How to Recruit Developers on Github, Stack Overflow and Upwork

With so many tech startups popping up every day, it seems as there’s a constant chase for talent. One of the most sought-after category are developers, which is incredibly hard to find. It’s as though all good developers are already hired, making recruiters’ jobs really complicated.

However, finding your next dev doesn’t have to be akin to looking for a needle in a haystack. Here are some great places where you can find developers, take a glance at their work and contact them. Let’s dig in!


General remarks about recruiting developers

Before settling on your platform of choice, there are several things to keep in mind. First, you need to have clearly defined goals – what you need the developer to do and in which time frame.

Second, if you’re hiring someone for a remote position, establish clear communication so that everyone understands each other and their tasks.

Third, it’s great to test developers skills before you hire them. For this, you need to know some code, as well as the language you’re using. If you don’t have any coding experience, this might prove a challenge, but more on the way to solve this problem a bit later.

Finally, be aware that there are thousands of employers out there like you looking to hire developers. Be mindful of you approach potential candidates and remember that financial incentive won’t be enough to lure in a great programmer.


How to recruit developers using Github

One of the first places online that developers call their home, Github has been the go-to code repository since 2008. It is a hosting platform where developers can share the open-source code that they’ve written for the world to see. It allows features such as tracking bugs, requesting features, task management and others. Here are some of the reasons why it’s a good place to search for new developer talent:

  • It has over 24 million developers from 200 countries
  • More than 67 million code repositories
  • 52% of Fortune 500 companies use Github to build software

So, how can you hire some people on this network? First off, once you land on someone’s profile, there’s plenty of information at your disposal – provided that the dev filled it all out. Some of this info includes:

  • Real name and username
  • Organization
  • Location
  • Contact information (email and websites)
  • Number of repositories and contributions
  • Number of followers


Note the pinned repositories section, where you can easily see that this person’s preferred language is Ruby. The neatly organized contributions graph shows how active they are on Github, allowing a breakdown view of their most active periods, complete with individual contributions.

Another note: the number of followers is not the ideal metric to judge your developer’s knowledge or skills. As around 1% of Github members (out of 24 million) have more than 10 followers, it’s hardly a relevant stat.

How to find developers on Github

First things first, you need a Github account before proceeding. Creating one should only take 2 minutes of your time. Without a profile, you won’t be able to see developers’ email addresses, so it’s the first order of business. Note that you don’t have to be a developer yourself to create a profile.

Now, it’s time for the fun part – the search. As it was built by developers for developers, the search functions great. In their resource database, you can find a range of filters for search, such as type, location, language, date of profile creation, number of profiles and others. For recruiting purposes, there are two that matter the most: language and location.

You can filter these by using the queries language: and location:. In the example below, I searched for developers in Germany who know how to write code in Java. As you can see, there are quite a few results:

You can further narrow this down by using a specific city or using additional queries such as number of followers.

Now that you have a list, it’s time to sort through it. By default, Github shows the users according to best match, i.e. those who have written the most code in the language you specified, and those who are the closest to your desired location. You can easily change this on the right side of the screen:

Some other sorting options include date joined, number of repositories and number of followers.

Contacting developers on Github

Now comes the hard part – getting developers to join your side. Since you’re already on Github, you can take the time to get familiar with the code they write and the projects they work on.

If they’re good at what they do (and we’ll presume so), they already probably get dozens of messages from recruiters every day. By getting to know a bit about their work, you’ll get your foot through the door more easily. Think of it like cold email – a personalized approach is bound to be more effective.

As you have access to the developer’s email, the sky is the limit. You can use it to cross-reference them and find their profile on LinkedIn, Twitter or other dev-specific networks, such as Stack Overflow.

Limitations of recruiting with Github

Needless to say, Github is far from perfect if you’ve set out to hire some new technical talent. The first issue is that it’s only an open-source code repository. As the majority of today’s software is closed-source, a lot of developers may not have that much to show.

Second, as you probably know, there’s no shortage of work for talented developers. This means that the bulk of them don’t have the time to update their Github repositories. As a result, some of the best devs have empty profiles.


How to recruit developers on Stack Overflow

Besides Github, another major hub for developers is Stack Overflow, currently boasting over 50 million monthly visits from more than 200,000 members. Being an odd mix of a forum, knowledge base, a blog and a job board, it’s a community where developers can show off and share their knowledge with others, while companies can scout new talent with ease.

Stack Overflow job board

If you want a super-easy way to recruit developers, you can simply post an ad on the Stack Overflow job board. Here you can lay out the basics of the job, such as type (full-time, part-time), experience level (junior, medior, senior), role (backend, frontend), industry (network security, process monitoring, internet infrastructure, etc.), company size and company type. Finally, and most importantly, you can list the technologies necessary for the job, such as Java, Python, HTML5 and so on.

There are three types of job ads that you can use: basic, featured and top spot listings. Basic listings are what their name says - regular listings that don’t stand out in job pages or search results. Featured listings are highlighted in search, while top spot listings are always shown on top as banners.

However, finding work is one of the least common reasons for developers to visit Stack Overflow. If you want to hook some quality talent, you’ll have to do more than paying for an ad.

Be an active community member

Stack Overflow is a place where developers come to discuss and solve problems together. Make sure to follow discussions pertaining the technologies you’re interested in. You’ll quickly be able to see who’s active and willing to help out others with their knowledge.

You can even present a situation that’s been bothering you and wait for the replies to start rolling in. Developers love a challenge, and you may even be able to get a candidate hooked if they find your issue interesting enough to work on.

Don’t poach candidates

One of the reasons why devs love Stack Overflow is because it’s a place where they’re not likely to get spammed with offers for vague jobs from shady companies that have very little idea what kind of work they need done. For this reason, don’t flat-out spam the people you’d like to work for you.

Make your message personalized and speak to candidates directly. Give them a clear overview of your job, what it entails, what kind of technologies they’d be working with and what your company offers besides a paycheck. Speaking of which…

Focus on the work, not the salary

It’s no secret that developers are some of the highest paid IT professionals out there. You can rest assured that whomever you’re approaching on Stack Overflow is already doing well for themselves and that a salary hike is not enough to make them switch teams.

Instead of using the salary as a motivator, use the work to sell the position. What makes it interesting for them? What are the perks of working for your company? Do you offer some flexibility, is there an option for working remotely? Do you have a really good company culture that you’re proud of? Save the salary for the last part of the conversation.

Stack Overflow developer survey

Each year since 2011, Stack Overflow has run and published a yearly survey about developers and the work they do. In the 2017 edition of the survey, there were two interesting findings for recruiters.

  1. Only 13.1% developers on this platform are actively looking for a job. However, 75.2% are open to learning about new job opportunities – which is good news.
  2. When asked about the most important factor when choosing a new position, 53.3% developers state that it’s the openness to working remotely that attracts them the most.

As we eagerly await the 2018 edition of the survey, the one from last year has two valuable lessons. It is possible to recruit developers using Stack Overflow, and remote work is the number one incentive to get them hooked.

When asked about the most important factor when choosing a new position, 53.3% developers state that it’s the openness to working remotely that attracts them the most.

Limitations of recruiting with Stack Overflow

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the majority of developers on this platform are passive candidates. This means that you will target small percentage of actively seeking candidates if you pay for a job listing. In other words, it may not be the best money spent for recruitment purposes.


How to recruit developers using Upwork

With over 12 million users at the moment, Upwork is one of the largest online freelance communities out there. Unlike Github or Stack Overflow, it is home to a large variety of professions, such as designers, writers, editors, SEO specialists, voice over actors and many others. Both employees and employers love Upwork for its ease of use and protection of all parties involved, and it’s one of the most popular ways to get work done in 2018.

Getting started with hiring on Upwork

Before doing anything, you need to set up an Upwork profile in order to post jobs and look at candidates’ applications. Make sure to tell a bit about yourself, as you need candidates’ trust as much as they need yours. Applicants will be able to see how long you’ve been on Upwork as an employer, the ratio of your interviewed/hired candidates as well as the amount of money you’ve spent on the platform.

As you get to creating your job, there are a few things you need to fill out.

  • Category is the main type of work – you need to select either Web Dev or Mobile Dev.
  • Job name and description – self-explanatory. Be very precise about what you want the developer to do.
  • Pay type – you can pay developers per hour or per finished project.
  • Desired experience level – you can choose the type of experience you want your developer to have. This should (in theory) have an effect on who applies for your job.
  • How long you expect the job to last and the time commitment needed – again, self-explanatory, but be realistic with your deadlines.
  • Marketplace visibility – you can choose whether everyone on Upwork can see the job or only those freelancers you invited.
  • Cover letter – self-explanatory, and not needed in most cases.

Getting applications

Once your job ad is live, candidate proposals will start coming in. Depending on how attractive your offer is, you may get dozens to hundreds of applications before the shutoff time. When choosing a developer to work with, there’s a range of factors to look at:

  • The proposal. How it’s written, how relevant it is to the job ad, the tonality, the grammar, the industry-specific language…
  • Job Success Score. Upwork’s metric for determining the quality of freelancers’ work. It’s based on feedback given by previous employers.
  • Portfolio. It should be somewhere on the freelancer’s profile for you to look at. Otherwise, feel free to request one.

Inviting the best developers for an interview

Once you’ve singled out a few developers to work with, you can invite them for an interview. Similar to a proper job interview, here you can ask your potential new developer anything you desire. From telling you more about their work experience to what makes them the best candidate for the job, the sky's the limit. It’s also a great way to test communication skills, which are a key element in working remotely.

Finally, once you’ve selected the person(s) you want to work with, you can make them an offer through Upwork, which they may or may not accept. Remember – they have to feel good about working with you as well.

Limitations of recruiting with Upwork

One of the most common problems with hiring developers on Upwork is the variety of work done by freelancers. It’s not a rule by any means, but good-quality developers have their hands full of work at all times. Those actively applying for jobs on Upwork are most likely just getting their feet wet in the world of development and won’t have that much experience.

The second issue is that Upwork is rather time consuming for employers. As Upwork themselves only do the basic screening tests, you’re left on your own to find out the candidates’ skills. This means lots of time spent on interviews and running tests.

Finally, Upwork’s fees can take quite a toll – on the freelancers. They pay 20% for the first $500 the client spends, 10% for the total sum between $500 and $10,000 and 5% for amounts over $10,000. The fees guarantee a safety net for both the employers and the employees, but they’re also a reason why some developers aren’t fond of Upwork as a platform for finding clients.


Other platforms for recruiting developers

Besides Github, Stack Overflow and Upwork, there are some other great resources for finding developers online.

Dice is a well-known job board with over 3 million IT professionals. It’s more general in nature and a bit on the pricier end – posting a job ad will set you back around $400.

Toptal is the network for the top 3% of developers in the world. Boasting the highest quality developers around, Toptal does the majority of the screening and testing on your behalf. However, for Toptal, be prepared to pay top dollar.

Gun.io is a platform similar to Toptal, which provides you with top-quality developers sourced and tested for the employers. With around 25,000 developers on demand, it’s one of the few job platforms with a 100% money-back guarantee for the employers.

PS! You can also attract developers by using one of these 20 creative candidate sourcing strategies. 



Testing developers once you’ve found them

Whether you’re using Github, Stack Overflow or Upwork, you finally managed to find a developer whose work you really like – and you want to hire them. Of course, before they’re on board, you need to screen candidates' skills and see whether they’re up for the task.

Trouble is – how do you know if someone can code well, if you don’t have a clue about coding yourself? You could be a recruiter or a hiring manager or even a (co)founder of a startup, without any knowledge of programming, but in dire need of a developer.

This is why we created Hundred5 – a skills-based hiring platform helping you screen and select candidates for technical roles. Using Hundred5, you can test your developer before you hire them, for a range of positions and languages. If you don’t have knowledge in a specific programming language, don’t worry. Hundred5 has pre-made tests for languages such as Java, created by industry experts so that you can see if your candidates walk the walk before hiring them.

If you want to take Hundred5 for a spin so that you’re certain you’re hiring a great developer, you can get started today!

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