Identifying and Hiring Technical Talent for Startups

Hiring Technical Talent

Hiring Technical Talent

When it comes to tech talent, startups need the best they can find. There is something that sets top industry performers apart from the rest. In reality, there are actually a great deal of technical professionals out there with the skill sets and technology experience that you seek, but few have what it takes to help a startup achieve their goals. The difference maker? Talent. Skill sets, programming languages and processes can be learned; but interest, instinct, intelligence, passion and drive are not so easily acquired. And to be frank, the latter qualities far outweigh everything else. Not only are they highly valuable, but they are also difficult to instill and almost impossible to train. Skills can be learned, but talent is natural, difficult to find and rarely unemployed.

It is talent, not skill sets, that produces innovation, builds companies from nothing and fights for a vision that few others can grasp. The results that top talent produce, beyond the experiences they bring, are what put them in such high demand. At this intersection of open technical jobs and the truly talented technical people, is where the talent crunch lies. And despite this crunch, it should be your goal as a startup to acquire the right people from this talented group however you can. Our talented recruiting team has been identifying and delivering candidates from this talent pool for over a decade. Here are some of our tips to guide you down the same path.

Don’t seek out Yourself- In general, people tend to gravitate to and prefer like-minded people and, not surprisingly, tend to hire them more often, too. Yet most people, whether business savvy or not, realize the value of adding different viewpoints, opinions and methodologies to projects. The same goes for building companies and teams. And while your own leadership, vision and way of thinking is incredibly valuable and most likely deterministic of your company’s success, that value only increases when you surround yourself with people different from yourself. So if you find yourself really liking a candidate within a few minutes of speaking with them, start looking for a second opinion, because you may have already been blinded by your own bias.

Passion is important, but not as important as results- Passion often propels individuals forward in their endeavors, making them great people to work with and invaluable employees for your company. But the presence of passion in an employee does not always result in an equally high level of execution and production. When it comes down to it, the latter is what you are really hiring for, and thus what you need to look for.

Industry and sector is not as important as the type of project history- When seeking marketing and sales professionals, a background in your particular industry is attractive to your company. For the technical professional, industry experience has very little to do with most of their job. What translates better are the types of projects they have experience with. Compare your technical needs to the types of projects in your candidate’s past, and find the right person where the two align. Industry overlap will often correlate, but not always.

Forget the technical interview: Give them a real problem to solve- Interviews seem to be poor predictors of success. Ultimately, you won’t know how candidates will do at your company until they actually work at your company. With this in mind, many organizations have begun negating the technical interview altogether, and have desirable candidates perform a trial run.

Of Course, identifying the right technical talent is only half the battle. The day is only won when your candidate accepts the offer. The following are some tips on getting your candidates to pull the trigger with you.

You have to move fast- It’s a talent crunch, folks. Rest assured, that means you are never the only company speaking with a candidate, passive or actively searching. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t thoroughly vet your candidates, but if you want any chance of hiring technical talent those you like, you have to step up the pace of your hiring decisions. If you don’t pull the trigger quickly, someone else will beat you to it.

Pay as much as you can afford- You will never overpay for top technical talent. These people will be the driving force behind your product, and will literally be responsible for its existence or lack thereof. For such an important part of your organization, the impact, and thus the revenue generated from their work, will make their compensation package look like a drop in the bucket. You overpay for unqualified professionals, but you never overpay for the best. A market rate is the entry point to competing for talent.

And worry less about trying to compete with Google and Facebook salaries. If a candidate chooses them over a startup, then they weren’t the right fit for you at that time.

On that note, keep negotiations to only a few back and forths- You may think you can negotiate a better rate if you prolong talks with candidates, but in today’s market, the reality is that long negotiations are tiresome for candidates, can give them the wrong impression going in and can cause them to take another offer from someone who didn’t dilly dally. We’ve seen many instances where an interested candidate has walked away because the interested company spent too long trying to negotiate compensation. This is not to say that you shouldn’t negotiate, because they certainly will. But after 2 or 3 counters, it’s better to meet them and move forward than to risk losing your candidate.

Don’t Forget the Non-Compensation Stuff- The growth opportunity, the chance to make a real difference, flexible vacation time, fringe benefits, unique co-workers, the potential to make an exit… There is a laundry list of benefits unique to startups which supplement base salary. Emphasize this as part of the overall package to improve the reception of your salary range, knowing that it may likely be compared to a higher level, without the perks, from established, and less exciting, companies.
Getting top technical talent in today’s market is a growing challenge for today’s startups and technology companies. If your startup or technology company needs help beating the talent crunch, we can help. Millennium Search works with emerging startups and cutting edge technology companies to help them seek out and hire the top performers they need to grow and succeed. Contact us today!

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