How to Find Engineers Hiding on GitHub

October 24, 2014 at 6:00 AM by Kathleen de Lara

how to hire engineersWe feel your pain.

Hiring engineers isn’t easy and recruiters run into a combination of these typical snags in the hiring process: A candidate is already employed, not interested in switching jobs, or not interested in hearing about a new role.

Or perhaps you got a preview of their background and find nothing else to help you qualify them for the opportunity. In our webinar on recruiting engineers, Loni Spratt shared her tips and techniques for sourcing on some of tech’s largest networks, including GitHub – but what do you do when a candidate is a little more private with their work?

With a tweak to their privacy settings on portfolios and social networks, candidates add another layer of research to a recruiter’s checklist, making it difficult for them to vet talent on recent activity and to contact them with a potential job opportunity.

This also poses problems for tailoring an outreach strategy. Recruiters and hiring managers are often told the best way to engage candidates is by referencing specific projects they worked on or mentioning a mutual contact, yet how can a recruiter personalize their initial message to a candidate if they don’t know what he or she has created? 

Here’s a question that came up during “How to Recruit Candidates on GitHub, Stack Overflow, and Hacker News”:

Do you have a hack for finding candidates on GitHub whose activity is not public/set to private?

While there may not be a way around GitHub’s privacy settings, recruiters can vet and qualify a candidate using other methods to connect the dots through colleagues in their network, learn more about their projects and contributions, and to find other sources with information on a candidate’s background. 

recruiting on github

Look at repos the candidate has forked. 

By looking through forks that are public, recruiters may be able to find out more about a candidate, even if most of their own repo data is private.

recruiting on github

From there, you can cross-reference these fork dates on GitHub with specific projects listed on their LinkedIn profile or portfolio, or with dates that they were with the company. This tells you more information about a candidate’s involvement in building, creating, and launching a product. 

Browse through profiles of candidates similar to them. 

After checking out an engineer’s forks, let’s say you decide to go through their LinkedIn profile to learn more about their work history. Nothing. On the right side of the LinkedIn site, you’ll see a section titled, “People Similar to _____,” which lists profiles of other company employees with a similar role to the candidate. recruiting on linkedin
Click through any one of them any you're likely to find candidates who have similar job roles, duties, tasks, and who could have collaborated on a company project with the original candidate. From there, you’ll be able to gauge a candidate’s experience and contributions. 

By searching through multiple channels and other prospective hires, recruiters can connect the dots on their ideal candidate’s background, even if they happen to be a little more tight-lipped than most about their experience. Put on a detective hat, observe and connect, retrace a candidate’s steps through his or her colleagues, and you’ll find an indirect line to the source. 

how to recruit top tech talent

Like what you read? Get the full story! Tune into the rest of our tech recruiting webinar series for even more tips and techniques on filling your open opportunities. “How to Recruit Data Scientists on Kaggle” is on Thursday, November 18 at 10 am PT/1 pm ET. Save a seat – this one’s filling up fast!