This post was updated in November 2017 with new information.
Picture this -- your hiring manager calls with an urgent job opening. You post the job on the appropriate site and sit back waiting for the applicants to roll in. The next day you have 10 great candidates to choose from, you schedule interviews with six of them, and have your first choice hired three weeks later. Your backup candidate disappointedly asks you to “Please keep my info on file for opportunities down the road.”
Time to snap out of your recruiting daydream -- especially if you’re hiring developers.
A recent study illustrates that the average time to interview a software engineer is 35 days. That doesn’t include all the candidates who make it past an initial screen but drop off later in the interview process. This number could jump significantly if you’re selective. Which you are. Using this benchmark, even if you met your hire on day 1 of your search, he/she is not getting an offer until 35 days later.
Since 87% of developers are employed at least part-time, most developers are considered passive candidates, which means they are not looking for you (you have to go look for them). This takes appropriate marketing to get your message in front of the right candidates, as well as patience. You can’t expect your hire to find you on day two of your job listing. Even if that hire finds you on day 30 of your post, you’re still just starting the recruiting process.
In a developer market where there are five available jobs for everyone one developer, you can be pretty sure your top candidate is talking to your competition across the street. If that person drops out or takes another offer? You’re starting over. And your job post expired.
Still feel good about that 30-day job post? This process is completely opposite of hiring a Marketing Manager or HR Associate -- all roles where there are plenty of candidates in the market, actively looking and ready to interview. The rules just do not apply to developers. The good news is that you can make hiring developers less painful by understanding and implementing a few tricks.
Are you promoting someone internally or starting your search from scratch? Have you had recruiting material out in the marketplace or will this be the first time prospective candidates are seeing your company name? These questions need to be taken into consideration when setting realistic hiring timelines.
Are developers looking at the same site as potential Marketing Manager or HR Manager candidates? Unlikely. Go to the places where they like to hang out and discuss problems. This includes online communities, hackathons, and social media (but only the social outlets developers like).
Promote your company culture, benefits and projects to developers. Do you have great benefits like a flexible work policy, bonus structure, casual work environment, or free computers and phones? You have great benefits to offer, so let developers know why they’d love working for you! Stack Overflow Company Pages are free and offer a platform to tell just this story to developers.
Passive candidates are, by definition, not looking for a new job, so seeing your message or job post just once may not grab their attention. They’ll need to receive your message consistently over time to look your way. Just like any other passive job seeker, a developer will need to read about your company, absorb your message, and get excited about the opportunity before they click over and decide to apply. Remember, just because you are eager to fill a role doesn’t mean a candidate, especially a passive candidate, will adhere to your schedule
The competition for developers is fiercer than any other role. With nearly 5 jobs available per developer, the developer market is shallow and demand deep. So when you find a qualified candidate, move quickly, otherwise someone else will.
Hiring a talented developer is a process. It’s very different from hiring other types of roles and in order to reach a critical mass of appropriate candidates, you need to reach developers directly and speak their language. Don’t expect developers to job search the same way you would.