Finding talented candidates on Stack Overflow and GitHub

Most of us need to belong to a community. There is a community for every enthusiast and tech experts and professionals aren’t missing out on it. Developers are possibly the most sought-after professionals. Organizations spend a substantial amount not only recruiting technical experts but also investing a lot in retaining and upskilling them.

Also, with the ever-changing scene of technological evolution, developers become an even more valued resource to sustain ‘their creation.’ A 2018 Stack Overflow survey found that only 16% of developers are actively looking for a job. Surprisingly, an overwhelming 75% of developers are interested in hearing about new job opportunities. So, the talent pool available to recruiters is largely passive even in 2023.

This makes it difficult for recruiters to source software developer candidates, who are specialists, and ensure that they are onboarded into the organization (since their current organizations also try very hard to retain them). 

Exceptional technical recruiters are the ones who go to the right platforms to hire the right technical talent viz. Stack Overflow and GitHub.     

What are GitHub and Stack Overflow platforms?

Stack Overflow and GitHub are two extremely popular communities where developers, data scientists, mobile and game developers, and system admins find a platform to share their knowledge and help each other solve technical queries.

GitHub is frequented by developers to share, collaborate, and discuss codes and coding. Stack Overflow, on the other hand, is a forum popular for helping each other find answers to tech-related queries.

Both these platforms also have discussions of new trends in the tech industry, innovations, and discoveries and hence are also an employer’s best bet to find technical talent.  

Why are these platforms best to hire tech professionals?

Both GitHub and Stack Overflow have a diversity of technical experts, experienced professionals, novices, and enthusiasts. Unlike LinkedIn, recruiters need to be observant in looking for potential candidates on GitHub and Stack Overflow.  

Here’s how to identify talent on both of these platforms: 

GitHub

Github logo

A professional’s profile on GitHub can give recruiters a lot of information about them. 

  • A candidate’s demographics
  • Current employer 
  • Personal projects, blogs, and achievements
  • Contributions made to other projects or queries
  • Followers – Higher number of followers indicates valuable contributions made by the person. 
  • Stars or forks (used by other people) in repositories – Repositories have open-source codes that others can view and modify for reuse. When other people like a published code, they mark it with a star or copy it for their projects (called forking).  

Although similar to many other communities, a higher number of followers may also be an indicator of higher skill since the sharing happens on professional and technical levels.     

Stack Overflow

Stackoverflow logo

A professional’s popularity or expertise in Stack Overflow is quite unlike that of GitHub.

Questions that are asked on the platform are tagged as per category (e.g., programming, the application language, etc.). Answers are up-voted and down-voted and people get reputation points for high-quality contributions. 

Contributors with higher upvotes are valued as highly skilled and earn Stack Overflow reputation points and badges. Members who get down-voted a lot are perceived as people with lesser skills. The person who asks the question chooses the best answer for their query.

Stack Overflow has candidate information, which is open to the public without registering to the community. Recruiters can browse users and look at their activity. 

How to source candidates from GitHub and Stack overflow?

By observing programmer profiles on these platforms, recruiters can identify new leads as well as gauge the level of expertise of candidates. Candidates who have been sourced from other platforms can also be cross-referenced by checking their profiles on GitHub and Stack Overflow.

Again, both these platforms have different approaches while sourcing candidates.

GitHub

Step 1 – Signing up for a free account

A simple yet mandatory step by GitHub, signing up will give you access to the community. Signing up will also allow you to see the potential candidates’ email ids.

Step 2 – Use the search bar

The built-in search bar in GitHub allows you to put in multiple keywords for more specific results. Some common search criteria are by programming or application language, location, and the number of followers.

If you run a search from Google, you can find profiles with location, key terms, followers, or starred count. Additional parameters like the date of joining the community or the organization name can help you narrow your search results.

While searching for candidates, GitHub shows their posts on repositories. Through that, you can track their followers, joined date, and contributions. 

Step 3 – Find their email addresses

The best part about GitHub is that if a potential candidate had included their email address, you could find it on their profile. You can get their email address either from the search results or their profile bio.

If a candidate has not listed their email id, you can use email finders.

Stack Overflow

This platform has a strict set of rules (Stack Overflow Talent House Rules) for recruiters and is very particular about how and how much recruiters can reach out to candidates. Although outreach through Stack Overflow is high, recruiters who breach protocol are restricted. 

Recruiters can send only 100 messages at a time and once a candidate responds to the message, the limit is ‘lifted’. Therefore, recruiters prefer to selectively reach out to candidates after verifying their skills rather than mass outreach. 

The platform monitors recruiters’ activity very closely and doesn’t mind revoking the privileges of the employer.

Post your job on the job board

Your job can be posted on Stack Overflow’s job board. The convenient feature is that your job ad will appear on the pages that are frequented by a relevant pool of potential candidates.  

Check a candidate’s profile and gather more information through the following tags

  • A candidate’s demographics
  • Other presence on social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter, or personal websites
  • Tenure in Stack Overflow
  • Reputation – people get upvoted or downvoted for their responses and therefore earn a reputation. They may also win badges that may not be technically related but may give you an inkling of their personality
  • Nature of the questions asked – this can be a great indicator of the depth of their knowledge, their interests, and any other projects they may be working on
  • Tags contributed to – this also shows the various languages and technologies potential candidates may be skilled at. You can also filter results through the ‘top users’ option. When you search for a generic skill tag, you will also find an option to find ‘synonyms’ (related skills)  

Stack Overflow also has a premium option where recruiters pay and get access to user profiles of candidates who have chosen to receive communication from recruiters.

3-step process to reach out to candidates on these platforms

Here is a 3-step process to reach out to candidates

  • Build a brand subtly: As mentioned earlier, most developers are passive candidates yet are curious to know what is new and exciting in the field of technology. It will help recruiters to let potential candidates know what is “happening” (projects and technology) in their organization.

    It will help if technical managers or highly skilled employees join the community and share knowledge and expertise. It is easier to establish visibility of your organization through such methods than “hard-selling”.
  • Join the community: Although these platforms are for technical people, it wouldn’t hurt for recruiters to join the community. Excellent tech recruiters invest time and effort in understanding certain technologies and developing an interest in some of them. It, then, becomes easier for them to follow and/or join discussions and eventually build relationships. This will again be a better bet in reaching out to candidates.
  • Make it personal: Once you get a candidate’s consent in considering a job opportunity. Presuming you would have gathered enough information about the candidate, what you offer needs to be highly specific to the candidate’s aspirations. 

Ensure that you make it clear how your company can help them achieve their goals. Be mindful of what the candidate’s inclinations are, in terms of technology so that you can offer newer opportunities and challenges that will keep the candidate associated with the organization.  

In conclusion

It is a learned skill for recruiters to use platforms like GitHub and Stack Overflow to find talent for their organizations. Although it is difficult to source and recruit tech professionals, it pays off when you do find the right fit for the role. 

As it is said, the greatest talents often lie buried out of sight. It takes a great eye to find a diamond in the rough!

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