8 Strategies for Hiring a Developer for Your Startup Product

6 min readAug 22, 2017


What your startup needs is a developer with versatility, adaptability, risk-taking and a self-starter personality.

When you have a great idea and are looking for a developer to make your dream come true, hiring the right one is the foundation for your startup. How do you differentiate a great developer from an average one? It is obvious that in the very technological world we live in today, developers have more jobs than any other professional, debatable but fairly true. It goes without saying that a great developer is not out other looking for a job, they have more on their plate than they can handle.

According to market statistics by Chad Lilly, director of recruiting at Lextech, skilled programmers are hard to find because they are not even looking for you. Out of all the developers currently looking for a job out there, only 2 percent of these are great, 30 percent are solid developers and 68 percent are average among others. It is therefore a very difficult task to find someone in that 2 percent circle. What will it give and how far should you search? What makes a great coder, a great coder? Well, here are the tips for hiring an excellently skilled programmer to develop your startup idea.

1. Think further than now

Hiring a great developer sometimes is not a matter of who knows what now, but a matter of who will know what tomorrow. It is a forward thinking mentality for a great startup. This is because, technology is ever changing. Today you are using Joomla tomorrow it isn’t the cool thing. WordPress as a CMS could be the cock of the walk today, yet in future, a feather duster. When you hire a developer you should be thinking forward and hire a developer who is thinking forward as well. A developer with whom you feel secure that even if technology changes, he or she will adapt to the new technology quickly and get you guys on top of your game on it.

2. Portfolio

Any great developer should have a folder of their projects. They should be able to show what they have been working on during their time as a developer. When they don’t show a few or all projects they have done before, they have probably not been doing any coding at all. With the funds you are about to spend, you need a developer with some experience because unless an inexperienced developer is really good, the end product of your idea could be poor. Poor products have no return on investment so it ends up being wasted time, money and resources.

It is when you think your product is ready for primetime that you should invest in growth strategies and marketing.

3. Boss the interview

You may lack technical experience in coding or working with developers. Developers are very bright to find out and they will before the interview goes any further. However, your ability to stay on top of the interview and guide the questioning will determine whether you get a skilled coder or not. Pilot the conversation and don’t let the developer drive you away from the point. That way you get to ask them the questions you intended to, even difficult ones that will get them off their perch. It will be easier to find out what they know and what they don’t. If you let them lead the conversation, the candidates will drive you to where they want you to be, then outsmart you all together. To be a great recruiter in a field you know nothing about the secret is to pretend to know what you don’t.

4. Quality over cheap

Great developers never come cheap, most of the time. They are the crème de la crème of their profession for heaven’s sake! Sometimes expensive can go a long way, in fact, an expensive programmer is testimony of how confident they are in their ability and what they are doing. I’m not saying you should go for expensive. The point is, the developers know you want to save some money, and they will propose various rates. Be bright enough to know when the cheap deal is too good to be true. Be an intelligent manager to know when they are ripping you off with that expensive rate, but by all means, don’t choose cheap over quality. It could be the best deal you have gotten, so cheap, good, sweet and all, it ends up blinding your judgment. It could also be too pricey you get angry about it and that blinds you. The point is to not be blinded at all. Stay seeing.

Nonetheless, when you are a startup, anyone you hire has to be a fighter. That is usually the startup mentality. Getting that coder who has worked for Google or Amazon or Facebook could be the worst choice ever as much as it may seem that it is the best choice at the time. Sometimes getting the developers who have worked for such big companies is best kept for later when you have become a solid company too. Unless the character is right, don’t hire them. What your startup needs is a developer with versatility, adaptability, risk-taking and a self-starter personality.

5. Ask them smart questions

To ensure you don’t go asking them trivia questions like “who wrote the first line of code?” or “In what year was HTML5 released?”, we have come up with a few questions to help you figure out what type of questions you need to ask your candidate:

  • What is your favorite language to develop in?
  • Why do you like it?
  • What would you change if you could make it a better language?
  • What has been your most challenging project to work on?
  • What new technology are you looking forward to using on your upcoming project?
  • What changes in the industry will affect the future?
  • If you were in charge in your last position, what would you change to make it a better role for you?

These questions will challenge them for as long as you tailor them to their skill-set. Such are the questions to help you gauge how passionate and knowledgeable your candidate is. The smart developer won’t have a problem answering them satisfactorily. That is probably the one you should hire.

6. Play a game of chess

Not literally. Or maybe literally. It is important to know the mentality of your developer especially when faced with a challenge. Do they give up? Do they refuse to give up? Do they get angry when faced with an almost impossible task? Are they calm under pressure? These are telling signs. I brought up chess because it is a challenging game, but ideally, what am saying is that you should get them to face a difficult task, maybe a small project, or others have recommended Lego Mindstorm. A developer who can handle pressure calmly and get the solution, and someone who won’t give up until the issue is solved is your ideal developer. Someone who gives up or gets frustrated under pressure may dump you and your product when you need them the most.

7. Team playing is vital

How does your candidate behave when you go to play a card or guessing game with them and your friends? How do they behave when the whole team is involved? Do they participate or not? Are they dictatorial or not? Fish for the traits that please you and go for a team player.

8. Hire slowly and fire fast

I’m sure you have heard that statement before. It is true. It has been repeated when recruiting any professional. Take your time to learn who you are hiring. Understand what you want and your vision. Know what it takes to get there and take your time to interview as many developers as you can. Hiring is a slow process no matter how urgent. It could save you a lot of money. Your best developer could be the one you meet last, not first.

When it is not working out, don’t be afraid to fire, and fast. Fast because it will save you a lot of time and money. You can get on looking for your next developer even faster. Understand that sometimes it doesn’t work out and you have to fire. Learn to be precise and decisive.

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