For high tech companies, business growth is a function of how fast they can grow their development team.  If all goes well, the product launches, it’s well accepted, and the user base grows like crazy.  Excitement, passion, and late nights supports this expansion, for a while.  But then, the team needs to grow.  And that’s when things get dicey.

Demand for talent is high and the cost of finding and hiring good people is moving up right along with it.  Still, there are ways to grow your dev team and your company if you focus on it.

The Talent War

In 2013, in the Bay Area alone,  employment totaled over 270K positions and growth is posed to continue unabated,

Add to that other high growth companies (e.g.,  LinkedIn, Twitter, Apple, Amazon), plus over 1,900 new startups, and it’s no wonder you’ve been having such a hard time hiring good people.

As a result of all this, salaries have increased, perks are unbelievable, and referral fees have gone crazy.  In 2012 software engineers got a starting salary of $122,500; in 2013 “regular” pay went all the way up to $159K!


In a Fast Company article entitled “Why Your Startup Can’t Find Developers,” Matt Mickiewicz, CEO of Hired, says,

“Ninety percent of companies are bad at hiring, but it’s particularly bad among seed stage companies and first time founders.”

Tech companies are built to solve problems and make great—hiring is typically not a core strength of the founding team.  Nevertheless, recruiting is a key process for any business and not getting it right will stunt the growth of your organization.

The Lead Time to Get an Engineer on Board

According to Bryan Schreier, a partner at Sequoia, for a startup to hire 12 engineers,

You’ll need to spend more than 19 hours a week recruiting candidates to hit that target.

As Bryan points out, this is a competitive issue,

It makes sense to rely on your network of contacts for the first handful of developers. But at Sequoia, we think that once you have product-market fit, the risk to your business is too great not to have someone dedicated to staffing.

What Can I Do?

In response, companies are turning to creative recruiting strategies to go beyond the limitations of traditional job boards.

  1. Inviting eligible applicants to an open group event, such as an Open House
  2. Arrange for group interaction
  3. Handpick dream candidates and show them you want them
  4. Look for talent in unlikely places
  5. Attend events that are NOT job fairs
  6. Make yourself stand out with non-traditional media
  7. Actively search profiles and social networking sites
  8. Advertise in places frequented by your ideal candidate
  9. Consider past candidates
  10. Publicize referral incentives

Culture Sells

According to Pat Brown, GM of the Central Market in Houston,

While it’s important for a company to know the applicant well, it’s also important that applicants understand the company …

Great technology, a cool product, and fun facilities are all very nice, but people want meaning in their lives.  If you can communicate how what your company does is good for the world, it will give you a killer advantage over the competition.  Google’s “Do no evil” is still a big draw.

Sourcing Tools & Venues

Particularly if you are a small company, you need to make yourself known.

Use job boards, employee referrals, and social tools.  Also, hang out at places like StackOverflow, and Reddit, where developers are.

These tools and venues will increase the odds of getting quantity of candidates to interview.

If, on the other hand, you are in a position of having to review gobs of resumes, these tools can help you.  For example, pre-screening tools include technical questionnaires, and recorded video interviews.

Partner for World-class Talent, Worldwide

Finally, consider growing your team with talent in other parts of the world. Distributed teams are a fact of life, whether within the US or elsewhere.

In fact, working with the right partner can save you “19 hours a week” and still help you grow your development team.

Your Turn

What is your biggest challenge?  What other tools or techniques have worked for you?

Please, keep the conversation flowing below.  We’d like to hear from you and share other working ideas with our community.