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8 Non-traditional Tactics for Reaching Developer Candidates

Hiring Developers

Tech recruiters say that finding relevant developer candidates is the most challenging part of their job. 

While mainstream channels like GitHub, Stack Overflow, LinkedIn, and Indeed are widely used for tech recruiting, there are several unconventional and non-obvious channels that can help you tap into a pool of skilled developers. 

We discussed non-traditional developer sourcing tactics in our recent webinar. We brought together a panel of tech recruiting experts (Erin Mathew, Mikey Weil, Reginald Mason, and David Marr) who shared their experience and advice on the subject.

In this article, we’ll explore 8 tactics that can enhance your outreach efforts and attract developer candidates who might not be actively searching for new opportunities.

1. Engage with passionate tech communities on Reddit

Reddit is a treasure trove of tech talent. Many developers actively participate in subreddits dedicated to specific technologies, such as the React.JS community. 

“There really is a community for everything. If there’s a community called “Bread stapled to trees”, which is quite literally a very active community of people stapling bread to trees, then of course there’s a JavaScript community, of course there’s a React.JS community […] It’s a place where developers really tend to thrive […] People aren’t there to get followers, they’re there to discuss what they’re passionate about, and there’s a unique level of engagement among Redditors.” 

Erin Mathew, Sr. Tech Talent Sourcer at PayPal

As a recruiter, immerse yourself in these communities, genuinely participate in discussions, and establish yourself as a helpful resource. 

Go forward with caution and respect. Many communities share practices, guidelines or “rules” for engagement—sometimes specifically for recruiters. The React.JS subreddit, for example, holds monthly “mega threads” for recruitment conversations. 

Building a reputation as a knowledgeable and supportive community member can attract developers to your opportunities and spark conversations.

💡 Useful resource: The Ultimate Toolbox for Tech Sourcing on Reddit  

2. Build connections through Discord

Discord is not only a popular communication platform but also home to various developer communities. 

💡 Useful resource: Public Discord Server List: Disboard.org

Rather than solely seeking candidates, offer something valuable to the community, such as free resume reviews, useful job search resources, or career advice. By offering something up, without immediately asking for anything in return, you can build connections and pique the interest of talented developers.

“The best advice I can give [for recruiting] in closed-off communities, is to give more than you take.”

Erin Mathew, Sr. Tech Talent Sourcer at PayPal

3. Leverage in-person and online get-togethers with Meetup.com

Meetup.com hosts numerous tech-related events organized by experienced practitioners. Attend these events, learn about the technologies, and discreetly showcase your recruitment interests.

Engaging with the community in person or through online meetups can not only help you improve your understanding of the roles you’re hiring for, it can also help you identify potential candidates who are passionate about their craft.

4. Attend relevant tech conferences

Conferences offer excellent opportunities to connect with developers. Plus, many conferences, especially online ones, are free to attend. 

“It speaks to the level of quality of the candidate that is going outside of their job to get better at it, and attending conferences to learn more. I would definitely highly recommend sourcing candidates via tech conferences.”

Erin Mathew, Sr. Tech Talent Sourcer at PayPal

Participants invest time in learning and networking, which reflects their dedication. Also, pay attention to conference speakers, who often possess advanced skills and may be ideal candidates for managerial roles.

“Specifically, if you’re working on hiring for a role that’s more leadership-focused or managerial, like an engineering manager, oftentimes a lot of the presenters that are publicly listed index more towards those roles. Or, being able to tap into that thought leader community and understand what they’re working on […] can lead you to people who are maybe adjacent to that and that they can recommend.”

Reginald Mason, Technical Sourcer at Indeed

5. Try your hand at impactful hyper-personalization

To capture the attention of passive or niche candidates, highly personalized outreach is essential. Craft messages that highlight how the role aligns with the candidate’s experience, skills, and interests. 

Authenticity is key; avoid generic personalization based solely on the candidate’s alma mater or other surface-level details. Non-professional interests can also fuel hyper-personalization. Who are you talking to? A star wars fan? A football fanatic? A twizzler lover

Subject lines especially play a crucial role in your outreach. Try incorporating humor, references to the candidate’s hobbies or interests, or even coding puzzles to engage their curiosity. 

Remember to strike a balance between being attention-grabbing and remaining direct. Experiment with different subject lines through A/B testing to identify what resonates best with your target audience. Tools like Sendcheckit.com can help ensure your messages are polished.

6. Reach out via text message

In today’s mobile-centric world, text messages can be an effective way to engage with candidates. Use text message apps or platforms to deliver concise and compelling messages directly to candidates’ phones. 

For cold outreach, text messages can be rather intrusive. However, consider text messages when reaching out to candidates who’ve already been through your hiring process (and spoken to you directly), personal referrals, ex-employees, etc.. When done thoughtfully and respectfully, text messages can help you stand out from traditional email-based outreach.

7. Tap into internal employee networks and resource groups

Leverage the power of your existing workforce by encouraging employee referrals. 

Establish employee networks and resource groups, such as a Veteran Employee Resource Group, to tap into their connections. These groups often have valuable insights into where specific communities or diverse candidates congregate, helping you expand your talent pool.

8. Promote your silver medalists

Maintain a hot list of silver medalists – candidates who were close contenders for previous roles. Reach out to them for future opportunities, as they may have gained additional experience or skills since their last application.

“Go after your silver medalists […] people who came second or runner up to the person that got selected for the role. Make sure you have them on a hot list so that when similar future roles come up, they’re the first people you reach out to.”

David Marr, Technical Talent Sourcing Strategist at Indeed