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Post by Rich Moy on Nov 7, 2017 12:00:00 PM

As a tech recruiter, a large part of your job is to find talented programmers. When you’re reviewing a developer job application, how can you tell if a candidate has the skill set that your company needs? Tech resumes, Stack Overflow profiles, and GitHub pages are the obvious places to start.

But because there’s so much information to digest, it’s easy to get caught up in all of the details. They’ll all be useful at some point -- but in the early stages of your tech recruiting, there are some things that don’t require as much attention. This post will walk you through some of the most common things you’re overthinking when you research developer candidates.

You’re Trying Too Hard to Understand Their Code

It would only take a couple of clicks to find a peer-reviewed answer on Stack Overflow. It would require the same amount of effort to find a developer’s code in a GitHub repository. But ultimately, what you’ll discover is a combination of tech terms, asterisks, and brackets that don’t make a lot of sense to you.

The good news? It’s OK if you can’t figure out how a developer’s code works! The bad news? You’re spending way too much time trying to decode it for yourself.

When you’re browsing a developer’s Stack Overflow or GitHub profile, pay attention to their overall activity. Their commitment to making changes to repositories and responding to questions will tell you plenty about their passion for coding, but leave the technical evaluation to your engineering managers.

You’re Only Looking for the Top-Ranked Developers

Some Stack Overflow profiles will have a blue badge at the top of the page that says “Top X% Overall” or "Top X% in Python." The former means that they’re one of the most trusted overall users on the site, and the latter indicates that a developer is an expert in a particular programming language. If a candidate’s profile has either of these blue badges, you can be confident that he or she can write quality code. But the same can also be said for developers who don’t have a similar ranking.

The top developers on Stack Overflow earn their badges when other users “upvote” their questions or answers, but some people aren’t able to contribute as much for a variety of reasons. Some developers might be government contractors who legally cannot share their insights. Neither of these things is a good enough reason to decline a developer job application.

You’re Only Counting Developers’ Total Repositories

You should only search for developers with dozens of repositories (or sources) on GitHub, right? Well, not quite.

The social aspect of GitHub means that developers can also contribute to other users’ repositories. In fact, some candidates might be more active participants within their colleagues’ projects. When you’re evaluating a programmer’s GitHub profile, do your best to understand their overall activity on the site. When a developer has more “pull” (or copy) requests than sources, this should tell you that he or she would be a valuable team player.

You’re Looking for Reasons to Eliminate Candidates

The biggest mistake you’re making when you evaluate Stack Overflow and GitHub profiles? You’re looking too hard for reasons to pass on a candidate. Both profiles can give you insight into what a developer is working on and wants to explore in the future. The problem with using them to eliminate candidates is that you’ll focus on all the wrong things. 

You might say that someone isn’t up to part because he or she is only active on one Stack Overflow community. Or you might say that it makes sense to look elsewhere because a programmer rarely updates their GitHub repositories. But there’s one common thread through these reasons—they have nothing to do with that person’s ability.

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