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How to hire developers: Three tips to survive the tech talent shortage

Hiring developers is a headache for startups battling the tech talent crunch. Here's how to establish your company as the go-to place for the best candidates

By Stefan Lederer

Stefan Lederer, CEO and founder of Bitmovin

It’s no secret that there’s a massive shortage of tech talent, and developers are the most sought-after candidates. But to win talent startups are going to have to look beyond compensation alone. If you view candidates simply as a commodity and approach the job market like a bidding war on eBay, don’t be surprised when you end up empty-handed. 

When you’re going toe-to-toe with leading global brands, you need to take a more thoughtful and considered approach to recruitment. After all, it was David’s imagination and creativity that helped him prevail against Goliath’s strength.

Here are some ways you can differentiate your startup, hire developers and establish yourself as the go-to company for the best candidates:  

How to hire developers: let them try before they buy (in)

Developers are curious and love to learn so, naturally, they love participating in open-source projects — tech that’s accessible to all and can be modified or designed by anyone. That means any developer can build with your technology and see how it’s solving real-world challenges.

Even traditionally non-open-source tech companies like BuzzFeed, Etsy and Pixar have established open-source programmes as part of their recruitment strategies to give candidates a taste of their technology and what they could be doing day-to-day. After all, doesn’t everyone want to try before they buy? 

👉 Read: The best way to hire developers from Central and Eastern Europe

The fact that our technology is open-source has been instrumental in helping us recruit already established developers and collaborate with academic and senior research teams. Through a seven-year joint venture with the Institute of Information Technology (ITEC) at the University of Klagenfurt in Austria, we have researchers working closely with our engineering and product teams.

Hire developers from top academic institutions

When you’re a growing tech startup, it’s all too easy to focus on wooing talent from the Googles and Apples of the world. It’s understandable — especially in the early stages of growth — that you want employees with experience at globally-renowned brands on their CV; it also looks great to investors. It also arguably helps validate your company to external stakeholders.

But competition for these candidates is fierce. And just because they have worked at a great company doesn’t guarantee they’ll be the right fit for yours. 

Instead, focus your recruitment efforts elsewhere. Academic institutions are one of the greatest untapped resources of talent for tech startups. Investing in up-and-coming talent is also a fantastic way to build a loyal team that wants to learn and grow with your company. And building better relationships with universities, colleges and schools will encourage more motivated and talented people to join the technology industry.

Our recruitment team has spent a lot of time developing a robust intern programme that has seen many interns become full-time employees across our sales, legal, marketing, product and engineering departments. We offer them flexible working hours so they can work around their studies and not vice versa, and we give them a bonus when they graduate in recognition of their dedication and hard work. 

Create your own developer community spirit (and a bot for Friday beers)

Engineers are smart and love to learn and upskill, so the best way to recruit them is to share your expertise and become a leading source of education.

We host regular in-person and virtual learning labs around the world, which are free-to-attend interactive workshops for any developer to receive insider training on developing a video streaming workflow using best practices from the world’s leading broadcasters. These workshops are open to developers at every level — from video experts looking to improve their software development skills to novice coders looking to understand the practical elements of working with video.

We also host regular hackathons, which bring developers together to collaborate on projects that focus on video workflows to more fun initiatives: such as a Slackbot that notifies our offices that it’s time for beer, the gamification of video encoding and local travel guides. 

👉 Read: In Europe’s war for tech talent, are visas the answer?

Create your own branded forum for target communities to connect and solve problems, especially if they use your products and services. This is best practice at any large tech company — think Amazon Web Services, Google and Spotify — or scaleup, and they’ll even have a team to manage this community.

In our case, we have employees whose primary role is to nurture these relationships by acting as moderators on the developer community forum. They can answer questions quickly, share new product and feature releases and regularly update resources and documents. The key is to making the community — and your company — feel more personable to potential candidates. 

Competition for tech talent has never been fiercer, but in this David vs Goliath-esque battle, startups can emerge triumphant by forgoing the bidding wars with industry giants. Instead, focus on adopting creative and personable approaches to recruitment so you can attract the best talent for your team. 

Stefan Lederer is CEO and cofounder of Bitmovin. He tweets from @slederer

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