological innovations.
Advantageous to recruiters is the organization’s lesser-known talent platform. For a fee, StackOverflow will work with your company to create a customized plan for attracting ideal developer candidates. You can target your job listing by developer type, technology used, location, and more. The platform’s machine learning intelligence will then deliver your advertisement to the desired audience at the right time.
Unicorn Hunt is arguably Europe’s most popular job board for startups and scale-ups. The platform has three different pricing options for placing job advertisements. In the company’s own words: “Any job posted on Unicorn Hunt gets lots of love on the ol’ Twittersphere with hashtags and celebratory language to boot.”
Unicorn Hunt’s job-specific newsletter is delivered to more than 13,000 subscribers a week. The platform uses a nifty algorithm that determines ad placement, based on the amount paid and the length of time the ad has been live.
Finally, Twitter can be a fantastic resource for discovering tech talent. Use a tool like FollowerWonk to source bios for keywords. Pro Tip: Developers routinely say they don’t prefer to be contacted for job opportunities via Twitter. So, consider sourcing them here, before reaching out another way.
Industry Specific Events
The tech industry is unique in that there are dozens of conferences for every imaginable industry, niche, and programming languages conceivable.
While choosing amongst such variety may, initially, seem overwhelming, the options are advantageous to tech recruiters seeking to fill specific roles.
For example, attend San Francisco’s AI Summit, and you know the majority of developers in the room will a). Be fluent in languages specific to AI and b). Be interested in furthering their career within the industry.
Tech industry events can be broken down into four types:
Conferences: Held to educate, inform and train attendees.
Trade Shows: Held to showcase products and services.
Summits – Smaller-sized conferences (more executives).
Seminars – Mini-conferences that may only last one day.
Begin your search by checking out the following resources:
The Bizzabo Blog has put together a massive list of global industry events for 2018 — they will probably make another one for next year.
TechBeacon also has a short descriptive list of the most popular software engineering conferences for developers in 2018.
Guide2Research has a comprehensive database of conferences for software engineers and developers, searchable by both industry and country.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of tech events can be found in hubs like San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and London. However, there really are interesting conferences popping up all over the place. Identify the ones that work best with your calendar, brush up on the difference between C and C++, and get ready to mingle.
Another often overlooked place to scout emerging talent is local universities. Contact schools in your area and ask to speak with the person in charge of scheduling guest speaker events, demo days, or mentorship programs.
Not only are such experiences personally rewarding, but they will also provide opportunities to establish relationships with emerging talent. The mentorship format will also enable you to better get to know the individuals you are considering hiring, thus reducing your risk of burning runway on someone who ultimately isn’t a match.
While you are less likely to find mid to senior-level talent at universities, don’t rule out the possibility. Many students have been coding since their early teenage years and have more advanced skill levels than you might assume. With that said, formal education has little to do with capabilities when it comes to programming (more on that later).
Coding Bootcamps and Accelerators
Coding bootcamps are immersive accelerator programs that turn students into working developers within a matter of weeks.
From day one, students spend more than 10 hours a day learning to code. The intensity of the immersion learning model most often allows participants to ridiculously exceed university curriculums makes this a breading ground for recruiting tech talent.
Though many colleges offer computer science classes, they are known for focusing more on theory than real-world applications. You would be surprised to learn how many students graduate with computer science degrees saying, “I don’t really know how to code!”
Currently, there are more than 100 bootcamps and accelerators around the world. Switchup compiled a list of some of the best coding bootcamps here.
Streamline Your Recruitment Process
As you can see, there is no need to limit yourself to one resource or platform when recruiting tech talent. Once you have found the “tech genius” you have been seeking, it’s time to put them to the test.
TrueAbility provides small to enterprise-level organizations with cloud-based testing solutions that look, act and feel like actual workplace scenarios. What’s the difference between a TrueAbility performance-based assessment and an average one?
Our platform presents candidates with 100 percent realistic emulations, as opposed to routine coding exercises. The difference is similar to knowing a new hire can negotiate business deals in Spanish — because you have seen it — versus hoping they can because you have heard them speak some of the language.
TrueAbility also provides a ton of convenient features when recruiting tech talent that make life easier for candidates AND hiring managers (i.e., self-scheduling, video playback and instant grading).