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How to hire Developers for a Startup

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Most ventures have some relationship with technology, either because of their very raison d’être is to offer a technological product or because they require technology to operate efficiently.

This means that probably one of the first employees to be hired by a startup is an IT person. The problem is that, as we saw in previous posts, these profiles are one of the most demanded. Finding good developers is hard enough for a big company, but it seems like an impossible mission for a startup.

Not only are entrepreneurs less likely to offer salaries and benefits like big companies, but their tolerance for bad hiring is very low. A large company can make a mistake and hire a bad developer and although it will cost it dearly (tens of thousands of dollars according to studies), it has other people on its team to compensate.

A startup will probably hire only one or two developers, so if you hire the wrong developer, your entire development team will be compromised (especially if the development “team” is made up of only one person, who is not competent).

So what can a startup do to hire good developers? If we are talking about a technology startup, ideally one of the founding partners should be an IT person or know a trusted developer. If you are an entrepreneur with a great idea for a software product, but you do not have any IT knowledge, I sincerely recommend you look for a trusted partner, a friend or a former college or work colleague who you know is good.

For the most common scenario, where the partner handles the software development issue but does not have time to do it all, again the best option is to work with people I know and who know is good, either by previous work or by close and reliable references.

Now, as we all know, the world is not perfect, so if you have run out of referrals, you do not have them or they are very expensive and you need to hire someone, here are my recommendations:

Usually, for a startup, it is easier to get time than money, so take the time to look well and find someone good with a reasonable salary. This first hiring is critical, to the point that the success or failure of the venture may depend on choosing the right person. Do not despair and hire the first-come, evaluate dozens (if dozens) of candidates and get the right one.

I cannot help but recommend in this scenario to use a tool like Evalart to evaluate developers. This way you will be able to evaluate many candidates and objectively validate their capacity.

For a startup with a very low budget (99% of them) it is worth looking calmly for a junior developer, but a very good one. I have seen developers coming out of college do amazing things, but only 1 out of 50 is like that, so, again, I insist on the importance of taking the time and evaluating well.

Sometimes entrepreneurs feel they have nothing to offer, tiny offices (if there is an office), zero benefits, average or low salaries, etc. But in fact, a startup can offer things that no big company can offer. More details below.

A startup can offer its developers several things that make it attractive and that a giant company cannot do:

Great responsibilities for a junior profile. A junior developer in a large company will see a tiny part of a great system. A junior developer in a startup will develop the whole product or a large part of it. For many, this is very attractive.

Similar to the above point, it is very likely that in the startup you will be able to see more interesting things, have more freedom of action and to propose ideas. You will be able to research various technologies and learn a lot.

No matter how good a programmer is, it will take them many years to scale up positions in a large company. However, in a startup is the dream that if things go well (and these first developers will have a lot to do with it) maybe in a short time they can lead teams and be at the top of a rapidly growing pyramid. The entrepreneur has to believe in their dream and convey that vision, ambition, and dreams to all who accompany them in the adventure.

One last piece of advice before we finish. A startup can grow quickly (although it is more likely to die miserably in the early years) and therefore, the first developers are the candidates to take leadership positions in the future, a perhaps near future if things go well. Having an eye on this, a very good developer programming is not necessarily a good development leader. Keep this in mind even in the first hires and evaluate who could take leadership roles. Training and giving opportunities to develop these skills, delegating a little, to have someone to delegate leadership responsibilities when necessary (and if no one has them, do not ask the impossible and, at that moment, look for someone from outside).