10 Ways to Snag a Top Software Engineer

By Matt Mickiewicz, Cofounder/CEO of Hired


The demand for tech talent has reached a fever pitch. Companies are battling it out to win the best and the brightest - and the demand shows no signs of stopping. In fact, according to Glassdoor, there are more than 4,000 employers hiring for the role of "software engineer" in the U.S. alone, making it the #1 most in-demand profession for 2014. The question becomes, what does it take to secure the best software engineers out there?


1. Define what you need. Before you start your search for a  developer, understand what your company needs from this role - what kinds of projects will he or she take on? What stacks should they be experienced in - and what can they learn on the job? Also address questions regarding culture fit and work style (pair programming, TDD, agile, etc.). While working all of this out may seem like more of your precious time upfront, it's much easier to actually find what you're looking for when you know exactly what you're looking for.


2. Get people excited about your company. Even before you administer tech tests, prospective developers want to know they've got a great opportunity on their hands before investing hours of their valuable time submitting to your coding challenges. It's easy for big brands to motivate candidates with just the mere mention of a name. But let's face it, if you're not Google, you need to do more. Lots more. Communicate the uniqueness of your company, explain the significance of the opportunity, and be honest about what you have to offer that the big players can't. 


3. Don't hunt for the golden unicorn. You'd be surprised how often I hear the following: "We want an engineer from MIT with 10 years of iOS experience, who worked at Facebook, oh - and our budget is $90K, but we offer generous equity." I need to be brutally honest here: That doesn't exist. If you're spending your time looking for it, best of luck. The most talented people have an abundance of well-paying opportunities with tremendous upside. As your business grows and proves itself in the market you'll be able to add them to your ranks, but have realistic expectations in the early days.


4. Be organized. Nothing turns off developers more than a poorly run recruiting and interviewing process. Before you even start, figure out what the overarching process looks like internally. Make sure everyone's on board with that process and execute on it. And never, ever reschedule or miss an interview - even if it means skipping lunch with your mom. 


5. Move quickly. You should be able to go from a first meeting with a candidate to delivering an offer in 10 business days. Time increases competition, and dramatically reduces your odds of signed offers. 


6. Don't be afraid to hire for remote positions. Some of the best developers want to work from home or in co-working spaces. Get over the idea that every developer you hire needs to physically set up shop in your office. You'll be able to get better talent at a better price if they're located in a city with a lower cost of living.


7. Be technology agnostic. Allow people to take coding challenges in the language of their choice. At Hired, we test for critical thinking skills and computer science fundamentals - and are willing to teach people our core tech stack on the job. If you're only looking for people who have extensive experience with every single language, framework, library and database that you use, you're going to be limiting the pool of candidates far too much. 


8. Assume every candidate has three paper offers in hand. Candidates will make you feel like they only have eyes for your company, but let's be real - that's almost never the case. Most  developers looking for a new position are being courted by several companies in addition to yours. If you realize this and use it to guide your interview process, you'll not only save yourself time, but are also more likely to land the developer you want the most.


9. Don't lose someone over $10K. Salary negotiations can be challenging - everyone knows that. But don't let your desire to "win" get in the way of bringing in the talent your company needs. If a candidate counters your offer asking for a bit more upfront, don't count her out. To quickly put it into perspective, look at what the difference in pay amounts to over the course of a year. Then give the candidate what they're asking for.


10. Hire the most experienced (and expensive) talent at the beginning. Your team's first developers play a pivotal role in shaping your company. Never, ever cut corners at this stage in the game. Be sure to spend the time necessary to hire those with the most experience, even if it means paying more than you'd bargained for. The technical decisions these workers make early on will be very hard  - and very expensive - to unravel down the road. 


We've learned all of these lessons first-hand at Hired. And while smart hiring is fueling our growth in cities where competition for tech talent is fierce - like San Francisco, New York City, and most recently, Los Angeles - this cheat-sheet is a valuable tool wherever you find yourself in need of a top software engineer.