On The Whole “Hiring Developers” Thing

October 14th, 2013 by Adam Christian

This post is written by Adam Christian, VP of Development at Sauce Labs

Approaching a year ago I was asked to step into the VP of Development job at Sauce Labs, which in retrospect is the first time I have ever had a job that was basically “full-time” management. I had convinced myself that I would somehow magically find enough time to also do a full-time developer job, that didn’t quite happen. Over the last 6 months I have spent 3/4 of my time concentrating on building out a development team. As it turns out, this process involves all the things; finding/hiring developers, organizing budget and roles, interfacing with recruiters, salary and stock concerns, and finally and most importantly – trying to wrap my head around what a world class development organization looks like from a cultural perspective.

Throughout this process I constantly read blogs, reddit, hackernews, etc on this topic, and have to say – although hiring developers is challenging, this whole “there are no good developers anywhere!!!” thing, is quite simply wrong. We had three really talented developers start today, and have hired and on-boarded five others over the last two months.

Developers want to work for companies that build things they care about, where they get to work on interesting and challenging problems. They also want to work for a company that embraces values they feel good about representing. We have documented our values, and take them very seriously.

Strategy

There is quite literally no magic here, we worked our asses off and bent over backwards to create opportunities that are individually exciting for each hire. I’m not saying we compensate abnormally high or anything — we just listen to what people want out of their future, and really think hard about their fit in the organization. Additionally, we are direct and honest about the opportunity and our expectations before we start getting serious about an offer.

Once we mutually feel like the fit is good, we look at our budget and future hiring requirements and make them the best offer that we realistically can. I don’t like the game where you offer someone less than you want to, to leave room for negotiating. I appreciated the offers I’ve had in my career where they said “here is the offer, it’s the best we can do, please consider it carefully”, and that is exactly how I like to do it. Avoiding attachment to outcome is an important part of this process, not every offer is going to be accepted, but either way, we feel good about having done the best we could.

I should mention that we have developers in Australia, Canada, Armenia and Poland, as well as H1Bs from Argentina, Germany and France. Not to mention contractors in Hungary, Switzerland and Australia. It’s challenging to build a core team in your office and efficiently acquire the talent and skills needed to get your projects done, and we consider that carefully for each hire. Like I said, get creative – the world gets smaller everyday, you don’t need to limit your talent pool to the bay area.

Recruiters

Once the word gets out that you are hiring, you may get firebombed by every recruiting agency on the map. I’ve found that when it comes to outside recruiters, less is more. There are (at least) two styles out there — one involves volume, assuming that the more resumes they send, the higher the chances are you will hire one of them. The other involves a thoughtful systematic search, where you only see a couple resumes here and there — but they are much higher quality. We have worked with two recruiters resembling the latter, and have had good success with both. I try to be a really accommodating person, but at the end of the day you have to be firm when it comes to low quality resumes — this is potentially one of the worst ways to waste your time.

Discovery

Of course your personal network, and that of your current development team is a fantastic way to find developers – but after a hire or two, you will probably burn that out. I suggest that you connect with your community. We use lots of Javascript and Python at Sauce Labs — and have spent a lot of time and energy supporting and contributing to those communities. This has paid off for us both with hiring and for product/uptake (given that we operate in the developer tools space). We have sponsored well over fifteen developer conferences this year, and have sent developers all over the world – not to mention the meetups we lead and support on a monthly basis.

If you can’t have real/engaging conversations with developers at technology conferences and meetups, then I suspect your hiring challenge goes beyond finding good developers.

Internal Resources

We recently hired a recruiting manager, and I would suggest that everyone do this sooner rather than later. Not to alleviate work load (even though that is awesome), but because of the impression instilled by quick, thoughtful, responsiveness. From scheduling interviews, answering questions, screening candidates, interfacing with outside recruiters – to a warm welcome and on- boarding package on the first day. You want people to feel like everything in your process that pertains to them is deliberate, and ultimately — it should be.

Patience

It took a couple months to get a steady stream of resumes coming in through the website, and posted on plenty of job boards. I suggest the air-raid, try all the things at once and then focus on the sources of the best resumes — but be patient, because developing a successful hiring and on-boarding process is not something to be done in a hurry.

Disclaimer

That’s all I have for now folks, thanks for reading — and remember, these are simply my observations over the last year. I am open to the idea that we might not have mastered this yet, especially given the relatively small number of new hires we have made compared to bigger companies in the space.

Did I mention that Sauce Labs is hiring:)

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