Which tech hire should be your first?
Founders have a lot of decisions facing them. Many founders of technical startups are technical, themselves. They build the first version of their product, get a little success under their belts, and then hit the point where they can either work on the product or the company, not both.
Others are non-technical. They have visions for a solution to a problem that they see, but they need help turning their dreams into realities.
In both scenarios, the founder will eventually have to cross the bridge of making their first technical hire. When that time comes, there are still more decisions that have to be made before they can even start looking for the right person.
Step 0: Figure out what needs to be done
It sounds trite, but before you try to hire a developer, stop and think it through. Where are you now? What still needs to be done to get you to a minimum viable product (MVP)? Let’s pick those concepts apart for a bit, shall we?
Where are you now?
Do you have a working piece of code? That’s the first question you need to ask, because how you proceed will largely depend on the answer.
If you have a working piece of code, even if it’s just a prototype, it will be easier to explain what needs to be done and how you want it done. If you are building the next instant communications platform for teams, and you have a working server and client, then you can show it to the developer and immediately start talking about where it falls short and what needs to be done to take it to the next level.
This is most likely going to take hiring a mid-to-senior level software developer who can take what you’ve done, clean it up, extend it, and get it ready for release.
If on the other hand, you know in your heart of hearts that each and every instant communications platform is flawed, and you know how to fix it, but you aren’t a technical person, you are going to need an architect level person who is comfortable writing code. You need someone who can catch the vision for what you want built, lay out how it needs to be built, and then build it.
These are two very different people, and if you hire the wrong one, the results could be disastrous for your startup.
Where are you going?
Now that you know where you are, you also need to figure out where you are going. Unless you are hiring a contractor to just get you to MVP (a valid strategy), you need to make sure that your technical hire can help you get a little further down the road past MVP.
Regardless of where you are now, you need to make sure that the developer you hire is capable of catching the vision for the product and growing with the role.
Step 1: Work Your Network
Now that you have an idea of what you need, start working your network. The absolute best hires you can make are people you know or friends of friends. Your friends want you to succeed more than anyone else, so they will only recommend the best to you.
Take to social media, start emailing friends, if you are in MasterMind groups or other types of support groups, ask around. Ask everyone.
When someone recommends a developer to you, always follow up with the developer. Even if it doesn’t work out, make sure that you at least talk to them. Asking for a recommendation and not following up is a good way for people to stop helping you at all.
Step 2: Find a Recruiting Partner
If you work your network until it’s tapped out and still haven't found the developer that you’re looking for, it’s time to turn to the professionals for help. Yes, you can write your own job description and post it on all the job boards, but chances are really good that you will miss the mark with the job description and not get the candidates you’re looking for. There are so many poorly written job descriptions out there that it’s a wonder anyone gets hired at all.
If you already have an HR department, you might think that they are the most qualified to help you fill the position. I can assure you–they are not. They’re great at things like onboarding and dealing with personnel issues. However, they are not developers, so they won’t be able to help you find the right developer for your position.
The Hard Way
If you want, there are a lot of good resources out there that will help you with the process.
- Write a good job description.
- Publish the job description on all the free boards, or pay to put it on the commercial boards.
- Vet all the incoming resumes to weed out the ones that can’t do the job, and find the ones that might be able to do the job.
- Schedule and conduct the initial phone screens with the potential candidates.
- Of the candidates that remain, schedule actual interviews with your team members.
- Select the best candidate, and make them an offer.
If you have a HR department, they can help with some of these steps, but you will have to stay involved. Unless they have developers on staff, they aren’t going to be able to make some of the decisions on their own.
The Easy Way
There is a better way. You can bring on a partner who can handle some or all of the steps for you. The hard part is finding the right partner. There are a lot of recruiting agencies out there–and no offense to them–they aren’t who you need to make your first technical hire. They specialize in putting butts in seats. They may be better than an internal HR department, or they may not. If you don’t have an internal HR department, they may seem to be the obvious step, because they can take care of some of the steps for you.
Again, the problem is that like an internal HR department, most recruiting companies don't have the talent necessary to properly evaluate candidates.
You need a developer to help you find a developer
To help you make your first technical hire, you need a developer’s help.
Gun.io has an entire team of developers that we call our “Talent Acquisition” team. Our TA team is made 100% of developers–current developers who also help us match developers with projects.
Only a developer can properly size up another developer and make sure that the qualifications that you’re looking for are the ones that the developers actually have.
You need a database to help you find a developer
The best TA team in the world is useless if they don’t have an active database of candidates to choose from. At Gun.io, we don’t set out to find you a developer when you hire us. We already have a database of thousands of developers looking for work that have already passed our TA team’s screening. We know these developers can do the job, because we’ve already vetted them.
You need a partner to help you find a developerr
When your network comes up dry, you'll need someone who can quickly step in and find you the right person. You need someone who sees your entire project, not just the vacancy you need filled. You need a partner like Gun.io.
Step 3: Bring your project to life
You can do all of this yourself, and honestly–I’ve done it at several companies. However, in a startup, everything is a tradeoff. Yes, you can hunt for your first technical hire, or you can continue to build your product or company. The right choice is entirely dependent on your current situation. For many, the call of building the company or product will be too great. If this is you, then for you to succeed, you will need to find a partner to help you with your recruiting needs.
Working with a recruiting partner like Gun.io for your first technical hire is a great first step. We can help you find the right developer and move your project to the next level. The rest is up to you. Once you have that first hire, and you’ve reached MVP, you are most likely going to need more developers to build out and grow your project.
Thankfully, if you worked with Gun.io to make your first hire, you have a partner ready to help you ramp up your technical team and bring your project to life. We are ready to help you help others solve the problem you see.
Interested in working with Gun.io? We specialize in helping engineers hire (and get hired by) the best minds in software development.