9 Actionable Tips to Attract and Hire Top-Notch Developers in 2018

by Gonzalo January 08, 2018

Finding the right developers for your company is laborious task. That’s why we put together a list of nine actionable tips you should consider if you want to level up your hiring this year.

Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

Hiring the right person for any position is hard. Hiring the right developer is even harder. Even if you don’t buy into the 10x developer mentality, you still need to find someone who matches the skill requirements and is a great addition to your company.

Software developer job vacancies are expected to grow 17% from 2014 to 2024, but competition for open positions is fierce. Developers are the ones who build stuff for a world that is becoming more reliant on technology so demand for demand is only going to increase over the next ten years.

This creates a “seller’s market”, a term commonly used in real estate to describe a scenario when demand exceeds supply, or there are more buyers seeking to purchase properties than there are available homes on the market. This leads to multiple buyers interested in a single property, resulting in bidding wars that drive up prices.

The same dynamic can be translated to any market — in this scenario developers are the sellers, and companies are the buyers. Which means that you, as a buyer in a seller’s market, need to up your game.

By definition, the best developers will have plenty of options from the best companies and the best companies usually do well so they can offer better packages, more interesting technical challenges and nicer perks. It’s a virtuous cycle that’s been driving up software salaries consistently for the past 30 years.

Great for developers, but if you are on the hiring side, it’s a hard world, and it’s going to get harder. Specially if you are hiring in areas with even lower supply and higher demand, like backend for web and cloud, iOS, Android, and DBA/SQL.

So what can you do to attract and hire the best developers? How can you position your company to attract the most elite candidates? Below we’ll share a few tried-and tested tips that will help you attract, interview and hire top-notch developers in the upcoming year.

Let’s dive in.

Offer an interesting career challenge

If your company isn’t doing interesting things, and doesn’t deliver a deliberate culture with the right perks, then you are going to strike out.

A 2010 Princeton study states that money and happiness are correlated, but only up to an annual salary of $75,000. After that point, people get more happiness from other things and salary becomes secondary.

Even if that’s just a random benchmark, many developers do well enough that they prioritize other things instead of money. And I’m not talking about ping pong tables. Developers value:

  • A clear career growth path. Training sessions, interesting work, tickets to conferences or reimbursement for courses and books.
  • Good technical management. Developers want to work for other developers, not a non-technical manager who can’t understand the nuances of their work. Communicating this to technical talent shows that your company understands the industry and cares about their work.
  • Exciting technical work. Even if your company isn’t trying to send a rocket to Mars, there are ways to highlight your products to get developers excited. Developers care about interesting technical challenges, even if it’s in the insurance industry. Find the people currently doing that work, and let them communicate it to talent via content like videos.
  • Highlight your office and perks. All things being equal, developers prefer bright, comfortable workspaces. Other perks like ergonomic chairs, or free coffee and snacks are great selling points as well.

Be authentic

Small and large companies should use different employment branding strategies to attract developers because they are going after a different kind of applicant. On one side, a specialist who thrives in the internal machinery of big organizations, and on the other, a generalist who can wear many different hats and performs with little to no guidance.

The problem is when startups, in an effort to hire top candidates, portray themselves as large companies when they are 15 people working remotely via Slack. Or the other way round — when big companies say “We use startup methodologies!” but then force candidates to navigate impossible bureaucreacy to get stuff done.

After a week in the job, a good developer will call BS. People like authenticity, and tricking someone into a job isn’t a good place to start.

Build your employment brand around developers

You are already familiar with the benefits of a strong employer brand. According to LinkedIn statistics, strong branding cuts cost-per-hire by 50%, reduces turnover by 28% and makes the process from start to finish at least 100 percent faster.

A solid starting point is to level up your own internal recruiting tools: build a career page, craft great job descriptions and, most importantly, create compelling content that gets shared on social media so talent starts following you.

This effort will bring tech talent closer to your doorstep and familiarize them with your brand. One fact that illustrates the point — 70 percent of the people who follow a company on LinkedIn said they would consider working for that company.

Linkedin is not your only friend

If you want to be successful, you need to go where the candidates are, and developers aren’t big fans of Linkedin. In fact, in 2015 Stackoverflow surveyed developers and found that 22% don’t even have a LinkedIn account.

Even if you still can find decent developers in Linkedin, you shouldn’t put all your recruitment eggs in a single basket. Remember — developers hate single points of failure.

In 2018, you need to step out of your comfort zone, get outside the familiar Linkedin shadow, and hang out in places like Angellist, Stackoverflow, Github, Jobbatical (wink, wink) or niche boards like WeWorkRemotely.

Why? StackOverflow, the Q&A site for programmers has over 1.5 millions users. Jobbatical helps with employer branding and has 130,000 tech professionals ready to relocate to your country. Github has over 3 millions members and Angellist, the platform for startups and investors is a great resource for hiring full-time developers.

Once you close a candidate, ask them if they know anyone else

Imagine turning your entire workforce into top recruiters. Well, you can and you should. Trusted referrals are a great way to hire as it is faster, has the lowest turnover and it’s the least expensive since you skip those expensive recruiter fees.

So, as you start hiring developers consistently, the best way to sustain that growth is asking your employees if they know anyone else in their network that would be good for your company.

A few things to keep in mind is that as a referral bonus, experiences work better than cash; and the key to a strong referral program is to promote it and support it well internally.

Organize hackathons, virtual or in a specific location

Hackathons are a great way to attract developers and get them familiarized with your brand. It’s a great way to increase your employment brand since you’ll be associated with doing interesting technical work.

When organizing a hackathon, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, you need to decide whether you’d like an online hackathon or a typical offline event. While online can attract a higher number of participants, offline events still have traction, specially if you are hiring locally in a difficult market.

If you do organize a hackathon, select a theme and target the event to that particular audience by adapting the problems, mentors and judges accordingly. You can go with something that’s trending (BLOCKCHAIN!) or pick a theme related to your company. Most prominent hackathons have a unique approach that distinguishes them.

If you are not up for organizing a hackathon, you should sponsor one (even if it’s with pizza and beer) and send your senior engineers as mentors or judges. This will allow you to build relationships with local community partners. For instance, if you’re interested in hiring mobile game developers, co-hosting or sponsoring a hackathon with a popular game company could be mutually beneficial.

Finally, stay away from multi-day events and large cash prizes as those tend to change the dynamics from a fun, fulfilling event to an all out developer war.

Write better job listings

We’ve mentioned before that one of the biggest predictors of hiring success is your job ad. It’s one of the key variables that determines how many applicants you’ll get, and how good they’ll be. This is especially true for developers because of the range of options that are available to them.

When crafting the perfect job ad, there are a few things that you need to take into account if you are looking to hire top-notch developers in 2018.

  • What is the title of the role? Stay away from Hacker, and go for Senior Software Engineer instead. You need to differentiate yourself and get into specific on the type of developer and experience level you are looking for.
  • What product will the developer be supporting? This is key if your company has multiple products. Developers want to know what exactly if they’ll be spending a third of their life on an internal billing system or a customer-facing application.
  • What team will the developer be on? Related to the previous question, developers will want to know what team will they be on — Mobile, Security?
  • What are the technologies this developer will be working with? Developers want to know if the role involves technologies they are familiar with or currently enjoy working on.

Be transparent with salary

In 2016, Stackoverflow ran an interesting experiment. They redesigned the Stackoverflow job ads to display salary ranges and then ran an A/B test to determine which one had a higher click through rate.

They were expecting a quick lift on Variation A, but what they discovered surprised them — a 75% average increase in clickthrough rate (CTR) when that showed a job’s salary range.

This illustrates the fact that developers value the authenticity and transparency that comes with seeing salary ranges upfront.

Stackoverflow predicts that in 2018, developers will be even less interested in negotiating salary. In fact, they, alongside companies like Gitlab and Buffer, are already leading the way offering online calculators that help candidates understand their salary.

So instead of being mysterious and trying to pay the lowest salary you can get away with, offer what you can afford to pay, and be transparent about how you came to that number.

Plus, you have to keep in mind that with the compensation data available to developers, there will be much less room for companies to offer below-average salaries.

Summing Up

We just covered nine actionable tips you should start considering right now, but you shouldn’t neglect the fundamentals. Competition for top-notch developers is fierce, and it will only get worst as software keeps eating the world.

Top developers have options and consider more than just money when evaluating their next opportunity. As a consequence, your company needs to be attractive enough if you want a shot at working with them. The good news is you don’t need Apple-style piles of cash to do that.

Care about your team, offer interesting challenges, pay people market rate and get your voice out there, and you’ll be fine.

This post is a part of Jobbatical’s hiring blog, designed to help hiring managers get their teams to the next level. To get our new articles straight to your inbox, please sign up for our hiring newsletter.

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