Hiring your first developer in a startup is like a Marriage. Where the developer wants to run wild, get cozy and drop the guard while the founder should be able to be a strong pillar and guard the other’s back.
I have been on both sides of the tables. While I was working, I had offers from some of the best MNCs while the startups were offering upto 100% hike. And as a bootstrap solo founder, I have hired some extraordinarily talented people at market standards rates.
I will give you the gist of what I am about to explain next. Real talented people are motivated by ideas, dreams, and confidence rather than money. Of course, everyone expects a decent package to justify their career projections.
Let’s first understand Challenges as a Founder:
- You have money crunch,
- You want a developer who is an expert in his domain so that you don’t have to repeatedly cross check or explain things,
- Developer should take ownership of things and reduce your burden,
- He/She should be fast, proactive and understanding,
- Someone you can trust (since you may or may not be technical and you don’t want to lose your code),
- He/She should understand the product inside-out and be able to suggest improvements and find loopholes,
- Basically, you want a CTO without an Equity, High Salary or too much commitment.
- Hiring takes a lot of time, consultants take a lot of money, finding organic candidates takes a lot of effort. Hence you want to hire them asap.
- Also, because you are going crazy thinking about the idea, and what all you can do to grow it and the excitement of how the market is going to react to your product/service is uncontainable.
Well all points are valid and you feel you have all the right reasons to be able to deserve the best developer suited for the role.
Now, let’s enter the shoe of a developer to see their challenges: (assumption the developer is good)
- Candidate is registered on very limited job sites, which he visits rarely,
- He/she has too much work (as a hobby or official work) to dedicate in searching where is that great idea that could excite him,
- He/She doesn’t want to be just an employee or be overpowered, rather all they want is respect and acknowledgment,
- They know they can always get good offers,
- Biggest risk for them is that the startup may shut down in some months or a couple of years. An early job change will affect their resume.
- They have worked too long on the tech and always want to push forward in learning new things and implement something challenging,
- Not having a tech senior means that there will only be self-learning and it might be slow.
- Can he/she learn something by being with you that can help him/her in her career going ahead?
What is a developer looking for:
The developer wants to look into your eyes and feel the confidence that the startup is not shutting down any time soon,
- Respect and acknowledgment :
They hate politics and unnecessary hierarchy or bootlicking. They want to be acknowledged for the work they do and the quality they bring on the table.
They are employees because they need someone to guide them. Someone’s shadow to work in. Hence in the discussion, they will always look if you are someone with whom they can drop their guard and focus core-ly on working and technology.
Some Platforms to help you meet your Candidate:
- Indeed: Free + paid, Feature to filter candidates based on custom Questions (Very useful), Has own Database of Developers, Give organic reach, gives a public URL that can be shared on other platforms, Great Dashboard to review applications and manage profiles
- AngelList: Free, No custom questions, Has Own Database, Gives Organic Reach, Gives Public, Not a great dashboard, Gives you open access to developer Database to filter the one you like
- Naukri: Paid Only, No custom Question, No Organic Reach, No Public Link, Management Dashboard is good, After paying Gives access to Developer database where you can find your developer. (Not recommended for startups).
- LinkedIn Jobs: Paid Only, No Custom Questions, Paid Reach to candidates, Decent Management Dashboard, you can find food candidates here.
- Consultants: A decent consultant will charge you 6% of the annual CTC and a good consultant will charge you 8.33% (Roughly 1-month salary). And you have to pay only if you hire a candidate referred by the consultant.
- Social Media: Another common practice is to do a job post on any one of the above free portals and share its link in a post on the social media like Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, WhatsApp with a compelling content on why a candidate should join your startup.
Here is a great Example.
How to ensure that the developer is the right fit and convince them to join:
Problem:You don’t understand the technology that well and are unable to judge if he is the right candidate. Possibly you might as well just show your reluctance towards talking about the tech aspect.
Effect: Developer feels insecure.
Solution: Don’t interrupt and just hear what he has to say. Talk more about his past work and the features he has implemented rather than the technology he used.
Problem: You don’t have a lot of cash to spend and yet you need a good developer fast. Due to which you show weakness by being too over-powering or being too needy.
Effect: If you show neediness they will never join you. If you try to be too over-powering they will push you more on salary bracket.
Solution: You need a friend, not an employee to show them that you understand his need and you acknowledge that they are good in their domain. You can give them a six-month raise offer or a future commitment for the same while meeting their base expectation.
- Motivating them to accept the offer:
Problem: It is a common sight to see developers not join a company even after all the demands were fulfilled. There are multiple problems while doing this.
Solution: It is a human tendency to be a part of something big, to be a part of something important. You need to open up and tell them what your vision is, what change do you want to bring. How is your idea going to stand out, what have you planned for the next 2 years.
- Test Before you hire: (Applicable for Non-Tech Founders as well): Detailed points here
Problem: Resumes can be a bluff, people can manipulate the information or exaggerate the tech and project they have worked on. Test is not always about coding, it is also about work ethics, approach to a problem, commitment and delivery and for that you don’t need to be technical.
Solution: Design a small problem like a review and rating portal (which is hardly 4 pages: List of Company, Review List Page, add Review and Add Company) and allocate a time like 3 days or 4 days for the candidate to develop it.
- Timely delivery means they value time and stick to words,
- Proper communication/updates mean they are professional,
- Asking questions means they take ownership and is good at management,
- Adding elements or enhancing the given features mean they are proactive, talented and have a good experience,
- If they ask for more time that shows that they are honest,
A good developer will always value the dream, vision and his learning more than the money because he knows that he always be able to find a better and higher paying job. A candidate who is motivated by money can never be a good fit for any startup. Hence you can never buy them with money, you have to rather motivate them with the goal.
Hiring is more about finding the best fit rather than the best coder. Teaching someone how to code is easier than teaching someone the work ethics.
To filter the right candidate always give them a small task. Find the most important and critical tech part to your idea and give it as the task applicants and based on how they approach the task will tell you all the thing you need to know to hire your first developer. Again the one completing it or doing it fastest may not always be the best choice.