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Joel on Software

Programmer search engine

by Joel Spolsky
Wednesday, December 02, 2009

For as long as I’ve been in the industry, which is, I think, about 74 years now, the problem I’ve had with hiring programmers was not interviewing them or deciding if they’re smart—it’s been finding them in the first place.

What I’ve dreamed about is a programmer search engine.

The ideal programmer search engine would only include programmers who are actually looking for jobs. If you’ve ever emailed someone based on a resume you found through a traditional search engine, you’ve probably discovered that they’re not actually on the market.

It would only include people willing to work in your neck of the woods.

It would show you CVs right away, and, ideally, it would show you something about their programming skills besides the usual resume blahblah.

Well, OK, that day is here, and I’m like a kid in a candy store. Nom nom. Announcing the other half of careers.stackoverflow.com: the employer’s side!

Right now, there are about 928 candidates on there. That’s a start. What’s more interesting is whether there’s a candidate who meets your needs.

Let’s say you’re searching for a full time Java programmer within 40 miles of Palo Alto. Right now there are 11 candidates listed. All but one are active on StackOverflow... one even has reputation over 4000 points.

Want a bit more choice? Check the box that indicates that you’re willing to relocate. Now there are 80 matches, all of whom have the legal right to work in the states. Candidates have a lot of flexibility indicating where they’re willing to work. Even if you need a Ruby on Rails programmer in Oklahoma City, as long as you’re willing to pay for relocation, you’ve got 7 choices. You’ve got 14 choices in London (with the legal right to work.) If you think that a Python programmer could learn Ruby, you’ve got 51 choices. There are plenty of choices whether you’re hiring in Tel Aviv, Sydney, Silicon Valley, or New York. There are four programmers in Copenhagen right now. No relocation required. All of them highly qualified, actually; any one of them would qualify to interview at Fog Creek.

Stack Overflow Careers is something of a chicken-and-egg business. We have to get a big audience of programmers and a big audience of employers all at the same time, and then it’s like a junior high school dance, with the boys on one side of the gym and the girls on the other side, and for a while you just sit there holding your breath to see if anyone will dance. We invited a few hundred employers as beta testers... these were the companies that have been listing jobs on StackOverflow over the last six months, and so far, they’ve found a few dozen candidates that they liked. Once it gets to that point, we’re out of the loop, so we don’t really know how many people are actually finding jobs, but please email me your success stories and failure stories so we can keep working to make it better.

In the meantime, Jeff and the StackOverflow crew have done something brilliant: they’ve made it possible to do searches and see how many candidates match even before you have to pay. So if you want to try it out but are afraid that there aren’t students looking for OCaml internships in Houston, you can try it, and find that there is, indeed, one. So, try it out right now. There’s no obligation, and we’re happy to give you your money back if you don’t think you got good value.

HyperDev is the developer playground for building full-stack web apps, fast.


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I’m Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Trello and Fog Creek Software, and CEO of Stack Overflow. More about me.

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