How to hire developers for a startup

With world accepting the fact that every company now is a tech company, no matter what its size or what product or service it offers, hiring the best developers is crucial to survival.

“Be really picky with your hiring, and hire the absolute best people you possibly can. People are the most important component of almost any business, and attracting the best talent possible is going to make a huge difference,” says Peter Berg, founder of the consulting firm October Three.

There is no disputing this, is there?

Finding people with the right skills, meeting salary and benefits expectations, competing with larger brands, and immigration regulations are perhaps the greatest hiring challenges for startups. What is incredible is that reports suggest that startups find raising finance easier than hiring the right talent!

Say, as a hiring manager, you're looking for people who relate to the problem your company is trying to solve. If they relate to it, they've also got to be motivated enough to tirelessly work on it. And if they're willing to assiduously work on it, they might also have to be agreeable to a much lesser salary, and add value to the company equity as well.

If you, by some miracle, manage to find such treasures, then you've still got to make sure that they fit the culture that you've envisioned for the company and then find ways to make them stay. So, you see, hiring a developer for a startup isn't as easy as you think it is.

In this post, we’ll bring you some great ways to source, screen, and interview developers without making a dent in your already stretched budget.

Source

Know who you need

Before you get all gung-ho about hiring developers, know what your requirements are. The more specific you are, the better filters you have. A defined set of skills will help you start looking in the right places. Also, this clarity in what you're looking for will come through in your communication (Read “What’s wrong with today’s tech job descriptions?” to understand how ambiguity can harm you). For example, do you want a database developer or a front-end developer? Are you sure you are not confusing a web designer  with a web developer?

Know where to look

One you have defined need, gathered inputs from all stakeholders, agreed on candidate specifications, the next step is to set up your search strategy. Sourcing refers to proactively identifying people who are:

  • Not actively looking for jobs (passive job seekers) or
  • Who are actively searching for jobs (active job seekers)1

If signing up for paid services is not an option, following are a few resources that you can tap into:

LinkedIn
  • Create a company page
  • Create a careers page
  • Publish engaging content
  • Get recommendations and testimonials
  • Use free ads
  • Participate in groups and discussions
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Google+
  • Creative job postings on the company’s page
  • Strengthen company presence, highlight employee achievements, events, encourage referrals
  • Engage in relevant discussions to spot possibilities and build your community
GitHub
  • Filter search results based on relevant criteria and reach out to people of interest
Stack Overflow
  • Search for candidates with specific skill-set in a particular location
  • Use the job listings portal
Reddit
  • Create a personal or company profile
  • Find relevant subreddits using keywords

 

Quora
  • Establish yourself as a thought leader
  • Identify domain experts, initiate conversations, and build relationships
Glassdoor
  • Sign up for an Enhanced Employer Profile
  • Promote your company brand
  • Gather metrics to fine-tune hiring strategy
Meetups and Developer events
  • Make connections and build mutually beneficial relationships with them
Hackathons
  • Network with exceptional talent and industry experts; build a talent pipeline
  • Conduct a recruiting hackathon

 

LinkedIn: Once you create an interesting profile and company page, you should create a careers page. Through engaging content, updates, and Q&A, recruiters can establish themselves as thought leaders. LinkedIn is great for creating a referral chain, getting recommendations/testimonials to humanize your brand, and sourcing talent by networking through new, past, and present contacts. LinkedIn Talent Solutions can help leverage the magic of data-driven recruiting to get the best people you can. Using free ads and participating in group discussions can be effective to increase the visibility of your brand among the developers and foster a relationship with them.

Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Google+, Instagram: As focal points of online interaction, these sites help you promote your company and culture through existing employees and cut through the noise and find niche networks using eye-catching ads, videos, anecdotes, photos, and hashtags.

GitHub: GitHub is an online project-hosting service site where developers share their open- source projects. Once you have a public account up and running, you can get contact info, websites she has chosen to display, number of followers, GitHub contributions, and repositories.

Stack Overflow: Stack Overflow is an online community for programmers to learn, share their knowledge, and advance their careers. Basic details and summary about programmers are accessible; use the right filters to refine your search. For passive candidates, check out the Careers section. Remember to engage in meaningful discussions with people of interest.

 Reddit: Reddit is an online community where users submit content, such as text posts or direct links, in very specific “subreddits.” Developers and thought leaders ask questions and discuss technology-related topics here. This can be a valuable source of highly skilled programmers. Note that Reddit has its own Boolean search terminology.

 Quora: Quora is a Q&A site which facilitates social interactions and interesting conversations. You will need to first build your reputation, for example, by answering questions on hiring. You can identify domain experts by going through topics of interest and initiate conversations. Although Quora many not help you source candidates directly, it will help you design a more relevant hiring strategy.

Glassdoor: A promising tool for recruiting, Glassdoor exerts a huge social influence on job aspirants. People go on Glassdoor to write or read anonymous reviews about companies and company life. So, this is where you need to build an awesome brand, while being honest and transparent. Recruiters can gather valuable metrics from this site.

Meetups and developer events: Meetup.com unites people with shared professional interests. You can find potential candidates without having to go to any events as many of meetup’s groups and attendee lists are public. Once you’ve made your interest list and filtered your candidates, you can send them a personalized email. Developer events can give you an opportunity to network with the most sort-out technical experts. You can make connections and build mutually beneficial relationships with them.

Hackathons: External hackathons are amazing places to network with exceptional talent and industry experts. You can skillfully build a talent pipeline of hardworking, smart, and passionate programmers by attending the right events.

***This is just a quick look at each channel. Download “9 Ways to hire better programmers,” a free e-book, for more information, including valuable hacks, to leverage these sources as best as you can.

Screen

Now you move on screening the candidates. Applicant tracking systems and other recruiting tools have made recruiters’ lives so much easier by cutting down on the cost, time, and effort they invest in attracting, managing, and retaining employees.

In traditional tech hiring processes, you invite applications, screen manually, interview shortlisted candidates, and finally hire. But this process is not cost-effective, scalable, or very accurate. Some companies, such as HackerEarth or Codility, offer talent assessment software which helps you screen developers effortlessly via customized coding tests that are automatically evaluated. Detailed reports give you a near-perfect picture of what these people can really do. (Go here to read about some tips on how to pick the right tool.) You won’t be accused of any kind of bias either. Sometimes, researching their presence on social media gives you a snapshot of potential hires’ personal and professional personas.

If all you have is a résumé, how do you make sense of a promising developer’s résumé? “How to read an engineer's résumé - how much should you rely on it” should help you ensure that the applicant has more than endorsement to recommend him/her. Phone calls are a tricky way to vet candidates.

Interview

It is a two-way street. Both the candidate and you are going to be making some decisions here.

Once you have “ideal candidates” in your clutches, you try to decide if they:

  • Are passionate about what they are doing or excited about what they hope to do
  • Can communicate effectively
  • Have a good grasp of their area of expertise
  • Would be someone your team will enjoy working with

Hire for their knowledge of computing and flexibility than experience. Don’t ask for a programmer with 5 years Java, two years SQL, and 1,5 years Hibernate. Instead of this shopping list, find ways to explore their area of expertise and online presence (portfolios/GitHub). Ask them general questions and ask them to critique a platform or system or code. Engage in a dialogue with them about it and that can tell you a lot about their mental agility and problem-solving ability.

If you are a non-tech person, it is best you get someone (programmer, mentor, consultant) with some know-how to help you interview developers. For example, if you wanted to hire an android developer, what should you ask and what you should look for?

Like auditioning for a role in a play or a movie, you can make a prospective hire work with your team on a live project. Nothing reveals people’s real characteristics until you go to war with them, and every day at an early stage startup is going to be very war-like. See how a developer fares in the audition and the hiring decision will be very clear for you. Key metrics to track in an audition like this are competence, creativity in solving a problem, learning ability, approach to a new problem, and overall amicability.

Conclusion

Conventional ways of reaching out to developers looking for jobs and convincing them to join your startup aren’t going to work. You need to get the developers interested.

InfoWorld

Startup founders need to take a marketing approach to finding developers. Be in places you think the developers you're looking for will be present—meet-ups, IRC chatrooms, Hackathons, dev-conferences. Put the word out—your company’s message, the fact that you're looking for developers out in these circles, and what you're trying to solve. Hopefully, something should work out. Check out these sources we’ve mentioned and you should get some fantastic hires or at least expand your network appreciably.

Other valuable reads

Looking to conduct online coding tests to hire developers for your organization? Try HackerEarth Recruit free for 14 days to start creating tests for your candidates right away.


PS: For more such insights on tech recruitment, we invite you to join our LinkedIn group - "Yours Truly HR"

About the Author

Arpit Mishra
Avid book reading advocate. Hardcore travel nerd. Technology freak. Follow me on LinkedIn to get more Insights on Tech Recruitment.
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