Developers: Your Code Is Showing, And Future Employers Are Checking It Out

Gild Source, a new tool from recruitment and hiring company Gild, lets prospective bosses grade hackers' credentials by going straight to the source (code).

Sheeroy Desai is the CEO of Gild, which gives companies and recruiters tools to make their hiring process smarter and more meritocratic. Last week, it launched a tool called Gild Source specifically designed to help your company hire smart developers, by crawling applicants’ code and scoring it. Though Gild Source doesn’t typically run cheap--pricing can be as high as $700 a month--the company today announces Gild Source for Startups, with half-off pricing available for some qualifying startups.

FAST COMPANY: What is Gild?

SHEEROY DESAI: We believe the way companies hire people is broken. We want to help companies find those hidden gems of talent out there. Gild is about bringing meritocracy back into recruiting.

This sounds like terrible news for nepotists everywhere.

Probably!

Your latest product, Gild Source, is specifically about helping companies hire talented developers. How does Gild Source work?

Traditionally companies might go to LinkedIn or do Internet searches. It’s all based off of keyword searching, and it’s based off of self-reported skills: someone just says, "I’m a Ruby on Rails developer." We don’t do that. Our approach is to gather all the information on developers we can verify. We look at sites where developers are spending their time contributing to open source projects, and we download these publicly available projects. We analyze that code through a machine learning system, and we score it. Then we make that information available to companies and recruiters.

You use algorithms to score the quality of people's code? Isn’t that subjective?

We have the viewpoint that there are certain patterns to really good developers. Great developers are very skilled in a few languages, but love to experiment with many different languages. We also have a viewpoint that great developers work incrementally on their code. They’ll write a small piece, publish it, test it, and then they’ll come back every few days and continue to build on it. Our algorithms detect all those things.

Don’t most people hack under handles, or pseudonyms?

Some developers will publish code under a handle. Sometimes they put their name on it, sometimes not. But usually inside the code, they’ll put their name in. We go into the code and extract that information.

How do you tell apart one Michael Smith hacker from the other?

We're pretty good at that. We have an algorithm to check for multiple signs this is the same person. We take what we do pretty seriously.

Didn’t Mark Zuckerberg solve the problem of hiring developers in The Social Network? You just hold drunken hackathons.

Maybe Mark Zuckerberg can get away with getting people to spend a whole night coding for free. But most companies don’t have the brand to do that.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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6 Comments

  • Eric B Rice

    "Great developers are very skilled in a few languages, but love to experiment with many different languages"

    I'd also love to see it acknowledged that development skills are not language-specific. A deep understanding of computers and computer concepts should trump whether those concepts are applied in C, Java, Python, or FORTRAN 77. And great developers are able to translate their knowledge and skills to new languages with a very quick learning period. 

  • Ggranaone

     sounds like vapor ware to me. It does not address the many and probably majority of developers which are working in corporate or software development companies where propriety and discreteness is paramount. How can this software quanitfy and judge this large body of non open source programmers? Also, how is the comparison made? against design patterns? can it interpret against multiple languages? Not all developers use a best practice (common knowledge) approach to their algorithms.

  • siddmaini

    I agree with you John. This is another example of a guy who has managed to sell some fancy but not that useful product to companies. An algorithm that scores coding? Give me a break! How does he account for how the working environment in a company would affect the coders ability to code? Mr. Desai seems to be living in an analytical cloud.

  • johncoryat

    I disagree with this approach...

    What if the coder doesn't work on open source projects? What if their contribution to open source is to projects that are obscure?

    "Great developers are very skilled in a few languages, but love to experiment with many different languages."

    That's bullpucky. Great developers work with a few languages and rarely waste their time and effort on experimenting with others. They would be penalized by this system. Personally, I prefer to be great on just a few and only work on other languages when I'm forced. I would rather waste my extra brain chemicals on doing non-coding tasks, like enjoying the world or playing with my daughter.

    I think the bottom line is an algorithm can't tell you that a coder is good or bad. It will only give another piece of confusing information.

    Then again, what do I know?

  • Sheeroy

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the feedback. One limitation of this format is that our conversation loses some context in the editing process. 

    While we recognize our solution is not perfect, we believe we are headed in the right direction -- showcasing developers based on merit versus traditional factors like where they went to school or where they have worked. Open source repositories and forums like StackOverflow provide deep and meaningful information about developers based on what they are doing. Developers who are not active on these forums clearly do not show up in our system - but we are working on ideas to broaden our reach beyond open source communities. 

    Also, most of our customers (Salesforce, RedHat, Akamai, Facebook included) will tell you they have found an immense increase in the quality of developers they interview since they started using Gild Source. It's important to note that the point of Gild is not to disqualify developers, but to find those who might be otherwise overlooked. From that perspective our algorithms do work, but we agree -- other factors matter and we constantly seek to improve our accuracy.

    Hope this helps,

    Sheeroy

  • Eric B Rice

    Also, great engineering isn't going to be reflected in coding patterns. It's going to be reflected in broader design patterns and organization that is at a higher level of abstraction from code. A great developer isn't someone who writes very clean, nice, readable, functional code with desired features. A great developer is one who is able to build a code base that meets customers' needs and does so reliably, efficiently, and securely. Those are all measured by context, not by analyzing code.