How to Hire Software Engineers for Your Startup

Contributed content / By Igor Tkach / 10 July 2019

Hiring software engineers isn't easy. Follow these tips to find, choose, and hire talented software engineers for your startup.

According to Paul Graham, a successful tech entrepreneur, you need only 3 things to create a successful start-up: good people, a product your clients really want, and minimum costs spent. The first item in that list is the most important. Without good people, it’s not possible to produce a good product or to do it efficiently.

The initial stage of any start-up requires total dedication of each team member, and the development of a prototype and a minimum viable product lay the foundation for further development of a business. In fact, 23% of startups fail due to improper team selection, because of underestimating the importance of building a great team from day one.

This article will introduce the principles of hiring a strong team of software engineers at your start-up.

Work With Skilled Recruiters

Professional recruiters know the IT market well and will provide you with the best applicants. Their knowledge of effective hiring techniques and sourcing enables them to attract even the most hard-to-find talent. Thus, cooperation with a professional recruiter – either internal or remote – is a must. Consider the following:

  • Freelance recruiters are affordable and can work part-time to fill a single position, but they usually juggle multiple projects at once and will not be solely focused on your start-up.
  • In-house recruiters cover the internal hiring needs and build an employer brand but are often expensive
  • Outsourcing vendors provide end-to-end recruitment services (from sourcing to onboarding and retention) and help mitigate administrative and onboarding costs.

Pick your recruiter carefully to make sure your company receives the strongest applications.

Hire Candidates With Technical Skills

When selecting key stakeholders for the project, opt for candidates who have background experience with important skills.

In particular, you should give strong consideration to candidates with a background in SaaS products, modular structures, and microservice architecture.

I recommend choosing engineers with a specific technology focus rather than hiring full-stack engineers. This way, you’ll get the desired code quality without any dispersion of resources and skills.

Additionally, pay attention to specialists that have adopted a user-centered approach to software design and development. This way, they'll be able to:

  • Analyze the needs of potential users
  • Focus on usability, scalability, and performance issues
  • Deliver responsive and user-friendly software

Ideally, your team should work full-time to show complete dedication to the product. Each candidate should understand how to deliver value and make suggestions on how to upgrade the product. That's why you need to choose people who have the background and skills that will help them deliver.

Value Soft Skills

Soft skills are important when hiring for any position, but they are particularly important for start-ups.

Flexibility and adaptability are highly important for hiring at start-ups. Start-ups are a constantly changing requirements, and employees should be able to make quick decisions and react to well to changes.

Also, ideal candidates should be proactive, able to suggest new channels for further development, and comfortable address different issues related to the project.

what makes a good candidate

Most of all, candidates should demonstrate curiosity. Your start-up’s employees should be willing to master new skills, try and test new approaches (such as test-driven development), and look at the product from different angles and perspectives.

Conduct a 3-Step Interview Test

A  3-step interview scheme is the best way to become familiar with a candidate. A 3-step interview test includes:

  1. An introductory interview with the HR team to test soft skills and language proficiency.
  2. An individual test task, which should take no longer than 4 hours.
  3. A technical final interview that defines the level of expertise, motivation, and goals of a potential candidate.

After conducting a 3-step interview test, you should know whether a candidate is a good fit for your team.

Present Challenges and Ask for Solutions

Test your candidates with situational cases from the real world. This way, you can quickly assess their ability to react to changing environments and provide practical solutions to common problems.

mistakes to avoid when hiring a software developer

Moreover, questions like “What if you realized that the task I assigned to you doesn’t provide a viable solution to the problem?” can help you identify candidates that are eager to bring value rather than be average performers. Questions such as “How would you build an efficient development process if…?” will help you test both soft and hard skills.

Make Fast Decisions

The "hire slowly" approach is a bit outdated nowadays, especially when it comes to saturated and dynamic IT markets. Therefore, it's essential to provide a timely response to candidates (within several days) because great developers are in high demand and can be captivated easily by more responsive competitors.

Define Team Composition and Roles

It’s important to establish defined roles and responsibilities for the members of your software development team.

First, find a software architect or a chief technology officer (CTO) who can envision your idea and develop the product design and architecture so that it can be easily implemented in the future.

You'll also need leading senior developers to lay the foundation of your product. These developers will later build a team of motivated middle and junior-level specialists to help keep everything running.

Don’t forget the importance of a solid product owner who will act as the primary liaison and key stakeholder on the project. He or she will clarify the requirements and deliverables for the developers and ensure everything runs smoothly.

Additionally, engage a UX designer at early stages of development to help the product owner with market research and product discovery.

After the requirements and product architecture are defined, involve a QA engineer to create a test framework (test strategy, test plan, test cases, etc.). He or she will ensure the quality of your product by identifying and documenting bugs, tracking QA metrics (e.g. defects density), and defining corrective and preventive measures.

If the product owner is not capable of adequately broadcasting the requirements to the developers, you can hire a business analyst or a technical writer. These specialists can help you explain the technical requirements, user needs, and design specifications of the product to the developers.

Defined roles and responsibilities will help your software development team run effectively.

Hire Software Developers for Your Start-up the Right Way

The art of hiring great developers lies in developing a comprehensive hiring strategy, asking the right questions, and selecting people who share your values and genuinely want to make your product better.

Your startup will be less likely to experience setbacks if you have a motivated and results-driven team on your side.

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