Programmers or developers are the catalysts who drive a web or application-based startup. They are the very wheels that power a startup train forward. Selecting a programmer or any other employee is thus a critical process. So, how do you go about assembling a team of talented programmers for your Avengers-like startup?
Why do you need them?
Before you recruit, assess how many programmers you require, what roles they will play and the budget allocated for the same. Make a list of key skills that each designated programmer should possess. Do emphasize on programming language, UI design needs, skill-set and a degree of expertise, before shortlisting. Clearly document the specifications for the kind of developer you require. This will help you narrow down on suitable candidates.
Meet & converse
“Fortunately, there are an infinite amount of informal meet-ups around most technologies. Go there, talk to people, make acquaintances and find where you want to spend most of your waking hours,” informs Laurent Perrin, CTO, Front.
Websites like meetup.com have groups where programmers exchange knowledge, trends and ideas. So, all you need to do is log in to meetup.com or similar sites, search for programming groups and attend seminars, conferences, gatherings, etc. Meeting prospective programmers informally will help you discover who suits your startup requirements. Speak about your company at these meetings, spread the word about what you do. Write, tweet, post and blog, engage in online chat rooms and forums. Somebody is bound to get back.
The ‘favor’ trap
The first recruits are usually through references of colleagues, relatives, family and friends. You could easily end up selecting incompetent people in the process, so beware of the ‘do me a favor’ trap.
Recruitment-aiding online tools are a good bet compared to recruitment agencies. The latter will aid in better and faster trimming down of suitable candidates. These exclusive services help in finding candidates as per your exact needs, right down to the candidates’ qualifications and what they could require training in.
Catch them young
Local universities have ample talent, many students would like to intern in a startup. If carefully sorted, students can be effective startup programmers. Use the university job notice board, interact with professors and be there at university job events. You are sure to be rewarded for your inquisitiveness.
Slow and steady
“I always tell my startups not to feel rushed. Don’t hire someone just because you desperately need to fill the position. Take a deep breath and wait until you find the right person, even if it means slowing everything down,” infers Steve Hoffman, co-founder, Founders Space.
Plan in advance
The usual market procedure to bag a candidate is quite chaotic. A programmer is always in demand, it is for the HR to convince and lure them. Startups have a limit as to how good a salary they can pay, to how many people. Even programmers with no experience can cost the company, salaries can start at $100,000 and escalate.
Instead of picking a programmer out of compulsion, or fighting it out with other companies for a candidate, it is best to plan in advance. Go slow and steady. Sketch out what kind of candidates you want to target, list down potential candidates and study them. You will have a smoother ride during recruitment. Note: It is inevitable to have an expert programmer as part of the interviewing panel.
As compared to a large company with hundreds of coders, a startup programmer will be a visible working entity to its founders. A startup developer will share prime responsibility. The chances that their work will be noticed and appreciated are many-fold as compared to a large company.
On the same page
Kelly Hadous, Founder & President, Win The Room, couldn’t have emphasized it better, “Find people who care. Working in a startup is challenging and if you don’t find the right people – the ones that are ready to put their hearts, souls and guts on the table for the sake of your company – you’re screwed.”
Startups constantly tend to take a diversion from their already set paths and that is why a programmer has to adapt to changing scenarios. Remember, this isn’t about hiring a programming genius. What use is a genius who can’t relate to the startup’s goal and vision? You are looking for a great team player and a programmer. As Guy Kawasaki, Silicon Valley marketing executive & Former Apple employee puts it,”Skills are cheap. Passion is priceless.”
Opting to share stocks or equity shares as part of the deal for working in the company could be a life-changer. The percentage share can be substantial in startups, after it decides to go IPO or is acquired. Such an eventuality promises loads of money and ample motivating factor for the programmer to work for the company.
Training & fast learners
Training will be an inevitable part of hiring, accept it. No candidate is perfect. Technologies are constantly changing and everyone is on the stage of getting updated on new software and technology. Apart from recruiting experienced programmers, look for young programmers, especially those adept in learning and teaching fellow programmers.
Outsourcing / Offshore Development
Geographical distance is no longer a barrier. Hiring skilled programmers to work from remote locations is not a hassle anymore, thanks to all collaboration tools like Skype/Google hangout, Github, PivotalTracker, Slack, etc. Skilled programmers can be hired for less without compromising on quality. In other words, outsourcing is here to stay.
Hiring offshore developers is a recurring trend. It is always a safe proposition to approach established ODC’s, for they already have a system in place. Here is how to go about it:
1. Look for companies that have a working experience with startups.
2. Ask for details on projects that the ODC has worked on, along with a cluster of project samples. This will help gauge the company’s track record and experience.
3. Check on ODC ‘s scalability level, and its developers’ ability to work in the face of strict deadlines.
4. Arrange a video/Skype interview with offshore developers. Conduct live time-bound tests to check their worth. Interview the candidates as if you are hiring them locally.
Past projects are ample indication to the programmer’s work, study them carefully. Ask for a portfolio consisting of completed projects, including the ones they are personally working on. Too many incomplete projects is not a good sign. Apart from fixing broken code and questions on important abbreviations, let the candidate work on a live project. The results will make your hiring decisions easier.
Preferably pick people who have worked on projects similar to what the startup is working on. The ultimate aim must be to find employees who can strongly relate to problems that the company is trying to solve.
Beat the competition
Faster Negotiations: Once the candidates are selected, hand over the offer letter to them as quickly as possible, with the proposed salary clearly mentioned. This is because, it is not unusual for great programmers to have several offers in hand, for instance, from biggies like Google or Facebook. The timing of your offer is all the more significant. After handing over the offer letter, arrange for a final HR-salary round. This will help conclude discussions quickly. Both parties will be through with each other in minimal possible time, a step beneficial to both parties.
You may end up hiring a great bunch of programmers, but what about getting them used to the startup work culture? If you need the programmer to stay on, work culture compatibility is a must. Brief the programmer about the work environment, rules & regulations before joining and clear any doubts that they may have. Let the programmer began his/her tenure at the startup without any apprehension or doubt.