What do you look for when hiring a Developer for your startup?

Once you have reached the conclusion that you need to hire a developer who will work on a project in-house, there are certain steps to take in order to get yourself prepared to hire.

Firstly you need to write a detailed job description and consider the following:

1. What kind of developer do you need (frontend, backend or fullstack)?

2. What programming languages does the project need both now and for future enhancements

3. What experience does this individual need to have (will they need to come from a similar tech industry)

4. How do I define the company culture and ensure that candidates match the ideals

Hiring for tech skills is fairly straight forward, although usually you will want to implement some form of technical testing capability. However, it's not just about the tech.

We've put together a list of 6 key traits outside of tech skills, that all Founders need to consider assessing as part of a robust recruitment process:

1. Passion

Founders are passionate about their business, it's what got you here in the first place. Look for candidates who demonstrate the ability to get excited about a project, who are animated when talking about past work. Ask them outright "talk to me about a project that you felt really passionate about working on, and why". Passion will drive individuals forward to look for solutions.

2. Adaptability

Developers need to be able to wear many hats when joining a startup. In a fast changing environment, the ability to adapt and to pivot at any stage is vital. As part of your interview process, ask your candidate to describe a situation where they have had to manage change at short notice and discuss the impact that this may have had on their performance. If your developer can't be quick thinking on their feet, they aren't going to be able to adapt in an ever changing environment.

3. Curiosity

A desire to know or learn something is vital for developers in a startup. As Albert Einstein said "Once you stop learning, you start dying." You need someone who doesn't accept things as they are and strives to find the best solution. How do you test this trait in an interview situation? Open up the floor for questions!. Outside of the typical questions you would expect around salary, hours, benefits etc, look for individuals who ask deeper questions. Someone who really wants to drill down in to the why, the how and the when demonstrates a real thirst for knowledge. Perfect!

4. Communication

"The ability to convey an idea accurately and effectively". Starting out, there will be a close working relationship between the Founder (s) and a growing team of developers. Team work is vital (and discussed below) and therefore so is the ability and the desire to communicate and collaborate. Our advice is to introduce some form of pitch presentation as part of the interview process. Ask individuals to present a short 5 minute pitch outlining their key achievements career to date. Are they able to deliver information in a clear and concise manner. Are they able to interpret technical jargon in to layman's terms?

5. Teamplayer

A good team player is goal-oriented as opposed to self-oriented. In any startup, you need to hire employees who will have a positive contribution to building the team and ultimately the culture. Look for individuals who leave their ego at the door and will respect other's opinions and listen to ideas. Look for developers who actively get involved in mentoring perhaps as a way to demonstrate their ability to share knowledge for the greater good. Ask your interviewee to discuss a situation where they have fallen out with a colleague or previous manager before (yes, really) and then listen. Team players can identify or even empathise as opposed to blaming everyone else.

6. Time management and planning skills

Great developers are highly reliable with a strong work ethic. Some programmers cringe when you talk to them about "deadlines", but the ability to estimate time allocation and to deliver on it is what you should be seeking to explore. Ask for examples of previous projects where they were faced with deadlines.


Whilst answering the question "Can I work with this person" is highly important, you also need to ensure that you aren't hiring someone with limitations. Avoid only looking at the "hiring for now" and ensure that you consider individuals who can grow with the company as you scaleup.

For advice on how to structure your recruitment process, get in touch with the team at Propeller-tech.


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