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Hiring + recruiting | Blog Post

How to Hire Your First Software Developer

Wes Mitchell-Lewis

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If you’re like most start-up founders, you’re undoubtedly handling a sizable portion of the development work yourself. However, hiring a software developer to assist with coding will become more imperative as your company grows. Consequently, you may need guidance on how to hire your first software developer.

Finding highly skilled developers for your business can lead to frustrating dead ends. In reality, recruiting choices always require trade-offs — rapid hiring can come at the expense of quality.

So, where do you start?

Ensure You Have Sufficient Work to Justify Hiring a Software Developer

So you’ve decided that your business is ready to take the plunge, and you’re beginning to inquire about how to hire your first engineer. Congratulations! This is a big step for any business, and it can pay huge dividends down the road. But before you start posting job ads and scheduling interviews, there are a few things you need to do to ensure that your hiring process goes smoothly—and that you end up with the right person for the job.

Make sure you have enough lined-up work to support hiring a full-time software developer before doing anything else. Going through the effort (and expense) of employing someone full-time is unnecessary if you only require someone on staff for a few hours per week.

Offer Contract to Hire

If this is your first time hiring a software developer, then it might not make sense (or be financially feasible) to hire someone permanently right off the bat. In that case, consider offering them a contract-to-hire arrangement instead.

This will allow them to get their feet wet working on actual projects for your business while also allowing you to see how well they mesh with your company culture and whether they’re capable of doing the job before making a permanent commitment.

What Tasks Require a Software Engineer?

To get an idea of what kinds of tasks are well-suited for a software developer, consider what kinds of skills and knowledge they bring to the table:

  • They are seasoned programmers who are fluent in many coding languages.
  • They are analytically gifted and capable of high-level, abstract thought.
  • They can partition large issues into simpler subproblems.
  • They have great communication skills and work well with others at your company.

How Do I Find a Developer to Hire?

There are a few things to bear in mind while you search for a developer to hire.

Start Comparing Salaries

One of the first things you must consider when comparing software developers’ salaries is location. Are you looking to hire someone locally, or are you open to remote candidates? Keep in mind that developers in high-cost-of-living areas typically command higher salaries than those in lower-cost regions.

Experience Matters

Another important consideration is experience. A more experienced developer will command a higher salary than a less experienced one—but don’t just focus on years of experience; it’s also important to consider the quality of a candidate’s experience.

A developer who has worked on big, complex projects will be more valuable (and expensive) than one who has only worked on small, simple tasks. But a more senior developer could be someone who helps you build a full software engineering team in the future.

Skills and Technologies

Finally, you’ll also want to consider a candidate’s skills and technologies. A developer who is well-versed in the latest technologies and trends will be more expensive than one who is not—and if you’re looking for someone with specific skills (e.g., experience with a particular programming language or platform), be prepared to pay for that expertise.

Create Well Informed Interview Questions

It’s essential to ask candidates questions that help you gauge their level of expertise during the interview process. You may, for instance, inquire as to an instance where they had to debug some sort of program. This will show you how they deal with challenges and problems, so you can gauge their problem-solving abilities.

Asking about their familiarity with other programming languages and development tools would be useful as well. See how well-versed in technology they are.

Take-Home Projects

A take-home assignment or technical assessment is an excellent approach to evaluate a candidate’s abilities outside of the traditional testing environment. They can be tasked with anything from writing some simple code to designing a complete website. By doing so, you can observe their processes and methods in action.

Live Coding Challenges

As a last step in the interview process, you might put potential candidates through a live coding challenge. Here, the applicant is presented with a challenge that must be solved immediately using the candidate’s preferred programming language. This is a fantastic test of their problem-solving and coding abilities.

Why Seniority Matters

It’s important to work with someone who has been through the ups and downs of software development before, since this can help ensure that your product is built successfully. A senior software developer’s breadth of experience can help you avoid costly mistakes.

In addition, experienced programmers have a better chance of getting things done on their projects. This is crucial because it reminds you to be patient with your new employee. You should hire someone who can take command and, with minimal supervision, see a project through to completion.

Why Leadership Skills Matter

Even though your initial software developer will operate individually for the majority of the time, they must be able to manage a team should your business expand and you need more developers. For this reason, it’s critical to give individuals with strong leadership qualities priority.

An excellent leader can inspire their team, assign duties efficiently, and settle disputes swiftly. By establishing specific objectives and due dates, they’ll be capable of keeping their team on track.

The Perks of Being the First Engineer

It’s crucial to choose carefully when hiring your first software developer. In addition to creating the initial codebase, this person will also establish the tone for the organization’s culture and ideals.

Finding a candidate that not only possesses the necessary technical skills but also shares your vision for the business is crucial, so take your time in the search.

Ensure to emphasize the advantages of being the company’s first software developer while speaking with prospects during the interview process.

Insist on the fact that you’re seeking a genuine business partner—someone who is fired up about the idea of creating something from scratch. You have a chance to influence the company’s course and create something from nothing.

When hiring your first developers, stress the advantage that:

  • You get to shape the culture.
  • You get to define the process.
  • You get to set the bar.

Watch Out For Red Flags

When selecting your first software developer, it’s critical to watch out for any warning signs that can point to disinterest in the position, problems understanding basic engineering concepts, or aggressiveness or dismissiveness.

  • Short answers and scant information may indicate indifference to the position or a love of the trade.
  • If they need help responding to simple engineering questions, they might not be as experienced or informed as you’d want.
  • Any hostility or dismissive behavior could become a regular occurrence and create a poisonous work atmosphere.

Get Out There and Hire the Right One

Hiring a software developer is a big decision for any business. The right developer can help take your business to the next level, but the wrong one can set you back months or even years. So how do you hire your first software developer?

Remember to:

  • Define the skillset you need.
  • Consider both agency and freelance developers.
  • Make sure you’re prepared to pay market rates.

The key is finding someone who shares your vision for the company and has the skills and experience to make that vision a reality.

Continue to explore the rest of Terminal’s content offerings. If you are interested in learning more about how Terminal can support your organization and accomplish your development goals, please get in touch with our team!

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