Microsoft’s GitHub Purchase Makes Sense as Candidates Sour on Job Boards

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Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been watching the online-recruiting world over the last few years.

On Monday the Redmond-based giant announced an agreement to acquire the 28 million-member software development community for $7.5 billion in stock. Microsoft said it expects the deal to close by the end of the year, and that GitHub will continue to operate independently.

For recruiters, the deal is notable for two reasons. First and most obvious: Microsoft also owns LinkedIn. Second and more subtle: a number of talent acquisition specialists say that the top candidates for difficult-to-fill positions—such as, for example, software developers and engineers—are abandoning LinkedIn and traditional job boards for more specialized communities.

Users of these communities, communities like GitHub, feel they’re able to concentrate on what interests them without being bombarded by recruiters who aren’t even close to being subject matter experts. The recruiters who use such sites tend to abide by both the written and unwritten rules of their communities and develop relationships for the long term.

“[R]ecruiters and vendors need to get used to the reality that Microsoft now owns the two most popular professional networking sites on the net,” wrote Joel Cheesman noted on ERE. “And as a result, it owns the two most important sourcing platforms in existence.”

For some time LinkedIn has been among the job sites to beat, so far as its competitors are concerned. Last year, Microsoft said LinkedIn had 500 million users and 10 million job ads. At the time, Fortune reported that an estimated 260 million of those users were active each month. Meanwhile, in its 2017 Sources of Hire report, onboarding platform provider SilkRoad said LinkedIn delivered 29 percent of all hires made through job boards, behind CareerBuilder’s 39 percent and ahead Craig’s List’s 16 percent. (Craig’s List is the competitor job boards—in particular, specialty job boards—don’t like to talk about, but that’s another story.

Microsoft says it intends to allow GitHub to continue operating independently “to provide an open platform for all developers in all industries.” If you talk to people at LinkedIn, there’s no immediate reason to question that. LinkedIn staffers say its new parent has pretty much stayed out of its way, and when Redmond itself talks about LinkedIn, it tends to focus on how some of its features can be incorporated into Office 365.

During a conference call Monday, the companies said Microsoft will extend GitHub’s enterprise services and work them into its existing sales and partner channels.

When Microsoft purchased LinkedIn, it faced a wave of criticism for making changes that were either already in the works or had actually been launched before the acquisition. LinkedIn seems to be the tool many recruiters love to hate, and for a time Microsoft became an attractive target, despite the fact that it hadn’t made any changes to the product and was proceeding carefully as the two companies’ teams began getting to know each other.

Recruiters may be persnickety, but they’ve got nothing on technology professionals. We can’t imagine a company of software developers will wave red meat in front of one of the foremost communities of… software developers. That’s what DHI Group, parent of tech job board, unintentionally did when it tried to change Slashdot’s interface in 2014. Users rebelled. (DHI Group sold Slashdot in 2016.) We doubt Microsoft will make the same mistake.

We don’t expect to hear a lot of talk about incorporating GitHub into Office, since it and LinkedIn serve different worlds. But it’s hard to consider this news without thinking that Microsoft has become exceedingly interested in the worlds of recruiting, job-hunting and professional development. If there’s a secret sauce to recruiting technology, Microsoft has put itself in a good position to develop a recipe.

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