Little House Consultancy


We help ambitious companies with the strategy and management of their software, organisational and development projects.

Recruiting Developers

I've been asked a couple of times recently about recruiting developers. I seem to be writing the same email many times, so I thought it better if I put my thoughts down here and could just point people to this in future! 

There is a big difference between recruiting during the early stages of a start-up compared to once you've built a successful development team and business. The first few recruits are so key to the success of the business that there is a different driver and reason for who you choose to hire. They need to be experts in their field, passionate and motivated, which means your pitch must be pretty darn good. And by pitch, I mean why anyone would want to join you in your dreams of turning your idea in to a successful business. This is where Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is focused on the intrinsic rewards. It's not rocket science... what would get you excited... the latest tech, a focus on quality, working with experts, being involved in the decisions, a level of responsiblity and autonomy and clear benefit to progressing your career development! And don't scrimp on wages. If you really can't afford to pay top dollar, then you will have to look to compensate with share options! I firmly believe one good £50K developer is worth much more than two £25K devs! I'm not saying all these things aren't important when you've established dev team, but often you'll be looking for a more run of the mill hire... someone to come in and fit in, pick up an existing project, work through a task list, not make waves, set direction and re-architect a perfectly good platform. 

Now let's tackle the obvious issue... I wouldn't call it the elephant in the room, more the racist old relative in the corner that everyone wants to ignore - recruitment companies! I'm not saying they are all awful, but most don't seem to add much value to an already difficult process. All I would say is try recruiting direct first. Recommendations are best... offer an incentive for current employees to introduce someone (e.g. £500 if they pass probation). This is even more important for those intial hires as they are so key. Put the job on your www and tweet etc. Being based in South Wales, worked well for me recently. We also recruited via Cardiff Dev slack group... find similiar in your area and get the job mentioned.

Finally, recruitment companies... you will have a multitude of options, choose the recruiter who really takes the time to get to know what you need. I want to receive 1 or 2 good candidates not 10 rubbish. Volume is not good! I want a recruiter who filters the crap out. I was lucky to find a recruiter who could predict who we would hire... If he said we would like them we ended up employing them!

There is a difference between the job advert and the job description. One is selling the company to attract applications from the right people and the other is an internal document that clearly defines the ideal candidate. The job description can be used to rate candidates, but is also good for future appraisals. Try to define the attitudes and behaviour of the ideal candidate... people can be trained to acquire skills, but it's difficult to change a person's attitude!

Telephone interview before a face to face. Write down 5 questions to ask each candidate. Explain to them that it's a short 5 to 10 minute chat just to avoid wasting each other's time. Schedule calls 20 min apart and plough through them. Mark each answer.  It is amazing how often the candidate with the highest score ends up getting the job after the face to face. You'll be able to discount the time wasters very quickly allowing you to focus on the real candidates.

EVP - employee valuation proposition. It's a big area! Pay is not everything. Virgin airways pay half of British airways for air hostess but which company has a strike. Same for Admiral... they pay 20% less, have half the churn rate and are regularly voted best employer! Get EVP right and you don't have recruitment problems. Work out what the benefits of working with you are. I like to ensure devs are allocated time for personal dev. Not only do they feel their skills are progressing, but you get people in to the habit of researching technology. I want tech decisions based on sound facts, not just because "its what I always use"!

But pay well. Its worth repeating.... a £40k dev will be more productive than two £20k. Importantly they will be able to tackle more difficult problems. Which brings us back to the job description... define what you need. Do you need an architect to make the big decisions, a lead to ensure quality and define work, or a builder to plough through already specified work. Look at other comparative job adverts and see how you compete. Then set expectations with the FD 

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