How to attract software developers to your startup, and what should your hiring process be?

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As a startup founder, finding software developers is incredibly challenging. While we want our developers to be as passionate as we are, this is a perfect world that rarely exists. Instead, we need to appreciate that the software developers we hire are helping to convert our ideas into a reality, and therefore the framework needs to be in place to attract the right people.

Startups are often competing with large organisations and well regarded growth businesses that can support higher salaries, have an established name, or both. This is what makes the software developer hiring process so competitive.

Simultaneously, you need to find the right people and not give in to the market pressures that drive up the competitive landscape of the hiring process. The ideal candidate has a strong combination of technical expertise and cultural alignment. Further to this, and often making the search even more difficult, is that early stage developers in startups should generally have a good understanding of business processes in the absence of a strong solutions architecture team.

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How to attract developers to your startup

Here are a few key things to consider when hiring software developers for your startup:

Offer competitive salaries and benefits packages

To compete with larger companies, startups need to offer competitive salaries and benefits packages. It’s important that you have a clear understanding of the market value of each role in your startup. Startups could also consider offering equity as an employee benefit to incentivise staff members to stay with the business for longer periods of time. This is particularly important when recruiting software developers who will likely have more opportunities available to them in their local markets.

Give employees flexibility

Software developers want flexibility in their working hours, so it’s a good idea for startups to offer this as an employee benefit if possible. Additionally, it’s important that you allow employees time off to pursue personal interests or side projects which could potentially contribute back into company growth in the future. The more freedom and flexibility you give your employees, the more they will feel valued by the business and ultimately work harder for you on behalf of the company. Further to this, offering the freedom to work from home has become increasingly important following the shift in office dynamic since COVID.

Offer a good work environment and culture

Attracting talented developers to your startup will require you to create a good work environment and culture. At the very least, this means providing an office space that is conducive to productivity, but it also means making your company fun and enjoyable for employees to work in. This can be achieved through offering perks such as free food, drinks, coffee machines, games consoles and other interesting distractions. If you’re going to offer these perks, make sure you have a strong understanding of what your employees want from their working environments.

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Be transparent with staff members

Software developers want to be kept up-to-date with all developments in the business so they can contribute effectively when needed. By keeping staff members informed about what’s happening within the business, you will help them feel valued by the company and more likely to stay with you for longer periods of time.

Create consistent processes

When it comes to software development projects, startups need to ensure that they are creating consistent processes throughout the entire process from start to finish as much as possible. This is particularly important when it comes to testing software (including performance testing) once it has been developed because there is no room for error here if your startup is going to be successful.

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Communicate with staff members

As a startup, you need to make sure that you are communicating effectively with your software developers and other employees on a regular basis. Further to keeping them up-to-date with key developments in the business, it’s also important to ensure they are comfortable and happy with their roles within the company.

Provide opportunities for professional development

Software developers want to feel valued by their employers, so it’s important for startups to provide opportunities for professional development where possible. This can be achieved through offering training courses or workshops which can assist employees in developing new skills or improving existing ones which can then contribute back into company growth over time.

Create a strong culture through team building exercises

Startups should consider implementing team building exercises for their employees from time to time as this will help create a stronger sense of team spirit between individuals working together in different departments across the business. Creating a highly productive team often starts by having a collaborative team with a strong culture.

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What should your hiring process be?

Before hiring software developers into your startup, plan ahead to ensure you’re finding the right talent. This includes:

  1. Researching the market to find out what kind of developers you need.
  2. Find ideal candidates for your startup to build a sample profile.
  3. Make contact with the appropriate developers who fulfil this profile.

Having recruited thirty developers over the past year, I’ve used the following process to streamline hiring and ensure we consistently find the right talent.

Step 1: Phone call for culture

The first step is to establish in the shortest timeframe possible whether the developer aligns culturally. This doesn’t necessarily mean the company’s vision is exactly the same as the candidate’s purpose in life. Culture alignment means ensuring the culture (as discussed previously in this article) that you are establishing within your startup aligns with their values.

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Step 2: Technical test for expertise

The second step is to confirm the candidate is technically capable of fulfilling the requirements of the role. Within any technical test I would generally recommend you try to fulfil three criteria:

  1. Capability in the relevant programming languages.
  2. Intelligent approach to the problem question.
  3. Alignment given the seniority of the developer being onboarded.

Step 3: Face to face for air time

The final step for me is the most important, as it helps you understand who you may be working with in the near future. This face to face covers everything: previous projects, a deep dive into the business’ past and future plans, their hobbies, your hobbies, and anything in between. In general, this is a “chat” to really get to know the candidate.

I’ve found candidates who passed our culture test but barely passed our technical test, who we then elected to bring on board due to the face to face (or Zoom, if that’s more appropriate). Why? Quite simply, I could see in that meeting the passion the developer had for technology, and often the stresses or other deadlines they had from their current role while undertaking our technical test. Similarly, there have been candidates who have passed the technical test with flying colours, but weren’t the right fit based on their performance during this last step. Trust your gut, because you and your team will work very closely with this person if you hire them.

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Wrapping up

Finding the right developers for your startup can be tricky. It has never been easy, and what makes it more difficult is the time constraint you are generally facing as a startup founder. Try to plan ahead as much as possible to ensure you have time to carry out the process properly.

If you have any questions or need guidance in your own hiring process, don’t hesitate to contact me either here or via my LinkedIn.

CEO of Station Five