Case study: The story of FirstBlood

FirstBlood is an Esports and gaming company that builds products for over 300,000 gamers across the globe.

FirstBlood is an Esports and gaming company that builds products for over 300,000 gamers across the globe. Being a startup of 42 employees and contractors from 22 countries, every team member counts. FirstBlood, a remote first company, was able to hire software developers using Stack Overflow Talent and build a talent pool to deliver its products.  

The Challenge

FirstBlood develops two products, one being the platform the company is named after for PC and console games, and the other is called Mana and for the audience of the more mobile and casual gamers. 

When FirstBlood had the vision to grow, not only globally distributed but fully remote team, they had to build a hiring process that helps them identify candidates that work well on remote teams. 

Their CTO, Mikko Ohtamaa, says that having a large candidate base was a requirement so that they could find the right people to help them grow. 

When they recently recruited for a DevOps and a frontend developer position, Ohtamaa says he noticed the higher demand for remote work in 2020. “It’s understandable”, he says “We ask people for the reason they are looking for a job, and many of them said, they don’t want to go back to an office ever.”

Screenshot of a video call between FirstBlood employees

FirstBlood employees at an all hands meeting

Compared to recruiting locally, an open remote position on Stack Overflow Talent gets applications in the hundreds instead of dozens.

The solution

First of all, you need to source candidates that will work well in a remote environment. Ohtamaa has found Stack Overflow a great source. Not only do the job listings allow him to get really clear on the tech stack used at FirstBlood, the specific targeting of job ads across Stack Overflow allowed the team to get the right eyes on them in the first place.

To identify if a developer is motivated and organized enough to work remotely, Ohtamaa looks for good communication skills and the work they have done. For the former, candidates go through an interview process including a code assignment where they are also rated on their communication skills, when writing about the choices they have made.

“We tend to hire senior developers,” says Ohtamaa, “that might not reflect in age, but it means you have worked with other people on a Github, you know how to ask questions, that sort of thing.”

It’s one thing to write code that is working, but what is important on a team is that you write concisely and clearly about changes you have made in a pull request.

As for the work they have done, Ohtamaa says open-source plays a huge role in rating candidates. “If I can see a candidate’s contribution to an open-source project, it shows me a lot about how they are able to be contributors on larger projects. The easiest here might be seeing a project on NPM or PyPi. Or if it is a larger project, seeing the track record of a developers comment does the same job.

Stack Overflow is another great way to gauge a candidate’s ability to communicate well. Here you can see both that they are knowledgeable and that they are able to share this knowledge with teammates in ways that are helpful.

Ohtamaa really valued the extra information he could get around each candidate that applied via Stack Overflow.

Not only are developers more likely to keep their developer story updated on Stack Overflow, Ohtamaa is convinced it is another way to guard against imposters: “You can pretty much fake everything on your resume, but you cannot fake a github contribution or Stack Overflow answer.”

Him and his team appreciate the evaluation it offers for candidates before even meeting.

The result

In total FirstBlood has hired 16  developers of their overall 20-people-strong engineering team, via Stack Overflow. They were able to find frontend-, backend-, full-stack-, mobile, DevOps and QA developers all through the Talent platform. To get a feel for the number of applications this meant, their CTO broke the hiring funnel down for us. The example was for the role of a DevOps and a full-stack developer. 

Stack Overflow has been such a great resource for candidates, that we made them our primary resources these days. We have hired 16 developers via Stack Overflow.

As a remote company, FirstBlood receives a lot of applications and can draw from a pretty much global hiring pool. So their process includes job listings and job ads on Stack Overflow Talent and drives that traffic to a Google Form. 

With the targeting applied for the job listing ads on Stack Overflow Talent, FirstBlood was able to get the tech stack experience they were looking for. They asked candidates to rate their experience in the google form.   Technology stacks change and evolve constantly, so FirstBlood is aware this is something that needs to be revisited to make sure you are still targeting the right candidate. “What makes a lot of sense for us is to divide the required techs into nice to have and must-have in the job listings. The must-haves being the technologies we already have, but the nice to haves showing us a candidate that might later down the line lead the efforts to integrate a new technology internally,” explains Ohtamaa.

Technology candidates are familiar with. Data FirstBlood got from their Google Form.

For the DevOps job thousands viewed the offer this way, the number of applicants came to 203. Ohtamaa says, since interviews are time-consuming they invite only a handful of people. Only five candidates were interviewed. “As the interviewed candidates were very strong, the deciding factor was good communication skills, prior experience with our technology stack, and motivation to work in FirstBlood.” In the end, 1 was hired. This makes the number of applications to hire value 0.49% “A little harder than Harvard (4%) but not as bad as becoming an astronaut at 0.04%” Ohtamaa points out.

For a more general position, the hire rate was even lower. Over 500 applied. Here FirstBlood selected 24 who were invited to take a coding test. Seven completed it, scoring themselves an interview. Two were hired in this round. 

The ability to target job listings quite granularly to the specific talent, means Ohtamaa was able to recruit pretty much all technical roles on the platform. “From generalist full-stack developers, or QA testers to more niche roles like flutter developers or DevOps we have always been impressed by the quality of the candidates we can attract via Stack Overflow Talent.”

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