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4 Reasons Not to Hire a 'Full Stack' Developer for Your Startup

Top reason -- they probably don't really exist.

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The idea of a "full stack" developer has been around since the early 2000s, and it’s steadily gaining momentum as a standard in the startup sphere.

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With nearly a third of developers considering themselves full stackers, the term has become one of the most popular hiring buzzwords of the decade. But does your startup really need one? Probably not.

1. It’s a nebulous concept.

There are no exact definitions for a full stack developer. The consensus, however, is that full stack developers are skilled in front-end/UI, back end language and database. While this seems like a simple enough characterization, it doesn’t really describe any particular skill set.

Related: Successful Startups Know How to Motivate Top Software Developers

For starters, “full stack” it doesn’t specify which stack someone is proficient in. Are we talking about LAMP, MEAN/MERN or Laravel stacks? Does the stack include web-based applications such as JavaScript, CSS, HTML and SQL Server, or is it more mobile-focused with iOS Swift, MySQL and Java?

“Full stack developer” is an excellent keyword for connecting job seekers and recruiters, but it does a poor job of actually describing a meaningful position in your company.

2. Your startup has specific needs.

Startups are unique beasts in the business world, often serving -- or even inventing -- distinctive niches. This specificity, along with budgetary and business constraints, means that most startups can’t afford to have the wrong personnel on their team.

Companies that push and update tech often will benefit from an integration engineer. On the flip side, companies such as financial or global organizations that don’t make too many changes, but require a high level of stability, will likely require a performance expert. Even more helpful is recruiting people who have the exact skill set your business needs. If your startup is app-based, a full-stack developer without expert knowledge of Android or iOS will be of little use.

Related: Do You Have Too Much Tech or Not Enough? 5 Ways to Find Out.

Leading with terms like “mobile application developer,” “web application developer" or “UX developer” will draw candidates that have the specific skills you need while any additional required skills can be detailed within the job description.

3. Technology is becoming too complex.

Early applications required little more than basic if-then-else statements, so acquiring a full stack of knowledge wasn’t as daunting a task for avid developers. As technology becomes increasingly labyrinthine, however, professionals with deeper knowledge of a smaller subset may be a better bet.

Ideally, your IT team will consist of at least one person with a broad understanding of the relevant stacks as well as specialists in each component. This generalist serves as a hub that connects the experts to ensure comprehensive integration.

4. Full stack developers are unicorns.

The main reason that you shouldn’t hire a full stack developer for your startup is that they likely do not exist. With the increasing complexity of today's technology comes the simple truth that being an expert in every facet is simply not possible.

The rise of mobile applications, predictive machine intelligence, intricate data analytics, cloud database services and a multitude of JavaScript frameworks has made maintaining deep knowledge of a full stack of front end tools, back end architecture and everything in between implausible to the point of fatuity.

Related: Looking for a Tech Job? Then Learn How to Recognize Early Stage Unicorns

However trendy, hiring a full stack developer may not be the best course of action for your startup. Instead, your search for a ”full stack” developer should be less about a jack-of-all-trades skill set and more about the suite of skills that matches your startup’s specific needs coupled with a high-level understanding of the various concepts that make up a particular stack. Your startup is unique. Make sure that the tech team behind it is as well.

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