As a startup founder, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is who to hire for your development team. Choosing the right developers can make or break your company. Developing technology is the backbone of most startups today, so you need a strong in-house technical team to build your product and continue innovating as you grow.
But finding and hiring talented developers is no easy feat, especially on a startup budget and timeline. You need people who not only have the right technical skills but also fit your company culture and work style.
Follow this step-by-step guide to strategically hire developers for your startup:
Define Your Needs
First, you need to determine what type of developers you need on your team. This will depend largely on your product and tech stack.
- What platforms will you build for – web, mobile, IoT devices?
- What programming languages and frameworks will you use?
- Do you need full-stack, front-end, back-end or machine-learning experts?
- What technical roles need to be filled immediately vs in the future?
Getting clear on your technical needs will help you narrow your search and find qualified candidates.
Set Realistic Compensation
Salaries are typically the biggest expense for early-stage startups. You need to offer compensation competitively enough to attract qualified candidates in your market.
Research salary ranges for the roles you’re hiring for and the skills required. Factor in the cost of living in your startup’s location too.
You won’t be able to match FAANG company salaries as a startup, so sell candidates on your mission, growth opportunities and work culture too. Offering equity can help offset lower salaries.
Use Your Network
Your personal and professional networks should be your first stop when looking to hire. Reach out to:
- Your startup co-founders and existing employees – they likely have former colleagues who could be a good fit
- Friends, family members and previous co-workers who are developers
- Professors and alumni from your college CS program
- Developers you’ve met at local tech meetups and events
Make targeted posts on LinkedIn and social media too. Warm referrals tend to lead to better hires than cold outreach.
Cast a Targeted Applicant Net
Next, post the role on relevant job boards and your startup’s site. Focus on channels that quality developers frequent:
- Generic boards like LinkedIn, Indeed, AngelList, BuiltIn
- Specialized boards like RemoteOK for remote roles
- Relevant Slack/Discord communities
- Tech and coder news sites like Hacker News and Reddit
- Bootcamps and code school job boards
- University career centers
Carefully screen applicants based on your required qualifications. Share a skills test relevant to what they’ll actually be working on.
Hold High-Signal Interviews
Once you have a shortlist of qualified applicants, it’s time to interview. Structure the process to efficiently assess their technical proficiency and cultural fit.
A typical pipeline may include:
- 30-minute phone/video screening with the hiring manager
- 60-90 minute technical interview with a senior engineer
- 3-4 hours onsite with a coding assignment and multiple team interviews
- Follow-up reference and background checks before making an offer
Key things to evaluate for: communication skills, problem-solving, attitude, ability to learn and grow, and alignment with company values. Move fast to secure top talent.
Check References Thoroughly
References can give unique insights into a developer’s strengths and weaknesses. Ask targeted questions like:
- How would you describe their work style and technical skills?
- What projects did they contribute most meaningfully to?
- How did they handle challenges or disagreements?
- What’s their greatest development strength and area for improvement?
- Would you want to work with them again?
Probe beyond provided references too. Look for subtle red flags that may emerge.
Make a Compelling Offer
To win over your preferred developers, make them a compelling offer including:
- Competitive salary and substantial equity
- Flexible work hours and location
- Strong medical, dental, mental health benefits
- Generous vacation time and parental leave
- Opportunities for career development
- Incentives like gym memberships, conference budgets, etc
Be ready to negotiate if you’re in a bidding war for a coveted candidate. Act fast too – top developers get snapped up quickly.
Once your new hires accept, onboard them strategically by:
- Introducing them to the team and key stakeholders
- Outlining company goals, processes, and technical architecture
- Providing the latest product specs and documentation
- Equipping them with the best development tools and workflow
- Defining objectives for their first 30/60/90 days
- Pairing them with a mentor or senior team member
- Soliciting feedback frequently to improve the onboarding experience
Set your new developers – and your startup – up for success starting on day one.
Hiring dedicated programmers to build and scale your product is a crucial milestone for any tech startup. Finding the right developers for your team takes time, diligence and strategic planning. Use this guide to proactively identify needs, attract qualified talent, interview efficiently and onboard new hires for a world-class development team.