Source Hidden Software Engineers on Quora

Editor’s note: This post is part of our Source the Web series here on SourceCon. It features articles on how to mine particular online data resources from experts like TalentBin’s Peter Kazanjy.

What is Quora?

Quora is a question-and-answer website created, edited and organized by its community of users. It is intended to be a source of knowledge that supplies real answers and content from people with first-hand experience — from doctors and economists, to writers and scientists. Quora aggregates questions and answers according to specific topics. Users can also edit questions and suggest edits.

 Quora went public in June 2010 and has been growing and developing ever since.

  • Quora gets approximately 85,800 unique visitors per day

  • Quora gets approximately 354,354 daily pageviews

  • Quora recently announced that its metrics are up 300 percent from 2012

Why Source on Quora?

Quora is an excellent place to source people because it does the organizing for you. On Quora, people are arranged by their interests in order to make it easy for users to collect and share information that is valuable to them. Subsequently, you can quickly pinpoint a particular profession and immediately find and identify experts in that field. And because Quora’s content is controlled and managed by its users, information posted by the most authoritative and experienced individuals organically becomes the most visible. In other words, Quora’s setup automatically places highly qualified professionals directly in your line of sight.

How is Quora professionally relevant?

Quora is a site designed to provide knowledgeable, detailed answers to specific questions, so its users tend to be professionals with experience and expertise in their particular field of study. Scientists respond to questions about science, computer programmers respond to technical questions about coding and development, etc. As a result, Quora’s various topic threads become gathering spots for established professionals from all over the world.

What is the core activity that goes on there?

Quora has several types of content — questions and answers, comments, blogs and, more recently, reviews. Users can ask a question and have it answered, or search for a particular question and read through its series of answers. Blogs written by professionals offer more in-depth information for those seeking it, and reviews provide community members with valuable insight based on real-life, first-hand experiences.

How is Quora’s core activity structured?

Activity on Quora is arranged according by topic and by people. Your newsfeed will show you the questions posed by the people and topics you follow; however, you can also discover new people via direct topic searches.

Questions on Quora. When you log into Quora, you will see your newsfeed, which includes questions posed by the people you follow, along with the various accompanying answers. Just like Facebook, you can choose to organize your feed according to top stories, or according to the most recent stories. The right-hand pane offers other options, such as viewing unanswered questions, viewing all of the current questions on Quora, or viewing questions and answers related to current trending topics.

Answers. To see answers to a particular question, simply click on the “Answers” link just below the question.

This will take you to the question’s specific answer page, which looks like this:

Not only will you be able to see the various answers to the question, but in the right-hand pane you will also see links to related questions and answers, as well as statistics on the question, i.e., how many people have viewed it, how many people are following it, and when the most recent activity occurred.

Topics on Quora.

Navigating to a particular topic on Quora is easy. Simply type the topic name into the Quora search bar. Like Google, it will automatically populate suggestions based on what you type. For example, typing in “java” brings up “javascript,” “java,” “javascript frameworks,” etc.

Selecting “javascript” will navigate you to a search results page that rounds up all questions on the topic:

You have the option to review results by trending posts, questions or top stories, and Quora will also suggest following the topic you just searched for. Each topic has its own Topic page, too:

And topic Followers are a great way to find people interested in a topic:

And potentially more powerful, because like most user generated content sites, the majority of Quora’s users read questions and answers, and vote on them — as opposed to actually asking and answering questions. Thus by seeing who’s following certain topics — even if they’re not actively asking / answering questions, we can sniff out people who have the professional acumen we’re looking for. If you follow the topic, you will then see questions related to that topic in your feed whenever you log into your Quora account.

People on Quora.

There are numerous ways to find people on Quora. If your account is linked to your Facebook account, you will be able to follow your Facebook friends who use Quora. You can also search for people via e-mail address, or you can identify experts in specific fields by following people who provide the most thoughtful answers and content on a regular basis. Another way of finding people on Quora is to simply pose a direct question. For example:

How can I make use of the activity on Quora?

Looking at the various questions that people pose, as well as any linked, related questions, is a useful way to come across experts in a specific field. Observing and monitoring the activity of influencers and top posters can lead to the discovery of other talented individuals working in that particular industry.

Finding top candidates on Quora. Quora can be a powerful search tool for recruiters. As demonstrated above, you can simply pose a direct question to find out the top professionals in a particular field:

Alternatively, you can follow a particular topic and identify potential candidates by taking note of who regularly contributes the most thoughtful, accurate and high-quality content. These people are immediately apparent because Quora’s users vote for the best answers, and the answers with the most votes are automatically pushed to the top of the discussion thread:

In the thread above, it is clear that Tyler Tak Kuhn knows what he’s talking about when it comes to Javascript. His answer to a question posed about Javascript frameworks received 42 votes—significantly more than the other 22 answers to the original question. In addition, there is a high probability that the users who gave Tyler their vote of confidence are also experts in their field, which means it would be worthwhile to check out their Quora profiles and activity as well. Any number of the Quora users involved in this question-and-answer thread could be potential candidates.

Another great way to find potential candidates on Quora is to search for a specific topic and take a look at the people who follow it. For example, if we pull up the topic “JavaScript” and click on “Followers,” we’ll see a page that looks like this:

Another option is to search for specific company names. For example, if you are interested in finding people with expertise in Hadoop, you can type in “Cloudera” and find out what sort of activity is happening around the company:

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Clicking through questions and posts centered around a certain company is another method for finding potential candidates in specific industries.

Identifying Qualified Candidates.

Quora provides numerous indicators for identifying potential quality candidates. As previously mentioned, users who consistently provide thoughtful answers and expertise will stand out because their content will be pushed to the top of multiple discussion threads under a particular topic. But once you identify these users, how do you dig deeper into their profile to glean more data about them? Let’s use our old friend Tyler Tak Kuhn as an example. As we saw earlier, Tyler provided a great answer to a very technically specific question about Javascript. We know his answer was good because it got 42 votes for best answer and was subsequently pushed to the top of the question-and-answer discussion thread.

Clicking on Tyler’s name will take us to his profile where we can find out more about him:

 

Looking at Tyler’s profile, a few things are immediately apparent. He’s a student at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and he’s interested in junior developer positions in San Francisco. By clicking through his profile, we can find out what questions he has posed, what answers he has submitted, and what topics he follows. We can also examine the style of his questions and answers to get an idea of his demeanor and professionalism. Each of these components offer insight into Tyler’s qualifications and experience. Looking at who Tyler follows and who follows him is another excellent way to find potential candidates.

We can see what Tyler follows on his Topics page, which is good, because while some folks answer questions on Quora, the majority end up reading and voting on things — so seeing what they follow is a great way to get insights into professional skills that they haven’t answered questions related to.

We can also check out Tyler’s other social profiles if he links to them off of Quora, like for instance, his Facebook and Twitter profiles, which are linked on his profile.

Another great way of getting more contextual information to qualify candidates is with the use of portable social profile plugins like TalentBin’s Social Lookup plugin for the Google Chrome browser:

Another way to find candidates is to conduct a search on a specific topic. For example, if you search for “Google programmers,” you will be taken to a page with all questions related to that topic.

You can immediately see that Gayle Laakmann McDowell, author and ex-Google employee has answered a question about programmers. Clicking on her name will take you to her profile:

Gayle follows 477 people, and it is likely that many of those people are established programmers and developers. Let’s take a look:

Right off the bat, you can see that she is following some very educated and successful people. Clicking through to their profiles will lead you to their activity on Quora, and to the people who interact with them. All of these people are potential candidates with valuable experience and expertise.

Executing Outreach

Once you’ve identified a candidate you’d like to contact, you can send them a direct message by clicking on the “Message” button on their profile page. In this case, we’ll use one of the people followed by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, Moishe Lettvin, a software engineer at Google. Clicking on his message button will result in a pop-up box appearing:

You can now compose a message introducing yourself and stating your purpose. Best of all, the message you send will be forwarded to the user’s actual e-mail account, and not a separate Quora inbox. It is a much more direct means of communication, and far less likely to be ignored. In addition, recruiters can emphasize to candidates that they were selected and contacted after numerous other profiles of comparable Quora users were viewed, and recruiters can also reference the candidate’s specific questions, answers and other Quora activity to demonstrate the thorough research that was done prior to reaching out.

What you’ve learned and why it’s important.

Quora is a question-and-answer website that is organized in a way that is conducive to recruiters who are searching for new talent and potential candidates. Quora can be a powerful recruiting tool because it tends to attract users who are experts in their field of study, and its search functions make it easy to hone in on particular topics related to various professions. Most importantly, you now know that you can follow and monitor relevant industry topics to keep tabs on the movers and shakers in your specific fields of interests, and you can quickly and easily contact Quora users directly, should you identify a potential qualified candidate.

Pete Kazanjy is the founder of TalentBin, what might just be the world's coolest talent search engine. Nothing gets him more excited than thinking about how to help recruiters and sourcers make use of all the wonderful professional breadcrumbs candidates trail across the web nowadays. He's got a thing for purple squirrel hunting, and you can follow him at @kazanjy and TalentBin's team at @talentbinhiring

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