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How to hire developers 👩💻
Hiring technical talent is just one of the many hurdles any early stage startups will over come. Hiring the right team will help you iterate, build and move faster than your peers. The challenge is that most developers are flush with options when it comes to where they want to compete. How are you supposed to compete with Google?
Chris Dixon, Partner at a16z, shared some of his guidance in this blog post from 2011 that still proves timeless today.
1️⃣ Understand what motivates developers
'Compensation matters, but it's often a threshold variable...programmers care about 1) working on interesting technical problems, 2) working with other talented people, 3) working in a friendly, creative environment, 4) working on software'
2️⃣ Understand the role of the developer as a creative
'Software development is a creative activity and needs to be treated as such. Sometimes a programmer can have an idea on, say, the subway that can save weeks of work or add some great new functionality. Business people who don’t understand this make the mistake of emphasizing mechanistic metrics like the number of hours in the office and the number of bugs fixed per week.'
3️⃣ Show up - everywhere
'There are no shortcuts here. You need to show up to schools, hackathons, meetups – wherever great programmers hang out. If your existing employees love their jobs they will refer friends. Try to generate inbound contacts by creating buzz around your company. If you have trouble doing that (it’s hard), try simple things like blogging about topics that are interesting to programmers.'
4️⃣ Screen well
'Great programmers love to program and will have created lots of software that wasn’t for their jobs or school homework'
5️⃣ Make the sale
'The top thing you need to do is convince them what you hopefully already believe (and have been pitching investors, press etc): that your company is doing something important and impactful. The next thing you need to do is convince them that your company is one that values and takes care of employees.'
6️⃣ Treat early engineers as late founders
'Making those first engineers “late cofounders” will dramatically increase your chances of recruiting great people...I’ve long believed that early-stage, funded startups systematically under-grant equity to employees.'
What traits do great startup employees have? 💼
Michael Houck shared some thoughts from his time at Airbnb and Uber here on what to look out for when trying to hire exceptional talent
1️⃣ They proactively ask for feedback
'as a founder, you should have systems in place to give feedback to your direct reports but when team members proactively ask for more of it, you know you've found someone who cares about the contribution they're making'
2️⃣ They don't care about their title
'if title is something that potential early employees care about, they aren't seeing the bigger picture'
3️⃣ They know which fires to let burn
'startups have more problems to solve than time to solve all of them, and focusing on the right ones is critical for success and avoiding team burnout'
4️⃣ You can learn from them
'this is one of the easier things to test for in an interview, too. just start telling them about problems you're dealing with in the area of the business they'd be working on'
5️⃣ They're solution oriented
'rather than bringing you problems to solve, the best team members are creative and capable of coming up with solutions on their own'
6️⃣ Genuine passion
'startups will have good times and bad times. if an employee thinks of your startup as just a job, they're likely to get burned out or leave during challenging times'
7️⃣ They hustle
'you want team members who look for scrappy solutions that embrace the "M" in mvp, and aren't afraid to learn new tools quickly to get something launched'
8️⃣ They hold you accountable
'just as you want team members to ask for feedback about themselves, you also want them to provide feedback for you and hold you accountable when things don't go as planned'
What are common hiring mistakes to avoid? 🛑
Paul Graham has seen thousands of startups go through the hiring process and see's startups make the same mistakes repeatedly. Hiring too quickly is one of the easiest ways to fake progress and burn cash.
My default advice about hiring is to hire someone if and only if the lack of that person is the main thing holding back your growth. That doesn't change just because you have a lot of money in the bank.
— Paul Graham (@paulg)
Aug 16, 2022
Erik Torenberg shares some advice from his time at On Deck in a similar vein. Who you need will depend on the stage of your company. Early stage startups need people to come in and hit the ground running immediately.
These time horizons affect the people you hire:
When you're 3 months old, you need to hire people who can come in and contribute right away. You don't have the luxury of not doing so.
When you're 3 years old, you can take more bets on people who will mature overtime.
— Erik Torenberg (@eriktorenberg)
Sep 15, 2020
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