What Twitter, Medium, Airbnb, Netflix and Spotify can teach you about hiring engineers

by Jobbatical July 12, 2016

Airbnb is a global hospitality company. Spotify is a music streaming service. Netflix streams video. And Medium is a content platform focused on viewpoints, not number of views. What do these diverse businesses have in common?

The power of pull.

These visionary companies go a step beyond traditional hiring routes by building “Inbound hiring” channels.

Sourcing talented engineers isn’t just about a stellar salary or cool office space. Most businesses already offer that. It’s about discovery, learning, growth. Smart people want to work with smart people to expand their knowledge base — this is especially true of engineers. They’re hungry to learn about state-of-the-art technologies in outstanding companies, and to interact with smart coworkers.

Social shares target top talent

Today’s hot trend to attract top-flight engineers is showcasing a company’s advanced tech stack and work environment. Telling outsiders about team culture also helps attract people with a similar mindset. The best way to do both? Social media.

Sharing news on Twitter, and engineering resources on websites and blogs, are two major channels to build a readership of relevant talent. The community engages engineers around the world who are interested in solving similar problems, and establishes the “cool and advanced engineering team” brand among community members.

Here’s how five renowned companies (including Twitter itself) are leveraging Twitter to find and recruit the best engineers worldwide. If you are not an engineer, you might be surprised to see just how successful these entrepreneurial businesses have been in sharing their infrastructure to help the developer community.


A cross between a social network and a microblogging platform, ten-year-old Twitter turns on the @ symbol, in bursts of 140 characters or less. Users employ hashtags (the number sign #) to specify themes and find other Twitter users who are Tweeting about (discussing) the same topic.


Obviously, Twitter uses @TwitterEng, (1.2M followers) as a major channel to engage engineers with engineering-related news. It also maintains a website to share information on different topics, including engineering process, culture, tools and events.

Since one of Twitter’s biggest challenges is handling enormous requests for real time data every second from all over the world, Twitter engineers have built a lot of projects to achieve this goal, and open-sourced some of them.

Besides open source projects, the Twitter engineering team also conducts research and shares the results on their website. Teams/engineers seeking scalable solutions for their growing product can likely find some interesting resources on Twitter Engineering.

Hottest open-source projects include:

  • Bootstrap: A sleek, mobile first front-end framework for web development.
  • Typeahead.js: A fast, fully featured autocomplete library.


Since blog publishing platform Medium is the brainchild of Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, it’s not surprising that the four-year-old interactive platform uses Twitter (@MediumEng, 6.8k followers) as its tech news channel and Medium Engineering as its engineering blog to share information and interviews from an engineering perspective.

Medium Engineering

Medium is also well known for its user experience (both readers and writers), thus attracting designers as well as engineers to the blog.

Some good reads include:


Airbnb’s message is, “Don’t go there, live there.” Founded in 2008, the hospitality marketplace replaces hotels with homestays worldwide, from Bangkok to Berlin, Boston to Bahasa, whether someone is traveling for a night, a week, a month, or longer, at any price point. So far, Airbnb has served more than 60 million guests.

Airbnb needs to be able to efficiently serve customers and hosts from all over the world, any time, in 25+ languages and 40+ currencies. It also needs to block spammers and frauds on a large scale. Airbnb Engineering and Data Science describes how the company built the platform, and how it handles huge amounts of data and requests.

Given the founders’ design background, it was only natural that Airbnb would build some creative UI design projects of its own, in addition to open source projects in infrastructure and machine learning.

Airbnb uses Twitter (@AirbnbEng, 16.4K followers) and the Airbnb engineering website to share its knowledge, with Medium serving as the engineering blog. The company recently added Twitter handle @AirbnbData to focus on big data.

Hot projects include:

  • Caravel: A data exploration platform designed to be visual, intuitive, and interactive.
  • enzyme: JavaScript Testing utilities for React


Music streaming service Spotify made headlines in 2014 when pop superstar Taylor Swift pulled her entire catalogue from the site, citing artistic integrity and value. The eight-year-old Swedish company operates under a freemium business model, offering both free and paid subscriptions.

Spotify Labs

Spotify must manage a high volume of song requests, without compromising the quality of the music. Twitter is its main news channel (@SpotifyEng, 5.5k followers) and Spotify Labs is where the service shares the engineering learning and culture within the team, in blog format.

One of the most widely shared posts describes how Spotify structures their engineering team to handle a growing number of team members and tasks. The piece was so popular that Harvard Business School used the Spotify “Squad” as an example of how to successfully lead a global organization without an operations team.

Recent posts include:


Netflix, which began as a DVD-by-mail service in 1998, started offering streaming video in 2007, and now serves more than 190 countries worldwide.

The company faces the challenge of streaming high quality video daily, via different devices, to a huge number of subscribers. It is well known for offering the most competitive salary to hire the best people — but differs radically from many other businesses in one key respect: how it views employees.

In a presentation about company culture, Netflix famously said, “We’re a team, not a family” to indicate how they expect and treat team members. Only confident and highly capable people fit into this highly competitive culture, and are compensated according to what they produce, not how late they stay at the office. When so many businesses today play up the importance of coworkers feeling “like a family,” this is a game-changing distinction.

The Netflix Tech Blog

Netflix maintains a tech blog to share how it deals with the problems inherent in large-scale service, and dedicates a Twitter handle specifically for UI Engineers (@netflixuie, 4.5k followers).

How to make hiring easier

Consistently hiring the right people is hard — but it doesn’t have to be. Instead of reaching out to those who might or might not be interested in your technology or culture, build a brand that shares the daily work within the company, and helps enrich talent within the engineering community through knowledge sharing.

Good engineers love to see a team that’s open enough to offer them something new to learn. By being generous with your knowledge and sharing frequently on social media, you will ultimately attract talent that is aligned with your culture and tech stack, just as Twitter, Airbnb, Netflix, Medium and Spotify have done.

Originally published at jobbatical.com on July 12, 2016.

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