Effective Strategies for Recruiting Open Source Developers

By October 20, 2017Blog, The Linux Foundation

“Recruiting Open Source Developers” is a free online guide to help organizations looking to attract new developers or build internal talent.

Experienced open source developers are in short supply. To attract top talent, companies often have to do more than hire a recruiter or place an ad on a popular job site. However, if you are running an open source program at your organization, the program itself can be leveraged as a very effective recruiting tool. That is precisely where the new, free online guide Recruiting Open Source Developers comes in. It can help any organization in recruiting developers, or building internal talent, through nurturing an open source culture, contributing to open source communities, and showcasing the utility of new open source projects.

Why does your organization need a recruiting strategy? One reason is that the growing shortage of skilled developers is well documented. According to a recent Cloud Foundry report, there are a quarter-million job openings for software developers in the U.S. alone and half a million unfilled jobs that require tech skills. They’re also forecasting the number of unfillable developer jobs to reach one million within the next decade.

Appeal to motivation

That’s a problem, but there are solutions. Effective recruitment appeals to developer motivation. If you understand what attracts developers to work for you, and on your open source projects (and open source, in general) you can structure your recruitment strategies in a way that appeals to them. As the Recruiting Open Source developers guide notes, developers want three things: rewards, respect and purpose.

The guide explains that your recruitment strategy can benefit greatly if you initially hire people who are leaders in open source. “Domain expertise and leadership in open source can sometimes take quite a long time at established companies,” said Guy Martin, Director of Open at Autodesk. “You need to put training together and start working with people in the company to begin to groom them for that kind of leadership. But, sometimes initially you’ve got to bootstrap by hiring people who are already leaders in those communities.”

Train internal talent

Another key strategy that the guide covers is training internal talent to advance open source projects and communities. “You will want to spend time training developers who show an interest or eagerness in contributing to open source,” the guide notes. “It pays to cultivate this next level of developers and include them in the open source decision-making process. Developers gain respect and recognition through their technical contributions to open source projects and their leadership in open source communities.”

In addition, it makes a lot of sense to set up internal systems for tracking the value of contributions to open source. The goal is to foster pride in contributions and emphasize that your organization cares about open source.  “You can’t throw a stone more than five feet in the cloud and not hit something that’s in open source,” said Guy Martin. “We absolutely have to have open source talent in the company to drive what we’re trying to do moving forward.”

Startups, including those in stealth mode, can apply these strategies as well. They can have developers work on public open source projects to establish their influence and showcase it for possible incoming talent. Developers have choices in open source, so the goal is to make your organization attractive for the talent to apply.

Within the guide, Ibrahim Haddid (@IbrahimAtLinux) recommends the following strategies for advancing recruitment strategies:

  1. Hire key developers and maintainers from the open source projects that are important to you.
  2. Allow your developers working on products to spend a certain % of their time contributing upstream.
  3. Set up a mentorship program where senior and more experienced developers guide junior, less experienced ones.
  4. Develop and offer both technical and open source methodology training to your developers.
  5. Participate in open source events. Send your developers and support them in presenting their work.
  6. Provide proper IT infrastructure that will allow your developers to communicate and work with the global open source community without any challenges.
  7. Set up an internal system to track the contributions of your developers and measure their impact.
  8. Internally, plan on contributing and focus on areas that are useful to more than one business unit/ product line.

The Recruiting Open Source Developers guide can help you with all these strategies and more, and it explores how to weave open source itself into your strategies. It is one of a new collection of free guides from The Linux Foundation and The TODO Group that are all extremely valuable for any organization running an open source program. The guides are available now to help you run an open source program office where open source is supported, shared, and leveraged. With such an office, organizations can establish and execute on their open source strategies efficiently, with clear terms.

These guides were produced based on expertise from open source leaders. Check out the guides and stay tuned for our continuing coverage.

Also, don’t miss the previous articles in the series: How to Create an Open Source Program; Tools for Managing Open Source Programs; and Measuring Your Open Source Program’s Success.

Sam Dean

Sam Dean

Sam is a freelance writer for The Linux Foundation.
Sam Dean