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Post by Rich Moy on Jan 15, 2016 12:00:00 PM

Hiring developers is tough for companies of all sizes, but can be especially challenging for a startup company without all the resources the big players have at their disposal. While it might seem daunting to compete with organizations that have armies of recruiters, decades’ worth of brand equity, and large hiring budgets, there are a number of things that even brand new startup recruiters can do to attract top talent. Here are three tips anyone responsible for startup hiring should keep in mind to stay competitive in the crowded developer hiring market.

1. Be Open About Why You’re Hiring

It’s no secret that developers consider shipping code one of the most satisfying aspects of the job. Odds are, your startup company is looking for developers because you need to ship a lot of code, so don’t be shy about sharing those details with candidates. Once you’ve discussed the sheer volume of code you want to ship, be transparent and let them in on the impact that future developers will have on the entire company’s trajectory.

While certain perks resonate more with some developers than others, it’s important to set expectations for the role as early as possible. Since the expectation for developers at most startup companies is to build products that shape the business, this is often an advantage for startup recruiters. Make this an emphasis throughout the entire interview process, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many candidates are intrigued by what you have to offer.

2. Take Time to Understand Developers Before You Do Anything Else

For startup recruiters who are tackling full-cycle developer hiring for the first time, it’s tempting to simply post a job listing wherever possible and hope that applications simply come rolling in. While this is a poor strategy for recruiting in general, it’s especially troublesome when you need to hire a handful of developers to accelerate the growth of your startup. In fact, our CEO Joel Spolsky believes that the top developers will only apply for four jobs over the course of their entire career.

Rather than sitting on their hands and waiting for the right people to decide they’d like to apply, the best technical recruiters make an effort to learn more about the developers they want to hire. That might require participating in conversations on developer forums or digging deeper to discover where candidates with specific skillsets are actually located. Even though you might not have the resources of a larger company, there’s still quite a bit of developer research you can do to set yourself apart.

3. Be Honest With Yourself, Even When it Hurts

The fact that you’re hiring for a less-established startup company can often be a convenient crutch to lean on when things aren’t going as you hoped. Developer hiring is a really difficult task, but even when things seem to be completely out of your control, make a habit to evaluate your recruiting efforts and determine what you’ve done well, and also face the music about what you could improve.

Evaluating your own performance is not necessarily a fun exercise, but it doesn’t always need to be an official event. Simply set aside some time on a regular basis to reflect on the way you’ve gone about recruiting developers. Maybe you’ve gotten really good at writing emails that developers actually want to read, but still struggle with moving candidates through your interview process quickly. You’ll likely discover some things that you wish had gone differently, but this habit will ultimately make you a better recruiter.

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