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3 ways to recruit engineers who fly under LinkedIn’s radar

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Sergiu Matei

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Sergiu Matei is the founder of Index, a platform that helps teams find and hire world-class remote software developers and be globally compliant from the get-go.

More posts from Sergiu Matei

We’ve recently been bombarded with news of job surpluses, including predictions that the number of software developer roles will increase 22% by 2030. With the need for nearly a quarter more developers, recruiters are having to scale their search and look under the stones that have previously been left unturned.

It’s easy to assume in the digital age that job candidates are waiting at the end of a mouse click, but the online hiring space isn’t as encompassing as we think. Less than 10% of people on LinkedIn don’t have an education that surpasses high school, despite 87% of developers having taught themselves a new coding language, framework or tool without formal education.

Some developers choose not to have a LinkedIn account because it feels like another social media channel to maintain. This aversion makes sense considering engineers focus more on hard skills rather than their online personae.

This week, LinkedIn announced it would start offering its services in Hindi, which will allow the service to reach 600 million people globally. People who live in emerging markets use the platform less frequently, even though these locations harbor some of the world’s most promising tech talent.

Companies can’t let how they’ve hired in the past influence their approach today — doing so means missing not just the quantity of developers, but the quality and diversity of them. The remote revolution didn’t just broaden where we can recruit, it’s expanded who we can bring on board. With that in mind, these are the best ways to tap into the hidden developer gems.

Open up your content, chats and code

No recruiter should think of hiring a developer as the same process as selling a product or service. As Adam DuVander explains in “Developer Marketing Does Not Exist,” resonating with developers requires more education and less promotion than the majority of companies currently provide.

The content you publish can organically pique people’s interest, as long as it has a strategic purpose and doesn’t overly mention your brand or services; for example, blog posts about upskilling, industry trends and exclusive data insights. You could also host events like webinars, round tables, quizzes and hackathons that are less for recruitment purposes and more to showcase the team and culture. Don’t be afraid to be lighthearted with your content, either. Memes, GIFs and videos are a great way to demonstrate that you don’t take yourself too seriously. And once you remove the promotional positioning, developers in the shadows will start to come forward.

The conversation shouldn’t be one-way. Join in developer discussions in some of the smaller, more niche channels on Reddit, Github, Dev.to, Stackoverflow, Quora, Slack Channels, Discord and Twitter. Offer your opinions on current news, recommend resources, and tag people and ask for their thoughts — make yourself a conversation starter and contributor, without pushing your recruitment agenda. Soon enough, people will naturally research you and discover your company.

Beyond content, you could consider opening up parts of your code. With some open source tools, candidates can experiment for themselves, suggest iterations and get to grips with your existing code practices. This level of transparency invites a bigger range of developers to talk about your code choices and associate learning with your company. It can also prompt developers to write about your processes on platforms like Medium, which many hidden developers trust and use to understand the lay of the tech landscape.

Make EQ, not IQ, your hiring criteria

From my experience, developers that keep themselves off the grid are typically more concerned with building personal connections, checking compatibility with employers and crossing the small talk boundaries that dominate most interviews. They want to know that companies prioritize their psychological safety and emotional well-being, that they’re not just a name and list of qualifications on a piece of paper.

Before diving into technical interview questions — or before the interview entirely — dedicate time to speaking about developers’ families, hobbies and dreams. Ask them how they assess people’s priorities, whether they’ve had feedback they’ve disagreed with and what their next steps were. If the developer is willing to share, ask them if they actively choose to fly under the recruitment radar and if yes, why — responses to this question can go a long way in helping you get traction with like-minded developers.

It’s worth discussing accessibility with developers, too, asking whether they’ve built products for people with disabilities or applied accessible features outside of engineering. Their answer shouldn’t determine if they get hired, but by making inclusivity part of the conversation from the get-go, you show them that you want to accommodate all people in your workforce.

Say “yes” to more candidates

As much as recruiters might claim that a job posting gets no traction or that the top candidates are always taken, companies are (un)intentionally disregarding applicants. People are increasingly being ghosted by recruiters, and in some instances, their resumes have been deleted by automated tracking systems.

Standards for accepting candidates have long been unforgiving. More than 40% of people have waited two weeks to hear back from a job, while 15% have waited months. Meanwhile, many businesses routinely admit to rejecting an applicant due to their social media content.

These behaviors only limit further the selection of developers in online spaces. If a developer on the periphery sees that you’re heavy-handed with “no”s, they’re less likely to respond to or approach you. That’s not to say that you need to lower your hiring standards, but that you hire people from outside of your current framework. For example, you could recruit someone who has an arts background (with the necessary tech prerequisites), someone who lives in a different time zone or someone who has worked on short-term projects and changed jobs a lot. You could also connect more with Gen Zs and interview candidates using TikTok’s new resume program.

By saying “yes” to developers with unconventional experiences, they can be the loudspeaker to other hidden developers. They may write reviews on Glassdoor or talk about the company to their offline networks, encouraging more removed developers to take part in recruitment phases. And what’s more, this kind of social proof is effective in reaching and keeping under-the-radar developers: In fact, 45% of employees hired from referrals stay in their role for more than four years.

Demand for developers shows no sign of slowing in the near future, and the most successful recruiters will target the entire developer population, not just the most visible ones. These steps will help you pull back the curtain, discover developers hiding behind the scenes and allow them to be the stars of your business.

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