How To Recruit Software Developers

In the world of recruitment, technical talent is short in supply and high in demand. Companies across a wide range of industries are looking for top software developers, but many struggle to stand out from their competitors and attract candidates with the right mix of technical prowess and creative innovation.

Whether you’re a recruiter or a business owner, hiring software developers is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face as part of your career. Not only is the recruiting process more complex, but the pool of candidates you’re sourcing from is much smaller than most other professions and has a lot more people looking to hire from it.

There’s no single action you can take to secure success when it comes down to recruiting software engineers. Instead, you’ll need to put the work in before you even begin sourcing potential candidates, get creative with your hiring process, and never take your eye off the ball.

To help streamline your recruiting strategy and guarantee that your business stands out, we’ve put together this guide of how to recruit software developers.

Before You Begin

If you’ve been recruiting for software engineers for a while then you’ll know that the hard work of finding the perfect candidate begins long before you post a job advert or start prospecting. You want your opportunity to sound as appealing as possible when it reaches the talent pool, and you also want to make sure that you’re only sourcing talent that is right for the role.

Build Out Your Brand

If you’re wondering how to attract software developers that are going to be a real asset to your business, building a brand image for your company that paints it as a desirable place for software developers to work should be top of your list. Potential candidates are going to be far more interested in working for a company they have already heard of, or one that has a clear brand identity and markets itself as a top employer of tech talent.

Good company branding comes down to marketing, PR and social media, all of which help to get your business out there and create more interest in what you do. Inbound recruiting is a technique that relates to this; establishing a brand image that stands out and attracts both passive and active candidates through creating relevant and engaging content. If you’ve got a larger audience, you’ll have a larger talent pool to recruit from.

Software developers in particular will be interested in working for companies that are offering new and exciting projects for their employees, use an up-to-date tech stack and provide a working environment that caters to their developers.

If you’re looking to appeal to the top percentage of software developers, you also need to ensure that your company and job opportunity are unique, or at least offer competitive benefits. In some cases, you’ll be recruiting software engineers that are already in a development role with another company, and you won’t catch their attention unless you can offer them a better experience.

Define Your Objectives

Sifting through unsuitable candidates is one of the biggest software developer hiring challenges, and can also mean that you miss out on hiring the perfect person because they get offered another job whilst you’re still sorting through interviewees. Before you post a position online or start thinking about how to hire a software engineer, it’s incredibly useful to define exactly what you are looking for.

Ask yourself the following:

  • What is the issue you are trying to resolve? Is there a specific product you are looking to develop that requires certain skills or experience, or are you looking for a new team member for a current project?
  • What abilities are you looking for? Deciding on the specific assessments that candidates will need to pass will not only narrow down your search but also give you an outline for the recruiting process.
  • Is there a time limit for this vacancy? Do you need your new employee to start by a certain date, or can you be flexible if they still have another job?

This information will help you to write a more specific job advertisement, and also help to weed out any unsuitable potential candidates right at the start of the recruitment process.

Know Where to Look

It’s one of the most obvious pieces of recruitment advice, but you’re not going to find the perfect software developer if you’re looking in all the wrong places. This is particularly relevant when hiring tech talent, as the selection of potential candidates is so limited that you often have to get creative in order to find the perfect person.

As well as more traditional routes such as LinkedIn, your social media following and specialist recruitment agencies, there are more specific places that you can search for potential software development candidates that your competitors may not have considered:

  • Technical blogs: Many software developers run their own blogs that focus on their specialist interest in software engineering. These give you a great insight into a developer’s skills, knowledge and communication style, and can be a goldmine of passive candidates
  • Conferences: Relevant technical conferences are full of speakers and audience members who all have interests or abilities in software development, and are a great place for networking. Even if you don’t manage to find anyone interested in filing your role right now, you’ll have made useful connections for future opportunities.
  • Open source code contributors: This might already be a part of your sourcing process if you’ve been recruiting tech talent for a while, but sites that host open-source projects like GitHub are a brilliant place to find potential software development candidates. You can see samples of an individual’s code on these kinds of platforms, which also gives you an insight into whether their skills are right for your project or business

Candidate Sourcing

Interviewing your Candidates

Once you have sourced potential candidates, you’ll then be into the interviewing stage of the recruitment process. This often takes place over several different interviews as you narrow down your choices, and it is important to make this process as efficient as possible when dealing with such in-demand candidates as software engineers.

Role Application

If you are recruiting a new software developer through a job application, and not pursuing specific candidates directly, then you’ll be able to start evaluating applicants from their written application. Of course, it is impossible to gauge how suitable an individual might be just from a CV, but there are a few things to look out for:

  • Experience: If you are hiring a developer for a complex project, you’re going to want someone who has worked on similar tasks before
  • Job History: It is common for software developers to move between jobs every couple of years, but it could be a red flag if a potential candidate has not stayed in a role for more than a year
  • Attitude: It’s hard to property perceive a candidate’s attitude from their writing, but many stand-out software developers make their enthusiasm for the job clear through both their personal statement and list of interests and job history. If it doesn’t feel like a potential candidate cares much about their profession, they’re probably not the outstanding talent you’re looking for

Phone Interviews

Recruiting software engineers happens over several stages, and our first point of contact will usually be through an initial phone interview. Whilst you’re using this opportunity to get to know an applicant better, you should also approach this stage with a clear plan of action so as not to waste time.

Some important questions that it may be useful to ask at this stage of the recruitment process are:

  • What do you know about our company?
  • What would you like to achieve whilst working with us?
  • What were your responsibilities in your last role?
  • What project from your last role are you most proud of, and why?
  • What have you learnt from failed projects in the past?
  • What are your salary and role progression expectations?
  • How soon could you start?

At the end of a phone interview, you should always finish by letting the potential candidate ask any questions. Make sure to let them know when they will be hearing back from you, and ensure they’re not kept waiting long.

Face-to-Face Interviews

The in-person portion of the interview process is perhaps the most important, as this is where you’ll be able to sort the exceptional developers from the mediocre ones.

Technical prowess is vital when hiring software engineers, but all the skills in the world won’t do much good if an individual can’t work in a team or effectively communicate. The best candidates are not only talented in their abilities; they’re also friendly, engaging and adaptable.

One good way to assess a potential candidate’s communicative and social skills is to have them speak to a non-recruiting member of staff at the start of the interview. This doesn’t have to be a formal part of the process, but it does give you a good idea as to whether they’ll be suited to working at your company.

As well as asking questions relating to their experience as a software developer, also ask them about what led them to the role and why they enjoy it. Not only does this give more of an insight into their personality, but it will also shine a light on those who are passionate about what they do. The best developers are the ones who really love their jobs!

Finally, you’ll want an idea of how an individual is going to react and respond to events and problems that come up as part of their role. Whether you use a simulation program to assess their skills and morals, or just ask them questions that begin with ‘What would you do if…?’ in the interview, this step is vital in identifying who has the necessary skills and abilities to flourish in your software development role.

Job Interviews

Technical Assessment

Assessing the technical ability of software development candidates is essential, but gauging their creativity and problem-solving skills alongside this is just as important. All interviews for software engineers should include a technical assessment, and you can either use a piece of existing software to coordinate this or create your own.

One of the best ways to identify the most talented candidates is by setting them a problem without specifying a coding language. This allows them to work in the style they are most comfortable with and is a better assessment of their general technical ability instead of their skills in a certain type of code.

Once a candidate has completed the assessment, get them to talk you through exactly what they did and why. It’s also beneficial to ask them what they would have also done if they had more time, as this gives them a chance to demonstrate creativity and innovation.

The technical assessment is also a brilliant chance to establish how a candidate is going to respond to constructive criticism and adapt to new feedback, both of which are very important as a software engineer. No matter how talented an individual is, they need to be able to work as part of the team and remain open to suggestions, and discussing the code they have produced is a great way to do this.


The Final Decision

Companies that hire software engineers will be familiar with how competitive the industry is, and just how in-demand exceptional software developers are. When it comes to making a final decision about hiring a new member of your team, you won’t have time to sit and think about it. If you wait for too long, you’ll likely find that another company has already hired the candidate you desperately wanted.

Refining your recruitment process is essential if you want to attract and hire the top percentage of tech talent for your company so that you can seize opportunities that come your way in an instant, and never miss out on the perfect hire because of a hold-up with interviews. It can be a stressful process, but the benefits far exceed any recruitment obstacles you’ll have to overcome.

If you’d like the support of an expert in mastering how to recruit software engineers, then get in touch and tell us more about what you’re looking for.

Chris Oddy

Chris Oddy

About the Author

Chris is an award-winning recruitment consultant who has specialised in the electronics and embedded systems sector since 2008. Chris is passionate about technology and customer service.


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