How to hire really smart developers?

The best web developers don’t ever look in the situations vacant.

Not even online.

But they do look at source code!

So, a while back I quietly added this HTML comment to the top of the Trade Me homepage:

If you're looking at our HTML source,
you're exactly the person
who should send us your resume.
View current vacancies at

It’s been surprisingly effective at targeting the type of smart ASP.NET web developers we want to hire. But, not effective enough it would seem.

Alan, who heads up the development team at Trade Me, is advertising a couple of specific roles at the moment:

We’re also currently advertising for a Web Designer.

If you’re a smart developer or designer there are lots of opportunities at the moment. There definitely seems to be more vacancies around than people to fill them.

So, as a candidate, how do you decide what’s the best place to work? I would have thought that the chance to work on NZs largest web site would be pretty attractive.

8 thoughts on “How to hire really smart developers?”

  1. Hi Rowan,

    I saw it a while ago too, at the time I was thinking that it might be quite expensive to send those extra bytes for every request to the most popular website in NZ :)

    I think the global market for developers is a bit tight at the moment, probably due to it being less cool after the bust.

    I’ve always thought of a good project manager as requiring a different skill set than a good developer. Interested in your ideas there.


  2. I think that’s a really great trick. And while I’m not a developer I can tell you how I think people make a decision to leave or join a company. In my experience people leave because of their boss, and they stay because of their friends. It doesn’t matter how good the company is, if your boss is a jerk then smart people are outta there. I think that your blogging Rowan shows what an open and attractive environment Trademe is, so maybe you are a great boss! But you haven’t told us if Alan is, not in your ad or in the blog (or code). I think you want to be a bit more aggressive about telling people what a great boss the hiring manager is for these jobs. Sure NZ’s biggest website is somewhat attractive, but NZ’s biggest website with a boss who has promoted ten of the last ten people who’ve worked for him, or a boss or has a reputation for making sure his people are the best trained in the business. I think smart people start to want to meet someone like that. And smart people make decisions on where they work on who, not where.

  3. A nice touch…the developers in the office were admiring it just yesterday, but the consensus was that it should be in the CSS ;)

  4. Very interesting concept of getting at least close enough to “smart” developers.

    I guess more “smarter developers” would be the ones looking to break the code.

    I’m sure trademe gets a lot of those too. I wonder how they would react to this approach.

  5. Haha, clever much like the google billboards.

    But easier :)
    My mother found that comment in the HTML an was very pleased with herself (not a dev by any stretch).

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