Want to Start an Online Business? These 5 Hiring Tips Can Help You Find Low-Cost Tech Talent.

The crisis has created a great hiring opportunity for companies, which can catch the eye of talent in the right way on the right channels.
Want to Start an Online Business? These 5 Hiring Tips Can Help You Find Low-Cost Tech Talent.
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This story appears in the November 2020 issue of Start Up. Subscribe »

In some way, every company today is a tech company. No matter the industry you’re in, you’ll likely be hiring developers, engineers, and data scientists—and chances are, it’s becoming harder and harder to find those people.

In 2019, it took companies an average of 66 days to fill tech roles. Three years earlier, it happened faster—just 55 days. (That’s according to a report from iCIMS, an software company.) What changed? Competition, rising salary expectations, and even  constraints.

But now you’re in luck. While the current global climate poses many challenges for startups, it has also created a bigger, better pool of tech job candidates to pull from. Tens of millions of jobs have been affected over the past few months—AT&T laid off 3,400 people in June and 54 more in August, had to cut 25 percent of its staff, and more. That means top-tier talent has suddenly become available.

These five guidelines will help you secure that talent for your budding , even when working with a smaller budget. 

1. Understand what candidates are really looking for.

Workers today are more likely to accept modest salaries—not just because of the economic downturn but because they’re increasingly interested in the rewards of their next job, rather than simply the paycheck. This is especially true if they’ve been laid off, in which case they’re likely to be reassessing whether they want to return to a corporate lifestyle.

To attract these kinds of employees, give them a great experience. “A lot of applicants are looking for new challenges and sectors,” says Dina Bayasanova, cofounder and CEO of skills-based talent marketplace PitchMe. “New companies have to be open to accepting career shifters, innovators who are going to want to operate outside the box and who are driven by purpose over pay.” 

Workers will also want to know your plans for remote work. In a recent survey, 27 percent of tech workers said they will want to work from home permanently even after most of us return to the office. If you’re willing to embrace that, you can hire people from around the country, if not the world. And with the money you’re saving on office space, you can invest even more in the well-being of your staff. Everyone is going through hardship right now, and employers need to be supportive of people’s general health. 

Related: Sign Up For a 7-Day Risk-Free Trial of Our On-demand Start Your Own Business Course

2. Do your homework. 

Managers often try to hire generalists who can wear multiple hats. But that doesn’t work in tech. So before you put out an ad for a nondescript techie, do your homework. Should they be a front-end, back-end, or full-stack developer? 

If you don’t know the answer, turn to your network. Ask your peers how they approached this stage of hiring, and study other companies’ teams. “When we began putting together our tech team, the first thing we did was look at who our competitors’ first hires had been when they were at a similar stage,” says Bayasanova. “We did our first couple of hires that way, and by then we had a clearer vision of our own road map and hiring plan.”

3. Craft the perfect job description.

Many early-stage founders struggle with writing job descriptions. That’s understandable. Bigger businesses have consolidated their product, reputation, and prestige. But as a young company, you’re not selling your business—you’re selling your vision, work culture, and career and personal development opportunities.

You need to transmit all that in each line of your job ad. People need to know how they would be treated if they joined you, as well as the values and mission that drive you and your staff. 

“You’d be amazed at how many talented developers are out there just waiting for the opportunity to show their potential,” says Amyn Gillani, founder and CEO at software company Talos Digital. “Start by creating a diverse environment where everyone is welcome, and offer individuals the opportunity to showcase their knowledge and advance in your team.”

Your job description should also explain your startup’s trajectory. Explain where you are now and where you want to be in six or 12 months, and how this new person can help you get there. Give a brief overview of your product road map, and mention your fundraising plan, if you have one. Candidates want to know that you are economically sound for the foreseeable future, especially if you’re not offering equity.

This doesn’t mean you have to candy-coat things, though. “When advertising our job roles, we focused on what we wanted in terms of their character,” says Bayasanova. “We made it clear we needed people who weren’t afraid of challenges or lack of structure.” After all, if someone is considering joining a startup, they’re already bought in on some level of craziness.

Related: Sign Up For a 7-Day Risk-Free Trial of Our On-demand Start Your Own Business Course

4. Learn the basics or bring on a technical co-founder. 

Your tech team will be critical to your company, so you need to speak their language…or have someone who does.

“My experience with developers is like having a bonsai tree garden: You are constantly pruning and adjusting until you get a beautiful product,” says David Dorr, cofounder of fintech company Coro Global Inc. “Having an exciting project definitely draws more talent, but it does not alleviate the responsibility of the founders overseeing the development process.”

As you’re hiring, familiarize yourself with basic tech knowledge. What are the different programming languages, and what are they best for? What’s user interface design, and how do you improve SEO?

Smooth communication will help you hold on to those important new hires. That requires time and understanding. “Unless a founder has a background in programming, they’ll have an entirely different thought process from their tech staff for how things should be done,” Dorr adds. “Be patient, respect each other’s opinions, try out new things, and be prepared for things to go wrong.”

If the process is overwhelming and your product is tech-heavy, consider bringing on a technical cofounder. They’ll make sure you build the right team.

Related: Sign Up For a 7-Day Risk-Free Trial of Our On-demand Start Your Own Business Course

5. Put yourself out there in the right channels. 

Traditional job boards aren’t the only platforms available to you. Of course, they’re useful, and you can even use them as a testing ground to see what kind of feedback you can get from different ads (basically A/B testing). But to hone in on the industry niches and type of talent that fits you, experiment with several options.

Slack

The first one is closer than you may realize. Slack is a staple instant messaging tool for startups, and the COVID-19 lockdown has made it even more in demand — in March, it had 12.5 million connected users.

For people in tech, different channels are being set up to discuss changes in the industry, job opportunities, and company recommendations. Slack List shows all the most popular groups (you can search by keywords to suit your needs), and there are plenty of blog posts and online listicles for more niche tech communities. It's worthwhile noting that some of the groups have open access while others require an invitation.

When posting your job ad on different groups, also take opportunities to ask for feedback on your advert. 

Industry-specific platforms

A relatively new trend is industry-specific hiring platforms that only feature applicants with certain experience or qualifications in a sector. 

Platforms like HackerRank, X-Team, and interview tool CoderPad are great for viewing, assessing and hiring developers from different expertise and job seniority levels. Many of the sites host a number of programming languages to conduct tests, and they also integrate with HR software for outreach.

Your hiring platforms don't have to be exclusively online, and branching out may help bring on more diverse talent.

“Make sure to look around and reach out to local organizations for potential candidates,” said Gillani. “You'll find incredibly talented graduates from developer bootcamps, such as resilient single mothers who are now great programmers after joining programs such as Girls Who Code.”

Events

Virtual events have proliferated during the lockdown. If you have the resources and expertise to host your own webinar, quiz, or workshop, it's arguably the quickest medium to meet people while showcasing your brand.

In Europe, ride-hailing startup Bolt hosts online coding contests to find engineers. The top participants are awarded a cash prize, and the winners are given a complete relocation package to the head offices in Estonia. 

If you don't have the time to plan an event, join one. Do some research and reach out to event hosts who attract attendees that align with the positions you're trying to fill; Eventbrite has an extensive list of upcoming tech events. You can offer someone from your team as a speaker or contributor. During the event they should take the chance to explain particular features of your product as well as your business’ future plans, when relevant - they should always use their personal and company experience and expertise as points of reference. 

At the end of the presentation, add a brief slide or mention the vacancies at your company and how to get in touch. You'll be surprised how many guests reach out. 

Remember, while now is the optimal time to hire developers and tech talent, people are more conscious than ever about how companies deal with a crisis. Expect potential candidates to ask about how your business has responded to current events and what social impact you aim to achieve. Be sensitive and conscious. Give your staff the freedom to express their creativity, and you'll be ready to bring on board some of the brightest tech talent in the industry.

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