One of the biggest challenges in launching a successful startup is recruiting the right software engineers. With a team of talented, hardworking programmers on your side, you can rest assured that your vision – whether it’s a new app or something much more sophisticated – will become a reality. Without that team, you may never be able to achieve your full potential.

Unfortunately, there are many obstacles that stand between you and your dream team of software engineers, including a limited budget, a limited professional network, and an uncertain future. So what steps can a startup entrepreneur take to recruit better software engineers from day one?

Multiple Problems in One

Let’s start by breaking down the problem into its base components. If you can solve the following issues, you’ll be in a much better position to get the best possible people for your business:

  •         Getting better people. First and foremost, you need to hire the best possible people – the talented, experienced, and diligent candidates that are capable of helping you make your business vision a reality. If they don’t have the technical skill or the expertise to help you, nothing else will be able to close that gap.
  •         Getting people faster. You’re also likely working on a tight timeframe. You can’t afford to wait months, and certainly not years, trying to track down “unicorn” programmers. Most business owners are eager to get people in the door as quickly as possible.
  •         Staying within budget. If you had an unlimited budget, recruiting great programmers wouldn’t be an issue – you could just keep throwing money at the problem until it’s solved. Unfortunately, most startups are working with a tight budget that prohibits certain tactics – and puts a cap on the salary you can offer your prospective recruits.

Now let’s look at the strategies that can help you accomplish all three simultaneously.

Determine Your Needs

Before you start aggressively stepping up your recruiting efforts, have an internal meeting to clarify your business’s needs.

  •         Technical challenges. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? What is the technology you’re trying to build or improve? What set of skills do you need from your developers, and is there any flexibility on that skillset? What are the primary technical challenges you’re going to need to overcome?
  •         Budget. How much money are you willing to spend on this team? Keep in mind the costs of salary, perks, and benefits. How much are you willing to pay for the entire team, and what’s the best way to allocate that budget?
  •         Volume. How many people are you going to need? Is this the type of project that’s best engineered by a single, dedicated person? Do you need three different specialists working together with their respective areas of expertise? Or do you need a full team of different people collaborating to get the best results?

Make Your Startup More Attractive

The next step is to make your startup more attractive. The better your company looks, the easier it’s going to be to get people to apply to your jobs. If you’re lucky, the attractiveness of your startup will serve as its own inbound marketing channel. Otherwise, your startup’s position and reputation will solidify candidates’ desires to work with you.

  •         Start with the culture. It’s important to start with defining and solidifying your startup’s culture. Your company should seem innovative, open, and employee-focused; beyond that, your core values are your own decision. Different environments attract different people; some recruits will prefer an organization that’s fun and loose while others want something more dignified and polished.
  •         Offer competitive pay. It may be hard to do if you have a limited budget to work with, but do your best to offer a competitive salary. It’s still one of the first things job candidates review when deciding whether to take a job offer.
  •         Considering adding side benefits. If you can’t afford to pay a competitive salary, you may be able to close the gap at least slightly by adding peripheral benefits. For example, you might offer health insurance, retirement plans, or other advantages.
  •         Offer autonomy and flexibility. You can greatly increase your startup’s appeal by offering employees autonomy and flexibility. Even simple additions to the job, like including flex hours or the ability to work from home, can increase your recruiting potential.
  •         Present a path to growth and improvement. Most modern employees want to work for an employer with whom they can learn and grow indefinitely. Make it clear that your candidates will have the chance to develop themselves here.

Broaden Your Pool of Candidates

After that, you’ll need to work to broaden your pool of candidates. In other words, you’ll need to find more people who fit your organization.

Here are just some of the ways you can do it:

  •         Post on multiple job boards. There are many websites that can help you find good software developers and engineers. Take advantage of them. Write the most detailed job descriptions you can and post them on multiple channels to maximize your reach. If you have access to analytics, study them carefully; how many people are seeing this job ad and how many are actually responding?
  •         Make your company more prominent. You can also make an effort to make your startup (and your job opportunities) more visible and more prominent. Paid advertising is perhaps the fastest and most convenient route here, but it can also be expensive. Alternatively, you can use organic social media posts and engagement in groups to improve the visibility of your business.
  •         Network and recruit. Spend time networking with other people and consider hiring a recruiter or recruiting agency. The bigger your professional network is, the more reach your company is going to have – and the more warm job candidates you’ll be able to work with in pursuit of filling your positions.
  •         Use cold outreach. You may also want to take advantage of cold outreach – the process of reaching out to people who have no existing familiarity with your startup. As long as you’re working from a reliable set of data, this can work out in your favor.

Refine Your Hiring

Finally, you’ll want to refine your actual hiring process.

  •         Focus on talent over credentials and experience. It’s tempting to choose candidates based on the years they’ve spent working, the degree they have, or the specific credentials they’ve earned. While these qualities are important, they don’t always tell you the whole story – and there are plenty of qualified, talented candidates who lack these formal credentials. In most cases, it’s best to prioritize talent and capabilities over degrees, credentials, and experience. This will expand the pool of candidates you have to choose from and lower the cost of hiring at the same time.
  •         Find someone willing to grow. As a startup, you’re likely hoping to grow this business significantly. Accordingly, it’s in your best interest to find someone willing to grow with the business. It pays to find a candidate who’s going to learn new skills and adapt over time – as well as one loyal enough to stick with your business through the major challenges you’ll inevitably experience.
  •         Don’t neglect personality. Don’t forget about your candidates’ personalities. You need to make sure they’re a good culture fit in addition to having the technical skills and talent necessary to engineer your core products. If they don’t get along with the rest of your team, or if they don’t take direction well, they may not be worth hiring – no matter how much else they have to offer.

You may not find the perfect candidate overnight, and you might not be able to build a perfect team with your limited budget. But if you apply these strategies correctly, you should be able to recruit a team of capable, cohesive people who can help you execute your business plan from day one. 


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