Chris Castiglione Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.

How to Hire a Developer

2 min read

How to hire a developer
How to hire a developer

Programmers and web developers are in high demand.

Really great developers are sometimes called”10x Developers,” because they are 10 times better than your average developer. Yes, I believe that a really great developer can do in 1 hour, what may take not-so-great developers hours, days or weeks.

If you’re working at a startup and want to hire a developer, but having little luck finding someone good — here is what a great developer will want to know before accepting your job offer.

What a Developer Wants to Know:

  1. What problem are you solving? Many great developers are interested in solving real-world problems, or at least REAL problems.
  2. How many people are on your team? Are you a small team, or a large team?
  3. Will I be able to learn on the job? Coding is problem-solving, the field is rapidly changing all the time — and so developers are looking for a place where they can stay sharp, and have room to grow. Learning on the job could mean learning from a mentor (working under someone talented on the team), or it could mean that the company offers a training budget (so the developer can visit conferences or higher a coach), or it might just mean giving the developer 20% time like Google has so that he or she can dedicate time to related side-projects.

For Startups? The Developer Will Also Want to Know:

  1. What is your proposed solution to that problem? What have you tried? What’s working? What’s your hypothesis?
  2. Have you validated your MVP? Watch this video on MVP if you’re not familiar with what an MVP is.
  3. Do you have domain expertise? For example, if you’re making an iPhone app for doctors, it really helps if you have experience working in healthcare or a hospital.
  4. Are you funded? Where’s the money coming from? Is this an equity gig?
  5. What are you offering in terms of compensation? Will I be working for free?

With all that said. Keep it relatively short! And don’t be discouraged if you can’t promise all of these details. Be upfront, clear and professional and that will demonstrate just how capable you are.

Here’s an example email from Tom Hessert of Derby Jackpot to a potential developer:

The Perfect Web Developer Pitch

Chris (aka. The Developer),

I’m working with a team of two to build an online horse racing app called Derby Jackpot.

Our research shows that there is no legal way to gamble on horses in America. Derby Jackpot solves that demand by offering the first online horse racing app. In the past 6 months, we’ve worked hard to validate our MVP, and now we’re certain there is a market demand of over 100,000 people.

We have strong domain expertise: my co-founder has over 10 years experience on the business side of horse racing. We’re fully funded, and offering equity and/or a very competitive salary.

Thanks for taking the time! I’d love to tell you more.

A template for hiring a web developer:

[Developer’s name],

I’m working with a team of [how many people on your team?] to build an [what are you building?] called [product name].

Our research shows [some market problem]. [Our product] solves that demand by [what is your solution to the problem?]. In the past [6 months], we’ve worked hard to validate our MVP, and now we’re certain [some promise of success].

We have strong domain expertise: [you or your co-founder?] has over [some number] years experience in [what field are you in?]. We’re [are you funded? be honest], and [what compensation are you offering the developer].

Thanks for taking the time! I’d love to tell you more.
[Your name]

The Easy Part Is Writing the Email

The hardest part is doing the prep work: In my example above, Tom didn’t just shoot off an email — he worked hard to prove his idea has legs. For example, he’s done his market research, he has expertise in the field, and he’s validated his MVP.

Now it’s your turn! So maybe you have some work to do before emailing another developer?

To learn more about developers, and coding culture I’d suggest you read about The Hacker Ethic: Understanding Programming Culture. 

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Chris Castiglione Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.