Best Practices in Hiring a Programmer for a Startup

Hiring a great programmer to advance the growth of your startup could be a heinous task, especially if you lack a sufficient programming background.

With a good developer, you will maximize your company’s potential for innovation, ensure satisfying user experience, and maintain business-vital applications on the cutting-edge.

On the other hand, if you fail to hire the right talent, you risk smashing the growth of your business, as well as wasting resources in trying to find a better replacement.

We sat down with Robert Schumann from LEOMA Inc., a company developing innovative sports devices for enhancing athletes’ performance, to talk about some of the best practices in hiring a good programmer.

Here are seven best tips we identified for hiring a great developer to escalate the growth of your business.

1. Write a clear job description

“So, it all starts with a good, simple job description”, Robert said. “If you don’t have a clear job description, your recruiting life will be difficult”, he emphasized.

A well-written job description with clear indications of what your company can do for potential employees will assist in attracting the best programmers suited for your needs.

Try to avoid detailed descriptions with lengthy lists of duties and requirements, and focus on fostering career growth and providing rewarding working conditions for potential employees.

2. Focus on talent, not longevity

In the current fast paced, tech-driven world, recruiting a top developer that sticks is one of the heaviest struggles of companies, particularly startups. Good programmers usually move in pursuit of other opportunities; therefore, you need to maximize the time you have with them, while constantly recruiting fresh blood coming with new ideas.

“I can’t commit to a company for more than a few years. I get bored and that’s why I love startups”, noted Robert, who has experience in a number of startups.

You need to be frank and realistic with Millennials, who make a big proportion of the current workforce, and provide attractive opportunities for their career growth.

So, instead of searching for coders who will be happy staying in one place for two decades, go for those who will create a lasting impact on their current roles.

3. Evaluate technical experience and expertise

You should carefully assess candidates’ technical experience and expertise to ascertain their true capabilities. A programmer with excellent technical skills backed by a solid experience will greatly assist in realizing your business goals.

“Do they have existing projects with high quality, clean code? Do they have any complex projects they worked on, and they can describe these projects clearly? Can they be reflective about their successes and failures in these projects?”, Robert affirmed.

Another way of assessing the technical competencies of candidates is to scrutinize their profiles where they hang out. For example, a site like GitHub provides a good repository for code where developers can contribute to open source projects.

You can carefully evaluate their activity level on the site, such as “if any of their repos are updated regularly”, or “if any of their work has been forked.”

Worth mentioning, the quality of a candidate’s CV will also tell you much about his or her level of technical experience and expertise. “I hired someone years ago and fired him, and I was worried because of the CV quality; he had a good track record but there were a lot of errors, and sure enough, his code was identical”, Robert added.

4. Ensure a cultural fit

Besides someone’s technical prowess, ensuring cultural fitness is equally important, if not more important. Going for someone who will not fit seamlessly into your company’s working environment can greatly impair growth.

Will they be fueling “office politics that affect innovation?” Are they ready “to leave their ego at the door?”  “Can they work with others?” “Are they results driven?” “Are they interested in the company’s products?”, Robert frankly asked.

Therefore, you should clearly outline your company’s culture and values and ensure that all prospective hires are in tune with them, particularly in a start-up environment where traits like adaptability and other soft skills are very essential.

5. Assess desire for improvement

In the world of technology, improvements take place on a constant basis. Therefore, since things tend to become obsolete very quickly, you need to hire a programmer who is enthusiastic about technology and see learning as a pleasure.

“Are they going to hackathons?” “Do they keep up with Hacker News or other online dev-related publications?” “Are they creative?” “Are they passionate about code?”

Robert asserted that great candidates show eagerness to improve their skills and remain on top of the game.

6. Ask the right questions

Asking the wrong questions to a developer may lead to a flawed interview process. Importantly, you will not have a clear way of correctly judging a programmer’s ability if your questions lack the necessary intelligence to siphon off red flags exhibited during the interview process.

According to Robert, “Questions are meant to get real value, and they’re are not supposed to be confrontational. They’re just supposed to see how people think and if they’re ready for that type of position”.

Your interview questions should dig deep into a potential hire’s skills, dedication, and ability to deliver quality in engineering projects. So, it’s important to equip yourself with a bit of programming knowledge so that you can ask questions confidently.

7. Give an audition project

Importantly, regardless of how programmers may seem to be brilliant and fantastic during interviews, hiring them before giving a real work-oriented trial project is making a big mistake.

You don’t want to hire someone who can’t move past few lines of code and wastes the entire day trying to figure out simple programming problems.

To prove a candidate’s technical credentials, give him or her an audition project at your office. Robert asserted, “We may have them do a test in the office…it’s a great way to test someone’s ability”.

This way, you will be able to establish without any doubts that your hire will complete projects as desired. If you are code illiterate, you can consult programmer friends for assistance.


Recruiting a programmer for your startup is a “make-it-or-break-it-process”. Without the right approach, you will commit a hiring disaster and greatly impede the growth of your business.

However, with the above seven tips from Robert, you can confidently hire the right talent to escalate your idea to technical perfection, and achieve business success.