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How to get developers from Stack Overflow

Top tier software engineers tend to have permanent jobs, which makes them difficult to recruit. How passive are you? According to the Stack Overflow 2016 developer landscape, 97.5% of all software engineers are currently employed, but only 33.04% of them have a job they love. In IT recruiting, the chance of top developers knocking on your door is very slim, and if that happens, consider yourself lucky. However, in most cases it is very time consuming and tedious to hire a software developer. In this post we explain how you can find Stack Overflow developers and how you can use the data available on the platform in the recruitment process.

Because the majority of developers are passive candidates, Recruiters need to be where they like to be. HR managers should use Stack Overflow for three purposes:

  • Access to important information that can be used when contacting us,
  • Assessing the competence of the candidates,

What is Stack Overflow?

Stack Overflow is one Programming Q&A pagefor technical questions. It's part of a larger group called the Stack Exchange Network. The platform aims to solve everyday problems that are posted in hopes of getting a response from other developers. The code posted is fragmentary because it is tailored to a specific problem.

Questions are tagged with programming language or application language, making it easier to browse the questions. Responses are upgraded and demoted, and people are given reputation points for high quality posts. To keep Stack Overflow a top resource, members are also demoted for bad answers and stupid questions. The person who asked the question is allowed to choose the best answer for their query.

Paid options for recruiters

Stack Overflow Talent allows you to post offers, search for candidates, add your company page to showcase your brand, and much more. I personally like them Candidate search Feature that gives you the opportunity to access the Stack Overflow community that has voluntarily chosen to be contacted by employers.

At the time of this writing, their Annual Talent Starter Web Package is $ 3,465 and it includes:

  • 1 company page,
  • 1 job slot (with advertisement distribution on Stack Overflow),
  • 1 user place with access to the candidate search.

You can also buy individual job slots.

I strongly recommend using the premium options if you have the budget, this will give you access to great candidates who are highly relevant to what you are looking for. If you don't have that, there are ways you can take advantage of Stack Overflow's data without investing any funds. There is one hard and fast rule: stick to the guidelines and you'll be fine.

Jobs are also visible to users of the main platform - this is what they look like on the home page:

What I like best is that the job advertisements appear in relevant areas of the website. For example, if you were looking at questions with the keyword "mysql", the job posting displayed would match the keyword related to the tech stack.


Stack Overflow Talent has the highest response rate of any other recruiting platform in the industry, and they work hard to keep it that way. Recruiters who do not comply will be reported and the sending of spam is prevented by a limit of 20 unanswered messages.

My recommendation is to use Stack Overflow to find people and see their skills but not for outreach. I would advise using other contact options if you cannot afford the premium option.

The Stack Overflow community is very sensitive when it comes to recruiter spam and it is in your best interest to comply with the house rules. Stack Overflow works directly with employers and agencies and closely monitors their activities. Let me reiterate: I do not recommend using the personal messaging feature as you run the risk of your privileges being withdrawn.

I highly recommend reading the Stack Overflow Talent House Rules in full to get a good understanding of what you can and cannot do.

Source: Stack Overflow Talent House Rules

As you can see, there are many rules and restrictions regarding recruiting activities. Is Stack Overflow worth the effort? Exactly. Here's why.

Why you need Stack Overflow in your (already busy) life

According to the 2015 Stack Overflow Developer Landscape, 22% of developers don't have a LinkedIn account. So if you only use LinkedIn for search, you are missing out on a large part of your talent pool.

Plus, the reputation gained in Stack Overflow is a better testimonial than resumes. Glen Kathey of the Boolean Black Belt says that "while LinkedIn endorsements are easy to come by, Stack Overflow Reputation Points and Badges are relatively hard to earn by comparison." Granted, not all major developers are active on Stack Overflow, but it's easy to review because you can cross-reference their profiles that are usually available in their profile info.

The reason you need Stack Overflow in your recruiting process is this it is an amazing source of information about the candidate which is open to the public. Once you have registered, you can browse the users and see their activity. This way, not only can you identify new leads, but you can also get an idea of ​​the skill level of the candidates you've found elsewhere.

From a technical point of view, I recommend checking out their current activity and when they joined the platform. I know some recruiters send links to Stack Overflow profiles to their IT recruiting managers, but personally I think this will slow down the work of your company and put pressure on those already employed. What I recommend is a combination of looking at Stack Overflow reputation, taking a coding test, and inviting candidates for interviews.

Like Stack Overflow themselves in their product tour, "This page is about getting answers. It's not a discussion forum. There are no chats." In theory, this means you won't see the candidate's personality shine through on a very technical and to-the-point Q&A page. However, the Stack Overflow community (especially the older members) has one Reputation for being snappy with newbies who tend to ask simple questions. It is not uncommon for a pertinent Introduction to Programming question to be closed or given "why don't you google this" as an answer.

What I recommend is to see if the software engineers you are interested in participate in this type of activity or whether they are more likely to be active in threads that provide a real learning opportunity.

The anatomy of a Stack Overflow user profile

The best way to get data on the developer is to look at their profile, which offers a lot of information.

In Stack Overflow profiles, this information is available to other users:

  • User name,
  • Organic,
  • Location,
  • Website,
  • Member since,
  • Link to Twitter profile,
  • Reputation,
  • Asked a question,
  • Other profiles,
  • Profile pic,
  • Tags contributed to
  • Information about their activities - e.g. B. Recent activities.

Here are some tips on what to do with the information you have:

  • Learn theirs right name by visiting her Website or Twitter (I also suggest looking for this person on LinkedIn, but they may not have a profile on the platform),
  • Discover theirs Side projects - They are often provided in the "Website" section,
  • See what they are working on with the help of recently asked questions. According to Social Talent CEO John Campbell, the latest activity is a great icebreaker for recruiters because it gives you something to talk about in your first message,
  • Your Top skills - these are typically reflected by Top tags on their profile. They are also useful because bios are often left blank so they make up for the lack of information there. Read on to learn more about tags - they're so important they got their own section below),
  • reputation Points You Can See Here:

  • Badge - The Stack Overflow badge system There are badges for pretty much everything, including posting, creating tags that you use often, reorganizing content on the platform, setting helpful flags ... you know. My personal favorite is the "No Robot Badge" that you get when you meet a Stack Overflow representative at an event. You can click on any badge that represents a particular trait (quick, diligent, helpful) that you think would be useful to the position you are trying to fill, and then see users who earn that badge to have.

How to Use Tags & Synonyms for Finding Stack Overflow's Developers

I understand that most tech recruiters are simply not mastering the skills they are trying to recruit for, and that's where Stack Overflow tags and synonyms come to the rescue. Content posted on Stack Overflow is organized using tags, making it easy to browse. You can use tags in several ways:

1. Discover a candidate's top skills by looking at the top tags on their profile,

2. Use Stack Overflow tags as synonyms for X-ray search and iterative search on other platforms.

There are a number of ways to access tags and I want to show you my favorite method:

  1. Click on "Tags" in the top menu,
  2. In the "Tags" section, Enter your search term in the search field to search for a required skill (I was looking for "python"). Click the master tag that appear at the top of the list,
  3. You will see questions marked with your tag. Click on "Synonyms" in the menu,
  4. You can now see the synonyms to be used in your searches.
  5. You can also use the following Related tags to run iterative searches.What I like so much about the Stack Overflow tags is that they can be used off-platform as well and can save you a ton of Googling. Do you remember Glen Cathey's iterative search we discussed in How to source software developers from LinkedIn?

Source: YouTube

Glen said he used Google to see if there was a correlation between skills, but you can also consult Stack Overflow Tags, Synonyms, and Related Tags for assistance.

How can you cross-reference profiles?

In the user profiles you will see a list of personal information that the users voluntarily disclose, e.g. B. your Twitter, GitHub profile and website. You can try googling the username and in many cases it will help. Another option is to go to the specified website and check the About section or the Whois data. There are also plugins that can help you, like 360 ​​Social which is about to be relaunched.

Why Sourcing through Stack Overflow and LinkedIn is different

Let's just say that as a tech recruiter you might not feel particularly welcome on Stack Overflow. Why? Here is the first email you will receive when you register:

Did you notice the "no recruiter spam" promise? It's right there, in the first message they send, which gives you an idea of ​​the current state of the IT setting.

"No recruiter spam" is also stated in the header of the "Jobs" section. If in doubt, I will assume that the pig in the picture has nothing to do with our work.

Stack Overflow actually allows recruiters, as long as they stick to the rules:

  1. Include the company you are recruiting for
  2. Recruit for a specific role (not a vague "I have a few options"),
  3. Make sure the role is relevant to the candidate's interests,
  4. Provide background information.

The text on their website and in the welcome email tells you something very important: you are a recruiter, You must be really good at your job. They hate sloppy recruiting there and they have a right to do so.

Think of it this way: LinkedIn is about career opportunities and building a strong professional image so that the presence of recruiters is natural and desirable. Stack Overflow is a developer Q&A page designed for problem solving and learning, neither of which is made easier by the presence of recruiters on the platform. Well, I'll make an educated guess and say that if more seasoned Stack Overflow users tend to be hostile towards beginners, they probably aren't very open to people who:

  1. You cannot program and therefore cannot contribute
  2. You come from a group that constantly gets a bad rap.

In other words, LinkedIn is a much more natural environment for recruiters because it is where they can build their personal brand, post content, and generally do things to be positive. Your activity on LinkedIn is therefore divided into two parts: they can build their personal brand and search for candidates for vacancies. That's not really the case on Stack Overflow because the only reason you're there is for recruiting. You are basically a non-developer in a developer community.

I came across this interesting topic in Quora thread about the experience with Stack Overflow Jobs. The expectations are really high. Chris Jester-Young with 150k + reps on Stack Overflow says that when it comes to messages from recruiters on Stack Overflow Careers, LinkedIn, and Email, "the ones I really pay attention to are the ones from" real "people Written as programmers and engineering VPs and CTOs (and, in one recent case, CEO). "

Again, this only tells you this: Average is no longer enough, you need to educate yourself to become an exceptional tech recruiter.

You must also know what software engineers want and offer them. Here are the two most important pieces of information from the 2016 Stack Overflow developer landscape:

  1. Salary (62.68%), work-life balance (50.41%) and corporate culture (41.78%) are the three most important aspects of a new job offer.
  1. Learning new technologies (70.06%), building something new (64.26%), and being in control of product decisions (44.13%) are most important for software engineers at work.

Best Practices

  1. Use your development team and their Stack Overflow presence in your ads,In the Colibra ad I came across there are photos and profile links of current employees (of course you need the permission of the employees for this). This serves as a Confidence signal because Stack Overflow members can access these profiles and see the types of questions they are adding to get a feel for what they do for a living.
  2. Encourage your team to be active and contribute.Your employees are like your storefront - if they make valuable contributions and love to represent your brand, they are likely to get the kind of attention you need,
  3. Get attention for your tech brand.Your company page allows you to share updates about your brand and present them to potential candidates. Do you remember what developers care about at work? Make sure the content you present there is timely and relevant to their interests. Keep that in mind always list your tech stack.

Is it scalable?

According to the 2016 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, only 2.8% of respondents found a job on Stack Overflow, so don't get your hopes up high. 13.8% of them said they had been contacted by an external recruiter and 9.5% by an internal recruiter.

Findings from the 2016 Stack Overflow landscape suggest that only 1.72% learned of the position on Stack Overflow and 25% of them discovered the opportunity "through some sort of recruiter".

Will you get hundreds of leads and reply messages? Probably not, and that's a good thing. You don't want to spam people who don't fit the job description, right?

You can target the right person thanks to the information available on Stack Overflow. I'm sure many of the recruiters mentioned in the survey looked at their candidates' Stack Overflow and GitHub activities during the recruitment cycle. I also believe that when it comes to the sourcing of Stack Overflow, the quality makes up for the quantity.

X-rays look for stack overflow

... is largely blocked. I know it hurts.

Some searches that used to work, like this one from Boolean Black Belt, no longer return results:

site: xcode iOS ("location * california" | "location * san francisco" | "location * bay area" | "location * CA")

Others work - for example you can search all users in google site: or users with a specific skill:

site: jdk OR jre OR j2se OR java (Source: Information on Procurement & Recruiting)

No need for tissues and ice cream therapy (Haagen Dazs for victory if you ever need ice cream therapy). There is another way to find what you need.

input Stack Exchange Data Explorer, in its whole free Glory.

Stack Exchange Data Explorer

Fortunately for us The Stack Overflow data is available free of charge in the Stack Exchange Data Explorer. Developer Shane Gryzko wrote a very helpful post where he talks about how you can use the data explorer.

Shane recommends using a SQL query that he has prepared himself. All you have to do is enter any location and any valid tag in the search menu:

The results you will get are clickable so you can access the profile users directly from the tool.

Remember to look for ways to contact developers in their Stack Overflow profile, but try not to do so in Stack Overflow due to the house rules.


The game is too serious to be fooled into thinking that you have "some great opportunities". Given the stiff competition, you need to know all of the research that has been published on your target audience. You must now by heart and to draw conclusions. There's no longer any room for guesswork or offsetting the quality of leads with bulk emails, especially on Stack Overflow. Think before you act - as a recruiter, it is really easy to strip your privileges and damage your reputation.

Know what developers want and address their needs. Remember, for the most part, you can't really do this without a strong employer brand. As Hagi Trinh rightly argues, "What you are selling are interesting challenges and recognition, in the form of the employer brand ".

It's time to get serious about developer recruiting. Are you ready?