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How to Hire Skilled Software Developers: 7 Tips For Startup Founders and Team Leaders

In 2021, it’s next to impossible to operate a startup without a skilled tech team that has your back. That’s why most startup owners are always on the lookout for talent. However, competing with large-scale companies is not easy — that’s why we end up losing talent to companies that have a benefits package and stability to offer.

In a fight for tech talent, is there a way for startup owners to hold their ground? In my experience, although staying a competitive employee in today’s job market is not easy, there are strategies and tips for appealing to tech talent. In this post, I’ll take a look at seven hacks business owners can use when they hire world-class engineers for a startup.

Tip #1. Don't hire

A good programmer can solve complex technical problems and does it well. However, it’s worth remembering that the questions your business needs answers to are, in most cases, conceptual.

Before publishing job openings, business owners need to figure out:

Which problem the product solves
What user categories the product is most relevant for
If the market is broad enough to build a scalable company

An affordable way to answer these questions is by building an MVP. For that, you don’t need to hire an in-house team — team leaders can get by with using off-the-shelf tools for MVP design or hire one-time contractors.

Tip #2. Be reputable

Most developers aren’t easily swayed into accepting a job offer only because the idea is inspiring or unique. The value most job candidates are after is stability — confidence that the project they are committing to is here to stay and last.

That’s why, when interviewing candidates, you shouldn’t share plans and get excited about hypotheticals. Be data-driven. Talk about your successes using as much data as possible. Engineers will see that as proof that your management system and business model are grounded, rather than just ambitious.

Tip #3: “Interesting” ideas don’t pay bills

When you hire software developers (any professionals, really), the baseline truth is — you have to pay them. It seems obvious — however, a lot of startup founders believe that teammates should be as excited about the idea as stakeholders are.

However, before you fall into this trap, take a step back and reflect on what’s in your offer for developers. Most top-tier coders are bombarded with “interesting” project offers on LinkedIn every day — yours won’t make a difference.

What does make a difference are a flexible working schedule and high salaries. Thus, no matter how bootstrapped a founder is, meeting a coder’s financial needs is a must. Until you are ready to do as much, it’s too early to expand the team.

Tip #4. Steer clear of mainstream job search platforms

General hiring platforms like Indeed aren’t the best fit for finding tech talent. The reason for that is, in most cases, applicants who look for jobs aren’t far past entry-level skills. Where do top-tier professionals find jobs? LinkedIn, Dice, Stack Overflow Jobs, AngelList, Engre — niche platforms you wouldn’t know about unless you are a part of the tech community.

Don’t underestimate referral programs either. Let your social media friends and professional networks know that you are hiring. For X% of job openings, recommendations are the most efficient way to find a long-term fit.

Tip #5: Make sure that a candidate is in it for the long run

Even if the candidate brilliantly passed the technical interview, it does not mean that you rush with making an offer. Startups are fast-paced and demanding environments to work in — you want to make sure candidates understand the magnitude of the challenge.

Startups can “seem” like a dream job to many developers — flexibility and the opportunity to build something are appealing to job applicants. However, with great power, comes great responsibility developers aren’t ready to commit to.

Unfortunately, job applicants who mainly worked in the corporate environment, with a severance package and robust benefits, will struggle to adjust to the hectic working style of startups.

In a few months, such a candidate will struggle to keep up with operations and will likely leave. To avoid low developer retention rates, align expectations from the get-go and make sure coders understand not only the benefits but the challenges of joining a startup.

Tip #6. Look for ways to reduce costs without compromising on skills

If a team leader needs to hire a senior developer to work on a project but doesn’t have a budget to attract high-level candidates, it’s tempting to hire programmers and overwhelm them with tasks that are way out of their league.

In 2021, the need for cost-reduction is understandable. However, cutting down on skills isn’t a way to go. Instead, it’s better to consider hiring developers in destinations with lower average salaries — this way, you’ll get access to skilled and affordable talent.

Tip #7. Be growth-oriented

Before you start a hiring campaign, make sure you are ready to provide developers with enough room for growth and education. Business owners are often caught up in driving revenue and acquiring users/clients. Developers, however, are not on the same page with you.

They care about becoming better coders, mastering new technologies, and add new multi-faceted projects to their portfolios. Meeting the needs and wants of job applicants will make you an attractive employer — here are a few tips on how to do it:

  • Be understandable and approachable. Make sure developers are comfortable about voicing their concerns. Welcome one-on-one meetings and be open to ideas even if they don’t go in line with the way you are used to doing things.
  • Encourage enthusiasm. A lot of startup owners feel intimidated when teammates have a clear vision and want to rebuild the infrastructure of the project. However, before you turn a developer down saying that large-scale changes are not feasible, take your time to evaluate the idea impartially.
  • Don’t be petty. Discipline and excellent communication skills are important for programmers. However, nobody is perfect — from time to time, teammates can ignore messages and not answer calls. I know a lot of developers who love to plug out of messengers when they are working — being overbearingly controlling will negatively impact your team’s code. ## Bottom Line Confidence is important for startup owners. If you don’t believe that your idea and business model are awesome, convincing investors and users will be a lot harder. However, when you hire tech professionals, it’s important to keep a cold head and remember that not everyone in the world is as excited about your project as you are.

That’s why you should work on creating a comfortable working environment for programmers — a decent salary, a flexible working schedule, and room for growth. Once that is out of the way, you are ready to build a functional team!

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