Where do tech recruitment agencies find candidates?

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Michael Andreyev
March 14, 2023
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We at Toughbyte do tech recruitment for companies in Europe and the US. When we talk to potential clients, the topic of where we find candidates often comes up. Even though we have our tech recruitment platform which helps us do our work more efficiently, our sources of candidates are similar to those of other tech recruitment agencies. In this blog post, we will explain what those sources are, how they are used and the pros and cons of each. So, even if you decide not to work with a recruitment agency such as ours, this should be a useful list of sources for you to consider when sourcing candidates by yourself.

In-house candidate databases

Many tech recruitment agencies have their own talent base with a certain number of active candidates that might be open to new opportunities. Such in-house databases are usually the first source recruiters resort to when starting the search. Most recruiters search within this database using keywords related to job titles and required skills. This helps find the CVs containing these keywords and narrow down the pool of candidates to those with the desired qualifications. Some databases allow for more fine-grained search, taking into account things like the number of years of experience that the candidate has or can use the more advanced full-text search functionality to, for example, include candidates mentioning “JS” in their CVs when searching for “JavaScript”.

Targeting candidates that have recently been in a process with other clients and are still actively looking for work has also proven efficient when sourcing in an in-house talent pool. Such candidates are more likely to respond and consider new opportunities. Recruiters also tend to add candidates they interact with on LinkedIn, so even if they have their profile in their database, they may contact them via LinkedIn chat, rather than emailing or calling.

It may also be possible to set up automatic suggestions of new positions for those candidates that haven’t found a suitable job with the agency yet but are willing to keep in touch. That way they can be notified about suitable positions as soon as those become available.

External candidate databases

In addition to sourcing in their talent base, agency recruiters focus their outbound activities on external candidate databases, such as LinkedIn, which is by far the most used, Indeed, GitHub and Stack Overflow. They offer a large talent pool from various backgrounds and skill sets, allowing recruiters to search for candidates that match specific requirements.

Candidates on these platforms often have detailed profiles that include their skills, experience, and work history. Some are actively looking for work or open to new opportunities. This means that recruiters can quickly evaluate suitable candidates and identify those who are ready to be contacted.

There are also industry or country-specific developer databases, so recruiters can find candidates with specialized skills or certain locations. Some of these sites have recommendation features allowing recruiters to identify candidates whom others have recommended in their network.

Online job boards

Some of the platforms mentioned above, such as LinkedIn and Indeed, also function as job boards where recruiters and employers can post their positions to attract active job seekers. These platforms implement algorithms that match job postings with candidates based on their skills and experience, ensuring that the right candidates see the job ad and apply. Unfortunately, since these platforms are not developer specific, the matching and filtering are often lacking, so expect to get a lot of irrelevant applicants when posting job ads there.

In addition to posting job ads on LinkedIn, Indeed and other international job boards, tech recruiters use job aggregators such as Google Jobs and Jooble to promote their job ads. These aggregators show positions to a broader audience and make it easier for active job seekers to find relevant opportunities through advanced filtering and search features. Google Jobs, for example, integrates job postings into its search results. It is also possible to promote your job ads for a fee so that you can target specific audiences, such as those with certain skills, experience, or living in a particular location.

Niche job boards are a valuable source of inbound applications as well. Some of them, such as Relocate.me, focus on matching companies that offer relocation to potential employees with developers ready to move to another country. There are also helpful technology-specific job boards and forums, such as the Rails Job Board, aimed at developers skilled in these technologies.

Remote job boards can be useful for attracting developers based in different locations around the world. If you are looking to build a distributed team or are offering more flexible work arrangements, promoting positions on We Work Remotely, Remotive or Remoteok is a good way to start.

Social networks and forums

Social networks and messengers where you can post your positions and chat with developers are great sources of candidates. For example, there are developer communities in Slack where members can use different channels for job posting, sharing industry news and discussing various topics. Tech recruiters can post positions there and interact with potential candidates. Telegram has also been popular with developers recently, especially in Eastern Europe. There are many channels where tech recruiters can post job ads and connect with potential candidates.

Recruiters can get inbound candidates by posting job ads in different Facebook groups that allow promotion. Social media posts on LinkedIn and Twitter announcing new openings can also attract tech job applicants. Hacker News has a monthly discussion called Who’s Hiring which aims to promote open positions for developers. Just like with job boards, it is also possible to post paid ads to social networking sites, but setting up such campaigns is likely to be more time-consuming and, unless you know how to target them well, the initial results may be disappointing.

Traditional online forums specific to certain technologies, such as the Unity Forum and the Go Forum, are also worth posting to. They have their own rules as to which section the job ads can be posted in and how they should be formatted. Candidates also often expect to be able to contact the job poster directly via the forum’s messaging feature.

Industry events and meetups

Industry events and meetups allow tech recruiters to keep up to date with the latest industry trends and network with many developers in one place. Such events are great for finding candidates you wouldn't have access to otherwise. Experienced developers often speak at meetups and conferences such as HelsinkiJS, which we are involved in organizing and is the biggest developer meetup in Finland. The organizers of such events sometimes share profiles of speakers with recruiters, who then reach out to them with interesting offers. There are meetup-focused platforms such as Meetabit, which we’ve built, and Meetup that help those willing to organize or attend such events locally or internationally.

When it comes to industry-specific events, tech recruiters attend video gaming, IoT, cybersecurity conferences, VR and AR exhibitions and other such events to network with candidates with experience in a particular industry. If they are looking for less experienced developers, attending job fairs for recent graduates and young professionals is a great way to connect with promising candidates.

Tech recruitment platforms

Tech recruitment platforms are a valuable resource for finding candidates since they aim to connect tech talent with companies and recruiters. Hired, Honeypot, Talent.io, & OfferZen operate in Europe and provide access to technical talent actively looking for work. Each service has its own way of matching talent to positions, so you will need to invest some time in figuring out how to best make use of each platform. For example, Honeypot and Talent.io are better suited for finding mid-level developers but are not great when it comes to senior talent. Also, you need to be aware that candidates you get from them are likely to be going through multiple other hiring processes at the same time, so may not necessarily accept your offer, if you were to make one. MeetFrank on the other hand requires that you interact via chat built into their app, so you will need to dedicate time to learning their interface and fielding questions you may get there. In general, unlike job boards and social networks where you can simply link to your own site, platforms try to get you to use their app to interact with the candidates.

Referrals

Candidates can be found via referrals from friends and acquaintances who have already been in touch with the agency. Such people have a higher chance of getting hired because the referrer is unlikely to recommend someone they don't think is qualified or a good fit for the position. Some tech recruitment agencies encourage candidates to refer their friends for open positions by rewarding them if the referred candidate gets hired. Agencies may also have partnerships with organizations that refer candidates to them, such as meetup groups, conferences, relocation agencies or coding bootcamps.

Summary

Tech recruitment agencies use various channels, both inbound and outbound, to find suitable candidates for the positions they work on. They often start sourcing in their in-house talent pool and then extend the search to external databases, such as LinkedIn, Indeed, GitHub or Stack Overflow. As part of their marketing activities, they attend meetups & industry events to connect with developers and grow their network of candidates. Using specialized tech recruitment platforms, such as Hired, Honeypot or Talent.io, is also an option. Additionally, tech recruiters attract inbound candidates by posting ads on job boards and aggregators, social media, niche forums, in Slack groups and in Telegram channels popular with developers. Finally, many tech recruitment agencies encourage candidates to refer their friends & colleagues and pay the referrer if the recommended candidate gets hired.

Some channels mentioned above are suitable for both outbound and inbound activities. According to our numbers, though, only 25% of the candidates that are placed come from inbound channels. In comparison, 75% are outbound, which shows that active headhunting is the primary way for tech recruiters to find candidates. This is very labor-intensive and time-consuming work, especially if you don’t already have a network of candidates that know you. So, bringing an external recruitment partner on board is a great way to speed up the process and save a lot of your time, which may be better spent on working with candidates in later stages.

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