One of the most frequently asked questions and the first challenge many founders encounter is to locate and engage a developer to begin building their app. Due to growth or attrition, this is a recurring challenge.
In this guide, we’ll look at strategies for locating talent, assessing potential candidates and successfully on-boarding them into your organization.
Where do I find developers?
There are a lot of developers out there. The talent pool is large. Software development is one of the top 10 fastest growing job categories in the US as of this writing. With all the available talent and options to find and recruit, how do you work through it?
I want to give you some strategies to approach this to allow you to find the highest quality candidates.
Your network is a great asset to utilize. Check your mental Rolodex, maybe you know one or more personally. Think about your friends, family, those you have worked with, people you interact with weekly. Start with them. If they are not personally able to help you, they may be able to give you a high-quality referral to someone they know.
If you start with someone you already have a good relationship with, then there is already a level of trust and rapport established. Developers you know may not be interested in your company or product, but there is a good chance they will know someone who is looking for an opportunity and would be a good fit for you. Knowing you, the recommendations they provide will be of higher quality.
Many entrepreneurs regularly attend networking events in their startup or business communities. Ask around for referrals. A developer may be getting ready to wrap up a project for someone in your networking group. That lets you give them the opportunity to roll right into your project.
Another way is to meet developers in the community by attending meetups where developers and other people interested in that product or technology will be in attendance.
If you already have a product and have established technology in your organization, or you’ve already gone through a process to determine which technology you’re going to use, look for the group around that technology. If you’re in an earlier stage, you may not know what technology you’ll be using, and this approach may not work well for you at first.
In many groups, there is a call for anyone who is hiring to give a short pitch, but networking before and after can be effective as well. These meetups are frequently looking for a sponsor which is just someone to provide either a venue or buy the food and drink. Buy the food and drink for the evening, and you’ve generated some goodwill in that community and the chance to pitch your company and position for which you are hiring.
To find these meetups, look at meetup.com, which is the most common place they are organized. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, ask a developer. They will probably be familiar with how your city organizes its technology meetups and can point you in the right direction.
Software boot camps
Developer schools, or software development boot camps, are a rising trend in the industry. These organizations provide a path for people who want a quick on-ramp into a new career. They are typically 3-6 month intensive programs designed to produce someone who is familiar and competent with a particular technology stack.
The schools will often have a graduation day or a demo day where the students are showcasing their accomplishments. You can attend these demo days and talk with the developer about what they built and the opportunity you have available. There are partnerships or programs which allow companies to hire these students as they exit the program.
For established companies, this can work well. The risk as an early-stage company is that you may not have the expertise yourself, or the resources in-house, to manage a junior developer.
It’s now easier than ever to find and hire talent around the world. This shift represents a compelling opportunity as it allows you to access a larger pool of talent to find the most qualified person. The trade-off is that it can be more challenging to locate the right person, vet them, and establish a good working relationship. For those reasons, I recommend you don’t engage a broader search until you’ve exhausted your network and the networking opportunities available to you.
I’m talking about hiring using online job postings. The paradigm flips in this scenario. You will write out a description of the position you are trying to fill and post it to a site. If your offering is attractive to the audience of that site, you’ll receive requests or applications. Here are a few tech-focused job sites to get you started.
If you prefer to look for specific candidates and are looking for a freelancer, then a site like upwork.com is also an excellent place to start.
How much does it cost?
One common question is, “How much does it cost to hire a developer?” The problem is very nuanced and dependent on project details, but there are a few items that can help you build a framework to get an idea.
Are you hiring a full-time employee or a freelancer? If you’re hiring full-time staff, you’re likely to be talking in terms of a yearly salary. If you’re hiring a freelancer, an hourly rate is typical, but there are other ways to work as well.
Working on an hourly rate with a freelancer is the most common, but myself prefer fixed-bid projects whenever possible, no matter what side of the transaction I’m on. A fixed-bid aligns the incentives of both sides better than an hourly rate.
It would help if you also considered the experience level of the person you are thinking to hire. The more experience they have, the higher the demand they are likely to have and the higher the rate they can command.
What skill are you looking for? If it is a specialized skill and there isn’t a lot of available talent, you may encounter higher rates.
There is a trade-off I want you to be aware of.
A less experienced developer is likely to be cheaper but requires more mentoring or management. They may not be familiar with components of your particular technology stack or need extra time to get up to speed.
A more experienced developer is more expensive but may complete the project more quickly. They may have insights or experience that allow them to avoid common pitfalls and save you from project delay or disaster.