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How to Hire a Great Tech Team, According to the Founder of OfferUp Nick Huzar, the founder of OfferUp, advises fellow entrepreneurs on his playbook for building powerful teams.

By Brad Klune Edited by Dan Bova

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Hiring technical talent for early-stage tech startups is no easy task, but with the right know-how, you can make sure your startup has the best chance of success. Fortunately, we had the chance to chat with Nick Huzar, founder and board member at OfferUp, about his experience in this area. He broke this process down into four simple steps.

If you want to learn more, Nick and other amazing founders from companies like Drybar, NextDoor, Reddit, and Zillow are available for one-on-one video calls, powered by Intro. Book a session and get your specific questions answered.

Step 1. Be clear about your hiring needs

"It's important to take a sober look at what you can do and what you need help doing," Nick says.

To begin looking for engineering talent, it's essential that you understand what skillsets and experience are necessary for your project. Take time to determine exactly what qualities need to be present in each candidate; this will allow for more efficient screening of potential hires. Consider the skills and expertise that are necessary to build your product, as well as any complementary skills that will be helpful to have on the team. What are your company goals and how do you see this role helping you achieve them? What work gives you energy and motivates you to succeed?

Don't just focus on the positives. What saps your energy? Do you lack organizational skills? Are you technical in some areas but lacking in others? You need a yin to your yang, people who are strong in areas you are not as solid in (or just hate doing.)

"At an early-stage tech startup, you need someone who can sit down with you over coffee and whiteboard out your ideas. You need someone to complement you." When you're looking for technical talent at an early-stage startup, you want to find individuals you can work side-by-side with, and who can also divide and conquer.

Related: Get one-on-one mentorship with an easy-to-book video call

Step 2. Look everywhere for candidates

"In the early days, network your butt off," Nick stresses.

He advises you to against the grain to find candidates and encourages you to find creative ways to find people who fit your work style and philosophy.

  1. Make a custom T-shirt with "DEVELOPERS WANTED" printed on the top and the tech stack requirements detailed below. Wear this shirt around town.
  2. Research technology networking forums and meetups in your town.
  3. Set aside two hours for three days of the week and get away from your desk to network.

Standing out amongst other companies can be challenging, and this playbook was crucial for Nick's success in the early days of team building.

Don't outsource your development work because future investors are going to want to know who is on your team and what have you built. So outsourcing may help you move forward, but it will hurt your chances of fundraising, cost you more money, and make you move slower.

Step 3 - Ask good questions

"You need to make sure the candidate has experience in the right technology stack and is a good fit for your company culture," says Nick.

Here are 10 of Nick's technical interview questions:

  1. Can you explain a technical challenge that you've faced and how you overcame it?
  2. Describe a project that you worked on where you had to use a new technology or technique. How did you learn about it and what was the outcome?
  3. Can you provide examples of how you have used your technical skills to solve problems or improve processes in your previous roles?
  4. What programming languages are you familiar with and how do you stay up-to-date with new technologies?
  5. Can you explain how you would go about debugging a problem in a piece of code?
  6. How do you approach testing and quality assurance in your work?
  7. Can you give an example of a time when you had to learn a new technical skill quickly? How did you do it?
  8. How do you balance the need for speed and efficiency with the importance of writing clean, maintainable code?
  9. How do you stay organized and manage your workload when working on multiple projects or tasks at the same time?
  10. Can you describe a technical project that you are particularly proud of and explain why?

As you listen to their answers and give deeper, look for candidates who have an entrepreneurial spirit. Look for people who are comfortable with ambiguity and can adapt quickly to change.

On the cultural side, Nick recommends looking for "adaptable people" who are willing to put in the "blood, sweat, and tears" to make your startup a success. He also suggests looking for those who are scrappy and willing to wear many hats, as well as people who have a "bias for action" and a "startup stomach" that allows them to keep going despite setbacks and failures.

You want a swiss-army knife.

Step 4. Nail the offer

The OfferUp corporate bank account was down to $350 the day their Series A funding arrived. Capital is more readily available to Nick, but he still believes that you don't want early-stage hires who are focused entirely on cash compensation. The question shouldn't be "What do you want to make?" but sometimes it's "What do you need to live?" The tradeoff is lower cash and higher ownership in the company.

At the end of the day, hiring is a huge challenge — but it's worth taking the time to find the right person for your team. With Nick's advice in mind, you'll surely have a better chance of finding that perfect fit.

Book one-on-one video calls with Nick, as well as the founders of Drybar, NextDoor, Reddit, and Zillow, all powered by Intro.

Brad Klune

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Head of Business Operations

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor. Head of Business Operations at Intro. Former leadership at Uber and Instawork.

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