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Developer Recruiting Takes Center Stage at GDC 2019

GDC 2019 was not short of big announcements from the gaming industry. Led by Google’s Stadia, a cloud gaming subscription service for playing AAA video games across all kinds of screens. A game-changing platform if you will (see what I did there?). Now, Google has one big hurdle to get past in order to make this a reality: recruit and retain great developers to build for Stadia.

Developer recruiting, in general, was a powerful industry trend which caught my eye at GDC last week. Rather than a big consumer-centric announcement or a big product showcase, the main effort put in by attending brands was on attracting and recruiting developers. We’ve worked with most of the brands at GDC, helping them create third-party developer ecosystems. This push was different, this was a full-fledged quest for bringing the best minds possible inside the building.

GDC is attended by a lot of developers. It’s the showcase event for everything that’s happening in the gaming industry. Developers across the full stack are everywhere. This makes it a prime hunting ground for new developer talent recruitment. Most of the major industry platform and publisher players, specifically Unity, Epic, Microsoft, Amazon and Google, plus others, had bespoke sections of their booths dedicated to in-house developer recruitment. Most of them had hiring staff on hand to talk to interested developers and explain the benefits of joining their company.

Developer Recruiting Takes Center Stage at GDC 2019

This led me to think about the way developers are recruited by technical businesses. The hiring crunch currently being faced by these companies is a hard business problem to solve. There is an evident shortage of available developer talent and these challenges mirror those faced by devtech companies recruiting developers into their third-party ecosystems. What’s puzzling is that almost everyone who is out there recruiting technical talent seems to employ the same approach: create a role description, tell a story about why working at the company is so great and announce how much they are willing to pay the right candidate for the role. This is almost all ‘transmit’ information ‘let me tell you what we need, let me tell you about us.

This sort of outbound approach has long been abandoned by most companies using strategic developer marketing to bring third-party developers to their devtech tools and platforms. Instead, they spend a lot of time identifying their audiences and crucially they consider what are the motivators that would make a developer want to use our product. Once these things are identified they create content and messages which speak to those motivations and use the channels where their targets hang out to promote the message.

Not every developer, regardless of their skillset, is going to be motivated by the most money. Some will be motivated by the opportunity to learn new skills, make themselves famous, work autonomously and so on. It’s important that you speak to these motivations when running external developer marketing campaigns, why not when hiring developers for your own team?

It struck me that the world of in-house developer recruitment is ripe for disruption and that companies need to start playing a longer game by building a steady pipeline of inbound developer talent to feed in-house developer needs. I hope we start to see the emergence of that before GDC 2020.

(All images courtesy of GDC)

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