Hacking Developer Auction

or: "A Developer Hacks Developer Auction".. with a tracking pixel. It's one of the oldest tricks in the book. Also, maybe you hate words and want to skip to my data and results.

As a programmer, I am constantly talking with companies about their problems or how bad their team wants me to join them on their mission. I am also somewhat fascinated by how weird and alien the whole hiring process is, even though I have way better things to be doing that are fun and not alienating.

There's huge demand for software talent. But there's also a great deal of inefficiency in how that talent is hired. You can smell the inefficiency. A "hiring pipeline" is effectively a euphemism for "waste water pipeline" -- that's what the stench is, folks.

For example, I particularly don't enjoy how recruiters ask to schedule a call, while failing to include their availability in the initial email. This means there's going to be at least two more emails to confirm availability and pick a time.

That goes for everyone in the pipeline: when you ask to speak with an interviewer or some company, include your availability in that email.

And nobody ever looks at your work on GitHub or any other public source code, bleh.

Developer Auction

I was interested in something different. I figured Developer Auction was just the right type of different that I wanted to try. As I was poking around on their server (these dudes were seriously way cool when they called me out on this, my bad), I discovered that I could insert a tracking pixel into my profile. I'll summarize that data shortly.

Here's the skinny on Developer Auction. They exist to help reduce some of that market inefficiency in hiring developer talent. Developers build a portfolio and account that they submit to Developer Auction. After some review and polish, Developer Auction might select a particular developer for inclusion in the next upcoming auction.

For developers, the basic idea is that companies submit "bids". These are offers that include salary, remote work, vacation, bonuses, healthcare, or other benefits. The developer has the option to accept offers they find appealing, which launches a modal dialog where you write a note of availability to the company. There are other options like "inappropriate compensation" and "no thanks" which do roughly the same thing.

Developer Auction gets recruiter fees, then splits 20% of the recruiter fees with the developer as an incentive to report any hiring.


Here follows some general complaints about the process. I am absolutely certain that Developer Auction will nail these mechanics. But for now they are worth complaining about.

It's a little confusing about which button to press when responding to an offer, because really nobody should agree to salary that quickly, and there are often situations where more or less salary or other benefits can be used to win a developer's heart.

The truth is that it's not actually an auction. I am not sure what a real auction would look like in this situation anyway. But companies can definitely submit lower offers after other companies submit higher offers. I found myself asking Developer Auction how exactly that worked.. it turns out that companies don't see the other bids until they make an initial offer, because Developer Auction is worried about companies only bidding on a certain group of candidates.

There were other mechanics issues that plagued me. Developers are told to type up a profile in Markdown, and there are three examples given. But the examples look a little fake- very little content or engineering experience (e.g., someone just graduated), then on the side there's a $200k offer and a $220k offer or whatever. That's... not normal and there's no way that everyone is getting $220k offers on Developer Auction.

But what sort of "caption" are you supposed to write, and how are you supposed to show it? Beats me. I tested a few different titles, but there's so little traffic flowing to your profile that the data is worthless. On average, there were about 2 or 3 profile views per day. But it was very spiky, at most 10 to 15 in a day. More information about how that title/caption is shown to companies would be helpful. What about avatars, do those matter? Do they matter more than a profile? Again, who knows.


Don't even bother with a location outside of San Francisco. You get even less profile views. I am not sure what incentives there are for a developer to be honest about their location on Developer Auction.

In fact, why require mentioning it at all? For companies that are willing to relocate candidates, it's not important. For individuals that are willing to relocate, it's not important to tell anyone either.

The only reason it might matter is if a candidate doesn't want to move, but there's no option for that situation. I would rather have the profile shown for all companies, rather than auto-changing my location every 5 minutes to show up in different search results.

Remote candidates do not seem particularly welcome at Developer Auction. Some of the companies expressed an interest, but they all claim that you can't be a team when remote. It's really insulting to hear that my friendships are fake or my culture is fake. I'm totally willing to show up at an office for the right offer, but don't lie to me.

My guess is that recruiters often scoff at remote culture because they think it's impossible, or they have never experienced it, or they are angry that some people are capable of closing those sorts of deals.

Really, companies balk when they see the word "remote". Even if you're completely fine with showing up at an office, and maybe you squeeze in a word about how cool remote work would be, they immediately think you work only remote. Ugh.

I have experienced the promised land and it is fantastic.

OK. Before I show some data, I want to give a shout to the Developer Auction team. Those guys have been highly responsive to my bug reports and complaints. They have considered the mechanics of these auctions carefully, and I hope they update their site to show more evidence of their forethought.


My tracking pixel was born and raised on Clicky.

Here's visitors:

Here's uniques:

Here's how cities were represented:

Clicky sometimes knew them already:

Neat trick: I figured out how to share a link to my profile (http://developerauction.com/list/bryan-bishop), shown here

Finally, in the interest of helping other developers decide how to structure their profile, here's what my profile looked like.

Closing thoughts

Developer Auction claims that you will receive 5 to 15 "detailed" offers or invitations to talk with companies. Based on my data, I don't think 15 is true for anyone on this site. That would have to be an offer rate of 18-25%. So 1 out of every 4 candidates being an exact match to a given employer? That would be huge. But it's not happening.

I think Developer Auction has a good idea- reduce the inefficiencies in hiring talent- but there's a lot of room for improvement.

I am still open to new opportunities, because it turns out that Developer Auction offers take the same amount of time as any others, so there's still time to catch me. Here's how you can find me, plus a pile of tasty source code.