August 29, 2017 jbadmin

Hiring Software Engineers – How to spot talent by using Github before you get candidates on the phone

Hiring Software Engineers in 2017


The ability to recruit quality software engineers takes both time and knowledge in order to find the right fit.  If you are fortunate enough to have the infrastructure capable to fund co op and internship programs with universities, then your task is a little less daunting.  For smaller companies, however, nothing beats the manual sifting of resumes and job board monitoring in order to find the next highly qualified candidate.  Yet all companies, no matter the size, face a highly competitive labor market.

Candidate-Driven Market

In 2011, Netscape and Andreessen Horowitz co-founder Marc Andreessen coined the phrase, “software is eating the world”, referring to the spread of technology into nearly every facet of a company’s infrastructure.  Huge pockets of industries were wide open, and these days as almost, “1 in every 20 open job postings in the U.S. job market is [related] to software development/engineering” (Gallagher, 2015).  With such a high-demand for software developers and so many positions to fill, nearly 90% of recruiters concur that the 2017 job market is a candidate-driven one (King, 2017).  Not only that, but recruiters and employers alike believe that there are “too many unqualified, junk resumes, from job boards” (King, 2017).  Consequently, the task of a recruiter in 2017 is a complex and challenging one, made all the more difficult by the impending retirement of the Baby-Boomer generation (King, 2017).

So, with a huge portion of the workforce on the fringe of leaving the labor market, new tech positions opening every day, and not enough talent to compensate for the loss of the former and the gain in the latter, what solutions exist?

Analysis of the Labor Market


First, it may be easier to answer this question by attempting to determine how many software developers there actually are in the world.  The figure is difficult to pinpoint, but based on Evans Data Corporation there was approximately 21 million developers in 2016 (Governor, 2017).  In the United States alone, according to Data USA, there are only 1.17 million (American Community Survey, 2015), but that includes both happily employed developers and hobbyists.

These figures will also continue to increase as job growth in the market continues to ascend (the projected growth until 2024 is 12.5% (American Community Survey, 2015)).  Thus we can see that the pool is growing quickly as the need for these roles in companies becomes more essential.

Finding the Right Fit

Despite the market favoring candidates, recruiters are still eager to find developers that are also a good fit for the company.  This is traditionally taken care of during the interview process, but with so many candidates and resumes, the process is time consuming and often unfruitful.

So how does a recruiter spot talent before beginning the lengthy interview process?  The answer is in a website founded in 2008 called GitHub.

What is GitHub?

The video above explains how GitHub is a platform that coders and developers can use in order to share projects and improve upon existing code from all over the world.  Because it is open-source, everyone is able to contribute, comment, edit, and participate in any number of coding projects all at the same time without getting in each other’s way.  This is highly beneficial for computer engineers as it gives free feedback and edits to code that they may or may not be sure about.

        More importantly, it has been so successful that Google, Facebook, Twitter and even Microsoft host their open source projects on GitHub (Metz, 2015).

Recruiters & GitHub


        Though the details of how this works are less important to recruiters, the demographic of users and visitors provides a solution to the myriad recruiting demands of today’s world.  This is because, “after just seven years on the net, GitHub now boasts almost 9 million registered users. Each month, about 20 million others visit without registering. According to web traffic monitor Alexa, GitHub is now among the top 100 most popular sites on earth” (Metz, 2015).

If your company is in the market to hire a software engineer or developer, it is clearly beneficial to be aware of GitHub.  As it is the most popular meeting place of the world’s software developer community, recruiters can get a better overview of certain candidates.  It is also for this reason that many candidates include their GitHub profile on their resumes.


What to Look For in GitHub

        GitHub profiles provide viewers with a detailed look at the history and frequency of contributions of said user. (Note not all software engineers use github, this currently the most popular open source platform so most of your potential candidates will be using it). This can determine the volume of code the person may be contributing and the number of projects he or she is a part of.  With a degree of variance, users can fall under three different categories: 9-5er, The Contributor, and The Workhorse.  These three profiles of user can give recruiters a much better idea of the type of candidate they are seeking to hire and thus save heaps of time during the interview process.

Commits on the Weekdays: 9-5er

        The 9-5er is the engineer who puts in a solid day’s work, but also appreciates a healthy work life balance.  This profile of engineer is easy to spot, especially during the interview process, and may also be exactly what a recruiter is looking for.  But instead of calling through a handful of resumes, a recruiter can quickly look up an applicant’s GitHub profile in order to get a better idea of the candidate’s profile.

        The image above is what can be seen of a GitHub user’s profile.  Here the data indicates that this particular use has made 700 contributions in the last year.  A hefty amount indeed, but it can also be seen that all contributions were being made outside of Saturday and Sunday.

Number of Repositories: The Contributor

        Another profile that recruiters can encounter on GitHub is The Contributer.  This is defined by the number of repositories that an engineer is working on.  A repository is simply a project that an engineer is working on at any given moment.


The above image indicates that this user is currently working on 103 different projects with any number of other engineers.

Commits Across the Board: The Workhorse

        The last type of engineer is one that works Monday through Sunday and is contributing huge amounts of code on a consistent basis.

        The information above indicates 2,722 contributions in the last year and quantifies a passionate software engineer who is willing to go above and beyond in his or her field.

Stack Overflow

        The last website that recruiters should also be aware about is Stack Overflow.  This is a website for programming enthusiasts to ask and answer programming questions on an open platform.  The platform is run by users and provides an ever-growing encyclopedia of programming questions and answers.

        Thus, if an applicant is active on Stack Overflow, it typically means that the applicant is truly engaged in programming and is interested in helping others learn more about the subject.


        Although a recruiter does not need to be an active member of GitHub or Stack Overflow, being aware of these two websites can help immensely in the recruiting process.  As the market is competitive and time is limited, the lengthy interview process can be reduced if a recruiter is mindful of how to analyze user information on GitHub.  This can mean separating applicants based on whether he or she will be a good fit, or simply help in excluding phony resume submissions.

        Ultimately, all recruiters major questions can be answered after a quick pass at either website and thus eliminate wasted time in calling unqualified candidates.


Works Cited

American Community Survey, P. U. (2015). Software Developers, Applications, & Systems Software. Retrieved from Data USA:


Gallagher, S. (2015, June 9). Crunch Network. Retrieved from Tech Crunch:


Governor, J. (2017, May 26). Monkchips. Retrieved from Red Monk:


King, N. (2017). Recruiter & Employer: Sentiment Study. Retrieved from MRI Network:


Metz, C. (2015, March 12). Business. Retrieved from Wired:

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