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How to Recruit a Development Team

Chris Porteous
Chris Porteous

There is no one neat trick that will get you all those elite engineers, but there are things you can do which will improve your chances.

Recruiting and keeping great developers and engineers is hard. Even with the economy struggling thanks to the coronavirus, those with good tech skills have no trouble finding a job. Furthermore, an engineer who has slightly better tech skills compared to his peers can have a massively outsized impact on the business as a result.

Getting engineers to join your startup or small business can seem tricky, and getting the best engineers to join that organization can seem all but impossible. Here are just a few things to consider when recruiting developers.

Consider the soft skills

You have heard of the phrase "Hire for character, train for skill," and it is a recruiting mantra for a reason. A developer who can consistently show a willingness to learn and work hard is much more useful than a developer who knows the latest programming language. If another programming language becomes more popular later, the first developer is more likely to pick it up.

So how do you make sure that developers have the right soft skills? First, learn about the different types of soft skills, and then know which soft skills are most important for the specific developer position you are hiring for. Some positions may prioritize a strong organizer compared to one with better communication skills, and the reverse may be true as well.

Once you know which soft skills to look for, you need to comprehensively search for items when prospective candidates have demonstrated those skills. During an interview, ask about times when they have demonstrated the soft skills you are looking for. Ask those same questions to their referrals or anyone who might know the candidate well. Ideally, you should be able to evaluate the candidate as a whole as opposed to thinking about just what tech skills they possess.

More sources are better

What is the best recruiting tool? Do you rely on referrals from sources you trust? Do you go on social media or websites? If you do, what are the best websites?

There are countless articles on how to use this or that social media tool, but the more important thing is to not restrict yourself to using just the "best" tool. The reality is that different types of recruiting tools offer advantages and disadvantages. Hiring inbound developers is the best choice in the long run, but requires building up a strong learning culture and engineering pool first. Reaching out to candidates manually is time consuming, but can let you select candidates. Internet websites let you reach out a wider range of candidates, but the quality of each candidate declines.

Do not convince yourself that one of the above recruiting tools is better than the others, and instead use them as needed. That requires your business to know exactly what kind and how many engineers you need, but that should be the first step in your hiring process.

Build your culture and reputation

Is your business a place where engineers want to work for? We are not talking about just money here. As GTN Technical Staffing notes, engineers can leave companies for other reasons besides money. They may feel that they are not being recognized, that their co-workers are unpleasant, or that there are no real challenges. And if they do leave for these reasons, word will get around. The worst-case scenario is a spiral where no good engineers want to join your company, which forces you to hire mediocre engineers, which further harms your reputation and discourages good engineers from joining.

Building a good culture is not about offering free donuts on Friday or silly perks like that. It is about encouraging a strong learning culture that encourages developers to learn new skills. It is about rewarding developers who show initiative instead of managers constantly peering over their shoulders. It is about empowering engineers and telling your company’s story, showing how they will make a difference working for your company. As veteran engineers retire and younger ones take their place, many engineers want to know that their business is doing good beyond making money.

Test for skills in the interview

The interview, not the resume, should be the tool you use to figure out what skills a prospective candidate possesses.

Hiring managers should scrutinize each resume carefully, and look for vague sentences and other potential weak points. From there, you can ask for more details. A lack of knowledge should not be an immediate disqualifier, especially with entry-level candidates. But you want to get a better idea of what projects they have worked on and what the developers have developed.

After asking initial questions, it is also important to test candidates. While some companies like to use brain teasers or more zany quizzes out of some ostensible desire to test knowledge or creativity, make sure that any tests you use are as close to the actual work you expect the candidate to perform.

Outsourcing and offshoring

If you are truly having a difficult time recruiting developers, it may be time to consider these alternatives. Outsourcing and offshoring are looked down upon as solutions, and there are good reasons for this. Many businesses believe that in hiring cheaper Indian engineers, you get what you pay for in inferior work.

But in fact, a lot of the problems around outsourcing exist due to poor communication and project management as opposed to some innate inferiority of Indian engineers.

Nevertheless, relentlessly outsourcing and pushing for the cheapest code does increase the chance of error and malware. Much of that is due to the contract nature of outsourcing, just as there would be problems if you only hired domestic engineers on a temporary basis. Offshoring, building a sustained engineering crew overseas, is a more expensive but safer bet.

Finding the best developers for your organization can make all the difference, but that has to be balanced out with the need to grab good talent as quickly as possible. It is not like engineers are applying to just your company and calling it a day. They are applying to multiple companies, most of whom will be willing to take that engineer onboard. Consequently, striking first and extending a job offer before the others is a crucial advantage.

There are a couple of methods to move faster than your competition. Be upfront about compensation and do not beat around the bush with some slow dance of negotiation. Make yourself available and respond to texts and emails as quickly as possible.

Even if you strike quickly, it is possible that the candidate chooses to work elsewhere. While that can be frustrating, make sure to thank them for their time and congratulate them on their new job. As noted above, you want to maintain strong connections with as many engineers as possible for better referrals and even as a potential future hire.


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Chris Porteous
Chris Porteous Member
I'm a serial entrepreneur and owner of three internet ventures, including My SEO Sucks. A contributor to ZeroHedge,, Forbes,, and dozens of other media outlets, I believe in SEO as a product. I developed a proprietary technology fueling the #1 rankings of My SEO Sucks clients. In guest speaking ventures across North American, I advocate for organic search traffic as the backbone of any comprehensive digital marketing strategy.