Best way to recruit talented programmers for a start-up?

Discussion in 'Mac Programming' started by Aniej, Mar 27, 2007.

  1. Aniej macrumors 68000


    Oct 17, 2006
    Unfortunately my legal career has not exposed me to the networks of programmers that I could use right now, but I was wondering what some people in the industry thought was the best way to find a large community of talented programmers for a start-up? MR is a fun website, but it really is not focused on the area I am currently interested in (this certainly doesn't mean someone from MR could potentially participate).

    n.b., please do not take my fairly open question as indicative of a bs little business plan nor any form of an offer to actually join.
  2. Allotriophagy macrumors 6502a

    Sep 5, 2006
    1) Throw money at them.

    2) Give lots of perks.

    3) Give lots of support.

    It's that simple. You get what you pay for.
  3. Aniej thread starter macrumors 68000


    Oct 17, 2006
    Let me clarify...

  4. miniConvert macrumors 68040


    Mar 4, 2006
    Kent, UK - the 'Garden of England'.
    Specialist computer recruitment agencies, though you'll pay referral fees, and, depending on the age of employees you're looking for and part/full time status, University campuses.

    Good luck, good programmers are hard to find, and you'll make mistakes along the way.
  5. Mantat macrumors 6502a

    Sep 19, 2003
    Montréal (Canada)
    Know this: the productivity ratio of top programmer compared to an average programmer is 17x. Yes, 17x ! That basicaly means that you could pay a top programmer 17x more than the average and he would worth it! Of course I am talking about the cream of the crop here. I am a good programmer, know a few very good one and once met a top programmer. Let just say I was humbled! That guy only worked on project that he liked, about 10h a week (as consultant) and spent the rest of his time doing open source stuff.

    These guys cant be hired for a long term job. They know how much they worth and would rather work on their stuff than the stuff of others...

    That being said, you can still get some decent programmers for a "resonable" price. The thing is that there are a lot of coders and a lot of them are poor, bad and crappy. The worst part is that unless you know about programming, you wont be able know until it is too late. So the best way to get them is by referal of friends and coworkers. But it doesnt seem to work for you, so I guess you will have to play the coder lotery... or hire a middleman to fetch one for you. Middleman can get you good programers, the problem is that they are going to give you the worst programmer that would satisfy you. Its normal, they keep the best coders for clients who are willing to pay even more.

    The only real advice I can give you is to ask the candidates since how long they have a computer. People who just started to code at the university are rarely people seriously interested in computers. They are just there for a job. Get someone who read blogs about programming, bought a computer with their change when they were 14 y.o. and know how long it is to download porn with a 2400bps modem... These are the kind of people who know their stuff!

    Good luck!

    PS: if your project is a small web app that would be developped with Ruby on Rails I am available for part time work, in 4-6 weeks!
  6. jsw Moderator emeritus


    Mar 16, 2004
    Andover, MA
    Perhaps this is what you meant, but, unless you actually find a bunch of programmers sitting idly at another startup and steal them, you'll need to create a large community one (or a few) at a time, and those people you add will likely know where to get others they'd work well with. So... choose very wisely at first, and the rest will be easier. Choose poorly at first, and you're screwed before the first line of code is written.

    And even more important than a good coder at first? A good leader of coders. The best coders are often the worst of team players. Get someone who can wrangle them effectively.
  7. tutubibi macrumors 6502a


    Sep 18, 2003
    As somebody who worked in various positions, from developer to manager, in start-up companies, my experience is that the best way to a good team is to find excellent senior guy you trust (manager, director, VP) and let that person use his/hers contacts to build the team.

    And definitely, before any code is written make sure you have senior technical people in place (architects, development managers, QA manager) to do proper design.
  8. lazydog macrumors 6502a

    Sep 3, 2005
    Cramlington, UK

    Assuming you have a particular product in mind have you thought about contracting out the development to an established software/web development studio? I imagine this would be the quickest and easiest route and less prone to disaster.

    b e n
  9. savar macrumors 68000


    Jun 6, 2003
    District of Columbia
    You're pretty much on the mark...but this formula also attracts lousy programmers as well the good ones.

    I suggest the OP reads joelonsoftware...great blog about software and software management.
  10. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    My advice. Go to school and learn how to MANAGE software projects. It is not easy. Management is the key. It is easy to let a bunch of smart guys loos and they will build the wrong thing. You as manager have to know and understand the process of software. It's not just writing code. Thats only a smalll part. How to handle evolving requirements, manage risk track bugs and releases and versions. All this non code stuff can drive you into the ground. In fact most projects fail. Not because of the programmers but they fail do to inability to manage continuous change. I can't write a book here. But do buy some and go to some clases. Study a few failed projects and some that went right.

    How to hire them? Put managments and requirements analysts in there first. Hire the senior programers next and then fill in with the younger guys some of them just out of school. You need a mix of experiance levels but go top down. You will need to pay those first guys a lot. No one is dumb enough to accept a small paycheck and stock options. I'd want "real money" paid on Friday. People have gotten burned by not getting their last month check when a startup goes under. Pay weekly.

    After you get the first level managment, analysts and software designers in they will know other people and if your company looks good they will find people for you. It helps to offer a bonus. For example my company will pay me up to $5K if I find a person who the company hires. $5K is cheap compare to what you would pay a head hunter they can ket up to 1/2 of the guys anual pay as a finder's fee. Money is not everything you need to make tyour company a nice place to work. Software people like toys so don't skimp on equipment. It's reasonable to invest 1/2 a year's salary in capital equipment.
  11. Aniej thread starter macrumors 68000


    Oct 17, 2006
    All very interesting posts. I appreciate the broad spectrum of thoughts. I might make one qualification as to the nature of the answer I am looking for. I am much less focused on recruiting by way of an outsourced contract and more interested in suggestions as to avenues for meeting talented programmers.

    So for example if I was looking for a few people that are informed and knowledgeable regarding Apple, I might turn to this site or one of the other similar forums. I go to a major US research university, but have literally less than a month left in my graduate program and I am not going to go back to school just for this purpose. So I hope that clarifies a bit and would greatly value any new voices or some added thoughts from those that have already posted.
  12. iSee macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2004
    Look around for training seminars and conferences relating to software development. They should be pretty plentiful in metropolitain areas and around universities. Ones relating to technologies that are relevant to your project would be ideal, but required; you are looking for good, interested software developers, not completing an API checklist.

    While many of the training events cost a lot of money, there are often cheap or free intro classes available meant to sell the full version of the class. Likewise, many conferences have inexpensive attendance options offering reduced content.

    At these events you will be able to meet talented software professionals, some of whom could be interested in your startup. Before, after, and between sessions it is normal to strike up conversions with random people, so you will have a great opportunity to get a feel for the people you are talking to.

    Of course, selling a startup won't be easy
  13. bbarnhart macrumors 6502a


    Jan 16, 2002
    Ah, you have just found a talented software developer. I'm available to work remotely. I also know many other developers who are looking for a new job. But, that doesn't answer your question. Your question is how can I find talented people.

    You probably can't do a better job than 95% of all hiring managers. Unless you already have a pool of top developers and they know 3 other people, you are going to have to do the same thing regular companies do to find people.,,, your company website and recruiters.

    A recruiter isn't going to find you a top developer. They will just find a warm body and take a commission. The people looking on Dice or CareerBuilder are probably not the top developers. The top developers, being usually very bright, either already have a great job or are stealthily looking for a great job through their contacts.

    Good luck
  14. GeeYouEye macrumors 68000


    Dec 9, 2001
    State of Denial
    If you are looking for a Mac programmer, the mailing lists on can be very useful.
  15. osx-linux macrumors member

    Apr 4, 2007
    Ok here's a few guides that may help find a 'good programmer'

    1) Look for someone that codes in their free time. They've probably contributed to open source projects here and there, perhaps have even founded a few of them.

    2) Look for someone that can answer some 'tough' programming questions on the fly at the interview. (If you don't know a 'good programmer' or anything about programming yourself this will require some legwork finding someone to give you a bank of technical questions and responses etc, etc.)

    3) Look for 'new programing' languages on their resume or ask them if they've tried them out. (eg. Python, Ruby, etc etc-- *even* if your company will not be using these langs). Why? because this takes time and effort on the programmers part to learn the new language. Simply because they have looked at/played with/wrote some stuff in these new languages shows an interest in programming beyond "so, when do i get paid exactly?"

    4) Be wary, very wary of any 'programmer' who lists basic office skills in the resume or simplistic programing languages (vbscript/ javascript/ actionscript/ VB) [unless thats really what you want them to do, i suppose.]

    5) this list is by no means complete.
  16. iSee macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2004
    You are equating vbscript, javascript, actionscript, and VB with basic office skills?!?

    These languages each have strengths that make them an appropriate choice in certain situations (and, as you imply, weaknesses that make them inappropriate for others). When hiring I would not hold it against someone for knowing one or more of these languages.
  17. osx-linux macrumors member

    Apr 4, 2007
    Yes, yes I am, again the qualifier here is "good programmer". I don't care if someone knows any of these languages, not one bit. If I hire a good programmer, they can code proficiently in any one of these languages after 2 days of study. They are simple, very simple languages. Any programmer worth their salt knows this too, thus I avoid those that tout their skills in these languages.

    No no. I did not make any implications about the strengths or weaknesses of the languages, just about the people who think knowing javascript/etc makes them a "programmer". I does not, at least not it my book. It makes them someone who knows some of the basics of programming concepts.

    Neither would I, but using up valuable resume space listing such an ability raises a red flag in my book.
  18. GothicChess.Com macrumors regular


    Apr 6, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    In the 1990's, I was involved with two software startups, Circumflex Software, and Infinite Loop Software. I was a CTO in one, and was offered the position of CEO of the other.

    As CTO, one of my tasks was building the development team. We needed 6 developers immediately, one manager for them, one team leader that was a "half level" below the manager, and our Business Plan called for doubling the staff within 15 months.

    We contracted with one of those telemarketting type firms to construct a "Job Satisfaction Survey" specifically tailored to firms that employed developers with the skill sets we sought. Those who griped about their working conditions were not the "primary targets", but they were a means to our end. Through our follow-up calls to them, they did not realize they were our "lead generators". You see, programmers usually cluster in groups, and they were all too happy to divulge this information for the prospect of gainful employment elsewhere.

    We interviewed and screened them all, and we had more than an ample pool through which to select our candidates.

    One thing that was important to them was our office. It was "cool", sitting right on Long Island Sound overlooking a private beach that just so happened to have passed a resolution to allow girls to go topless if they so desired.

    We had no shortage of resumes once the word got out.

    I would say you need to adopt a similar strategy, and least for the office part. Nobody wants to work in a shoebox. Look to see if there are any "incubator" offices in your area (new offices that lease space at super-low rates only for startups and only for up to 12 months at a time) that have very nice looking spaces, and you will be on your way.

    Offer a developer an office instead of a cubicle, and you are more than 4 times as likely to get them to agree, even if the money is somewhat less than their cubicle-oriented counterpart.

    Good luck in your endeavor.

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