December 20, 2016

3 Strategies for Sourcing Great Developers Online

In our last post on sourcing great local developers, we laid out our process for finding talent in your market. Depending on your city and your needs, you might be able to find the right person for the job nearby.

But in our experience, restricting yourself to local hires can shrink the candidate pool to the point that you must make big compromises. You must offer much richer compensation. Or you must accept lower quality work. Or you must pay for a junior developer to learn by trial-and-error—on your software product.

Certain compromises aren’t worth the risks posed to your product and business. So when the best people in your zip code don’t pass muster, it’s smart to cast a bigger net online.

We’ve written about the talent and budget benefits of hiring a remote contractor before, so in this post we’ll share some strategies for sourcing great developers online.

Online Matching Services & Marketplaces


If your Google Sheet of candidates is sparse or if your local search produced none whatsoever, then take a look at online “matchmaking” services and marketplaces.

Depending on the type of product you need, these sites can be decent options:

For example, any of the sites above can put you in touch with an iOS developer who can build a simple, content-driven app. But these matchmaking services and marketplaces typically aren’t the best option when you’re hunting for a senior developer to maintain or build a complex custom application.

Large-scale web apps have more moving parts and therefore require more comprehensive expertise. A junior developer with a BS in Computer Science or a certificate from a coding bootcamp will have the baseline skills required to build a serviceable iOS app.

But nine times out of ten, he will lack the breadth and depth of experience necessary to manage a web app’s complexity.

Think of Ruby on Rails or .NET apps the way you would heart surgery. If you needed a bypass, who would you want wielding the scalpel? You would want the wily veteran who has already done it dozens of times, not the resident fresh out of med school.
In software as in operating rooms, the textbook solutions often aren’t the smartest ones.

Seasoned, senior-level developers have accumulated years of anecdotal know-how that helps them to assess the options. A quick patch often makes more sense than the textbook approach, which is more labor-intensive and costly.

You need more than skills. You need a developer with good judgment.

So where do you go looking for senior developers?

Social Networks

Ask for referrals via any social networks where you have a presence.

Start asking around on the social networks where developers spend time:

  • LinkedIn
  • LinkedIn Groups
  • Facebook
  • Facebook Groups
  • Twitter
  • Forums/Online Communities (e.g., Stack Overflow)

Keep in mind that you may need to make multiple posts in each place. The vast majority of people who follow you won’t see the vast majority of your posts.

You can learn more about the best times to post on various platforms in these posts from Hubspot, Fast Company, and Buffer.

Here is some copy you can swipe as well:

Does anyone know a good [Ruby on Rails] developer?
Hi all, my company needs some help with our [.NET] app. If you know someone, send me a private message.
Good news… we’re hiring! Do you know any [PHP] developers? If so, shoot me an email or leave a comment below.

Ads on Job Boards

dreamstime_6557532 help wanted

Another strategy that has worked well for us is buying ads. That said, ads can be tricky because the type of developer or team member you need will determine where you need to go.

For example, if you need someone who can work on a PHP app built with the Laravel framework, you would start with these three sites:

The niches covered by job boards vary. For example, Stack Overflow started as a .NET community. In recent years the site has captured a wider audience, but even so, when you get into newer supporting technologies and specializations—UI/UX design, Rails Django, Go, Python—catch-all job boards get thin quickly.

You need to spend some time on Google search to figure out which community caters to which type of developer.

The good news is that once you identify one expert, you can ask her which niche communities she frequents. Though you may have trouble understanding them or selecting the right ones, paying for half an hour of her time will pay dividends.

What happens next?

Once you track down some strong candidates and fill out your Google Sheet, you’ll tackle the next challenge. If you’re not a developer yourself, how do you know if this stranger is any good? It is relatively easy to evaluate the performance of great heart surgeons: Their patients live.

But how do you begin to vet developers?

Stay tuned… Our next post will cover some practical tips for differentiating between the amateurs and pros.

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