Top 10 Tips for Hiring a Software Developer at a Startup
Any startup can become a champion, but only if they stack their bench with first round draft picks. In other words, in the highly competitive software industry, simply hiring any random software developer won’t do. So we’ve compiled our Top 10 tips for hiring a software developer at a startup so you can be sure that only all star developers end up on your team.
To be sure, startups can have some unique challenges when it comes to recruiting the best of the best. For one thing, you’re often working with limited resources. That means you can’t always afford to pay top salary for the best talent.
To get over this particular hump, you need to be creative in your approach, offering equity or other forms of compensation that will attract the right kind of candidates. You also need to be prepared to move quickly; the best talent gets snatched up quickly. Plus, showing how fast you move from the opening tip will weed out the slow-starters and help you find a developer who can keep up with the pace of change.
Moreover, to find the best talent, you need to be aware of the competition and understand the different global markets for software developers:
- The US is the most competitive market for software developers. There are many big companies that are always looking for the best developers and are willing to pay top dollar for talented developers. In other words, everyone is looking, the corporate pockets are deep, and there is a limited supply of great developers.
- Europe is another hot market for software developers, though finding a developer in Western Europe is often as challenging as finding one in America. This means that you need to be more creative when it comes to finding and hiring software engineers on that continent. To this end, Eastern Europe is an awesome offshore destination for hiring cost-effective developers for startups in Western Europe and the US alike.
- Latin America is an increasingly competitive market in which to hire software developers. Though there are fewer native startups and big companies there that could soak up the talent, many American startups have discovered the strong developer skills in Latin America and are actively hiring in that region. Thus, though it’s easier to find and hire a software developer in Latin America than it is in Western Europe or America, you still need to do the strategic recruiting work.
If you’re up for the challenge, recruiting top dev talent for a startup can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Just remember to take your time, be clear about what you’re looking for, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. With a little effort you’re sure to find the perfect match for your company. After all, whether you’re looking to hire a software developer in America or offshore, the basic principles are the same—you want to find an engineer who is compatible with your company culture and shares your vision for the future.
By following these steps below, you can learn how to hire a software developer who is perfect for your startup–or you can always just call the pros here at TurnKey and we can handle it all for you :).
List of Content
- Before You Begin, First Define The Profile of Your Ideal Candidate
- Next Step: Explore The Market
- Now It’s Time to Define The Recruiting Strategy and Plan
- Finally, Build a Streamlined Hiring Funnel Using Our Top 10 Tips!
- Things to Avoid When Hiring a Developer for Your Startup
- How Can TurnKey Help You Find an Awesome Developer for Your Startup?
Before You Begin, First Define The Profile of Your Ideal Candidate
On one hand, you want a developer who is adaptable and can wear many hats. On the other, you need a developer with the skills and experience to hit the ground running and take your product to the next level. So which do you pick? There are a few key things to help you decide this existential question when recruiting developers for your startup.
First, it’s essential to define the profile of the ideal engineering candidate. You have to find a developer with the right skill set, but the right attitude and personality is just as important. A few questions will help you figure out what kind of candidate you’re looking for:
- What type and level of seniority do you need?
- What technologies do they need to be familiar with?
- Do you want them to be leaders or contributing members of a team?
- What kind of personality would fit in best with your product team?
Answering these questions will help you determine the exact kind of candidate you need— someone who meets your key requirements and is passionate about your product. Once you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, you can start reaching out to potential candidates.
Next Step: Explore The Market
There are countless variables to consider when hiring software developers, including which location to build the dev team as well as salary: how much should you offer to pay a software developer?
The market for software developers is constantly changing, and what might be thought of as a fair salary in one country could be considered low in another. The best way to navigate the market is to choose a trusted partner like TurnKey and benefit from all our real-time data on compensation – or you can do your own research and talk to as many people as possible.
Your goal should be to get a sense of what different companies are offering with regard to talent and the specific costs involved in hiring them. With that knowledge in hand, you’ll be in a much better position to hire the right software developer for your needs—and all without breaking the bank.
Now It’s Time to Define The Recruiting Strategy and Plan
When looking to hire software developers, you need to take into account a range of factors such as team size, the skill sets required, and the budget. But the most important factor—and the one that affects all the others—is the recruiting strategy.
There are a handful of different strategies that can be used, including in-house recruiting teams, agency partners, and offshore software development companies. Each has both advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to choose the right one for the specific needs of your startup.
We might be biased, but working with a trusted partner (like TurnKey!) for your offshore hiring is the optimal way to go. As an offshore software development recruiting partner, we care about the quality of the candidates we source and the retention of the employees we help to hire. We also take care of all the administrative hassle of hiring offshore, including taxes and payroll.
And since TurnKey was founded by former startup founders, we know all the tips for hiring a software developer at a startup and can put all our hard earned lessons learned to work for you.
Finally, Build a Streamlined Hiring Funnel Using Our Top 10 Tips!
Most startups and high growth companies can’t afford to spend months searching for the perfect candidate, only to keep getting developers that don’t have the right skills or aren’t a good culture fit. To avoid this, you need to build a streamlined hiring funnel. (Or again, just hire TurnKey since this is what we do all day, every day!)
Over years of practice, we created and fine tuned an efficient hiring process that shortens the recruiting and hiring period to just one month for senior positions. Want to know how it works? Here’s a quick overview of the process and the core principles that help filter out the folks who likely won’t make the cut.
#1. Plan and track your hiring process precisely
Hiring a software developer at a startup can feel like herding cats. There are so many things to keep track of, and it’s easy for it to get out of control. Ironically, of course, keeping track of your hiring process is the one key task that you can’t afford to neglect.
The good news is that there are systems and notations that can help you adhere to your set strategy and nail the important details of recruiting. One of the options to use is a management tool like Airtable. With it, you can create a database of all the candidates you’ve interviewed, including information on their skills, experience, and fit for the job. You can also use Airtable to create a timeline for each candidate, so you can keep track of when you need to follow up and make sure the process is moving forward.
Another tool that can streamline your recruiting progress tracking is Noty.ai. It is a platform that transforms video calls and meetings into notes, action items, and follow-ups. When it comes to interviewing potential team members, Noty.ai helps you pay more attention to how well they fit with the company and forget about the routine.
Using a tool like Airtable or Noty.ai may not make recruiting any easier, but it will help you keep your process organized and under control. And in the chaotic world of startup recruiting, that’s half the battle.
#2. Shortlist candidates with the must-have skills
Focus on must-have skills rather than nice-to-have skills. In the early stages of a startup, it’s more important to have a developer who can get the job done quickly and efficiently than one with a broad resume.
Also, don’t underestimate the importance of communication skills. A good developer will not only be able to code, they’ll also be able to explain their code to non-technical team members.
Finally, don’t be afraid to test candidates with a real-life problem that your company has encountered. This will give you a good idea of their coding ability as well as their problem-solving skills.
#3. Don't let a resume be your only deciding factor
Asking the right questions during the interview process to check a candidate’s technical background is essential to hiring great software engineers. But don’t forget to make sure you check their resume for truthfulness!
And keep in mind that the resume should not be the only deciding factor. Hone in on open-ended questions that get past where they worked and what they did there. You could discover a specialty they didn’t list, glimpse their inspiration or passion, or learn about another language they speak that could help your company.
#4. Evaluate their real-life problem-solving skills
Hypothetical problem-solving or learning what they did when everything was going right can be useful, but will not reveal the full potential of the candidate. Instead, it’s better to ask them how they would solve a real problem that your workers faced during the development process.
In an interview, famous tech entrepreneur Elon Musk shared what skills he looks for when hiring:
For example, ask if the candidate could tell you about a time when they had to develop a complex piece of software in a short period of time. Or if they can tell you about an obstacle they faced (e.g. lack of resources or inexperience), along with the solution they came up with and the positive result.
This type of story tells you not only about the candidate’s ability to achieve results but also about how they approach adversity and how resourceful they are under pressure.
#5. Assess culture fit
You want your team members to be compatible with each other and have the same professional values—meaning, everyone fits within a similar work culture.
The future team member’s values and goals will directly affect the results and quality of the work of an entire team, and maybe, even the entire startup. So pay attention to the basics and the candidate’s attitude towards development, feedback, and work in general. If you feel a good vibe, then you’re likely off to a good start.
And don’t forget to sell a candidate on your vision. The best software developers are those who are passionate about their work and believe in the products they’re building. If you can articulate your vision and get them excited about your company, you’ll be well on your way to recruiting the perfect candidate.
#6. Make it more about the person than the programming language
Narrowing in on a specific technology can make you miss out on great candidates.
In this fast-paced world where programming languages get stale faster than the latest fashions in Paris, technologies can be learned relatively easily. But personal passion and alignment will have a much greater impact on the quality of work over time so spend most of your time with the candidate focused on this.
Good rule of thumb: don’t avoid other programming tools and languages just because they’re not your own personal favorite. A good software developer should be able to learn new technologies quickly and adapt to different coding environments. Plus, they might bring an innovative perspective or skill that you hadn’t considered before.
#7. Dig into how well they communicate and collaborate
Remember that there’s more to any development job than just writing code. Along with technical skills, a software developer should communicate effectively with other team members and understand the business goals to create an effective solution.
While it may be true that soft skills are not as important for developers in a large software development company, they’re critical for those working in a startup team environment. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when assessing candidates:
- Does the person have experience working in a collaborative environment? This is essential for startups, where everyone needs to be able to work together well.
- Do they have good verbal and written communication skills? They’ll need to be able to communicate their ideas clearly, both to other members of the team and to clients or customers.
- Are they able to explain technical concepts to non-technical people? This is often necessary for a startup, where there may be a limited number of people with technical expertise.
#8. Ask for professional help, when needed
The process of finding developers who have everything you need can be quite long and complicated if you do it yourself, even if you follow the advice in this article. However, qualified firms like ours can help you find the best developers, saving you time and money in the long run.
TurnKey has a proven track record of helping startups find the perfect software engineers. In addition, our team of experts will work with you to understand your specific needs and find candidates who are not only qualified but also a good match for your company. So if you’re not looking to find a developer for a startup using the Do-It-Yourself model, TurnKey is the team to call.
#9. Onboard the developer properly
By taking the time to onboard your new developers properly, you’ll set them up for success and ensure that they hit the ground running. Here are a few tips to help you get the relationship with your new developer off to a great start:
- Make sure the developer understands how their work fits into the larger picture.
- Help them get to know the other members of the team and what their roles are.
- Explain the company’s development process and how they can best contribute to it.
- Set up a mentor system so they have someone to turn to with questions or problems.
#10. Integrate the new developers into the broader product organization
When hiring a developer for a startup, it’s important to keep the big picture in mind.
Once you find and hire awesome developers, introductions to the rest of the team are essential. But it’s not just about introductions–this is only a good first step. You need to take pains to integrate the new developer –or new development team – into your overall product development organization. This is especially important if your new developer or team are offshore while your main product dev team is onshore.
Things to Avoid When Hiring a Developer for Your Startup
There are several key challenges to hiring great developers, all of which get magnified when you try to recruit and hire a high performing development team on your own. Luckily, we’ve got some tips on how to tread lightly and avoid issues—both for you and for the developers you hire.
Prioritizing price over quality
If you head down a freelance route, you will often find lots of low cost options. But the old adage of “you get what you pay for” is never more true than in software development. You need to be optimizing for quality over cost. Indeed, you are better off with three senior developers that are more experienced but also more expensive, than six more junior developers that are half the cost.
Treating security lightly
Hiring software engineers for your startup is always an exciting time. You’re bringing in someone who can help take your product to the next level and make your vision a reality. But don’t rush past security protocols to get to blast off—shore up security first to avoid risks and pave the way to success.
You can (and should) ask your new developers to sign an employment contract and an NDA. This keeps your proprietary information yours. Moreover, make sure you have robust security protocols in place (such as audit logs and encryption) to keep your systems safe. Startups often don’t have the same protections in place that big companies do, so be vigilant about who you’re hiring, what they have access to, and how to keep your information safe.
Spending too much time on recruiting due to a lack of expertise
The bottom line is that if you’re like most startup founders, you’re probably not a programmer yourself—or a recruiter. So when it comes time to hire a software developer for your startup, by default you’re at a disadvantage. You simply don’t have the expertise to avoid common startup hiring mistakes, and you don’t have the resources to search for the best candidates.
That’s where we come in.
We’re experts at finding the best startup programmers, and we can help you avoid making costly hiring mistakes. So leave the recruiting and hiring to us (with your stamp of approval, of course) and focus on what you do best: building your business.
How Can TurnKey Help You Find an Awesome Developer for Your Startup?
Does hiring a developer for a startup seem like a Herculean task? If you are like most startups, the To-Do list is long, the budget is tight, and the timeline is shorter than you’d like. This is where TurnKey shines—and we’re here to help.
We developed a unique, time-tested recruiting path that allows us to shorten the time needed to fill a senior developer position to about 30 days – and thus be dramatically faster than other agencies.
Our approach allows us to custom recruit the top 3% of talent across all the key positions you may need as you scale a startup team. And we have the industry expertise needed to handpick the exact right folks for you.
Moreover, unlike our competitors, TurnKey is also transparent about all salaries, fees, and expenses, so you’ll always know exactly how much each of your team members gets paid. We offer easy-to-pick bonus plans and equity plans that track with performance—and TurnKey never takes a portion of these incentive programs. (It’s no surprise that our staff retention rates are so high.)
By trusting your hiring pipeline to us, you’re signing up to stack your bench with the best, most experienced software developers across the globe. We’re ready to help you take your startup to the next level by giving you the jet fuel of amazing software engineers.
When it comes to hiring a great software developer for your startup, it's important to focus on the must-have skills. Here are some tips to help you narrow down your search and hire developers that will help you grow:
- Know what you need, create a focused job description, and target your search.
- Research the market, pick your ideal location and set a budget for your hire.
- Evaluate communication ability and problem-solving skills.
Here are some tips for hiring software developers at early-stage startups that scales better than trying to recruit developers one by one:
- Get referrals from your network. If you know someone who has worked with a great developer, ask for a referral.
- Partner with a skilled recruitment agency that is specialized in startups. This partnership will get you out of many troubles along the way.
- Ask for help from your investors. Many investors have extensive networks of software developers and may be able to help you find the right person for the job.
- Be prepared to offer equity and/or a lower salary. This is often what it takes to attract top talent in the early stages of a startup.
- Be clear about your company's vision and culture. This will help potential candidates determine if they would be a good fit for the team.
If you’re a startup and your resources are limited, you have to sweeten the deal in other ways. Bulk up your offer and make it look more attractive by providing equity in addition to salary, a culture they can vibe with, and a position in which they can grow their career in. Focus on showing the candidate that you have a shared passion for the product and that you’ll be as committed to their success as they are to yours.