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How to Recruit Programmers Organically: 3 Methods for Tech Startups

How to Recruit Programmers Organically: 3 Methods for Tech Startups

Learn how to recruit programmers organically and supercharge your startup tech recruiting efforts by using these three methods from Codility!

Tech Recruiting

There's one problem that every startup faces: you finally find a great candidate for your dev role, put them through the interview process, and offer them what you believe is a great offer. But what if they’re not ready to move? 

Limited time, focus and resources are some of the factors which make startup tech recruiting challenging. So how can you create an organic sourcing process to maintain relationships with great developers, and keep the gates open for others who show up, even when you’re not looking to hire? 

3 Tips for StartUp Tech Recruiting

1. Cultivate and Grow connections

When Codility was first getting off it's feet, we didn’t have the ability to invest into anything like the big start up tech recruiting campaigns you may see today, or flashy campus branding. But we did have a few top-class coders on board, a solid product and founders (like myself) with strong technical backgrounds.

Instead of big campaigns, I leveraged relationships. I started to talk to professors at my former University, explaining what we do at Codility and the type of candidates look for. This was like laying seeds in the ground for future hires. Eventually the seeds bore fruit, and referrals of the smartest students started to appear. Next, I secured a slot to teach a class, and I prepared and advertised an interesting, compelling topic for an advanced course in programming. This paid off as well. The first time I taught the workshop, more than 60 candidates turned up, and I had the opportunity to get to know them and their skills during the class. 

I also frequented meetups, and co-organized panels for programmers, sometimes speaking but more often listening and learning what other programmers are excited about. It opened Codility up to a greater audience, gave me a chance to talk to potential employees in a casual format, and actually offered some value to young coders curious about our business. Using my time to interact with students, recent grads and the coding community was always a good investment. 

2. Multiply your recruiting power by getting the full team onboard

Remember, you’re not alone. Each person you bring on board immediately adds to your recruiting power. Referrals are the low hanging fruit, but you can reach much further. I have always supported our employees in participating in conferences, meetups, panels and teaching, and this has greatly expanded our visibility, and expanded the pool of who knows about us, and who may work with us in the future.

When building a culture where employees are encouraged to be part of the tech community, you need to recognize that the time spent at conferences and meetups is an investment, not a cost. At the very least, employees shouldn’t have to use vacation time to attend industry events.  Better still, If you have the resources to do so, sponsoring such events adds additional visibility and thought leadership. Make sure that your programmers are proud of what they are building and give them the opportunity to brag about it, even to the extent of trading some secrecy of your Intellectual Property for recognition as an expert in the field.

We also made sure to keep the door open for candidates who may not be actively looking for a job. I copied the Lunch Table office design pattern from Joel Spolsky -- we have a large table in the office and each week our team has lunch together at least once. Our innovation on top of that was "Invite A Guest" -- every employee can bring a guest to the weekly team lunch for a free lunch, no restrictions. This proved to be a great tool for bringing in passive candidates for no-commitment visit and showing them how cool it is to work with us.

3. Figure out what makes you standout!

It sounds difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. If you can highlight your differences from other employers, you will get noticed and you will attract talent. If potential candidates see you as the same as everyone else, they will make their choices based on the quality of your sandwiches or number of ping pong tournaments you host. Ping pong is great, but you want candidates to know who you are, and desire to work with you because of the team you’ve built and the products you create.

So how do you standout? Write a blog post, open a forum, hold an event where you talk about something that resonates with a coding crowd. Play devil’s advocate to spur discussion. For example, blame unit tests for slowing down development. Debate is a great way to engage people regardless of which side you represent. You’ll open up conversations, and gain visibility as thought leaders. Those who are interested will self-select and participate, and that’s exactly where your best hires will comes from! 


(1) invest your time in open learning spaces, (2) get your whole team involved, and (3) challenge old adages to provoke discussion and get noticed. These are simple steps that can be enacted with little or no investment.  You can start off with today, increasing your organic ability to attract future employees without relying on expensive recruiting campaigns.

Interested in how Codility can support passive year-round recruitment? Here's our guide to how to build an interview process that draws in stellar candidates and also dives into their technical capabilities.

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