Finding Great Laravel Developers is Really Hard!

Published: 3 months ago

Searching for and recruiting developers is a time-comsuming and expensive process. When you've got roles to fill, you either need some dedicated resource (a talent manager or recruitment agency) to do it for you, or you do it yourself.

If you're a technical co-founder with recruitment experience, doing it yourself might be viable if you don't have too much else on. If you have a VP/head of software, engineering manager or a team lead already in place to shoulder some of that responsibility, use them appropriately.

But recruitment isn't everyone's forté and it can be a distraction when there are still features to build, bugs to fix and people to manage.

Time & Money

How long does it take to hire a software engineer? It depends, but in my experience (from years of hiring inside a fast-moving startup), it can take anything from 6 weeks up to 4 or 5 months. That's from getting the job description done and out there to a signed offer.

And then you often have to wait for them to finish another role. With most notice periods commonly between 1 and 3 months, this can push some hiring processes well above 6 months from start to finish.

Aside of the time spent defining the role and preparing a job description, there's the following to take care of:

  • Reviewing and screening applications
  • Replying to applicants
  • Scheduling interviews
  • Doing interviews
  • Writing up offers and contracts
  • Buying equipment
  • Shoring up oboarding and other HR processes

And more!

Then there's the direct costs of doing the talent find itself. Maybe you post job ads on various boards (some ATS providers will have partners to help with this), or run other more general advertising spots such as promotions on YouTube or Reddit, for example.

If you decide to use a recruitment agency, there will likely be recruitment fees and other contractual obligations.

And all of this will be different depening on the size of your business, your industry, the role you're trying to hire for—both the skillset and the level of experience—and whether you know what you're doing or if you need help.

Let's go through the different scenarios and break it down further.

Dedicated Talent Management

There are a couple of options here:

  1. Bring talent acquisition in-house
  2. Outsource it

You may end up doing just one of these, or you might find you have to do both.

In-house

Depending on the size and nature of your business, talent acquisition in itself could be a core function that you need, especially if you're moving quickly and hiring a lot of people across multiple departments or need ongoing and specialised support in a particular function/department because of high turnover of staff or strong market competition.

A good in-house recruiter can be well-aligned with the business, having their incentives fitting budgets and business expectations and also work closely with hiring managers to understand their needs more deeply and earlier on in the process.

Where they tend to struggle is in having a wide network to tap into for your specific needs. A general recruiter will be ok, but they're likely to be relying on job boards and meetups to make connections, having to cram a whole new set of terms and acronyms, plus potential carrot-dangling to woo the right candidates—all funded by your business.

A specialised recruiter will likely have strong connections with a good many developers and will be able to dive in quickly and be effective from the get-go, but they're going to be harder to find and more expensive.

In either case, they'll be mixing talent-find with making screening calls, booking interviews, dealing with hiring managers, and general pipeline management for many roles at a time, so focus will be tricky. Depending on how fast you need them to go or how many roles you're trying to fill, more hands may be needed.

The main costs here will be their salary/ies and any performance incentives you put in place, plus the costs of their recommended channels for posting job ads/outreach.

Outsourcing

Outsourcing recruitment, on the other hand, might be your first or only option if you haven't already got in-house talent managers or can't afford to commit to permanent or FTC employees in that role yet.

Recruitment agencies tend to attract much higher volumes of candidates and have a number of advantages due to their established position in the market. They're often adept at outreach, have agents who are conversant with multiple technology stacks, and may even have some ex-developers in their ranks.

This can help to fill your pipeline with a lot of candidates, some of whom will be really solid matches. But it's quite rare that even niche recruiters will be able to provide a good range of really strong, bang-on candidates every time.

It's also unlikely that they will have exclusive access to developers.

Don't forget that, no matter how lovely and patient and great they are, the agency's main goal is to get candidates into any position as fast as possible so they can get their commission and move on.

Candidates are often being pushed into multiple roles from a single recruitment agency, so you'll be competing against other companies that use the same agency.

Not only that, but developers who are actively looking for a new role will be active with multiple recruiters. When it comes to finding a job, there are no loyalties.

This tends to lead to agents putting on the pressure to make offers quickly. Not ideal when you're more concerned about the impact making a bad hire could have on your team.

And many agencies are so busy that they rely heavily on the candidate to do the pushing, preferring to work with only the most recently-active candidates. This means you'll be missing out on seeing many profiles they have access to simply because those engineers are not actively looking for a role, even though they might be tempted with a move if presented with the right opportunity.

On top of all this, many agencies will not be in a position to deeply understand your needs. They will often lack competency in your tech stack, so they won't be able to screen applicants perfectly. That means some duds will slip through the net, ultimately leaving the hiring manager to do the work of weeding these out.

And those hiring fees... ouchy! I've seen some recruiters pushing for 20% of an engineer's annual salary. $10k for getting a single candidate through the process successfully is a significant chunk of change; $20k+ feels almost obscene.

Again, there are generalised and specialised recruitment agencies. I highly recommend using a specialised agency for technical roles.


If you can afford it and just want to make it someone else's problem, either of these options are fine. With decent processes and management you can find some excellent developers and have a really slick recruitment process.

But there's some fat here that can be trimmed. You could take it wholly to the other extreme.

Do It Yourself

Ignoring other responsibilities, priorities and even experience (or lack of) for a moment, doing recruitment yourself is still a viable alternative to spending $$$ on one (or both) of the above options.

On the face of it at least, it's really just about time. If you already know what job boards you want to post on, have an engaged audience on a major social network where developers in your community hang out and have a clear and well-presented hiring process, then it might not be too hard.

Assuming your company doesn't have tens of thousands of super-engaged devs following you on Twitter though, how would you go about pulling these applicants in?

I'll tell you now it's going to be tough if all you do is put a job ad online in a few places and leave it at that.

Chances are you'll get almost no applications and it will feel like a dripping tap. Or you'll get a torrent of all and sundry, which you'll then need to sift through and hopefully not miss an absolute gem!

💡 What about Google?

Have you ever tried using Google to find individual developers?

Go on, try it!

As you'll see, most search engines are really bad at this, returning a mix of job ads and job boards, or development agencies desperate for a new client. Why?

1. Developers aren't SEO experts

Search engine algorithms are complex beasts that require a lot of time and effort to 'game'. Not every developer is going to be looking to rank highly for search terms on Google or creating a personal brand.

Many developers don't even have a website or keep it up to date. This shouldn't be considered a bad sign at all. Many just don't have the time or inclination. While it's a nice addition to someone's portfolio, it's certainly not a requirement to get a job in tech.

2. Search engines don't work that way

Most search engines are intentionally a bit of an echo chamber. A popular result will stay popular precisely because it's deemed to be the kind of result that delivers on many users goals.

The search engine wants to be a rapid and accurate service. If none of the results get you an answer or grab your interest, they've done a poor job and you likely won't come back to them for that kind of search, which isn't good for them.

It's why this blog post is more likely to show up at the top of such a search than an actual developer's portfolio.

Google is arguably still the best at this (although AI is undoubtedly eating some of their lunch right now).

The typical behaviour of someone using Google is somewhat opposed to the activity of finding fresh needles in the giant haystack. The algorithm wants to serve you the best, most relevant result for the what it "thinks" your intent is.

Although they're getting good at interpreting intent, basic phrases like "laravel developers near me" are still quite ambiguous.

In this case, Google has massively misinterpreted our intent. Instead of looking for the single best resource about the loosely-defined subject of "laravel developers", we actually want a diverse range of results of actual Laravel developers.

Sadly, this means you're not likely to see many individual portfolios using this kind of search—unless you want to be diving down to page 200 of Google results just to find one?

Nope? Didn't think so.

Besides Google doesn't even let you go that far into their index! While they might claim they have over 2 million results for that search, they'll only ever show you the first few thousand, the ones they've deemed most relevant to the query you've used.

We could work on refining our search query and this may yield better results, but you'll still need to trawl through the results. I think you already know this is just going to be a waste of time.


So how do you go about finding devs somewhere in between the trickle and the torrent?

One way is to make sure that when you go through a hiring round, you genuinely do keep resumés on file and that you tap into that first when a new role opens up. How convenient this is going to be will depend largely on your tools and processes. Use an ATS, but note that some are better at this than others.

In almost 20 years, and after countless guarantees of "we'll keep you in mind for next time," I've only ever had approximately 3 companies come back to me later to see if I'd be interested in another role.

Of course, that's going to be useless if this is your first hiring round and you've got no pool of past candidates to draw from.

Hopefully, you'll be able to use your existing networks: try reaching out to past colleagues, ask friends and family if they know anyone, tap your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and any forums you're a part of–shared interests are a great place to start for a new recruit.

Better still, engage directly with potential hires and raise awareness of your business within the community by:

  • Doing outreach at events like Silicon Milkroundabout.
  • Sponsoring open source projects and local dev meetups.
  • Inviting developers in for open days, hackathons, or other events you put on.

And of course, you can use the tools that recruiters use.

Sourcing Platforms

You might have come across some of these: Hired, Haystack, hackajob, Cord, Otta, Braintrust... There are many more.

These started to spring up a few years ago as 'algorithmic' matching tools. They have tried to position themselves as a more technical, accurate and efficient solution—especially for hiring developers and related tech roles.

The essential feature of these platforms is to reverse the flow of attention and interest; instead of devs seeing job ads and applying to companies, the companies review profiles and "apply" to the devs—pitching why their company would be a great place for them to work.

And it works. I've had some of my best interviews and offers through these platforms. Both at startups and large enterprises.

Their matching systems are often little more than search filters and some niche string matching, but what they have done well is figuring out how to attract a lot of top talent to create profiles (mainly through incentives like hiring bonuses and scarcity, only allowing the top X% of talent in).

Some are also using AI to enhance the process further and can now add that sticker to their collection.

Pricing varies somewhat across each of them; some offer access to the platform on a monthly or annual subscription basis, others have more traditional fee-on-hire setups.

You're certainly not limited to using just one, but remember active candidates will likely be on all of them as well. So if you do choose to use multiple platforms, be prepared to spot duplicates.

The Platform for You and Your Recruiters

Whether you have in-house or outsourced recruiters, or you prefer to do it yourself, Laradir could be the perfect way to source the ideal candidates for your future Laravel vacancies!

Other platforms have niched down to developers, but they're still playing a 'big mumbers' game and that means they'll never be content with a single platform or language, like Laravel; they've got to go after everything—PHP, Ruby, Python, Javascript, Go, Rust etc etc.

And that's fine. Many companies have a wide technology base, with multiple teams using different languages, frameworks and tools. If that's your situation, I highly recommend reaching out to some of the platforms mentioned above and finding out if they'd be the right fit for your hiring needs.

But if you know that you want/need Laravel developers, then what you really want is a 'Hired/Otta/Cord for Laravel devs'. And that's exactly what Laradir is... for a fraction of the cost.

Because I know Laravel deeply and I've interviewed hundreds of Laravel developers, I know how to screen good Laravel developers. Every developer profile that's live on the site right now has been through that process.

And I'm building Laradir into something for far more than just job matching! With ongoing active development, hundreds of new Laravel developers are joining every month, keeping their profiles up to date and staying engaged with the platform.

In the past 6 weeks alone, the directory has grown over 130%!

So there's every chance your next great Laravel hire is in the directory right now!

I recently launched monthly pricing, so it's even more accessible, ideal if you're just hiring for a few roles short-term.

And there's still a few days left to get your hands on the steeply-discounted annual plan, which will be great if you've got bigger hiring plans in 2024 and 2025.

There's never been a better time than right now to sign up for a Teams account (it's free to sign up, no card required) and get whoever's hiring your Laravel engineers to come find them right here.

I'd love to help you find the perfect match!

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