Facebook, Amazon recruiting programmers based on social “footprint”

Alexis Albaugh, talent acquisition manager at Redwood City, Calif.-based gaming start-up Rumble Entertainment, struggles to recruit qualified developers.

She’s been using LinkedIn and online searches to identify candidates, but with little luck. Developers are particularly tricky to recruit, she said, because it’s difficult to judge how skilled they really are — work experience, degrees and resume aside — unless you “have a robust technical background yourself,” she said.

Albaugh recently subscribed to GildSource, an online database of developers ranked by coding experience, compiled by San Francisco-based start-up Gild. Gild mines the Internet for individual software developers’ public “footprint” — the impact they have on social programming sites, according to Gild chief executive Sheeroy Desai — and ranks them for job recruiters. So far, the site has indexed more than 3 million developers.

Gild searches sites like GitHub or Stack Overflow — collaborative online programming platforms on which coders can develop and ask or answer questions — and applies a patent-pending algorithm to each developer determining a “Gild Score.” It then links these scores to any publicly searchable social media profiles — LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, for example — so recruiters can contact developers directly with job offers if interested.

The traditional hiring process, in which a company hires a recruiter to sift through hundreds of resumes for a specific job opening, places great emphasis on degrees and work experience, Desai said. But many qualified developers haven’t gone to college or held formal jobs — instead, they’ve built measurable development skills in online communities, he said.

Albaugh has used traditional recruiting agencies at Rumble, but only “opportunistically,” she said, because they often charge a large percentage of the job position’s salary as a base fee for recruiting. In a few cases, agencies may be worth the fee — when filling leadership positions, she explained, agencies are better at identifying strong candidates through networks and social connections.

Though she won’t share how many candidates she’s hired from Gild, she noted that she’s conducted twice as many phone and onsite interviews with developers from Gild than any other online resource, such as LinkedIn.

Albaugh is not alone. Tech giants such as Facebook, Salesforce, RedHat, VMware, Walmart, and Amazon also rely on the service. Gild charges an $8,400 annual subscription fee to large companies for access to its database, called “GildSource,” and recently rolled out a 50 percent discount to start-ups with fewer than 50 employees. Currently more than 40 companies subscribe, 25 percent of which are start-ups.

Developers can’t currently opt-in to GildSource — they can only hope to be ranked based on their public contributions. But they can opt-out by contacting Gild; so far, less than a dozen developers have asked to do so, Desai said. In the future, Desai hopes to allow developers to upload their own projects and resumes — but for now, the only information presented on their Gild profiles is provided by Gild.

As a result, Desai acknowledged that “developers who may not have a deep [public] footprint are at a disadvantage — they’ll score low.” In the future, he said, “we want to give people the ability to improve their score.”

Jade Dominguez — who was contacted by a Gild recruiter after Desai discovered him in the company’s database — said he was unaware he was in GildSource until the company reached out to him. Dominguez hadn’t gone to college, and had recently left a software job to work on his own development projects. Unbeknownst to him, “he was one of the highest rated developers” on GildSource, Desai said.

Gild hired Dominguez as a Web application developer in June of this year.

Though developers frequently attach their names and e-mail addresses to their code on open-source platforms, receiving job offers “is not an expectation or known part of open source. It is understood that it is possible, but I don’t think any developer knows or realizes that recruiters are capable of doing that,” Dominguez said.

Pulling together disparate strands of each developer’s online presence may “seem troubling” to developers unaware they’re being indexed, but netizens “can’t stop people from compiling the data” if it’s all publicly available, said Bethesda, Md-based attorney Bradley Shear, who specializes in social media and public policy.

The bigger problem, Shear said, is getting the developers to verify that the social media accounts linked to their developing work are actually theirs.

Gild’s verification process involves a program matching the e-mail, profile picture, and details about the person to their social media accounts on other sites, according to marketing director Michael Stapleton — in some cases, humans do the matching, he explained.

However, Shear said, since the business doesn’t notify developers when they include them in the database, Gild could potentially be amassing fake or irrelevant social media accounts or contact information, which could potentially “muddy” the database.

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Mohana Ravindranath covers IT and small business for the Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication.
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