May 16, 2013
The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
This week we asked the YEC team, “What’s your best advice to a fellow founder looking to recruit top engineering talent?” Their insights are below.
1) Include Them in Decisions
Top engineers are more than coding machines. They often have valuable insight into the production and usability of the product, and you should seek their input for major product decisions. Doing so will let them know you value them as team members.
2) Consult Your Current Engineers
My technical co-founder has a group of engineers that he calls his “hacking team.” These guys get together once a week and look at new tech tools, help each other out on projects and share tricks. If you know great engineers, even if they are already employed, trust who they hang out with. Smart people hang out with smart people.
3) Simple: Build Something Useful
The best engineers are builders and architects at heart, and they love working with others like them. The best way for non-technical founders to recruit top engineers is to be great at building another part of the business, whether it’s a sales funnel or breakthrough patents.
4) Understand Their Motivations
I’ve discovered that engineers aren’t necessary motivated only by money. Some want flexibility, e.g., the ability to work from home. Some want to be able to sign their names to a cool project. Others want an opportunity to work with nice, smart people who value their talents. Some want to work for small teams, while others prefer large teams. The key is to seek understanding about their motivations, and then tailor your offer to their needs.
5) Examine Startup Readiness
Look for someone who is not just willing to do the job right, but will also take on other tasks for the company. Look for professionals who will come to you with solutions and not problems. Look for startup-ready professionals.
How do you look for a startup-ready professional? One way is to assess why the person wants to work for a startup. Look for previous startup experience; you may want to stay away from people who have worked mostly with large corporations. State your expectations from the outset.
Another way is to examine their problem-solving skills. Give them a task to do, but don’t provide details. Leave it up to the candidate to ask for more information and suggest ideas. Check for communication, articulation, thinking and creative problem-solving.
6) Assess Your Needed Skills
One common mistake I see among non-technical startup founders is a lack of fluency regarding technology development. It is usually pointless to pitch a back-end developer about user interaction work, or a QA engineer about mobile app development. Engineering is not created equal. Before you begin the recruitment process, make sure you know what competencies you are seeking to round out your team so you’re not pursuing the wrong type of engineering talent.
7) Consider the Hiring Market
Right now, there’s a premium being paid for top engineering talent — pushed up even further because the best people can afford to co-found their own companies as easily as they can print up a new batch of resumes for recruiters. That means that you’re going to have to put a very attractive offer on the table. It’s worth considering what you really need in terms of engineering talent. Is it worth paying top dollar for the best engineer you can find, or can you accomplish your goals with the second-best? Given that you can offer a more competitive deal when you go a tier or two down, it’s worth considering.
8) Make Your Company’s Needs Visible
Use several high-quality recruiters to build a really wide funnel. Make your company visible through event sponsorships. Tap the network of the best engineering talent in your city. Add a $5-10K referral fee for anyone who refers an engineer that you hire, and include that offer in your email signature and social media profiles. It’s not just for you, but for all of your current employees to see. Hiring great engineers is like an invasion: you need to go by land, air and sea!
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