Stack Overflow’s 5 Criteria for Hiring Dev Talent

When it comes to advice on how to recruit software developers, you’ve probably heard it all before: look for someone with passion, technical expertise, an interest in your product, and a good cultural fit. Easier said than done. With nearly 4.59 job openings for every agile developer, the good ones get snatched up pretty easily and digging through pools of passive candidates can seem a bit daunting if you don’t know how to identify those characteristics. So what are you really looking for? As the team behind Stack Overflow, the largest Q&A site on programming (and a CEO who literally wrote the book on how to hire technical talent), we’ve created a science to finding top technical talent. Below, our 5 must-haves for any developer who wants to join our team.

Hiring Dev Talent

1. Open source projects and/or a personal, technical blog

What it shows: Passion

Public artifacts like open source projects and personal blogs truly show that a developer is excited and interested in their field. We want to hire people who love their work and make a hobby of it on the side. Working on open source projects and blogging demonstrates that they are really into coding—and that’s exactly what we need at Stack Overflow.


2. Stack Overflow reputation points and a Github profile

What it shows: That they know their stuff

It may be a little meta to use our own site as a scale for hiring developers, but the fact remains: 25 million people come to Stack Overflow every month, and it’s seen as a site of record for all programming topics. We look for a high reputation score on Stack Overflow and sort through their code samples on Github to find evidence they show potential and depth of knowledge.


3. A variety of experience – and at least one exceptional skillset

What it shows: Intelligence and problem-solving skills

If someone has mastered more than one programming language, this shows they are smart, learn quickly, and can solve hard problems since they know the strengths and limitations of each language. We throw specific job requirements to the wind and just look for people who have truly demonstrated that they have achieved technical excellence in one particular area. This combination is the clincher – you’ll find a well-rounded developer who’s also an expert.


4. Completed projects, not just completed certifications

What it shows: That they get things done

We want someone who has a track record of finishing projects. It’s easy to complete a class and receive a certification; it’s much harder to build something from start to finish that actually works. That’s why we don’t fixate on education or experience. A full LinkedIn profile or a long list of certifications shows only one thing: that they have a lot of free time on their hands, which is something that all unemployed programmers have in common.


5. An ability to communicate as well as code

What it shows: That they’ll fit on our team

A developer who can’t explain his own code won’t help us collaborate and grow as a team. Whether in writing or in-person, this last piece of the puzzle helps us to measure how likely this developer would be to get along with our other programmers and our company objectives. To measure this, treat their personal blog or top Stack Overflow answers as writing samples to get a glimpse for how well they can actually explain their technical know-how.


Stack Overflow Bethany Marzewski (@stackcareers) is the Marketing Coordinator at Stack Overflow Careers 2.0 (a SmartRecruiters Partner), the largest online talent community for professional programmers.

SmartRecruiters is the hiring platform with everything you need to source talent, manage candidates, and make the right hires.

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