Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How to Hire Great Developers

A recent conversation highlighted the challenge of hiring great developers.  It’s a tough market – demand for technical talent is exploding and the supply isn’t increasing to compensation.  As the talent war heats up prices increase, and even finding talent is hard since nobody good is every looking (they’re choosing between offers). 

Really, this boils down to a sales process.  There’s prospecting (find the people you want) and closing (convincing them to join you!).  While by no means the end-all in recruiting, here are some tactical tips and tactics that have helped me:


  • Friends – by far the best resource is friends and friends of friends.  Ask around the people who already know and like you to see if they have someone in their network they can connect you with.  If it’s a good fit everyone wins!
  • Presentations – there are a ton of opportunities to give presentations at local meetups and events.  This is a great way to get in front of a bunch of people and get them excited about your company  (which you should be doing anyways!)  The best networking will happen when people come up to you afterwards – talk about qualified leads!
  • Online Press – there are a multitude of online press organizations out there.  You should be active pursuing coverage in all of them.  Especially the locally targeted tech ones will be actively read by developers.  If you make a good enough pitch this will bring the most motivated team members through the door.
  • LinkedIn – last but not least!  Look around on LinkedIn for the talent.  See if you're connected, if not it’s worth buying the contact options.  People are usually quite responsive if you make a respectful pitch.


  • Portfolio – what has this developer done? One the job and on the side are both important.  Have the skills you need been demonstrated?  If not I wouldn’t make the hire. 
  • References – this should be obvious, but is often missed.  Ask past employers, colleagues, and just anyone you can about the person.  Will they be a good fit for your team culture?  Will they stick around?   How can you motivate them?


  • Have the whole team sell them.  Through in person meetings, 1:1s and group emails – make sure they feel desired by the entire team – not just a hiring manager.
  • Make a great offer.  People in general and technical people in particular are usually 1x or 10x.  The best are worth 10x more than average.  So take compensation off the table.  Make them an offer they can’t refuse (say 2x).  It’s worth it.
  • Sell the mission.  Most developers make more than enough money (and have for their entire careers).  They are good because they are smart and seek interesting problems and fun products far above anything else.  Talk about your past wins and future ambitions.  Show them how their work will change the world.
  • Learn to code.  Nothing is worse than a non-technical person trying to close a technical one.  It just doesn’t work well.  Even if you know a little it will help build the trust that you, to some extent, appreciate their talent.

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