Find Developers with GitHub

Why GitHub should be in your sourcing toolbox

Alina Jahani
Alina Jahani

Linkedin, Indeed, Monster. What do all these sourcing platforms have in common? They all rely on resumes to find the best candidates. Well this method may have worked pre-social media, it certainly does not work well now. Let me give you an example of why they don’t work.

GitHub has far more talent than LinkedIn
Source: Zety

This is an example given for a "good resume" for a Senior Java Engineer. If you read the article where the example is taken from, you can see that the recommendation given (which is given by many people to candidates) is for the resume to be optimized for ATS systems to read rather than for humans. The most relevant thing to practical skills in this is "Applied relevant technical skills" - which tells you absolutely nothing except that the candidate believes their skills to be relevant.

GitHub is the key to finding talent while also being sure that you've found the right talent. Since it contains real projects built by candidates, you can verify the skills that the candidate is talking about and ensure that you're on the same page long before you pickup the phone or shoot an email off.

GitHub has far more talent than LinkedIn

Is GitHub really that popular?

Great question. GitHub is the world’s largest collaborative software developer community. With over 50 million members from hundreds of countries and 11% coming from the USA, it is an amazing talent pool. While Stack Overflow only has 10 million users registered as of 2019. Moreover, a survey conducted by Stack Overflow concluded that 28% of technical talent cannot be found on Linkedin. Why?  Developers don’t want to be spammed by recruiters and don’t even bother setting up a LinkedIn account. 

Learn to recruit on GitHub

While GitHub is fruitful, it would not be possible without some elbow grease. Here is a basic rundown of what you need to do to conduct a basic search on the platform.

  • Go to https://github.com/search/advanced
  • Decide what languages and cities you would like to source from. Note: GitHub only supports very high-level technology searches. For example, you can find a "JavaScript" developer, but not a "Node.js" or "React" developer.
  • Enter the criteria into the search bar (remembering the syntax is key).
    • To search for users in San Francisco, you can enter: location:"San Francisco" (see below) - with no spaces between 'location', ':', and 'San Francisco'.
    • After searching, you must click "Users" to see users instead of projects.
    • Locations and languages that are more than one word must be encapsulated with quotation marks.
GitHub advanced search form
Source: GitHub

How do I find mobile developers? What about backend?

Well, if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. The problem with GitHub is that conducting specific searches is tricky and in many cases, not possible. For example, GitHub cannot distinguish between backend Java developers vs. Android developers (both exist in the 'language:Java' search). For all my tech savvy recruiters out there, you will realize that these two searches are not the same thing.

In other words, GitHub search results are a big melting pot that groups developers who are frontend developers, backend developers, mobile developers, etc.

My search results are not diverse at all!

Search results from GitHub for JavaScript developers in San Francisco
Source: GitHub

This search provides 19K users. Guess what? They aren’t sorted in the way you’d expect. GitHub, like many social media platforms, relies on superficial metrics to figure out who are the best developers on the platform. This results in the implicit diversity biases of the industry and platform becoming part of your sourcing process. Here are a few examples of what GitHub likes:

  • 🙏 High number of followers
  • ⭐️ Multiple starred repositories
  • 🟩 Greenest contribution chart you’ve ever seen

What is the one thing GitHub neglects to do? Tell a recruiter if the candidate is worth hiring! Luckily, for all those tech savvy recruiters, there is a way out. You can read the candidate code and figure out for yourself if they are worth contacting.

But you’re probably going to be staring out thousands of lines like the code snippet above. But hey, at least you have access to an exclusive talent pool.

If you’re thinking that there must be an easier way to get around all this hard labour and still reap the rewards, I like the way you think! HireFast is the perfect solution, offering a search engine built on top of GitHub that reads the code for you and shortlists candidates so you don’t have to read any code. Focus on nurturing candidates, and leave the sourcing to HireFast! We have a free trial for you to get started and check out the quality for yourself. No credit card required 💰. So you keep your money till you think we’re worth it!

Alina Jahani
Alina Jahani