Talent Strategy

10 Steps to Hiring Solid Tech People

The marketplace for hiring in tech is more competitive than ever and often it can be daunting to try to find and recruit the best talent to work at your firm.  We wanted to share a few steps that will help you navigate these challenging waters to find the best candidates to build the best team possible.

1. Develop a high-level hiring plan

No matter what stage you are in building your company, it’s likely that you haven’t hired everyone you will need yet.  That’s why it’s important to have a high-level hiring plan in place that many, if not all, of your current employees have access to.  This way they can see what they are helping build towards and they also get a better insight into promotion possibilities.  This plan can change and adapt to circumstances, of course, but it’s important to have it so that your team can see the direction of travel.

2. Get specific in your job descriptions

For each job description, there should be a checklist of coding and software expertise needed, as well as a map of projects that the position will be tasked with.  There should also be a budget for the position as well as input from existing team members as to what sort of person would make for a well-fitting new member of the team.

3. Focus on cultural fit

Speaking of fit, given the sheer number of opportunities that most tech hires have, one way to stand out in their eyes (and stay in their minds) is by ensuring a cultural fit as well.  It’s easy enough to hire people who want to build things, and build them well.  But if you hire people who believe what you believe and share your corporate cultural values, you’re creating an additional (and often more emotional, and hence stronger) reason for them to stay.  When there’s cultural fit, it’s not just about the work.  It’s about the mission and how that resonates with each individual. A powerful corporate why can prove to be an alluring attraction for candidates.

4. Look in the right places

We’re biased on this one of course, as we run the VocaWorks tech hiring platform! If you are looking for project-based talent, we would want to encourage you to check out our offerings for employers.

That said, some other tips on where to hire: the very first people you should always be asking when you are looking to hire is your own dev team.  They know people who are the exact sorts of candidates you are looking for, and while they will not always be able to offer you the perfect candidate at the perfect time, they will be a rich source for talented tech people.

There’s also hackathons, conferences, and career fairs.  Here people have their guards down and are simply enjoying networking, meeting new people, and exploring possibilities.  It’s an excellent time to engage.

You should also be reading tech blogs and/or following some tech writers on social media.  By engaging with them you can get to know them better and if it makes sense, possibly ask them for referrals for positions you are hiring for.  Tech writers often have a commanding network.

You could also hire a recruiter.  These people always have their ears to the ground for the best candidates and can perhaps introduce you to people you might never have met.

5. Ask the right questions

Steer clear of the infamous duo of “greatest strength/greatest weakness” and ask candidates instead about projects that they are particularly proud of and why as well as one project that they were not particularly proud of.  In exploring both the wins and the losses you’ll be able to get a feel for how well the candidate deals with defeat, and particularly how well he/she can articulate the lessons learned from failures.

Also, ask what their programming tendencies are as well as what languages they most prefer to work with (and why).

6. Watch them work

It’s really important to see candidates working “as if.”  Have them work in the same area as other members of their would-be team, and give them a problem you are either trying to solve at the moment, or a previous problem that perplexed your team.  Just as with asking about successes and failures with projects, you’ll be able to see how these candidates respond to real problems, except this time, they will be dealing with problems you know intimately, and hence you’ll get to see their creative thinking in real-time.

7. Find out their approach to teams

In most cases, you’ll be hiring someone who will join a team.  Ask them how they do in team dynamics, whether as a leader or a follower.  Ask about previous conflicts and how they were resolved while also asking if there were times they felt their teams really achieved something special and try to get to the root of how and why that happened.

8. Check primary and secondary references

We know that primary references are going to speak well of the candidate.  If he/she is willing, get a waiver to seek secondary references to corroborate those primary references.  Often these secondary references will have no idea they might be called upon as a reference (a 1st-degree match on LinkedIn, for example) and hence they will be able to share unrehearsed, genuine thoughts on the candidates in question.

9. Stay educated on trends and attitudes

As someone in charge of hiring, you are not necessarily going to be expected to be a master of every popular programming language.  However, it is important that you keep up on developments in languages and how and why some languages are being used in specific platforms and deployments.  The more you can understand languages and trends in the industry, the better you’ll understand candidates who live and breathe in those languages for hundreds of hours a month.

10. Keep the conversation going after the hire

Once your candidate has accepted your offer, the first thing you should do is find out if he/she has any friends who might also be a good fit.  Furthermore, stay engaged with them to make sure they are enjoying the journey and getting everything they need to be successful.  Great retention attracts more candidates and creates a virtuous circle, making hiring not necessarily effortless, but definitely easier.


Get started with the VocaWorks Tech Hiring platform
Curated talent, vetted employers. Learn more and sign up for the VocaWorks tech hiring platform.




Stephen writes about startups, hiring and career issues for VocaWorks.