Hire Programmers for a Startup

Thinking of launching a startup? Starting a tech company is easier said than done. It requires a lot of skills since you will have to deal with various matters, such as legal, finance, sales, and marketing.

On top of that, you will need recruiting. Without a good team of software engineers, you won’t be able to take your one-million-dollar idea an inch forward.

However, it is not so simple to hire developers for startups. At the same time, it’s not rocket science too, especially if you consider our tips from this article. In particular, this comprehensive guide will help you learn the following:

  • 2 biggest challenges you’ll face when recruiting software engineers for your business and how to overcome them;
  • where and how to find a developer for your startup – 3 best strategies, taking into account the current scarcity of IT pros; and
  • what to look for in software engineers – 4 most wanted soft skills considering that you hire them for a new venture.
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Challenges While Hiring Developers for Startup

As we mentioned above, hiring coders for a new business can be challenging. For the sake of time, let’s focus on the two biggest problems that are common for all startups.

Limited pool of candidates

One of the most pressing issues confronting tech ventures today is a severe shortage of programmers, many of whom are already employed with high salaries and favorable working conditions. Others work as freelancers or on their own projects. According to the recent 2021 survey by Stack Overflow, only about 20% of developers are actively looking for a new job. Because of this scarcity, developers are frequently inundated with job offers and set high expectations, including those regarding their salary, for each alternative. In other words, IT professionals are not hired by us as much as they pick us.

And that brings us to the second challenge.

Securing great talent for your startup

To win this fierce war for talent, you’ll have to compete with a bunch of other companies, most of which will be well-established, even with a famous brand, like Google or Facebook, who can pay a six-figure salary. If you’re bootstrapping or on a small amount of angel funding, you may not have an opportunity to offer so much money to developers. So, competing with salary is often not an option. Instead, other values need to be found.

On top of that, as a startup, you don’t have market presence yet. What it means is that you don’t exist for people, nobody knows about you. That is why, for most developers, joining you and committing at least the next couple of months of their life to writing code for someone they barely know without a clear prospect of success will be a big risk. Especially given that they could be making a lot more at a stable company.

So, in order to understand how to hire a programmer, ask yourself:

  • Why would a developer choose to work with you?
  • How are software engineers going to get interested in your product, to have faith in your success?
  • What can you offer to attract them?

The first idea that may come to your mind is to give early employees a stake in your business in addition to their salaries. Stocks can quickly increase in value as the company’s capitalization grows, thereby becoming a huge financial asset for their owners.

Therefore, such a measure may make it easier for potential team members to take a chance when accepting your job offer, especially at an early stage when most startups fail. In addition, equity will make them dedicated and committed to the success of your project.

For example, you can set aside 10% of your equity and offer 1% stake to the first ten hires. Alternatively, you can offer equity only (or more equity) to key employees, such as CTO, based on the value that they add to your company.

At the same time, for this purpose, you should have not only an idea. Nowadays, given that approximately 137,000 startups are launched every day, you can’t surprise anyone with just a concept. Everybody has it.
Therefore, for most programmers, your idea, however brilliant it may seem to you, will be just empty talk. And even 20% offered to them will be 20% of nothing, which is, as you should understand, not so appealing.
So, before talking about equity, you should substantiate your idea with something valuable. It can be:

  • an investor’s money
  • your proven record as a now-famous startup CEO or co-founder, or
  • a built prototype that has been successfully used to sell the product or, at least, attract early adopters and future buyers.

If you don’t have any or all of this, then change it. Join an existing startup to gain experience and connections. Find money to create a prototype that you can test in the field.
In addition to equity, you can offer future employees intrinsic rewards, which is a great way to attract top talents while lacking t funds for that.

In particular, the most powerful motivator for an early employee at a startup is the sense of meaning derived from work. It comes from building a product whose long-term vision you believe will have an impact and which will be loved by a large number of people.

To get programmers interested in your project, you should have rock solid faith in its potential yourself. Otherwise, no developer will believe that your idea is worth their time and effort.

Without a sense of meaning, it will be difficult to attract talent, and if you even manage to do this, a hired coder will be the first to leave you when the financial situation starts to look bleak or as soon as they lose motivation after working over 60 hours a week, a usual schedule for startups.

The sense of meaning can be also obtained from working with a team whose members you admire, who constantly push you to learn and improve, and whom you can’t bear letting down. Make potential employees excited about their opportunities in personal growth and career development.

On top of that, you can also offer a fancy tech for the work on your project, for example React, NodeJS and MongoDB instead of PHP and MySQL. A lot of developers want to learn new promising technologies. As a result, you’ll have an advantage here.

Where to Find Developers for Your Startup

There are generally three methods how to hire developers for a startup:
engaging freelancers
building an in-house team, or
outsourcing the work to remote development companies (dedicated teams)
Depending on what option you pick, the ways to find software engineers will differ. Let’s look at r each strategy in detail.
Where to find in-house developers?

First of all, you will rarely find a software developer on regular job boards. As mentioned before, most tech guys are already employed elsewhere and may not be looking for new job opportunities. Therefore, your job postings will probably stay unread.

But how should you meet IT talents and get them to work on your project? The ultimate shortcut to success in this is to use every opportunity and be where software engineers are:

1. Referral networks. If you’re the type of person who creates startups, the odds are great that your friends will be also talented. So, ask them for assistance. Talk to your friends, family, family friends, and college classmates. Before looking elsewhere, use your network! Either people you know and have worked with previously or people recommended by someone you trust can be your first reliable hires.

2. Developer events. Visit developer conferences, hackathons, meetups, and technical events to directly connect with technical talent.

3. Online developer communities. Online resources such as GitHub and Stack Overflow are another great place to find programmers for hire. Software developers often upload samples of their work and code to these forums. So you can evaluate them on the spot.

4. Local colleges and schools. Visit local educational institutions to see if anyone qualifies for your job opening. Even if they are not a good fit in terms of technical skills, you can invest in the development of their talent.

5. International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI), ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC). Winners/alumni of such contests are frequently the best at problem-solving and have a strong work ethic. Most of them enjoy coding and spend a significant amount of their spare time doing so. They’ll be a perfect match for you if your project is interesting and challenging.

6. Local social media (LinkedIn, Facebook). A lot of HR professionals leverage social media to find candidates. It is convenient and fast, since you don’t even need to leave your home.

7. Local newspapers or magazines and online job boards. Even though your chances to find IT talent here are not high since most developers don’t read them, you can target your potential candidates through local publications and online job boards, such as AngelList, Mashable, or CrunchBoard. Please note that some of such websites can charge a fee for subscription to job openings.

8. Local recruiters and job agencies. The easiest way is to buy recruitment services from specialized firms or entrepreneurs (headhunters). They will do all the work for you for a fee. In this case, you save time rather than money.

Where to find freelance developers?

Freelance programmers are usually recruited using online platforms. There are two types of such websites:

  • Bidding platforms for jobs like Upwork, Guru, Freelancer.com, and Fiverr – these websites resemble traditional job boards. Freelancers post their descriptions, and those looking to hire remote developers browse the list of candidates to find the most suitable one. Alternatively, you can post a job with project details and choose from candidates who have sent you competitive quotes.
  • Premium platforms such as CodeControl or Toptal can be also used to hire programmers online. They act as global communities of freelancers who were thoroughly tested and vetted. This is the best choice if you don’t have much tech experience to assess candidates on your own or if you don’t have resources and time to screen developers yourself. Unlike the freelancers’ platforms above, you are not able to post a job here. Instead, you need to describe what kind of talent you require, and within a few days they will match you with an applicant meeting your needs and budget.
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What to look for in developers

First of all, you are expecting from potential startup developers that they will successfully perform their duties at work (such as coding or building your tech product). For this purpose, they need to have certain abilities, i. e. job (work) skills. They are usually learnt through formal training, curriculum or experience and divided into hard skills (or technical skills), such as proficiency in a programming language and knowledge of databases, and soft skills (or interpersonal skills), such as time management, teamwork, leadership, problem solving, etc.

As for hard skills, it’s simple. At the very beginning, you need to decide on the following aspects:

  • What technology do you use? .NET, Java, React, C# or COBOL?
  • What experience level should a candidate have? Senior, middle or junior?
  • What type of programmers do I need? (frontend, backend, full-stack)

Based on this rough job description, you can define hard skills you need for a specific job. E.g. knowledge of .NET and MS SQL, 3+ years of work experience.

It’s more complicated with soft skills. Since they include attributes and personality traits, they are often referred to as attitude or personality. Sometimes, a person with strong technical skills can have poor soft skills and vice versa. And an ideal employee, as you may have already guessed, should have both.

The common dilemma that recruiters face is “hire for skills (technical skills) or for attitude?”ple:. Quite often, priority is given to personality, since skills can be taught, while personality is already a part of who you are and you cannot change this in most cases. In other words, some HRs prefer to hire a person rather than a job description or, as an old saying goes, “hire for attitude, train for skills.”

Therefore, you also need to determine what kind of personality would fit in with your existing team.

Here is our short checklist:

  • Hard-working nature. Try to find someone who is available to work the hours you need them to work (it can be over 60 hours a week), who is not a clock-watcher and is able to go the extra mile.
  • Motivation and dedication. Look for a desire to learn and grow. You need a true believer who shares your vision and won’t take off during hard times.
  • Ability to produce results/problem-solving. Focus on finding abilities to get things done instead of checking just the knowledge. You need people who bring real value and have excellent problem-solving skills, as you, as a startup, will almost certainly face a lot of challenges.
  • Team player. Build a team with members who complement each other, who are able to achieve synergy together. For this purpose, you need to get potential startup programmers that will work well with your existing team. For example, this could be a discussion about your company or product at your office. You can also hire them for a specific task.

Typical solutions when hiring programmer

You may have already decided that you need a coder in-house. However, that is not your only option. You might want to consider alternatives:

  • hiring freelance programmers;
  • engaging a software development firm.

So, what are the pros and cons of each option?

Freelance developers vs In-house developers

Hiring in-house developers is the traditional approach. This might be costly, but you can meet with your programmer in person to discuss their work. However, finding and testing the right person takes a significant amount of time.
If you are a low-budget startup or your project is small, consider engaging freelance programmers as the most affordable option. However, there are some drawbacks: such coders often work on multiple projects at the same time, so there will be no dedication to your project.

Best Hiring Strategies

If you haven’t found the right developer to hire for your business, here’s a collection of strategies that you should try.

  1. Always be hiring. You can never tell when your startup will take off. If you wait until the last minute to find talent, your team won’t adapt to the unexpected growth. Instead you should constantly be on the hunt for potential hires. Proactively look for people you’d like to bring on board. For this purpose, you can use various methods, including LinkedIn where you are able to connect with candidates and get to know them. It’s much better to have an established relationship with them before your job opening is ready for them.
  2. Find as many candidates as possible. Hiring process is like a sales funnel – the more prospects (applicants) you have on the top, the higher your odds of finding the right person. Post on multiple websites to get maximum candidates. Ask everybody around you.
  3. Hire slowly, fire fast. Finding the right people can be lengthy, but once you do, take your time. Make sure there is a good fit. As soon as you notice that it’s not working out, let that person leave your startup quickly. Poor performance can impact your business dramatically.

Benefits Of Hiring Remote Developers For Startup

According to a recent State of Software Development survey for 2021 by Coding Sans, 41.67% of businesses already outsourced their software development to an external partner in the past 12 month. For this purpose, 53.62% of them contracted an IT company, while only 31.91% engaged a freelancer.

Hire programmers for StartUp

As we can see, outsourcing development to a third-party company is a popular solution. The success story of a number of firms that outsourced software development during their early years, including Whatsapp and Slack, also shows that it can be the best bet for startups.

Of course, if the tech side of your project is small and simple, you don’t have to overpay to form an in-house team or to hire a development company, when everything you need can be done by a freelancer at an affordable rate.

Otherwise, you need to pick between in-house and remote tech teams. So, why should you choose an external service provider over 8-to-5 desk-bound employees? There are several reasons for that.

1. Save your time and effort. The most difficult part of hiring developers for a startup is finding the right person. Given the current shortage of IT pros in the market, it can take several months or even a year. Add to this the time for shortlisting, interviews, vetting, etc.

And what if you need 3 developers for the project? What will be your time to market in that case?

In startups, timing matters. While you are looking for an in-house tech guy, your great idea can be implemented by someone else. Or you can miss the window of opportunity and your business fails. Consider the example of Airbnb. One of the reasons they succeeded is that the company was launched during the 2008 financial crisis when people desperately needed extra cash, and this new model helped them overcome their fear of renting out their own home to a stranger.

So, don’t waste your opportunities. By working with a remote team, you can shorten the time to market, increase your chances of success, and helping you forget about the problem of software engineers. All you need to do is to find a reliable business partner. And with ratings and reviews platforms like Clutch.co, it’s really easy and can be done in a few clicks.

2. Stay flexible. As a startup, until you achieve a product-market fit, you are going to switch from one idea, market, or niche to another in pursuit of success, or to pivot, as it is called in the startup jargon.

It’s hard to believe but YouTube, the world’s popular video-sharing platform, was initially launched on Valentine’s Day as a dating website. Users were meant to create videos introducing themselves and explaining what they were looking for in order to find a match. When this idea bit the dust, the service was changed into a platform allowing everyone to share and view streaming videos using a web browser.

Therefore, in the MVP to scale-up stage, it’s more prudent to stay flexible with a remote team who can work only when you need and quickly scale up or down based on a workflow.

What’s more, you will have access not only to developers, but also to project managers, QA specialists, UI/UX designers, and business analysts.

3. Save your money. This advantage partially follows from the previous one. During the early stages of your startup, you won’t (most probably) be able to keep developers busy all the time. Imagine that you’ve just released your minimum viable product (MVP). Now you need to put programmers on hold to get feedback from customers and write specifications for version 2, i.e. for the minimum marketable product (MMP).

During this downtime, you are simply wasting your money if you have an internal tech team to whom you pay salaries, irrespective of whether there are enough tasks to work on.

Therefore, it’s a lot more effective to hire a development firm without making a long-term financial commitment, since you only pay for services you actually use.

On top of that, if you are from the US or another strong, you’re going to spend most of your budget on in-house tech workers because of their considerable salaries. With outsourcing, you can engage remote teams with much lower rates.

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5 Steps To Hiring Developers For A Startup

If you are still planning on recruiting in-house developers for your venture, you will have to pass through the five circles of hell, of course, not from Dante’s Inferno. What this means is that the whole hiring process can be divided into 5 steps:

Step 1 – Find candidates.

To fill a vacant position of a startup software programmer, you need to find as many as possible. Where to look for them? Read about this in the above section ‘Where to find in-house developers?’. Ask applicants for resumes and write down the questions for them in the application form.

Step 2 – Shortlist.

Based on resumes and your application questions, shortlist the first wave of candidates. For this purpose, you can also use their social media profiles.

Step 3 – Interview.

It’s always wise to invest your 10 minutes in a short phone or Skype interview to make sure that the person is worthy of your investing 60 minutes for the final interview in person.

Step 4 – Vetting.

Look into the information your candidates give you during the previous stages. Check their professional background and references. Get a better idea of their personality. Based on the vetting results, make a job offer.

Step 5 – Probation period.

Use a probationary period to assess whether a new hire is the right fit for the job. To create a competitive environment, you can trial two or several people for the same opening and hire the one who performs best. Based on the trial period results, make the final hiring decision.

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Launching a startup is exciting and challenging. The success or failure of your enterprise will rest on your ability to recruit the right people.

Today, finding qualified programmers for new business is not a simple task. The job market is so competitive, their rates are too high. Almost every company needs their skills. Therefore, it’s no surprise that some startups are looking to hire software developers for about a year or are forced to employ them only for a part-time job, thereby increasing time to market and lowering chances of success.

If the tech side is not your core offering, consider outsourcing. Finding a reliable remote development team is easy and possible at affordable rates if you don’t limit yourself to high-income countries.

They will build your product in a fast and efficient way. And remember, you’re only as good as your team.


How to hire programmers for a startup?

Hiring in-house software developers for new business can be a difficult task. For this purpose, you need to:

  • find software engineer candidates
  • shortlist the first wave of applicants
  • take interviews and vet candidates
  • make a job offer
  • use a probationary period to make the final hiring decision
Where to find a programmer?
There are a lot of ways of finding a computer programmer for hire. Some of them include:
  • referral networks
  • developers events
  • local colleges
  • social media
  • online job boards
  • local recruitment agencies

For more details, please see our ”Where to find in-house developers?” section above.