Christopher Changchien Software & Music Developer

5 Tips On Hiring Developers For Your Startup

Over the past year we’ve had to juggle a number of different priorities in order to figure out how to hire developers. Here are a few of the important things I’ve internalized throughout this year:

Priority zero: I didn’t include this on my five tips, but have a tech co-founder BEFORE you think about hiring developers. You best bet you need a tech co-founder (unless you have a stream of endless money to hire developers from the get go). I know the mantra everyone spouts these days is “everyone can code”, and for the most part I agree with that, but the mantra also ought to include a little star next to it that says “everyone can code *if you have a ton of time to learn it”. I studied computer engineering in college, continued programming at my former workplace, and it still took me a few months to adapt to the web stack. I have to give some eprops to Ian and Tommy for trying to learn programming before looking for a tech co-founder though :)

Here we go!

  1. Hire for “soft-skills” and culture fit first, closely followed by a willingness and desire to learn. Communication and people skills paired with teachability and passion for learning trumps a perfectly matching skill-set 100% of the time. Programming languages can be very different, but good programmers pick up new ones as necessary. Remember that at the end of the day you’re hiring someone who you might be spending inordinate amounts of time working with. Personality clashes are much more killer than someone not happening to know everything about a certain piece of technology. Also, the CS world is constantly shifting and changing. Even the best of us has to continue to learn more. The only outlandish cases where I’d say you really need to favor hiring an expert who matches your needs precisely are in development of highly specialized technologies, in which case I’d say that person should probably be your tech co-founder already :)

  2. Outsourcing is not for the faint of heart. Unless the product you’re trying to develop is really really simple, you’re going to struggle to develop a solid product by outsourcing your tech needs overseas. This is not because overseas engineers are not talented or ill-equipped to develop a solid product, but because, again, communication skills trump all. If you can’t properly communicate your product to your engineers, your engineer will not build the product you’re dreaming of.

  3. Be cautious with coding bootcamps. Not all bootcamps are the same, so do some research and ask around as to what kind of students a bootcamp is producing. Bootcamps are pretty dynamic businesses right now since they are a relatively new concept. Case in point: you better believe that Kaplan’s acquiring of Dev Bootcamp last year will have tangible impact on it’s quality, whether good or bad. Be fearful of bootcamps that claim to teach students everything. Typically, an engineer that’s really good at one thing can more quickly adapt to a second technology than an engineer who knows a little about many things.

  4. Enthusiasm for your product. Sometimes people have a tendency to de-humanize engineers a bit because they like to work on robots and sometimes even think like them too. But even the most robot-like engineers are still passion-driven people, and engineers that have an interest in working for a startup even more so. They are taking a risk (and probably a pay cut) so make sure the situation is a win-win. We went out of our way to look for engineers that had a special interest in working on music products. While that made it a lot harder to find people, it made it a lot easier to know that whoever we ended up working with would be motivated.

  5. Work on something together. Not everyone has a willingness to do this, but if your potential hire is willing, do a small project together. Regardless if the project is tied to your product or not, getting 1 week… even 1 day of experience working together is more meaningful than anything that comes out of the resume or interviews.