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Four unsuspecting places to find your next product lead

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The job market today is trending towards an increasingly candidate-driven reality – especially in the tech industry, where skilled programmers don’t stay in the job market for long and are hard to reach because they’re spread across hundreds of different alumni boards and other tech platforms.

To combat these modern-day challenges, some recruiters put resources into flashy, modern channels to improve the speed and accuracy of finding the ideal programmer. While effective, these channels can be pricy – especially when compared to low-cost alternatives hiding right under their noses.

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For engineering jobs, sometimes it's easiest to find worthwhile candidates in the places we’d least expect – many of which are often overlooked as outdated or ineffective. Here four unsuspecting places to find your next product lead.

University alumni boards

First off is one that should be obvious to most people – but it’s less common than you would think. University alumni message boards bring hordes of recent grads looking for engineering jobs but aren’t utilized very often by recruiters. In fact, more often than not, I find these message boards completely bereft of any mention of potential engineering jobs.

The first step is to identify the right schools to target. You can get a list of the top CS schools in the nation here. Simply find the top schools in a given location, post your jobs in the alumni boards, and watch as the qualified candidates roll in. Even better, these alumni boards often don’t cost a dime to post in.

Now, recent college grads aren’t a perfect fit for every company – it really depends on the way you do things at your specific company. But if your company culture is accepting of young graduates from top CS schools, then recruiting through these sites becomes a simple matter of shooting fish in a barrel.


This next one is an oldie but a goodie. Craigslist became a multi-billion dollar company two decades ago by taking advantage of societal trends to disrupt the traditional classifieds section in newspapers. Lest you forget, before the rise of Craigslist and the Internet, classified sections were the predominant means by which employers found their employees.

Fast forward to today and Craigslist is often ignored by recruiters, ironically associated more with the archaic classified sections it replaced than with modern recruitment strategies. But this is a mistake: Craiglist is still a prodigious, cheap avenue for tech recruiters to find qualified candidates.

Craiglist vs alumni boards

Compared with other channels, Craigslist is surprisingly cheap – it currently costs between $30 and $75 per ad, depending on the specific market you wish to advertise in. Furthermore, it works well for both remote and local applicants, ensuring that you find the exact candidate you desire. As a tip for dealing with remote positions, posting in hotspots such as New York City, San Francisco, Austin, or Seattle will reap the most candidates due to a high concentration of programming talent in these cities.


As far as general tips, I recommend including an image in every job posting – even if it’s just your company logo. An image can do wonders to make your posting stand out from the crowd of phony job postings. To further distance yourself from the pack, it’s also worth re-posting the position once per week to experience maximum exposure.

In contrast to posting through alumni boards, you’ll typically find older, more experienced talent here. Make sure the candidates are aligned with your company culture before sending them a serious offer.


Slack, the failed game turned fastest-growing enterprise software of all time, needs no introduction. For tech recruiters, Slack is a cost-effective way to access large communities of developers.

The first thing to do is to find local tech Slack communities to target. Here you can communicate directly with people looking for a job or people willing to spread the word to their peers of a relevant job opening. From my experience, Slack tends to bring a mix of younger and older talent.

A good rule of thumb to keep when you participate in Slack channels: Share one thing of value with relevant social content for every job you post. Showing social proof will go a long way to finding worthy candidates.


Lastly – and perhaps the most overlooked channel of them all – is Reddit. Advertising works great here, with good margins at an incredibly low cost. Even if you don’t have someone with adept advertising skills on your team, it’s still a worthwhile avenue to recruit on due to its simplicity. Depending on the specific forum, a good mix of younger and older talent will be found here.

Compared with other pay-per-click channels, advertising on Reddit is cheap. In my experience, I typically pay $0.47 per click and receive a 7% application completion rate, resulting in an average cost of $6.70 per candidate. After screening, roughly 5% of these candidates are worth pursuing as serious candidates.

Tips for this forum

The next step is finding the right forum to post to. If you’re hiring out of a major tech city, there is likely a local tech community subreddit full of developers in your specific area. Most of these tech forums have a monthly ‘Who’s Hiring’ thread – find the relevant tech subreddits and post in this section.

Like alumni boards there is an etiquette that comes with posting on Reddit, varying from forum to forum. Make sure you’re aware of the specific rules and regulations on the forum you post on to ensure your posting gets maximum exposure and doesn’t break any rules. Look at the sidebar or even ask the moderators for help if you find it too difficult.

The world of recruitment has come a long way over the past twenty years. And while many of the new innovations are great, sometimes keeping it simple is the optimal route to go.

About the Author

Zack Burt, Founder of Code For Cash, a recruiting & executive search firm focused exclusively on software engineering and author of Software Engineer’s Guide to Freelance Consulting, which provides a playbook for marketing systems that freelancers can employ.

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