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Hiring developers: How to fill the technical positions you lack knowledge in

Finding the right person for a job can be a job in itself. The more technical your field, the more technical the hiring process and the more prone you can be to mistakes as an upstart entrepreneur. With the job market being swamped even before the COVID-19 pandemic and now hitting record levels, what may seem like an endless sea of hiring opportunities can make for a complex and potentially costly undertaking before you find the right candidate for the job, or worse still, the wrong candidate.

Third in the series of our Let’s Talk Talent webinars, in partnership with Give A Grad A Go, Jay Odeka, an experienced tech recruiter at Wundertalent gets together with Cary Curtis, CEO of Give A Grad A Go. The pair delve into how to hire the best developers, how to make sure you’re recruiting the right people yourself and how to identify when you even need a developer, especially if you’re not experienced in the field yourself.

When should you hire a developer?

For early-stage entrepreneurs, this itself can pose a problem. But it comes with a simple answer. Jay says: “Look at what you’re trying to achieve from a long-term point-of-view,” further elaborating on the importance of any business, start-up or otherwise, planning ahead.

Jay also stressed the importance of differentiating projects and what that might mean in terms of needing a developer: “If you have an e-commerce or wordpress site, it’s constant updating, constant surveillance, constant features. You’re probably going to want to bring that in-house so you’re not constantly spending on an agency.”

Clearly, when it comes to considering outsourcing or an in-house, any business needs to have a clear vision of not only what they’re looking to create, but where that creation is going to be a few years down the line. The constant touch-ups needed for specific projects mean that while expensive, it could be saving you money in the long run to hire an in-house developer as opposed to repeatedly dumping money into agencies for what is realistically a long-term investment.

Adding onto Jay’s advice, Cary explores some of the further considerations needed when hiring a developer, specifically as a start-up: “What level of person do you need in your in-house team?” he asks.

A fresh graduate, while an appealing addition to your team, isn’t going to have the experience needed to cover the bases that need covering when you’re just starting up. “You’re going to want someone who’s definitely used the software you’re trying to develop,” mentions Cary, “more often than not, that is someone in mid to senior level.”

“When it comes to building out your team, it’s a very careful thought about who you need to bring in and when.” – Cary Curtis

Speak to Cary Curtis and the team at Give A Grad A Go for help with hiring junior developers in the UK.

Identifying what you need

“If you’re non-technical, the one thing you want to understand first and foremost is ‘Do I want software or a website?’” Jay suggests. An obvious and important differentiation between the two can surprisingly be lost on plenty of new entrepreneurs, the pair insist. It’s vital that you have a vision of your final product before you start producing it, so that you can figure out who and what you need to make that happen.

Jay outlines that if you’re looking for a software developer, it’s good to find a point of reference for the product you intend to create. Giving an example of what you could pose to a developer during the hiring process, Jay recommends assessing other software or websites on the market. He says: “If I’m building software I go ‘OK, this beauty booking software does exactly what I want to do, so now you have an idea about functionality, what I’m looking for my software to do, can you do what I’m asking you to do?’”

“The first thing you have to take into account is does this person actually exist?” – Cary Curtis

Cary offers some of the common mistakes he sees made by start-ups and small businesses when it comes to hiring their first technical employee: “You ask [the entrepreneur] what they want [a developer] to do, the list of responsibilities is enormous.”. Inexperienced start-ups have a hard time considering the scope of technical responsibilities that come with their business. Cary goes on to explain that through an experienced technical recruiter like Jay, it can be realised that some of those jobs are for one, two or maybe even three individuals.

Screening your candidates

Ok so you’ve got your vision, now what? How do you differentiate between the potential employees when you yourself lack that technical understanding?

“Codebyte and codepen are two good websites that we’ve utilised in the past,” Jay reflects. Giving some further perspective on what happens during the screening process he continues: “You want to make sure they know more than you.”

Jay furthers the discussion into the perception of those who are actually doing the screening, explaining  that sometimes you might have to settle. “Two people might not be perfect in terms of what you had in mind, but they might have the right mindset and mentality.”

Jay then highlights how many people tend to get caught up in their vision and not see the bigger picture, making it clear that occasionally you need to take a step back and manage your expectations when it comes to hiring in such a convoluted market.

“How can I clearly define what it is I’m looking for and how can I ask questions around this?” – Jay Odeka

In the market for a developer

A final question primes the group to discuss where someone should be looking for their developers, the benefits of certain routes and how to immerse yourself in the market itself.

“Once you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, it’s important to have a discussion with a couple of agencies” Cary says, continuing onto the benefits of keeping your options open and not only discussing with a variety of agencies but even putting up a listing yourself “Just to see what’s out there.”