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Observations on Hiring Technical Talent

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I’ve had a bunch of conversations over the past few weeks where every person has asked me the same question, “Do you know any engineers I can hire?”.  Non technical co-founders are looking to partner up with technical co-founders, bigger companies are looking to fill out their engineering staff and funded startups are looking to build their engineering teams.  Engineers are in high demand which means if you’re looking to hire one you’re going to have to work for it!

I don’t think there’s any sure fire way to go out and attract top developers as every company and situation is different.  I will however offer a few observations I’ve made of how some local companies are going about hiring.

Relationship building

When chatting with a few companies and asking how they were able to build their engineering teams, they remarked that they had leveraged the connections they had made while working at previous companies.  One company went back to a previous employer (don’t worry lawyers and employers in MA, they didn’t infringe on their non-solicitation agreements) and recruited engineers they had worked with in the past.

One person who didn’t have the luxury of leveraging a former engineering staff, pounded the pavement, becoming a regular at different developer meetups around town.  He told me that over the course of a year, he was able to develop strong relationships with developers eager to refer him engineering candidates.

Monetary Incentive

With such a high demand for tech talent, companies have been throwing a lot of cash at the problem.  I’m sure everyone is aware that HubSpot is paying $10k for any referred new technical hire that stays at the company for a specific amount of time.  Performable was also playing the same game, offering $12k per developer, before being acquired by HubSpot.  If you have the money and need the talent, throwing cash around could potentially help.


There has been a lot of angel and VC money flowing into the startup scene over the past few years.  Many of these startups, who have been around for a while, ramped up quickly, filling out their engineering teams but still have yet to achieve the rocket growth they expected.  After chatting with a few engineers at these types of companies, I’ve learned that given the right situation they’d be inclined to join a new team and attack a new problem.

If you’re a startup, I’d also take a look at larger companies and agencies.  Many of these developers are super active in the developer community and get involved in the various hackathons and user groups around town.  While hosting a couple of hackathons, I’ve had a chance to chat with several engineers working at larger corporations.  It was really interesting for me to hear how many of these guys are actually interested in joining a startup.  After one engineer made a similar statement at a recent APIs and IPAs, he was instantly bombarded with interest from several big name startups.

Generate ‘The Perfect Storm’

There are several companies in Boston that are great at generating ‘the perfect storm’ and as a byproduct, have had an easier time attracting talent.

The first step to creating the perfect storm is to make yourself the prettiest girl in the room.  Just as you would when trying to raise money, the more hype you can create for your company the more interested everyone (not just engineers) will be in helping you execute your vision.  By being the prettiest girl in Boston, you’ll have an easy time attracting talent.

The second step is to sell a grand vision that solves an interesting problem.  To achieve this, it helps to have an incredible storyteller.  It’s not that you want to sell ice to eskimos but you want to tell the story of how you are going to change the world.  You’re doing this when you’re talking to VCs and angles, so do the same when you’re trying to recruit talent as well.

The final step in creating the perfect storm is to already have great people on your team.  When joining a company, people want to move their career forward and become more valuable.  The best way to do this is to improve one’s skills by learning from super experienced people like the David Cancel’s, Dharmesh Shah’s, Sean Lindsay’s, and Will Koffel’s of the world.  Companies that are able to convey the aptitude of their team tend to be much prettier than the others.

These are just a few observations I’ve made over the past few years.  I’d love to hear any other thoughts people have!