How To Find And Hire Great Developers Using Github

Interviewing and hiring can be a stressful time for both the hiring manager and developer. The developer wants to know the people he’ll be workating for aren’t jerks and that the company will be enjoyable to work at. The hiring manager wants to know the developer will fit in well, be a team player, and productive. After all, there’s a large investment in finding and interviewing developers. No one wants to go back through that process if they don’t have to.

Finding and hiring a great developer is what this article is all about. We’ll be using Github as a place to search for developers. If you haven’t heard of Github or aren’t sure what it is, don’t worry. You’ll get a quick overview of Github. Let’s get started.

What Is Github And How It Works

While most people are sharing photos and posts on Facebook and Instagram, great developers are sharing code on Github. Github is an open-source code sharing platform. It uses the Git Revision Control System for source control.

Why would a developer want to share code? A lot of the work uploaded to Github is from open source projects. An open-source project allows basically any developer to contribute to the project. By using the talents of the crowd for these projects, bugs can be found and squashed quicker, progress can be made in a timely manner, and projects can gain momentum. Github also lets developers showcase their work from open source projects and develop a reputation.

Finding A Developer Through Refined Search

Because developers on Github have profiles, certain fields within their profile can be searched. To search on Github, you’ll first need to create an account, which gets around many of the non-logged in user restrictions. Once logged in, go to the search page at

Click “Advanced” found under the search. Go all the way to the bottom under the “Users options” section. These are developer attributes that you can search on. As an example, let’s say you want to find R developers in the USA. Just fill in those values for language and location. 

Next, click the “search” button. Such a broad search will produce many results but that’s fine for this example. On the results page, click on the top right to sort by followers. Followers show that others are interested in this developer’s work and what they may have to say. The more followers a developer has, the more of a resource they become to the Github community.

Notice the search text box at the top of the results page. It now contains “location:usa language:R.” You can use logic directly in the search box. On the results page in the bottom left sidebar, click “cheat sheet” to see the various ways to arrange logic in the search box.

You can always narrow down your search to specific cities by simply typing in the city. Be aware that typing in the city and state creates a broader search. For example, “San Francisco, CA” pulls in developers from San Fransico and all over California. 

You can go further by searching what a developer is doing with commits. Are they committing important feature additions or just doing simple cleanup? Are they using particular libraries you might be interested in?

Let’s say you are looking for Ruby developers. Do a search for Ruby as the language. Click on a developer’s name in the search results. This will bring you to a page showing all of the commits by this developer. Under the code tab, click commits. This will show you code committed by that developer along with comments about each commit. The quality of comments is a good sign that the developer is paying attention to detail and wants to be sure that others will understand what the commit is about. You can click each commit to look at the code involved.

If you want to find specific libraries or packages used by a developer, you can search for the library in the search bar. For example, you want to see if the developer is using DataMapper. In the search bar, type in “DataMapper in:file.” Two options will appear – one for searching in the current repository and another for all of Github. Choose the one for searching in the current repository. Once any results appear, be sure to check that the developer you are interested in is the one that checked in the code. Keep in mind that you’re searching the current repository, which may include other developers.

Particular Github Aspects To Look For In Great Developers

In addition to followers, there are a few other things to look for when searching for a great developer. This part requires a little more work, as you’ll need to click through each developer. 

Back on the search results page, sorted by followers, start clicking on the names of developers. This might be made a little quicker if a developer has a useful description displayed on the search results page. Unfortunately, most don’t.

After clicking a name, you’ll be brought to the developer’s profile. From here, you can see how active they are, where they are currently working, their website, and other information about them. The amount of info displayed is up to the developer.

The profile page also displays activity on Github. Is Github activity a good sign of a great developer? Maybe but if the developer is knee-deep in code at a job they like, they are probably not going to be active on Github. That doesn’t mean repositories aren’t useful. Repositories allow you to view some of the code check-ins and projects a developer has worked on, providing additional information about their skillset.

Also, look under their photo for a website. You may be able to learn more about the developer there.

Reaching Out To Developers

Developer emails are listed on the search results page next to their name. If the developer’s email isn’t on the search results page, clicking through to their profile isn’t going to help because it won’t be there either. Although, that developer may list their website on their profile page, which may contain a contact email.

With the developer’s email in hand, you can begin your outreach. It will probably be helpful to let the developer know you found their contact info on Github. Also, mention the skills you are looking for and that the developer seems to be a good fit. Mentioning specific projects from Github can also benefit your recruiting efforts. This kind of personalization will help your email stand out among other recruiters who are also likely contacting the same developer.

Drilling Further Down With LinkedIn

Github isn’t an end-all to recruiting a developer. It is only one tool in your tool kit. If you want to read about a developer’s work history and education, LinkedIn is your next stop. Just like Github, you’ll get more out of LinkedIn if you have an account. Also, searching on LinkedIn works much better if the developer has a photo.

On LinkedIn, take a developer’s name, drop it into the search box, and hit enter/return. A list of results will come up. If the developer has a LinkedIn profile, you’ll see the same photo from Github along with their name. Clicking through will display where the developer currently works, their title, work history, education, and accomplishments. It’s a lot of great details that fills in a few missing pieces from Github.

When you consider how much time and money is involved with the hiring process, increasing your chances of getting it right is worth the investment. Github not only helps you find great developers, but it also provides their contact info as well. But keep in mind that it is only one tool among a few to aide in your recruiting efforts.

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