Hiring your first engineer is a challenging task for most startups. As a startup founder, you're already stretched thin by the demands of your business—you don't need more distractions.
Although it’s important to spend more time on hiring, you find yourself short of time. While hiring can be a rewarding experience, the actual process takes place mostly in your inbox and brain—neither of which provides much dopamine. But fear not, we've got a few tricks up our sleeve to make this process less daunting.
First things first, get crystal clear on what you're looking for. Make a list of all the skills, qualities, and unicorn-like attributes your dream hire should possess. Are they a coding wizard? Will they blend seamlessly with your team? Once you have your criteria, it's time to put candidates through the wringer. Assess them against each item on your list and have spirited debates about their strengths and weaknesses. It's all about finding the perfect balance.⚖️
But let's get real – hiring involves tradeoffs. Do you wait for that elusive perfect candidate, sacrificing speed? Or do you splurge and offer above-market rates to attract someone right away? It's like playing a game of chess, weighing your options and making the move that best suits your startup's unique circumstances.
Now that you know what you're after, it's time to find those elusive candidates. Strap in, because we're about to unleash a repertoire of strategies – from the most effective to the least – to help you track down that tech superstar.
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Great tech talent won't simply appear at your doorstep (unless you have an incredibly charismatic office pupper). Attract and recruit top-notch tech candidates using the following strategies:
Personal Networks: Your Best Starting Point 🕸️
Your personal network is the most vital resource for hiring in the early stages of your startup. Hiring someone you already know and have worked with is advantageous because you're familiar with their skills and work style. The success of your first hire greatly depends on your compatibility and ability to work together. Although there might be some stress involved, tapping into your personal connections can help you motivate potential hires to take the leap and join your startup.
To fully explore your personal network, follow these steps:
- Create a list of the best engineers you know, regardless of their availability.
- Reach out to them and arrange a meeting to discuss your startup.
- Make the ask—invite them to join your team.
- Ask for recommendations on other engineers they think would be a good fit.
- Request introductions to those recommended candidates.
- Repeat steps 2-5 indefinitely, as networking should be a continuous effort.
- Focus on leveraging personal networks for your first three engineering hires. As your team expands, you can consider other methods to achieve diversity and balance within your workforce.
Hiring Marketplaces: A Supplemental Option 🌐
Hiring marketplaces like Triplebyte and Hired operate as platforms connecting candidates and companies. While these platforms can attract high-quality candidates, they may prefer companies with established engineering teams. Additionally, hiring marketplaces usually charge a fee per hire, which can be substantial. Evaluating the value of these marketplaces depends on your funding situation and the time commitment required from you as a founder.
To make the most of hiring marketplaces:
- Develop a compelling pitch that highlights why your startup is an exciting place to work.
- Streamline your interview and offer process to expedite candidate selection.
- Be aware of competition and ensure your pitch stands out among other companies.
- Leverage any technical evaluations conducted by the marketplace to save time in the screening process.
While hiring marketplaces are not as effective as personal networks, they offer quick access to a pool of skilled engineers who are actively seeking new opportunities.
Generate Inbound Interest 📬
At the early stages of your startup, organic inbound interest from qualified engineers may be limited. However, you can generate interest by posting job openings on platforms with sizable engineering audiences, such as Stack Overflow Jobs, the Hacker News monthly "Who is hiring?" thread, and Angel List. Additionally, creating content that appeals to engineers, such as blog posts or articles about your technical choices, can attract inbound applications and help build brand recognition.
Consider the following strategies to generate inbound interest:
Post job openings on platforms frequented by engineers.
- Create engaging content that resonates with engineers and showcases your technical expertise.
- Share unique technical choices or controversial approaches in blog posts to capture interest.
- Develop interactive content like coding challenges or puzzles, if applicable to your startup.
- Invest time in crafting a standout job posting that differentiates your startup from larger companies using generic postings.
Cold Outreach: Personalized Messaging 📧
Cold outreach involves reaching out to engineers through platforms like LinkedIn, Hacker News, and GitHub. It requires personalized messages to stand out from the abundance of messages these professionals receive. While time-consuming, cold outreach can yield positive results if executed effectively.
Consider the following tips for cold outreach:
- Personalize your messages to make them relevant and appealing to the recipient. When possible, find and use email addresses instead of platform messages for higher response rates.
- Share any press articles or noteworthy mentions to add credibility to your outreach.
- Follow up with multiple emails, as it often takes several attempts to receive a response.
While cold outreach can be draining and time-consuming, it is a common approach used by larger companies. Optimizing your messaging and persistently reaching out can lead to successful hires, although the timeline for hiring through this method can vary.
Recruiters: A Contract Basis
Hiring a technical recruiter for your first engineering hire can be challenging, as their strategies often involve cold outreach. Their response rates might not surpass those of founders themselves. However, recruiters can provide an advantage in terms of time and focus. Contract-based recruiters allow you to set specific terms and evaluate their performance before committing to a long-term engagement. It is crucial to thoroughly train recruiters on effectively pitching your company to potential candidates.
Meetups: Networking Opportunities
Meetups can be a valuable networking avenue, but their effectiveness depends on the type of event and your personal strengths. Smaller, technical-focused meetups where attendees actively engage in coding discussions can offer better results. However, success at meetups depends on either being highly knowledgeable and respected in technical conversations or possessing a charismatic personality. While attending meetups can help you build a network of smart individuals, they may not yield immediate hiring results.
Agencies: Not Recommended for Early-Stage Startups
Traditional recruiting agencies tend to have limited success in sourcing quality engineering candidates for early-stage startups. Many talented engineers avoid working with agencies, and agencies often send candidates to multiple companies simultaneously. It is rare to find startups that made their first engineering hire through a recruiting agency. Engaging with agencies can consume valuable time with little return on investment, particularly if they focus more on executive-level hiring.
You've got a pool of eager applicants – now what? Streamline the tech hiring process by leveraging technology, specifically an on-demand video interviewing software like Intervue.io.
Intervue.io offers a platform that simplifies and optimizes the tech hiring process, like a Swiss Army Knife for recruitment. It allows you to screen candidates, conduct live coding interviews, and even perform pair programming - all remotely and efficiently.
This results in enormous savings - both in terms of cost and time. And as a startup founder, we all know that time is your most precious commodity.
Some Tips for Crafting an Offer That Makes Them Say "Yes!"
Show Me the Money...and Benefits
It's time to bust out the big guns – a competitive salary that makes their eyes light up. Research the market rates and offer a package that makes them think, "This is it!" Don't forget the perks like health insurance, retirement plans, and other goodies that make them feel like they hit the jackpot.
Equity: Your Ticket to the Startup Rollercoaster
Stock options and equity? Cue the drumroll! Explain these financial wonders in plain English, showcasing the potential value they hold. Make it crystal clear that they're on a wild ride of growth and can score big when the company takes off. Consult with the pros to give them the scoop on the nitty-gritty details.
Growth Galore: Let's Build Your Tech Empire
Tech wizards crave growth and career development like coffee craves cream. Lay out the exciting career paths within your startup and how you'll support their rise to greatness. Mentors, training programs, challenging projects – make it rain opportunities! Show that your startup is the launchpad for their tech dreams.
B. Providing an Onboarding Experience That Leaves Them Smiling
Ready, Set, Go!
Let's avoid day-one disasters, shall we? Get their gear, software, and access ready before they walk through the door. Smooth sailing from the start means they can dive into the action with zero delays. Prepare an onboarding schedule that maps out their first days, complete with introductions, training, and anything else they need to conquer the tech world.
Buddy System: You've Got a Friend in Me
No one likes feeling lost in a new place. Pair them up with a mentor or buddy who can be their guide through the startup wilderness. This friendly face will answer questions, offer advice, and make sure they feel right at home. Regular check-ins will keep the bond strong and their spirits high.
Expectations and Goals: Crystal Clear, Baby!
Let's not leave them guessing, shall we? Lay out their role, responsibilities, and objectives right off the bat. They need a roadmap to success, and you're their GPS. Set measurable milestones and give them feedback along the way. Together, you'll reach new tech horizons.
Team Tango: Joining the Tech Dance Floor
Time to groove with the team! Encourage teammates to welcome the new hire with open arms. Schedule meet-and-greet sessions, team lunches, and opportunities to collaborate. Building connections from day one will make them feel like part of the crew, ready to rock those tech projects.
Forever Learning: Sharpening the Tech Sword
Let's keep their skills on the cutting edge! Support their ongoing professional development by offering training, conference trips, and industry events. Invest in their growth like a tech-savvy gardener – the more they bloom, the more they'll thrive within your startup garden.
With a tantalizing offer and a warm welcome, you'll seal the deal and set your tech hires up for success. Get ready to watch them flourish and become an integral part of your startup's tech-tastic journey!