Sifting through and pinpointing the best IT developers

Attracting the best IT developers to your business can be a major challenge in today’s environment. Competition for top candidates is fierce, and the stakes are high, yet building a successful IT team is fundamental to an organisation’s ongoing ability to innovate and expand.

Volume is not always the primary issue. When SEEK advertised our last developer role, we received over 70 applications. With a shortage of technically-capable candidates in the market, the key challenge here is finding the best candidate for your team and your business needs.

We asked SEEK's Senior Principal Developer, Jeremy Clough, for his tips on how to identify and choose that best-fit candidate from your applicant pool, and how you might attract that elusive, passive IT candidate too.

Cover letters and code

The traditional combination of a cover letter and resume still offers valuable, high-level insight into your candidates. Look for:

  1. Cover letters that showcase the candidate’s style of writing and personality. This will help you get a sense of whether they are a good cultural fit for the team.

  2. Resumes that are short, sharp and directed to the role. A list of technical skills needs context, and the best candidates will tell you why their skills fit the needs of your role.

  3. A history of applications across multiple roles. This may be a red flag if your candidate is applying indiscriminately, regardless of the position type and skill set required.

Code can be as expressive as any written text. Asking short-listed candidates to provide code samples is a great next step toward finding the perfect candidate. Base your sample request around certain technologies, but leave it relatively open for candidates to decide what to do. Look for:

  1. The developer’s style. Which can be revealed in the small decisions they make, the overall design and, ultimately, the purpose of the code itself.

  2. Samples shaped to fit your business needs in some clever or unique way. Look for candidates who use relevant technologies and display a creative awareness of your business needs.

HR and IT working together

To find the best IT candidate, bring your combined skill set to the recruitment process. When it came to recruiting that recent developer here at SEEK, I relied on our HR manager. She put in place an effective process for us to follow for shortlisted and recruiter candidates, held regular meetings between the teams looking for similar candidates, and did all the follow up and organising of interviews. Our catch-ups focused on what we were looking for in a candidate, where specific candidates were in the process and what feedback to offer them.

Attracting passive candidates

Attracting passive candidates requires a different approach. Here, it’s about what would attract the candidate to your particular business, based on both the role opportunities and benefits on offer. Set up a casual meeting first, in a relaxed setting. Typically, I'd be focusing on what we're looking for in a role and seeing if our environment meets the candidate's expectations. I find myself selling not only the general benefits of working at SEEK (free breakfast, coffee machine, beer taps, friendly environment, e.t.c), but also how generous we are with development tools compared to many organisations, the calibre of the development teams and even the specific technologies our team uses.

Whether you are approaching the candidate or they are coming to you, and whether you have seven or 70 developers to choose from, the challenge remains the same: staying ahead of the competition by finding that one perfect candidate who will be the best technical, creative and cultural fit for your IT team.
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Jeremy Clough


Senior Principal Developer

Jeremy Clough displays obsessive compulsive behaviour in regards to code quality, is a Flying Spaghetti Monster devotee with leanings to the IPU and is an occasional gym attendee.

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