Recruitment for Startups: The Best Strategies for Hiring the Top Development Talent!

How to Optimize Recruitment for Startups | TurnKey

As a startup or high growth tech company, recruitment can be a time-consuming and frustrating endeavor. In fact – according to the Society for Human Resources Management – many tech leaders dedicate almost 40% of their work hours to recruitment-related activities such as hiring, HR tasks, and payroll. Yet despite all the effort put in, research has shown that recruitment success is only around 43%.

Clearly, recruitment strategies need to be optimized if your startup or high growth company is to reach the next level. Let’s look at some of these strategies and how best to leverage them for success.

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What Is Startup Recruiting?

When it comes to recruitment for startups, the approach is quite different from recruitment at large enterprises and established companies.

On the surface, recruitment is recruitment – hiring talented professionals who can bring innovation to the organization and be part of a successful team. But startup recruitment requires a much different strategy, where recruiters must look for more than just the skills and experience that fit various roles within the organization.

Recruiters have to actively seek out developers who are passionate about the mission of the startup and fully believe in its vision. When you combine that mindset with top talent, technical skills, and prior experience, you have the makings of a developer that can be highly productive for your firm.

Top Hiring Challenges | TurnKey

Source: 2018 Future Workforce report, Inavero & Upwork

Here are the top strategies for identifying and recruiting the very best software developers:

#1. Be Clear About Who You Are Looking for

When it comes to startup recruitment – particularly as it relates to software developers – being clear about who you are looking for is vital. Startups and high growth tech companies require agility and the extensive market knowledge that more experienced employees can bring; however, startups also need innovative, creative thinkers to keep up with trends and competitor practices.

When looking for the perfect hires, be sure to formulate clear job descriptions that detail not only the hard skills but also the soft skills that are necessary to help develop a well-rounded startup team. You should also understand your legal requirements when hiring employees in order to ensure regulations are met without fail. Making these preparations early on will have immense benefits in making sure each hire is right for their role.

Pro Tip: Consider Professional Subcontractors or Agencies

Professional subcontractors or agencies can provide an agile solution for startups seeking specialized skill sets or short-term projects, such as software development, design work, copywriting, etc. Subcontractors and agencies also bring built-in experience which can help companies avoid common pitfalls – such as incorrect scope definition, inadequate development skillsets, communication issues, etc – that often arise when working with offshore development teams, particularly if you try to recruit and hire on your own.

#2. Define the Ideal Cost/Benefit Ratio

Recruiting an ideal candidate for a startup or high growth company is an exercise in resourcefulness and ambition. To ensure that you are making the right investments in your new hires, it’s important to consider the right cost/benefit ratio. You should determine what tangible or intangible benefits a new hire must bring to a startup before deciding how much money to allocate for recruitment purposes.

For example, hiring experienced developers who have deep technical expertise will likely come with higher recruitment costs; however, their experience could end up saving the company time, money, and energy down the line.

Additionally, when recruitment costs are too high, startups and high growth company scan look into hiring developers from top tech schools that do not command huge salaries but who still contribute significantly to the company’s success – such as talented programmers for technical roles or QAs for testing.

Startups and high growth companies need to be mindful of recruitment costs as they choose their ideal employees; define the cost/benefit ratio to get the most out of recruitment spending and make sure you have all the right team members needed to sustain success.

Pro Tip: Hire for Potential

A successful startup or high growth company will constantly evolve and require a development team that can keep up with its changing tech needs. So instead of looking for someone whose skills are perfectly suited for today’s roles, consider people who show tremendous promise – those coming into their professional prime. Look at lifetime achievements like jobs, schools or hobbies to uncover high achievers; especially if it involves smarts, decisiveness and hard work. It could very well be an indication they’ll elevate your dev team in unforeseen ways.

Need top-tier offshore development talent? We make it our mission to find you the best of the best.

#3. Build Your Employer Brand

Recruiting for startups and high growth companies can provide unique challenges, so having an effective recruitment strategy is crucial to attract the best talent with limited resources. One of the main methods is to build a strong employer brand through creating meaningful content that best reflects the values of your startup.

Make sure candidates know exactly who you are when they come into an interview. Take the time to answer questions like, what services you offer, what makes your company truly unique and why should someone work there. Candidates want to be excited by and feel inspired by your mission as well as see tangible results from your employment.

Make sure it’s clear on your website and recruitment channels such as networking events that explain in a concise, informative way what it would be like to work at your startup or company. This not only boosts recruitment efforts early on but will also help keep morale high for employees already working there.

differentiate your organizational culture from other companies.

Source: Leadership IQ

#4. Spread Awareness on Social Media

Crafting a hiring strategy to spread awareness on social media is an invaluable way to tackle software development recruitment as it allows your company to reach potential candidates quickly and directly while also maintaining cost efficiency.

Not only does this make recruitment easier, but it also reinforces your employer brand and provides numerous opportunities for target messaging, making sure that only top talent sees your vacancy. If leveraged properly, using social media to spread recruitment awareness will increase visibility and help you find the right fit for your team.

Pro Tip: Leverage Personal Networks

Startups should tap into their network of personal and professional contacts to source talented candidates. This is often the most successful strategy for filling roles quickly and accurately, as it allows companies to utilize relationships they already have in place.

#5. Look for Skills as well as Values

Recruiting the right people is key to a successful startup, and sometimes what really matters isn’t what the person can bring immediately, but their potential in the longer term. At startups and high growth tech companies, values are more important than skills: look for qualities that recruitment teams often overlook like creativity, resilience, and tenacity when hiring – things that can only be demonstrated by attitude and actions.

A LeadershipIQ study says, only 11% of the new hires that failed in the first 18 months do so because of deficiencies in technical skills. The majority fail due to lack of motivation, an unwillingness to be coached, or problems with temperament and emotional intelligence.

According to a Harvard Business Review article written by Eva de Mol, the Managing Partner at CapitalT, a venture capital fund investing in early-stage tech companies, “experience alone does not make a team successful — soft skills such as “entrepreneurial passion” and “shared strategic vision” are required as well.” On the flip side, 23% of startups mention team issues leading to failure, Entrepreneur reveals, which emphasizes the crucial role of shared company culture over tech skills.

This means you should keep an open mind about recruitment and focus on hiring for potential.  As a result, you’ll find yourself with team members who can easily transition into more complex roles once embedded within the organization.

The recruitment process for a startup doesn’t necessarily have to be long winded; if you invest time in looking for the right candidate qualities, you can build a startup team ready for true success.

Why do new hires fail | TurnKey

#6. Leverage Unique Sourcing Strategies

Let’s face it: recruitment for startups is rarely easy. It can be particularly challenging to track down the type of candidates that will thrive in a rapidly moving, often chaotic kind of environment. But that doesn’t mean startup recruitment has to be an uphill battle! With clever thinking and new strategies, some savvy recruitment teams are realizing that leveraging unique sourcing strategies can yield positive results.

By creating an extensive database of passive candidates and targeting inactive users with a message that explains why they should get on board with your mission, you may find yourself in a recruitment sweet spot.

Pro Tip: Monitor Market Shifts

There’s one more trick you may not have been told. Startups can swing from the highs of new funding rounds to the lows of turmoil, but those volatile times are ripe with potential. So keep a keen eye on industry reports (such as Crunchbase, Mattermark, CBInsights, Owler) in case you stumble across signs that something is amiss like key leadership changes or prolonged periods without fresh investments — these could mean opportunities for hiring experienced talent that are looking for their next job. Additionally, don’t forget about good ol’ fashioned gossip: keep your ear to the streets; it pays off.

We specialize in recruiting the cream of the offshore crop so you don't have to worry about combing through resumes. Let us do all the heavy lifting for you.

#7. Seek Candidates with Previous Startup Experience

A recruitment strategy focused on the entrepreneurial spirit, innovative thinking, and shared values of the organization can be extremely beneficial to attracting talent that fits those criteria. Leveraging innovative recruitment techniques such as employee referrals, recruitment marketing, and thought-leadership campaigns are incredibly helpful in targeting and engaging this passionate group of software developers.

Although it’s difficult to understand the importance of experience if you’ve never had it, its value is undeniable. Experience cannot be measured or standardized; nonetheless, having expertise in any field can not only save time and money but also spare many concerns. Therefore, when investing in software development (or any endeavor), profiting from experienced professionals should always trump a lesser cost option.

To convey this point more effectively, here is a comic from TurnKey’s very own co-founder and CTO Boris Glants that illustrates (no pun intended!) this idea:

Comic Strip: Used Shoes of FAANG Developer | TurnKey
Comic Strip: Used Shoes of FAANG Developer | TurnKey

Pro Tip: Look For Talent In Niche Job Sites

If you decide to try to find your distributed development team yourself, there are many job sites and communities tailored specifically towards tech talent who are interested in working on innovative projects with startups and high growth companies (such as AngelList, HackerNews Jobs Board, Zapier’s Remote Jobs page, and more).

#8. Visit Hiring Events and Meetups

A recruitment strategy can make all the difference when it comes to finding the right people for your startup. Visiting events and meetups is an excellent strategy that can help startups meet interesting new developers and get a better understanding of what they’re looking for in a candidate beyond their CV.

Moreover, being out and about at events gives your recruitment team an opportunity to personalize their hiring process, as they get to ask questions beyond just those in a resume or job application. With any recruitment strategy, engaging with individual candidates – learning who they are and what their values are – is paramount in helping you decide whether to move forward with them or not.

So if you’re willing to shake up your recruiting process and get out of the office environment for a change, then visiting events and meetups could be the way to go for startups seeking additional software development folks!

#9. Use an Employee Referral Program

When recruiting for startups and high growth companies, creating an employee referral program has proven highly effective.

Hiring through an employee referral program allows a greater degree of accountability and transparency in recruitment as it comes from sources already included in the organization.

The incentives involved also motivate existing employees to bring in quality talent while spreading positive word-of-mouth about the company. This can be especially helpful in recruitment for startups, who are often less well-known and need to fight against this lack of awareness.

And it ultimately keeps hiring costs low and brings passionate individuals into the team who understand what’s expected of them at a deeper level than a completely cold candidate.

Pro Tip: Ask for Feedback

Most companies are missing out on a valuable source of feedback when it comes to the hiring process–those candidates who didn’t end up choosing their offer!  Few HR execs report that they consistently get input from those applicants, leaving 85% in the dark about how effective their recruiting methods really are. Yep, you might be surprised at what your rejected job seekers could tell you!


Source: Thrive My Way

#10. Mine all the Talent at Universities and Colleges

If you’re a startup or high growth company looking to fill your ranks with the best and brightest, how do you go about finding them? Campus hiring is an excellent way to expand your recruitment reach and tap into the latest talent on the market.

Not only do universities have reputations as hotbeds of innovation, but they’re also overflowing with students eager to forge a career path once they graduate.

From delivering presentations in classes to tabling at student association events, there are plenty of ways for startups and high growth companies to engage directly with potential hires. Interacting with aspiring minds is not only a great opportunity for recruiters to discover fresh new applicants, but also provides future candidates with evidence of how their skills will be put to use in a startup environment.

The thought process behind campus hiring is that if you can draw in pupils currently carving out their own paths in higher education, you’ll find young professionals who possess all the creativity needed to help build a lasting business following graduation.

#11. Be Prepared for Continuous Hiring

A startup’s hiring strategy should always be ready for continuous recruitment. Instead of waiting until someone leaves or another position is needed, it’s a good idea for startups and high growth companies to keep a few resumes on hand in case of emergency.

This “just-in-case” approach can save time and money in the long run, lessening how long it would take to activate when an employee departure occurs.

Also having several resumes at the ready means companies can pick qualified applicants who fit the company’s goals and culture more quickly — skillful hires are essential for any startup’s success. Keeping a few candidates on call can give your growing startup an advantage in an ever-changing industry.

Let us be your developer search party! We're equipped with all tools needed to enlist only those engineers who have what it takes.

#12. Create a Comprehensive Interview Process

Having a clear strategy for how and when interviews will be conducted can help you identify the best candidates for the job quickly and efficiently. By preparing thoughtful interview questions beforehand, you can ensure that you’re getting the most honest answers out of potential hires so you can find someone who fits your team perfectly.

When it comes to how to hire developers for a startup or high growth company, there are multiple strategies that can be used:

  1. Pre-interview questions can help create an initial screening process.
  2. Testing or screening assignments can also be given to evaluate interest in the job opportunity and determine how a potential developer may fit into the team and company culture.
  3. After this first level of evaluation, a series of interviews with different people within the company is a good way for both sides to get to know each other.
  4. Taking references from current or former colleagues allows employers to gain more knowledge about how an individual has handled certain tasks and situations before.

When it is finally time to make a decision, all these steps will help ensure that the right person is hired.

Pro Tip: Use Recruiting Software

Recruiting software can automate time-consuming tasks such as the creation and scheduling of interview slots, managing resumes, and other administrative processes that are often associated with hiring teams and the recruitment process.

Usually an applicant tracking system can have built-in reporting tools that enable companies to generate data-driven insights about their recruitment process – such as average time taken for candidate selection or total cost per hire – which can help businesses make better decisions when it comes to selecting new team members.

Tools like rating systems or automated interview evaluation can help companies assess candidates more accurately and make informed decisions based on objective feedback from the system rather than human unconscious bias.

How to evaluate recruitment software for startups

#13. Go Offshore

Startups and high growth tech companies are always exciting endeavors, but managing the hiring of personnel can be daunting. With offshore staffing, it doesn’t have to be!

TurnKey is a great option for any startup or high growth company looking to hire developers for their venture and get the most return on their investment. We help with all aspects of recruiting, such as vetting candidates and ensuring that taxes and legal issues are handled properly. Plus, with our amazing talent retention program, startups are guaranteed a much lower churn rate than our competitors.

But where should you go offshore?  When considering top offshore development destinations, look no further than Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Latin America is a hotbed of opportunity for developers. With an estimated 10 million software developer openings expected by 2025, American businesses are flocking to the region in search of talented engineers and the cost savings that come with ‘nearshoring’ – working within the same time zones. 

At the same time, the software development industry in Eastern Europe (with include countries like Ukraine or Romania) is expected to grow by 13.11% from 2022-2027, reaching a market size of US$6.04 billion by 2027. This growth is due to the highly educated workforce and lower cost of doing business in these countries compared to Western Europe or the United States.

Pro Tip: Talk to the Right People

Reach out directly to TurnKey’s recruitment and HR team who are well-versed in offshore software development and can provide insights into recruitment strategies that could be beneficial for your company.  

TurnKey’s mission is to source and recruit global experts in software engineering. Put simply: we know excellence when we see it—so you can rest assured that your team will be nothing short of extraordinary.

Why Is TurnKey Your Best Bet for Hiring Offshore Developers?

Looking for a developer to join your startup or high growth company can feel like an overwhelming task. But with TurnKey, you get the inside track on recruiting exceptional senior developers – and all in record time! 

Our unique approach has been tested and proven: we get you kickass developers within 30 days. So don’t limit yourself; grab the jet fuel of offshore development talent and call TurnKey now.

Moreover, our recruitment process allows us to tap into the top 3% of talent so you always get the highest level of expertise. Plus, with our transparency on salaries, fees, and expenses—as well as bonus and equity plans tied directly to performance— clients love working with us compared to the usual level of (poor) service they get from our competitors.

Let us provide you with the keys to hiring success and turbocharge your startup or high growth company into superstardom!

Want the best of the best for your dev team? Look no further than turnkey!


How do I recruit developers for my startup?

Streamlining the hiring process can help you make smarter decisions and improve candidate experience with improved efficiency.  Here are some key steps:

  • Develop hiring strategies that fit your requirements.
  • Consider job postings on online job-search platforms, leveraging your network through referrals or headhunting great candidates.
  • Focus on developing relationships with potential employees through public outreach and attending hiring fairs to target talent from specific industries or demographics.
  • Provide attractive compensation packages as this is a major factor that leads people to join startups or high growth companies when compared to large, established organizations.

What type of software developer candidate should I be looking for?

If you're looking to hire for a startup or high growth company, there are a few things you should consider. You want candidates who bring enthusiasm and can accommodate the fast-paced dynamic of your firm. That's why word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals from trusted network connections can be invaluable here.

What is the most practical recruitment style when hiring software developers?

For a startup or high growth company, the most practical recruitment style is to be as open-minded and agile as possible. That means considering candidates with diverse backgrounds and skill sets instead of simply looking for a specific skill set or type of candidate. An important part of how to hire for a startup is ensuring that the team is both diverse and compatible, so stressing the importance of how well candidates fit the company culture is paramount. Finding the right developers can make all the difference in how successful your startup or high growth company will be down the road, so finding candidates that are eager, dedicated, and passionate should not be overlooked.

How do I pick the best software developer candidates for a startup?

To start with, consider what each prospective team member brings to the table: qualifications, experience, and unique skills that match each startup's individual needs. You'll also want to ensure any new hires bring an entrepreneurial spirit: creativity, independent thinking and a willingness to take risks are all essential for startup success. Finally, make sure to look for candidates who align with your startup's values and culture.

January 26, 2023

TurnKey Staffing provides information for general guidance only and does not offer legal, tax, or accounting advice. We encourage you to consult with professional advisors before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business or legal rights.

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