The technical recruiting guide for hiring developers remotely

Last Updated: January 2021

Before the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the economy, the labor market for technical talent was hypercompetitive. While overall job postings and employment have decreased, technical recruiting hasn’t gotten any easier. Top talent is just as if not more expensive than before. And while there might be more overall talent available and seeking new roles, new challenges have emerged, such as a surge in unqualified candidates and coordinating an entirely remote interview process. Remote work is likely here to stay for a large percentage of the population, according to Upwork.

working remotely

What does it take to become an elite technical recruiter in 2021?

The technical recruiting job has never been more challenging or demanding. But the role is critical for companies that want to sustain growth. Today, technical recruiters must be able to operate across the recruiting lifecycle:

At Coderbyte, more than 3,000 recruiters use our platform to identify the best developers amongst their applicants. We’ve interviewed the best of the best technical recruiters, and are excited to share their tips and advice with you in this guide.

Employer branding

We live in a transparent world. With platforms like Glassdoor, employer reputation matters more than ever before. According to research firm randstad:

Most (86%) would not apply for or continue to work for a company that has a bad reputation with former employees or the general public, and 65 percent would likely leave if their employers were being negatively portrayed in the news or on social media because of a crisis or negative business practices.

Employer branding is how you manage your brand’s reputation to current and prospective employees. According to LinkedIn, employer branding is one of the best investments a business can make to attract better and more diverse applicants.

Improve your employer brand with the following steps:

1. Improve the candidate experience: Before even beginning to interview candidates, get started on the right foot by highlighting what makes your company a great place to work during these challenging times. Candidates who have been recently laid off may be particularly sensitive to the culture at a company working remotely for the first time. Go above and beyond, and stand out in the process.

  • If you don’t already have one, consider building a dedicated career section or page for your engineering department, especially if that’s the only area you’re currently hiring for. BuiltIn offers a guide with great examples of career pages.
  • Now is also a good time to update or create a company profile on BuiltIn and TheMuse. You can even level up your employer brand by partnering with content creators there to feature your company in content. Also make sure to reach out to your city’s local newspapers, many of which have been featuring employers that are still hiring for essential and remote roles.
  • According to LinkedIn, 86% of employees would consider taking a pay cut to work for a company with a mission and values aligned properly with their own, compared with just 9% of Baby Boomers. Standing for important initiatives can give your business an edge in the eyes of potential candidates.
  • Reframe WFH at your company to mean “Wellness From Home” by embracing and emphasizing to candidates how your company is adopting best practices from GitLab to Knowable. Consider introducing your people experience teams to individualized wellness solutions which will look great on your career page. Candidates will appreciate that your company is going beyond talk with real action.
  • If your company’s current engineers are up for it, ask them about participating in mission-critical hackathons and technology projects. ProductHunt recently hosted a Makers Festival while MIT hosted COVID-19 challenges. Along with community volunteering activities like Code Against COVID-19, participating in these types of events help elevate your employer brand and boost team morale.

Of course, part of having a great WFH culture also means optimizing for candidates who already have experience or will excel at working remotely. NerdWallet offers a number of insights into the types of people and teams that will thrive, and how to structure your interview to assess such capabilities. SmartBug Media looks for resilience and the source of “social energy” in candidates to assess their remote-working capabilities. Our survey of 150+ software developers show that most are generally comfortable with entirely remote interviewing, onboarding, and working for a new company.

coderbyte survey

Nevertheless, some developers will struggle with the distractions of coding from home, but will benefit from learning pro tips and best practices.

2. Showcase your tech stack: If your engineering team uses a modern technology stack, make sure to detail that in your job advertisements and interviews. A tech stack that includes popular and emerging platforms, tools, and software will entice technical candidates.

Often, the world’s largest companies are stuck building software in development environments that were set up years, if not decades, ago. Ambitious developers prefer to explore new languages and frameworks rather than struggle with someone else’s code and comments in a .NET application.

Japanese startup Nulab knows that and uses their tech stack to their advantage. Of course the customer experience takes priority, but when their engineering team can use cutting-edge technology to solve a problem, they do so for the benefit of the team. They’ve used the fact that they have three different products to fully embrace a wide spectrum of techniques and technologies.

“We’ve created microservices using Go and Kubernetes, and we’ve built user interfaces with both Vue.js and React,” says Jay Chen, a software developer at Nulab, who lights up when discussing some of the latest trends in web development. He is proud of the fact that Nulab doesn’t shy away from technical challenges, and works with his talent acquisition team to emphasize that aspect of their engineering culture throughout the hiring process.

3. Emphasize career opportunities: From hackathons to code conferences, become a strong advocate for the technical folks in your office. Then, when you start recruiting for position openings, talk about your advocacy. Discuss the many ways that you want to help your tech talent explore their skill sets.

Remember that many IT professionals don’t just want to maintain their technical proficiencies – they also want to improve soft skills like public speaking. 40 percent of business people complain about collaboration-based problems with their tech teams, yet businesses don't provide the training to teach employees to develop those skills. Two-thirds of HR leaders admit to offering a job to a different candidate solely because of the soft-skills gap.

→ A case study on employer branding


Rapid shifts in the labor market are creating tailwinds for savvy technical recruiters that have their fingers on the pulse of the tech community. There are a number of bespoke job boards and opportunities to connect with top talent.

  • Glassdoor has an entire page dedicated to COVID-19 resources, with best practices such as switching your job listings to ‘remote’, and even new features like posting a designated COVID-19 company update and listing your company as experiencing a hiring surge.
  • Technology companies are combining their laid off employees into lists to make it easier for new employers to rapidly review résumés and hire. AngelList has also made it incredibly easy for employers to browse newly available tech talent. Parachute aggregates many smaller lists and makes it possible to import candidates directly into your Applicant Tracking System. In fact, your Applicant Tracking System may even be able to redirect qualified candidates your way, as Workable is doing with a new feature called Bridge.
  • First Round Capital is compiling an updated list of COVID-19 resources for companies that are hiring, including user-generated spreadsheets of talent. Make sure to add your company to the Startups Actively Hiring During COVID-19 spreadsheet and the Companies Still Hiring coda.

→ Guide to technical recruiting lingo


Code screening is how you filter out unqualified candidates from your recruiting pipeline in an unbiased way. In many scenarios, that will remove as much as 75%-90% of candidates, leaving you with a much more manageable list of résumés to review and consider. This saves recruiters substantial time and of course eliminates the possibility of moving forward with someone completely unqualified and wasting precious engineering time to interview them. Amongst the thousands of recruiters that we work with, we’ve estimated that an effective code screening process saves businesses about $4,500 per hire when valuing time saved.

Code screening assessments will vary based on the roles you’re hiring for, tools you use, and number and quality of applicants you receive. That being said, virtually all code screening assessments consist of the following:

  • The ability for candidates to take the assessment on their own time
  • The ability to ensure that candidates don’t cheat or identify if they are cheating by copying answers or partial answers that they find online
  • The ability to administer some combination of coding challenges, multiple choice questions, and open ended questions
  • The ability to automatically grade all or part of the assessment
  • The ability to compare candidate reports and set qualifying criteria for candidates to move to the next stage of the interview process

There are countless tools for creating and managing code assessments. Virtually any feature you can think of is available in the market. You can find a complete list of tools on G2 and reviews of the most popular ones on Medium.

→ The guide for conducting online code screening and finding the best software engineer candidates faster

Technical Interviews

Before the pandemic, it was common to invite top candidates into the office for an interview that included writing code on a whiteboard. That’s obviously impossible now, so many companies have moved coding interviews to Zoom and asked candidates to share their screens as they code.

While this may work a handful of times, it is awkward and rigid for both candidates and interviewers. If you’re planning to make a long-term switch to remote interviews, it probably makes sense to set up a seamless end-to-end experience for online code interviews.

Online code interviews will vary based on the roles you’re hiring for, tools you use, and general hiring process. That being said, virtually all online code interviews consist of the following:

  • The ability for a recruiter to create a unique link to an interview environment
  • The ability for candidates and interviewers to collaboratively code in real-time on an online integrated development environment (IDE)
  • The ability for candidates and interviewers to collaborate on a freehand whiteboard
  • The ability for interviewers to privately take notes about the candidate
  • The ability for interviewers to replay the interview session afterward

There are countless tools for conducting online code interviews. Virtually any feature you can think of is available in the market. You can find reviews of the most popular ones on Medium.

→ The guide for conducting online code interviews to hire software engineers remotely

Culture interviews

Technical proficiency is an important prerequisite but not the only factor that matters when selecting a candidate even for software roles. Culture fit – or better yet finding someone who contributes something new to your culture – is equally if not more important.

Culture interviews for developers aren’t substantially different than for other roles. Make sure to:

  • Coordinate interviews with peers from around R&D. Additionally, if the job is to work on something customer-facing, make sure someone from sales or marketing can give the candidate a demo and clear value proposition.
  • Prepare the interviewers with the candidate’s background and equip them with conversation guides and non-overlapping questions.
  • Assess the candidate’s sense of values to ensure they align with your company’s values. “The result of poor culture fit due to turnover can cost an organization between 50-60% of the person’s annual salary,” according to a report by The Society for Human Resource Management.
  • Set expectations and prepare the candidate for a remote interview. Provide both the candidate and interviewer’s phone numbers in case there are internet issues. Remind employees to turn on do-not-disturb notifications before interviews. Do role play on a quick dry run with the interviewers and candidate beforehand to make sure all the necessary systems and tools are working.

Take-home projects

Coding assessment platforms have enabled companies to hire top developer talent much more efficiently while mitigating bias throughout the recruiting process. Virtually all talent acquisition teams today deploy code screening or interviews to assess candidates in their pipelines.

More recently, companies have begun leveraging take-home assignments at later stages of the interview process to let candidates more seamlessly demonstrate real-world skills. Coding projects offer far more robust and insightful assessments of candidates than rushed in-person or virtual whiteboarding or challenge-based assessments. Some platforms even come with a library of interesting and configurable assignments and then let candidates build on a GitHub repository on their own time.

For companies that are very serious about take-home coding projects, sharing candidates on a GitHub repo and asking them to submit a pull request is probably the best approach. With a new feature called Codespaces, you can now review, comment on, and run code in the browser. Some companies have even been known to pay candidates for projects, especially if those projects are the company’s real engineering challenges, in order to truly assess skills.

Since all your candidates likely have GitHub, this is a pretty accessible way to conduct take-home projects. However, since this isn’t GitHub’s core focus as a platform, you are essentially duct-taping workflows together and have to deal with the resulting gaps in your hiring process. There are several tools for creating and managing take-home code projects. You can find reviews of the most popular ones on Medium.

Reference and background checks

There are numerous aspects to reference and background checks, and technical recruiting is mostly the same as other roles in this regard. However, there are a few key points to remember:

  • Because software developers typically receive multiple offers when they’re seeking a job, that means they’re also receiving multiple requests for references. Considering that, it might be excessive to ask them for three references, even if that’s what you do for candidates for all other roles. If you can get by with just one reference, you can still mitigate risk, dig into the candidate’s background, but not put them in a position where they might have to discontinue the interview process with your company.
  • Unlike in other roles, you’ve already thoroughly assessed the candidate’s skills and technical proficiency. You don’t need to spend substantial time verifying their skillset with past peers and supervisors. Focus instead on questions to ascertain how the candidate worked on a team and how you can set them up for success moving forward based on the role you’re hiring for.
  • Have a long-term mindset when conducting reference checks, especially with other engineers and engineering leaders. Emphasize the role and value propositions because you never know who else might be looking for a new role and every reference check is also a potential future employee. Technical recruiting is all about building long-term relationships.

Offers and negotiation

After you’ve run the interview process and identified the top candidate(s), it can feel like the hard work is done. But that’s not the case when it comes to technical recruiting, where offer acceptance rates are notoriously low. And that’s unfortunate because you’re investing heavily in each candidate and can’t afford for offers not to be accepted. Here are tips for giving offers, negotiating, and increasing your success rate:

  • In terms of giving an official offer, there’s a debate between who should give it: the hiring manager or the recruiter. Make sure you understand the pros and cons and how it may vary by candidate.
  • In reality, the negotiation process begins at the first interaction with the candidate. When recruiters ask questions about the candidate’s career aspirations, they are in effect identifying what matters to the candidate beyond compensation. There are factors from making an impact to accelerated learning to working on a collaborative team. All of these come back into play when the offer is being made, and should be emphasized accordingly.
  • Make sure to formally communicate the offer letter and reiterate all the details about the role so there isn’t misalignment or miscommunication. Often, candidates will talk it over with friends and family and you don’t want to be playing broken telephone.
  • If there’s a gap between the top salary you can offer and the minimum the candidate will accept, see if there are any other factors that can change the dynamic. Can you adjust the start date earlier or later? Can you add a one-time signing bonus? Can you reimburse at-home work office setup purchases? Thinking outside the box to get an offer accepted can have a great return on investment, especially if the alternative is to restart the interview process with other candidates.
  • Most importantly of all is to learn why any offers are rejected. This can expose blind spots in your interview process, from a bad candidate experience to below market compensation expectations.


As a technical recruiter, your responsibilities don’t end when your hires begin! The best technical recruiters operate across the entire hiring lifecycle, including ensuring the candidate is a good fit after they begin. Even if your job as a technical recruiter doesn’t formally encompass onboarding, it’s in your best interest to make it your job. Otherwise you risk low new employee productivity which reflects poorly on you even if unfairly. Further, when they’re engaged, new employees typically offer great word of mouth employer branding for your organization and can introduce you to their past coworkers.

An astonishing 1 in 5 companies don’t even have a formal onboarding process, and it’s not rare for software developers to quit jobs within the first 30 days if there are too many red flags.

hbr onboarding survey

Ensure that the hiring manager has an onboarding gameplan that has been revamped, if needed, for a remote-first work environment. And don’t wait for the candidate’s start date to begin figuring things out. They should receive any relevant work equipment and be introduced to their coworkers beforehand to eliminate any potential delays or bottlenecks.