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How to Find Engineers for your Startup

December 5, 2016

hire engineers for your startup

Startup companies run on the ingenuity of their founders and the team that these founders have put together. Though they may lack the resources of established companies, many startups are able to capitalize on the strength of their ideas and get the backing of major investors. Many startups have even been able to crowd fund their futures, letting the strength of their vision speak to everyday people and enticing them to invest.

But, no matter how disruptive your business model or how revolutionary your product, you will still need talented employees to transform your vision into reality. If your startup is developing a new application or program, you will rely on a variety of tech talent to complete your project, especially the talents of software engineers. They are the ones who will design the framework that your coders will write and they are the ones who bridge the gap between vision and execution of your product design.

You may need the talents of a software engineer, or a few of them, but this doesn’t mean that finding one will be easy. Software engineers are some of the most sought after employees on the market. No matter where your company operates, the software engineers in your area may be entertaining offers from Silicon Valley giants and other powerhouse technology companies from hub cities like Seattle, Austin, and Portland.

Given the level of competition for software engineer talent, any startup in need of this talent should prepare for a challenging candidate search.

Challenges of Hiring Software Engineer:

  • They have specific interests and desires for their next job– Many engineers will only take a job that engages their niche expertise and/or satisfies their requirements for the next step in their career. Beyond these desires, many engineers have specific ideas about the type of company they want to work for, and will consider both the reputation of the company and the reputation of their products.
  • They are highly paid- The median pay for software engineers is 80,778, and you can count on this being closer to 100,000 for senior roles.
  • They are in high demand- There is projected to be over 1 million open technology positions by 2020 without qualified college graduates to fill them. Top engineer candidates will probably be considering other jobs or even offers, so the hiring process must move quickly.

In order for your startup to find the engineering talent you need, you must account for these challenges and costs. It may be difficult to compete with established companies for talent, but some employment trends are beginning to favor startups. Other trends, unfortunately, are not.

According to data from Indeed, 88% of tech professionals intend to leave their current employer for another job in the future, which will make it easier to recruit talent from established companies.

Additionally, the appeal of Silicon Valley seems to be wearing off, making it easier for companies operating outside of this tech hub to attract talent.

Silicon Valley Not IMportant

However, according to the same report, tech professionals are wary of working for startups, meaning that you will have to ease the concerns of many engineer candidates that you want to hire to your startup.

tech workers wary of startups

So, most tech workers want to work for an established brand, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t make a solid engineer hire for your startup. You may be fighting an uphill battle, but now that you know what you’re up against, you can take the necessary steps to secure the talent you need.

Tailor Your Pitch

If you are trying to make an engineer hire, you are doing it in a highly competitive, candidate-driven job market where talent is in short supply and has more bargaining power. Hiring a top candidate for your startup is only possible if you sell your job opportunity. No matter where you find them, whether they applied to you directly or you’re reaching out to an old colleague, you need to sell your opportunity and company as much as you need to sell the work they’ll be doing. You may have a lot of great talent on-board already, but as a startup fighting impressions of cautious candidates, you will need to pitch your company to candidates as much as your job opportunity.

Your engineer hire will be investing their skills, experience, time and hard work into your company. And, just like an investor, they will expect some ROI to come from their time with your startup. Working at an emerging company provides the opportunity to get in on the ground floor, and you should be selling candidates on this opportunity. Offering a stake in the company, greater control over their work or the opportunity to manage a growing department are all great examples of the perks that can come with a startup job.

Then, there’s the work to consider. Like we said, engineers will only take your job if it is aligned with their interests and their career. Your job description needs to be detailed enough for an engineer to see that your job is right (or wrong) for them: from the projects they’ll be working on to the day to day. At the same time, it needs to be appealing enough to combat the hang-ups that some tech workers have about working for a startup.

From your culture, to your headquarters to your entrepreneurial vision, you need to paint a beautiful, accurate picture of the opportunity you’re offering. Then, you need to sell this opportunity as avidly to your candidates as you do to potential investors and stakeholders. After all, there will be many long hours of work ahead, and you want people who believe in your ideas and are committed to seeing them though.

Money, Money, Money

In order to attract the engineering talent that you need, you will have to offer an attractive salary and benefits package. Period.

Recruiting from the same talent pool as tech giants, means that you’re going to have to ante-up for your job to catch the interest of serious candidates. Always research the median salary for engineers in your area and match this median. If you can’t, then your pitch had better be quite convincing indeed. Stock options, future management opportunities and or/ flexible work arrangements are all great ways to sweeten the deal for high quality candidates that won’t hugely inflate the price of hiring them.

The flip side of high pay for tech candidates, is that money may not be their main concern. Many fortune 500 technology companies are having trouble retaining top talent, and, after putting in their time, most high-profile tech workers move on to a company that is more closely aligned with their career passions. As long as you are meeting or nearly meeting the median pay for engineers in your area, you can still attract the interest of high quality candidates with the strength of your entrepreneurial vision.

However, if it turns out that the candidate you’re interested in is motivated by the money, it can get pretty expensive to close the deal. This is especially true if they have been shopping around with more established brands. If your top choice is getting a counter-offer that you can’t beat, offering more in the way of stock options or growth-based pay increases can be a good strategy for swaying a money-minded engineer.

Tap Niche Tech Talent Sources

Since a challenge of hiring engineers for startups is finding candidates who are interested in working for an emerging company, it’s good to look in talent communities based around the startup mentality.

Niche job boards like Angel List cater specifically to startups and allow interested candidates to see salary and equity upfront with your job description. The candidates who subscribe to and/or browse these boards are interested in (or at least open to) the idea of working for a startup, making them your target audience. Posting to startup specific job boards ensures that your pitch is aimed at interested candidates, not wasted on candidates with hang-ups about startups.

SkillGigs is another option for startups looking for skilled developers. Our online talent marketplace empowers tech professionals of all types to market their skills, to market their desires for their next job and to connect with employers. SkillGigs candidates use our 3-D resume technology to provide employers with a complete picture of their skills, skill distribution, professional interests, relocation requirements, career desires and salary requirements. Having all of this information up front reduces the uncertainty that usually comes with hiring, and the online auction-style job marketplace cuts down on the uncertainty that usually comes with the offer negotiation process.

Hiring an engineer for your startup may be a challenge, but as long as you tailor your pitch, match engineer position offers in your area and aim your pitch at the right audience, you can get the talent you need to move forward.

VP of Marketing at Digital Astronauts Ronny Cheng is one of the Co-Founder's of Digital Astronauts and has helped drive lead generation in the software industry for organizations of all sizes -- from start-ups to Fortune 500's. He helped build one of the first online software review websites, specializing in CRM, ERP, and HR software. He's a nationally published author with extensive experience working with the HR/Recruiting industries largest brands. In his spare time, you can catch him on Instagram doing his best food blogger impersonation.
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