How to Hire Developers for Startup: A Definitive Guide

Here's the truth. With a bare-bones structure, a startup is often run by a one-man team and is not in a position to compete with established companies in terms of benefits and salaries.

Even if it does, developers often seek to work for established companies where the conditions and benefits are more stable, and there is room for advancement.

Many early-stage startups, however, have turned to alternative recruiting methods in recent years. They outsource development. A lot of the popular names like Slack and Whatsapp outsourced their development when they were just getting started.

In 2018, 37% of small businesses outsourced their business processes, and that number is expected to rise. IT personnel account for 60% of the outsourcing workforce, which illustrates the overwhelming demand for IT outsourcing.

The impact of technology on industries has been widely discussed. However, it can be easy to forget that it is the people behind those technologies who will have the biggest impact on your business.

This is especially true for startups, 23% of which attribute not hiring the right team as the top reason startups go under. About 20% of startups fail within two years. And why? A quarter of them fails due to a lack of teamwork.

It comes down to asking, what is the best way to hire developers for a startup? We'll help you cut through all this noise and give you a blueprint for finding the right developers.

5 Things to Know Before Hiring Software Developers for Startup

The recruitment process begins long before you craft a job description and start reviewing candidates, so let's take a moment to highlight this before we explain how to hire developers for a startup step by step.

Preparation begins with defining the key details and goals of the recruitment process. Therefore, our guide begins with the top four things you need to know before hiring programmers for startup.

Motivation drivers for startups

1. Fast Growth

It is estimated that more than 3,400 apps were added to the Google PlayStore daily in December 2020. This shows how competitive the app market is. For a startup, it's critical to get your idea out there as soon as possible, test it out, and refine it. An MVP is your best tool for securing funding for your startup. It is what investors expect.

Even if you're a skilled programmer, you must focus on managing your business development if you want to make rapid progress as an early-stage startup. Additionally, you still need to get big (hiring) muscles yet as a startup. This data illustrates just how difficult it is to hire technical talent:

  • In US tech hubs, finding developers and engineers takes 39 months.

  • Tech leaders report difficulty finding tech talent 86% of the time.

  • There is a shortage of qualified candidates among 80% of technical hiring managers.

  • There was almost a 25% growth in demand for software developer roles in 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019.

  • It usually costs 20-25% of a new hire's salary to recruit a new employee.

2. Specifications and Technical Requirements

Don't forget to narrate your functional and technical requirements before you start hiring developers.

Having a baseline understanding of how your software solution should function, such as its flow, user interface, data security, and the path between inputs and outputs, along with wireframes (ideally), will help you find the right talent.

With technical requirements, it's important to describe, as much as possible, how the app will be built (codebase, constraints, etc.).

3. Market Analysis

No matter your project idea, there is a good chance there are already a few similar solutions. On the one hand, this fact toughens the competition.

However, on the other hand, it gives you a chance to analyze existing solutions and create something more complete, competitive, and better. Before finding an app developer for your startup, you should conduct an in-depth market analysis.

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Once you have conducted your research, analyze the data and formulate the key insights for making your project better and more competitive.

4. Preferred Startup Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) and Employment Model

Selecting the best collaboration model for your startup may be challenging. It can take on many forms in the world of information technology. There are several types of cooperation. Outsourcing, outstaffing, and dedicated teams are some of the most common forms of employment.

There are pros and cons to each of them. The choice always depends on the specific needs of the project. A dedicated team might be the best option if startups do not yet have a well-established in-house team.

Startups can benefit from this model because it allows them to save resources and fill talent gaps. This model involves hiring a complete development team (often remotely) from a third-party service provider.

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How you handle your project will be determined by the SDLC model you choose. The Agile method, for example, is suitable for large, complex projects whose scope, type, deadlines, and budget may change frequently. It depends greatly on the project's scope, type, deadlines, and budget.

Another example is waterfall models are appropriate for smaller projects that have fixed requirements and have a small chance of having to be amended at the end of the project. Consider different SDLC models and choose one that best fits the details of your project.

5. In-house vs. Outsource

If you need an app developer for a startup, delegating projects to an outsourced team (or individual developer) might be a good option.

Often, startups do not have fully developed teams for development and project management, so outsourcing talents could save you a lot of time and effort. Let's examine this matter more closely.

Having all your employees in the office can feel a lot more convenient and eliminate communication challenges, but outsourcing offers many advantages, especially for startups. This gives you access to international talent.

In addition to providing you with the opportunity to choose the best professionals for your projects, outsourcing development projects to overseas teams can also be very cost-effective compared to hiring an in-house team.

Due to these two reasons, startups should consider outsourcing development.

You can even hire developers on a project basis as well, which allows you to pay developers a fixed price for the duration of their contract. If you're an early-stage startup and need more flexibility, outsource a dedicated team.

However, outsourcing adds more costs that can be avoided by automating the hiring process with the right HR processes.

An in-house development team has more pros than cons: Better communication and coordination, continuous product improvement, and more context and expertise that cannot be found elsewhere.

It all comes down to choosing the kind of employment model that is most appropriate for your startup. Remote developers prove to be a more cost-effective option for startups just getting off the ground.

By connecting with Remotebase, you won't have to sift through a mountain of prospective providers that aren't right for you. You can find developers for a startup or an entire team with confidence. Cut your search for a highly qualified engineering team from five months to hours with Remotebase.

Hiring Software Developers - 7 Effective Tips

Getting a solid understanding of the type of developer you’re looking for is crucial before you create a job listing and start interviewing candidates.

In contrast to hiring a WordPress developer to build a custom landing page for your information product, hiring a software developer for the design and development of a SaaS (software as a service) product are two very different experiences.

Not to mention specialized technology skills such as virtual reality, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

To hire the best developers for your startup, you need to be systematic in defining the right tech stack and take a thoughtful and considered hiring approach.

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1. Write a Solid Developer Job Description

Now that you know which developer (or developers) your startup needs, it's time to post a job.

The following is what a good project description should include:

- Work Scope: Provide a clear description of the tasks that need to be carried out. The more specific you can be about deliverables and job responsibilities, the better.

- Budget: Make a budget and note whether you prefer fixed-price contracts or hourly rates.

- Timeframe: Decide whether it's a short-term project or a long-term position.

- Your ideal developer background: Describe the technical stack, programming languages, development tools, and experience you are looking for in a developer.

Update your new developers' job descriptions if anything has changed since you hired them. This will give your new hires a clear understanding of their role on your team and help everyone stay on the same page.

PRO TIP: Use a job description generator tool to write the perfect job description to attract the right candidates.

2. Know What Type of Developer you Need

Startup roles usually require some flexibility, so make sure the job description reflects that and all the skills and experience your ideal candidate should possess.

If the role is going to involve long hours of solo coding, there will be a developer who thinks they've just been offered a place in heaven.

Don't write an unreal-exciting job description; be honest. A multi-skilled role like that, where they can talk to clients, handle some tech support, and pitch in with product design, could also be someone's idea of Nirvana.

No one benefits from unclear expectations. When you hire someone and discover they're not right for the job, you just delay projects and destroy morale.

A developer specializes in a certain area, so if you need more technical experience, you should pay special attention to this section.

Have a quick read: Swift vs Objective C: which is best to develop iOS apps in 2023?

3. Budget your Expenses

If you have cash-strapped funds or capital funding, budgeting is crucial at every step — even when hiring software developers for startup. When allocating the budget, choosing an expert and quality developer should be one of the most important priorities.

Although tech giants are sweeping away any available developer with perks and bonuses, startups remain competitive by being more creative than them. A startup can still get a head start on finding the right employees by offering more flexibility, stock options, and better relationships with the company.

Despite limited budgets and high tensions, startups can do more if they are economically savvy. You can, for example, reduce the cost of recruitment by investing in a software solution instead of going through recruitment agencies.

Further costs can be minimized by hiring developers from less competitive regions to work remotely.

4. Staff Augmentation is Always a Better Option

It's risky to rely on freelancers when hiring engineers for your company. It may pay off if you're lucky, but if not, the consequences will be significant.

The biggest problem with freelancers is that they need help with assimilation into the business culture. They may seem like a cost-effective development solution, but they actually put your startup's finances at risk.

- Self-augmentation with short-term access

Hiring freelancers involves vetting their expertise. This process requires a lot of time and resources. Staff augmentation reduces this problem by providing short-term projects.

IT staff augmentation eliminates two types of risk, such as hiring freelance developers and the high cost of hiring full-time developers, resulting in a win-win situation for everyone. It provides access to pre-vetted, well-qualified employees to achieve specific business goals.

5. A Focus on Innate Characteristics and Technical Expertise

An in-house team of talented developers can provide you with a distinct competitive advantage. Because the developers you hire are more accountable, you have more control over the project and its management.

A skilled web developer who has worked for a large corporation can struggle. Even though the elements of variable, adaptability, risk-taking, and a self-starter mindset are vital to a startup, they may be less so in a large organization.

The first thing you should look for when choosing a developer is how well they integrate with your team and company culture. These are the company values or the DNA of your startup. Moreover, anything could be considered.

It could be fostering a culture of hustle 24/7 or being relaxed and flexible about deadlines. It could be working in teams and adapting or working on solo projects. My next point is to assess these skills realistically.

6. Asses Them on Small Projects

You can find out if a prospect is a good fit for the position you're looking for by giving them an issue to solve. You will not get actual insights from a fictional challenge. Instead, ask them to solve a real-life problem.

The candidate's ability to provide things in a timely manner, as well as the quality of the end product, can be evaluated.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • To ensure the project's success, were they willing to go above and beyond?

  • What level of creativity did they bring to the project?

  • What was their approach to discussing concerns, and how did they react to delays as a team?

  • Were they open to collaboration and feedback?

The recruiter often asks candidates to solve problems creatively. So, have the candidate lay out their 'game plan' for approaching the problem.

To test speed, have them write code without worrying about bug fixes. Have them fix bugs in a pre-written code. During the testing process, candidates tried multiple approaches to solving a problem.

- The flow of asking questions

A candidate's response to the challenge will reveal a few things, including whether they are approaching the problem correctly. Additionally, whether they would make a good fit for your startup, don't get stuck asking trivia questions.

Do not ask trivial questions, such as who invented PHP or who invented Java. Ask open-ended questions instead of questions you can look up on the internet.

Consider how well they convey technical concepts and how much passion they demonstrate in their responses.

Are you looking for people in the right places? The biggest challenge in hiring developers for startup is finding the right people.

Software engineers are mostly working, not looking for new opportunities. They are not likely to be on job boards, nor will they be scouring your job postings. However, there are ways and places where you can 'scout' for developers.

7. Assess the Candidate's Soft Skills

An app developer for a startup should have a good combination of hard and soft skills. Although technical skills can easily be assessed through the candidate's work experience and test tasks, it can be challenging to assess soft skills in an interview.

There are often times when these skills are not apparent at first glance. You should still assess them to ensure that the developer looks credible on paper and in person.

The best way to gauge them is by asking behavioral questions. Such questions typically ask a candidate about certain situations and how they solve them.

Use similar behavioral questions to assess the soft skills you care about, such as communication skills or how you dealt with a difficult colleague in the past.

How to Find Developers for Your Startup

1. Online Developer Communities

Software engineers typically share their work examples on GitHub and Stack Overflow. Online communities and databases are also reliable places to find tech talent.

In addition to creating relationships here, you can also learn a lot about their coding skills and ensure that the code they write is clean.

It's important not to get caught up in ‘professional qualifications.’ The hiring landscape survey from Stack Overflow revealed some useful insights. 90% of engineers have studied another language outside of their academic program. A college degree is no longer sufficient to judge a developer's coding ability.

A motto like ‘hire slow, fire fast’ does not mean you have to wait months for someone to join your team.

Startup teams are crucial to your success as an entrepreneur, so you need to be extremely selective when hiring.

Do your best to take your time, but let the person go as soon as possible if something doesn't work out.

An incompetent web developer can ruin the whole team and, in some cases, the entire project. Moreover, it is often difficult to observe the fire-fast rule in small companies, where everyone is in it together.

However, don't let it discourage you. Quick firing is vital. Perhaps even more so than hiring. Yet, to minimize HR issues, ensure your employees know what they need to do to succeed.

2. Developer Events

Developer conferences, hackathons, and other tech events are great places to meet tech talent. You're one step closer to discovering the perfect talent for your startup if you strike a chord in the discussion. Hone your pitch; explain your problem and why it's important.

As a startup, you cannot compete with the perks and benefits of a big corporation. However, you can offer a dynamic work environment with flexible hours.

There is plenty of room for experimentation, learning, and doing something they are passionate about.

3. Get Referrals

In addition to asking for referrals, you might want to ask your employees for them. According to Jobvite, employee referrals are the second-best source of quality hires. An employee referral app called Erin found that 82% of employers say employee referrals provide the best ROI.

It may be as simple as posting a LinkedIn update. That doesn't prevent you from asking your wider network.

PRO TIP: Companies receive 55% more referrals when they subtly encourage their engineers to refer underrepresented candidates, according to a Pinterest study.

Benefits of a Dedicated Development Team Model

No matter how you slice it, the benefits of a dedicated development team model still include fewer headaches, greater flexibility, lower costs, and often better results.

Benefits of a dedicated development team model

1. Streamlined HR Processes

You know it. Hiring employees in-house can be a difficult, time-consuming process. Developing a job description. Finding a headhunter. Posting the position on a job site. Posting it on social media. Sorting through endless resumes. Setting up interviews. Holding the interviews.

If you have options, narrow it down to three candidates. Agree on who would be the best match. Make an offer. Negotiate. Once the offer has been accepted, do the onboarding and paperwork.

This can be daunting, particularly if you're a stressed-out startup founder looking to hire people with deep technical expertise.

By working with a dedicated development team provider, you're offloading the hassle and getting right to the good stuff: building a great product, launching it, and delivering it to the market.

2. Top Tech Talent at Fingertips

With a remote dedicated team model, you're not limited by the local IT market — a shortage of qualified UX specialists within a 50-mile radius, for example, is no longer a problem. Perfect match candidates are only located in another country, so you can tap them.

In Asia, for example, large pools of certified software experts have advanced technical education, extensive experience with different programming languages and tools, and are fluent in English (if your partner has requirements to ensure fluency).

Furthermore, suppose you choose a dedicated development team provider. In that case, you're likely to get remote engineers who're familiar with your industry (think fintech, health tech, or proptech), have the ability to handle workflows and deadlines, and have a solid understanding of the project at hand.

In other words, they've likely worked on something similar to your project before, often using the same technology stack as you.

A dedicated team typically features devs who have worked together before, which facilitates smoother communication within the team.

A full-service software development company can also pull anyone from a product manager to a QA lead to a CTO (yes, that can happen, too!) into your team as needed, relieving you of the task of finding and hiring qualified personnel.

3. Cost Effective

A dedicated team model (or freelancers, for that matter) eliminates the burden of benefits and overhead when compared to hiring in-house developers.

However, overhead isn't the only factor to consider — the devs you hire are also important. Here's what it costs to hire a team of developers. A software engineer's average hourly rate in the US is $55, which comes to $104,000 a year, not counting benefits and overhead. But if you hire a dev from Poland? You'll pay $30/hr. This is a minimum of 45 percent savings.

Your budget will last longer, and you'll have the cash to scale your team with additional developers when needed. (More on that below.) With those savings, you have a wider runway for your project: You can channel them toward other things.

4. Speed

If you go with a dedicated team model, your team can be up and running within weeks, not months, resulting in faster time-to-market for your product. Plus, you can do it quickly when you need to scale your team.

The reverse is also true: If you need to scale back to meet market demands or adjust your team composition, you can do so without facing painful (or public) layoffs. Entrepreneurs do not want to plan for that, but it's always possible.

5. Flexibility

The dedicated team model also gives you the flexibility to select a team that fits your needs right now or changes it as you need it.

Short-term projects with predefined requirements and scope of work are best suited to the project-based model.

This is ideal for companies with little technology experience and the ones that want to test out external developers. In addition, this is ideal if they need extra help with a side project, such as updating a mobile app or an integration.

Long-term projects are your bread and butter. Your team can grow as your project requirements change during product development. You can augment your in-house team with developers with specific skills.

Build a Team of Dedicated Remote Developers with Remotebase

With more than 980 unicorns worldwide, countless enterprises, and other early startups vying for the attention of the golden few software developers considering a new position, you're in a tough spot. With Remotebase, you can hire the top 1% of developers in 24 hours.

If you have a good hiring process for hiring developers, you will be surprised when it's time to expand your development team with remote developers.

The future of work is continuously evolving, and talent clouds like Remotebase have long been leading the transition to a remote workforce.

Contrary to popular myths, the pandemic has shown many businesses that independent professionals and remote workers can work outside the office.

Remotebase specializes in recruiting the world's top IT talent. It's not just about finding qualified remote IT experts at a fraction of the cost but about hiring professionals compatible with your company's culture and processes.

Our clients receive top remote developers with the skills and personality to integrate successfully into their organizations.

Find the top remote developers with Remotebase today and build your remote team!

How to Hire Developers for Startups: FAQs

How do you hire programmers for your startup?

  • Make use of online developer hiring platforms.
  • You can post jobs on social media sites like Github, LinkedIn, Stack Overflow, and other job boards.
  • Alternatively, you may hire an outsourcing firm or meet developers through a Hackathon, meetup, or conference.

When should a startup hire coders?

It varies from startup to startup, but usually, you hire your first developer when you want to solve a product problem.

When you need a prototype or an app or encounter problems that no-code solutions cannot solve, it would be a good idea to hire your first developer.

When building your product roadmap, it's helpful to have a developer with you if you don't have a technical background.

How many developers will I need to hire to launch a successful startup?

Early-stage startups only need one or two developers to build a minimum viable product, while mid to large-scale companies and those that plan for rapid growth may need an entire team.

The number of developers required depends on the scale and complexity of your product. You can even divide the entire project into multiple microservices to hire two to three developers at each stage.

Hire Top 1% Remote Developers in 24 Hours with Remotebase