SeekOut Blog

Introducing GitHub Search: Your Source for Finding and Qualifying Dev Talent

It’s no secret that recruiting tech talent is harder than ever.

In today’s candidate-driven market, I’m sure you’ll agree that most tech recruiters struggle in three key areas:

  • Finding prospective candidates for their open jobs.
  • Qualifying that those candidates have the skills and expertise to excel at your company.
  • Actually engaging those candidates in a conversation about potentially joining your team.

In the past, tech recruiters turned toward sourcing sites like LinkedIn for help in all three areas.

But, as you probably already know, the days of relying on sites like LinkedIn for sourcing and engaging with developers are over.

With 95 percent of recruiters globally using LinkedIn to source talent, the well is drying up — fast.

Many of the best developers deleted their profiles on sites like LinkedIn a long time ago. And for the developers who still maintain a presence, their profiles typically look something like this:

linkedin profile for developers

No insight into their experience. No idea of their real skills or expertise. Just a history of companies and job titles.  

And even if you find the “perfect” developer on a site like LinkedIn, engaging with them is a whole different story.

Just take a look at this tweet shared by Katrina Collier over at The Searchologist:

developers leaving linkedin

(image source)

Luckily, tech recruiters have an alternative source for finding and qualifying good developers: GitHub.

If you’ve been recruiting in tech for some time, you may already be using GitHub as a source for dev talent. But, in case you aren’t familiar with GitHub, here’s how it works:

Developers launch a profile and then create projects — called repositories — or contribute code to projects of interest. For the people on GitHub, the site acts as a social network, portfolio, and workspace all-in-one.

For recruiters though, GitHub is a gold mine of tech talent that extends far beyond what other job sites like LinkedIn or Indeed can offer.

Because just about every developer worth their salt is on GitHub contributing real code, tech recruiters can:

  1. Find developers who aren’t on LinkedIn or whose profiles are too sparse to understand their experience.
  2. Evaluate their code to ensure they have the skills necessary for your open job.

But, the problem is that there’s really not an effective way to search GitHub.

(Until today that is…but more on that in a moment.)

Most tech recruiters today use Boolean or X-ray searches in Google to scan GitHub profiles for dev talent.

And while it may seem like an effective way to find developer profiles, the results you’ll see in these types of searches are often misleading. Here’s why:

GitHub profiles only show repositories owned or forked by a developer.

If that sentence sounds like gibberish to you, let me break it down a bit —

A developer’s profile on GitHub will only display coding projects they created themselves or that they copied (or forked in GitHub lingo) from another developer.

As a tech recruiter, this is a problem because anyone can fork a repository. You could go create a GitHub profile today, copy a repository created by a top developer, and have it represented on your profile without contributing a single line of code.

In other words: just because a repository is on someone’s profile doesn’t mean they actually have the skills you’re looking for.

The real test of their skills is the actual code they have contributed to existing GitHub repositories. Unfortunately, that’s where the second problem comes in:  

GitHub profiles don’t show the contributions developers make to existing projects they don’t own or haven’t forked.

In 2017, GitHub developers made 1 billion public “commits” — or code updates — across 25 million active repositories.  

Many of those contributions happened within some of the largest repositories on GitHub where users add code directly to the project without ever forking onto their own profile.

And if you’re running GitHub Boolean searches in Google, you’ll never find them.

That means you’re missing out on qualified talent making meaningful contributions to projects that highlight their growing skill set…

And instead, finding many developers who did little more than copy the work of another developer over onto their profile.

Now, you might be thinking:

Can’t I just search the repositories themselves to find the contributors I’m looking for?

Yes, you can.

But it’s a flawed process at best (and a complete waste of time at worst).

First of all, searching repositories takes a ton of time. It’s a long process of combing through often hundreds of different profiles to find the ones contributing code that’s relevant to your team and the open position.

But worse than that is the incomplete view of a developer’s background that comes from searching repositories.

You might find someone who made valuable contributions to a relevant repository, but GitHub will only show you their contributions to that one project.

That means you’re completely missing out on other key contributions that could help you and your hiring manager qualify the candidate’s skills and experience level.

All of this leads us to an exciting announcement from the SeekOut team:

Today, we launched a preview of our new GitHub Search designed to help tech recruiters unlock the power of GitHub for sourcing developers.

girl cheering github search

I know, we’re excited too.

Starting today, tech recruiters can use SeekOut’s GitHub Search to:

#1. Uncover hidden talent and gain a competitive edge.

With 21 million active developers as of 2016, GitHub is home to the biggest group of tech talent on the web.

But, surprisingly few tech recruiters consistently utilize the platform.

A recent survey from Dice found only 31 percent of tech recruiters use GitHub as their primary sourcing tool.

only 31% of recruiters use github

(image source)

That means you can use GitHub to benefit both from better access to more talent and less competition from other recruiters.

#2. Get a complete view of a developer’s skills and experience — including actual coding examples.

Most existing GitHub search tools point you to either a developer’s profile OR a repository where the actual code samples exist.

The problem is, developer profiles alone on GitHub aren’t that much more helpful than what you’d find on LinkedIn.

Here’s an example of the GitHub profile for that same developer from earlier:

profile of developer on GitHub

Sure, I can see some of his contributions to repositories he owns or has forked.

But I have no idea what other contributions he’s made.

And that makes it tough to gauge his skill level on specific languages or how his contributions stack up to other developers.

The only way to get a complete understanding of his expertise would be to comb through the 67 million repositories on GitHub.

And I’m sure you’ll agree: no one has time for that.

SeekOut’s GitHub Search solves this problem by bringing together a developer’s experience and expertise into a single profile.

No more wasting valuable time digging through repositories for relevant samples while trying to compile a work history at the same time.

We brought together the GitHub profile and repository databases and combined that information with the developer’s public profiles to add work experience when possible.

Here’s what you’ll find on developer profiles in SeekOut:

  • A complete view of the candidate’s work history and educational background
  • Relevant repository contributions based on your search criteria
  • Contributor ranking for relevant repositories
  • Direct links to real code samples
  • Key GitHub stats like followers, number of repositories, and locations
  • Verified email address(es)
  • SeekOut’s Coder Scores

All together, here’s what our example developer’s SeekOut profile looks like in comparison to what you previously saw on LinkedIn and GitHub:

seekout github search

All of that information makes it easier to find the right potential candidates to send to hiring managers.

(Helping boost your role as an invaluable talent advisor.)

But, I’m sure you’re wondering:

How do I actually find those profiles to begin with?  

By using the same search skills you’ve developed on other sites:

#3. Search GitHub the same way you search for candidates on other sites.

Just because there’s a lot of talent on GitHub doesn’t mean it’s made to be an easy sourcing tool.

Which is why we built SeekOut’s GitHub Search to function just like the sourcing tools you use every day.

SeekOut supports a wide-range of Boolean functions and a number of filters for narrowing your candidate pool and identifying diverse talent.

But, as part of our new GitHub search, we’re also introducing three new filters to simplify the sourcing process for common developer roles:

  • Our power filters allow you to narrow the search to a specific area of expertise like front or back-end development, machine learning, or full-stack engineering. Each of these filters is actually a complex query combining relevant keywords, titles, languages, and repositories behind the scenes.

seekout github search power filters

  • The “Coder Score” ranks a developer’s abilities on four levels from “Beginner” to “Master” based on their actual GitHub contributions. That way, you can easily eliminate under or over-qualified candidates from your search.

seekout github search coder score

  • The “Language Expertise” filter helps you focus on specific coding languages where candidates excel:

seekout github search language expertise

 In combination with our 20+ existing filters, these three filters make searching for talent on GitHub easier than ever.

#4. Speed up your interview process.

Admit it: you’ve submitted a candidate before without really knowing whether they had the necessary skills for the job.

 gif of man saying you got me

The truth is, it’s not really your fault.

With so little information on developer profiles and no real way to verify candidates have the technical skills, many tech recruiters end up throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks.

But, as I’m sure you’ll agree, this kind of recruiting strategy ends up being a waste of time for everyone involved.

The average interview process in the U.S. takes 23 days according to Glassdoor. The same study found that presentations — like whiteboarding or a coding test — can add up to four days to that timeline.

SeekOut’s GitHub Search helps hiring managers qualify candidates based on real code and cut out time-intensive steps in the interview process.

Rather than engaging candidates you’re unsure about and wasting valuable time, you can send your hiring managers relevant code samples to evaluate before you ever contact the candidate.

And when you do contact them, SeekOut can help boost your response rate, too:    

#5. Get more responses from candidates.

I’m sure you know that a more personalized message can make a huge difference in your response rate.

And this is especially true when it comes to tech talent. The shortage of dev talent today means developers hear from a lot of recruiters. This article from The Atlantic shows just how bad it can be.

So, if you want to catch their attention, you’re definitely going to need to take a more personal approach.   

And the data offered by SeekOut’s GitHub Search enables you to do just that.

Instead of reaching out to our example developer with some generic note, you could get specific with an email like this:

I noticed you’re the #14 contributor on the GoLang repository — impressive stuff! Our development team is looking for some GoLang experts and our manager was impressed with the code samples you have on GitHub. Any interest in discussing a role at our company?

And, because SeekOut provides access to verified email addresses directly on our platform, you can trust that your ideal candidate will actually see your email (rather than having it auto-direct to spam like developers do with LinkedIn messages).

Ready to see it in action?

The preview of SeekOut’s GitHub Search is now live and available as part of our 14-day free trial.

Check out everything SeekOut has to offer today.

Start Your 14-Day Free Trial Now

Anoop Gupta

Anoop is Co-founder and CEO of SeekOut. He started SeekOut after a 20-year career at Microsoft which started with the acquisition of his first startup, VXtreme. During his tenure, Anoop started and was the Corporate Vice-President of the multi-billion dollar Unified Communications group in addition to serving as Technical Assistant to Bill Gates and earning the title of Distinguished Scientist in Microsoft Research.

Anoop taught at Stanford University after earning his PhD in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University.

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