Talk to anyone who works at a small startup and you’ll see a common theme – they have some of the best “first hire” stories. Due to most startups' small budgets and need for technical hires, they often need to a take a unique approach to finding the best developers. Here’s how a few startups across the country hired their first developer.
Jennifer Kilkenny, Director of Operations at Total Social Solutions, hired developers from local networking groups and meetups. She says, “I had joined a local Women in Technology group and met my first and current web design and development contractor. I prefer to hire people whom I've had extensive contact within a networking environment as much as possible.”
Local meetups and hackathons tend to work much better than traditional job fairs when you're hiring for a startup since it allows people to network without the pressure of a potential job. You can form real relationships with developers in a relaxed setting, which is often the preferred method opposed to recruiting them for a job before even getting to know them.
“Recruiting on social media” doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re DMing developers and spamming them with a job description. Instead, it should refer to forming relationships with those in your field, sharing content of theirs that you enjoy, and seeing what they are up to at their current job. After time has passed in your social networking relationship, bringing up a potential new career opportunity is a possibility.
John Cornthwait, a Director of Digital Media who hires employees for his design and development teams at Firefli, hired his first developer just last year through Twitter. He says, “The front-end web developer we hired came from another agency in the market, and was someone who I followed on Twitter for several years, but had never met. Before the job opening was announced, that developer stopped by the office to ask about any openings. As he was walking out, I realized who he was, and everything came full circle. It was very surreal to have someone I admired from afar for a long time want to join our team.”
This scenario takes the whole “working for free” maxim to another level. David James, the Director at BGDM, made his first developer hire this year. James says, “I was considering whether I should hire a dedicated web developer after I had my website hacked. [During this time], I came across a developer’s blog, where he had blogged the complete solution to the hacking problem. I connected with him on Twitter and went with my gut to hire him on the project. The hire turned out so well; I extended his contract. We are now two months in and he has been the best technical hire I’ve ever had.”
Companies often overlook developers fresh out of college, which can be a mistake. Sean Higgins, Co-Founder of ilos, asked his friends in graduate programs who were the best developers on campus. Higgins says, “It was a simple enough question, but if you ask it long enough eventually everyone starts pointing at the same person.” The unanimously voted talented developer “Would go on to make the backbone of what our company is today.”