How To Hire A Developer: The Start-Up Guide

devOne of the biggest challenges for any business is attracting the best talent. At a start-up like Zipcube, where funds are limited, this can be particularly tough. Agency fees are prohibitive and, as an early-stage CTO, you aren’t just spending your time hiring: you’re also maintaining architecture and developing the code base. Time is very much at a premium and you have to tread carefully.

If those were the only challenges, things would almost be simple, but there’s a further complication. You’re also looking for a certain sort of candidate, one who goes beyond the technical skills listed on their CV. You’re looking for someone who thrives on working beyond their job description and embraces the responsibility to innovate and explore new tech. They need to have strong opinions as well as a willingness to voice them. Finally, hopefully, this person has a bit of an appetite for risk. They will be working for a start-up, after all.

Once you’ve filtered all your applicants against these pretty stringent criteria, you’ll be keen to grab any candidate who fulfils them! But then you’re presented with a new problem…

Why would they want to work for you?

Luckily, by this point you’ve already narrowed your candidate down to someone with a certain sort of mindset. By being selective at first, you’ll have found someone driven by a passion to learn – and this is where being a start-up finally becomes an advantage!

At Zipcube, we’re always looking for that sweet spot of speed and agility which a cutting-edge tool can offer, balanced with the relative confidence that it isn’t just next year’s failed buzzword. We’ve gone from being an early-stage start-up with a clunky MVP based on a legacy framework, to a progressive company that is ready to face the challenges of rapid scaling. We’ve heavily invested in a React and Redux front-end driven by a data API that is slowly evolving towards an event-source driven set of micro-services. We strive to use the best tool for any individual job, but within a set of rules influenced by the mistakes made by those who have gone before. (Including, for instance, Uber!)

And of course, there’s the company culture. First and foremost, Zipcube offers the support and training of a great team, a progressive tech stack and the responsibility of evolving that stack. But there’s also Friday pizza and drinks, work-from-home days and climbing and yoga afternoons courtesy of the company. To be honest, we don’t score as highly on the Joel Test 2017 as we would like: we’re still young and many of our processes are still being developed. However we are working on it and plan to achieve top marks within the next 6 months.

So, what are we looking for?

We want experience, but technology moves so fast that stubbornly sticking to your current tools and methods can be a real disadvantage. We also want flexibility, but having your head turned by every emerging technology means that implementing the latest features is a steep learning curve. Therefore we need wisdom – a commitment to continually improve the art of discerning when it’s time to use a new technology and when your old stack is ‘good enough’.

But even this is just one aspect of the skill we’re after, which is to see the whole picture, not just the issue you’re currently trying to solve. Anyone can learn PHP, Python, React or Redux, but we demand that much more rare commodity – the ability to think.

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