Stay Scrappy: How to Recruit World Class Software Engineers When You’re not a Mega Tech Brand

on 07 | 02 | 2015

In today’s competitive talent marketplace, it may seem impossible for a small tech startup to attract top notch engineers. But nothing is impossible, and a little recruiting know-how goes a long way. Heed the following advice and you’re hiring experience will be a whole lot smoother.

You Have to Pay to Play

It’s a candidates market and competition is fierce and the competition will pay up. As with any industry, if you want high quality, you have to pay the premium. Keep in mind that the cost to hire one A+ workhorse is more affordable than the cost to hire two or three less experienced engineers that would make the same impact.

But Remember: Time is Money

It’s true that most engineering base salaries for smaller startups range between 100K and 160K in addition to various equity amounts or stock options, sign-on bonuses, agency fees, relocation expenses, benefits–for a top level engineer, some companies spend north of 200K per person. But the most significant expense is people’s time. Companies can raise another funding round, bring in more revenue–but you cannot get the time back the team spent with someone you are trying to hire.

So analyze and interview candidates as quickly as possible. The quicker you can get to a yes or no, the less time you spend and fewer cycles your team spends in the process. Don’t let offers hang out there–instead, put a 48 hour expiration date once the candidate is ready to see an offer. Either the person takes it or you move on to other people.

Steer Clear of the Facebook and Google Set

When it comes to big, established companies like Facebook and Google, it’s very  difficult to compete with what they offer: amazing campuses, catered food, catered lifestyle, family benefits, huge scale and reach of their work–not to mention compensation packages that are in the millions for the top people

And of course, there’s the dreaded counter offers in the 6-7 figure range that keep employee retention easy. Alternatively we look for people that used to work at at these companies who have since transitioned into a startup.

Remember: Perks Are the Norm

Silicon Valley is known for its crazy perks. Free food isn’t so much a perk but a requirement for most startups now. Fairly common perks these days are unlimited vacation, work from home flexibility, season tickets to various sports teams, and important family medical benefits.

One of the most unique offers I witnessed included getting candidates’ children into top private schools. The company leveraged their investor network and was able to pull strings. It’s highly recommended to dive into your network to see who can help you close.