Hiring technical talent has always been one of my most difficult tasks as a startup CTO. Development talent is in short supply for all company sizes, and we’ll see an estimated 30% increase in the number of development positions by 2026. Salaries have increased 15% in the last five years with a 2017 median salary of just over $103K, and salaries will continue to rise at a faster pace as the number of positions increases.
For these reasons, we had to look outside our established hiring channels when building our development team at CUE Marketplace. We needed reasonably-priced talent that could grow as we grew. Our company started in Boulder in a co-working space/coding school called Galvanize. We were lucky to have good candidates right outside our door. It’s been two years since our start, and now we have a solid development team full of boot camp grads. Here are five keys to our success in building that team.
Understand the curriculum
Get to know the students
After we understood the curriculum and was comfortable that it was close to our technical stack, our next step was to become familiar with the potential candidates in each class. I started to volunteer as a mentor on the Galvanize campus. This enabled me to meet and get to know the students. CUE also sponsored several sessions on technical subjects and general technical career topics. I also sat on the panels for some of the student capstone project presentations. This is where I got to know their code, how they presented themselves to others, and how their projects matched up against their peers. Sitting on the panel also gave me an opportunity to ask them some deeper questions in areas that were important to our open roles. Some graduates reached out for mentoring after graduation, which enabled me to keep in contact with potential candidates.
Hire the right candidates
After getting to know the students, we had a good list of candidates that closely fit our technology needs and culture. When positions opened up at CUE, we reached out to those candidates. We met with each candidate to determine what they were looking for in a new role and a company. We also got a feel for their prior experience, especially in leadership roles. The next phase was a take-home project where we asked them to learn a new technology and then code a solution with it. After they completed the project, we had them come into the office and present their project to our team, and we brainstormed a few other features. This project indicated how quickly they learn and can apply new technologies and how well they brainstormed with our team.
Set up your new hires for success
After the hire, we wanted our new CUE developers to have a solid path to success for their first three months. This is one of the most overlooked processes when hiring. We do a 30, 60, and 90-day plan for every new hire. For the new developers, we partitioned our architecture into three areas and let the new team members focus on one area per month. We also like to do reviews after the 30, 60, and 90-day anniversaries to make sure the new team member is hitting their goals and we are hitting ours as a company. This quickly tells us how the new developer is coming along in their career with us.
Implement supportive development processes
The last piece of the puzzle is our Agile development process. This process helps our new developers grow beyond the 90-day mark. We do weekly releases, so nothing our team works on is a huge task. We do regular planning and design sessions, so the design and architecture knowledge is shared across all team members. This shared knowledge also enables any developer to work on any item added to our sprint. We try to share the wealth with our work, so one person doesn’t have all the knowledge in a particular area. We also utilize unit testing, code reviews and pair programming sessions to enhance code quality and push best-practices.
I encourage you to add boot camps as part of your technical hiring process. These highly motivated developers can start to contribute to your company very quickly, and it’s rewarding to see them grow with your company. I hope the five steps above help you get started and hire with success. If you have any other suggestions or tips that your company has used to hire entry-level technical staff, I’d love to hear from you!
Steve ‘Jovi’ Jovanelly
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This blog post was originally posted to Jovi’s Medium blog here.