Pedro (centre), of Landing.jobs, a leading platform to hire software developers in Europe
Demand for good technical talent in London is through the roof. Google, Facebook, a host of high paying financial services and hundreds of other corporates compete for the same talent, so startup founders looking to hire software developers have found themselves in a tough spot.
And at an average cost of £41,700 per year, developers in London are the second highest paid in Europe and have one of the widest range of employers to choose from.
We sat down with Runway East member Pedro Oliveira, co-founder of tech recruitment platform Landing.jobs, to find out how a startup in London can land developers without the cash, security or expense accounts that corporates offer.
His key message is that startups can win the best talent from corporates when they offer challenges and opportunities that corporates are inherently unable to – “the crucial thing is to take the weight from the economics and put it on mission, skills, challenges, culture and environment, all areas where a startup can beat a corporate in nine times out of ten”. And you can do it
Step 1) Your Mission Matters:
375,000 people live and work under Accenture’s amorphous mission of ‘High performance. Delivered’. This isn’t the sort of mission that makes people roll out of bed eager to start working. In contrast, your startup’s mission has a 99% chance of being more exciting. Are you disrupting the way people do things? Are you creating a whole new market? Is your startup going to do something that’s never been done before? As Pedro puts it:
“As a startup founder you might be trying to hire software developers who are being paid £70k or more by a corporate. But work is a huge part of life, and people want their life to mean something. So sell your vision – how does your company affect people’s lives? How is it going to change the world?
“Realise how much karma your startup is worth. If you’re solving cancer, that’s amazing. People will take a pay cut if they think the problem you’re solving is important enough, if they can get passionate about it and believe they are challenging the way things work.”
If your startup is more mission focused than the corporate you’re hiring from or against, you’ve got a good shot at attracting talented developers, but it’s important to communicate that to new hires via your job adverts, in your interview and in your follow up.
A former Accenture employee on Quora highlights that tech enthusiasts don’t love working there
Step 2) Do they fit?
When interviewing someone from a corporate, know that not all of them are going to the be right fit, even if on paper they appear to be. Pedro points out “there are some people who are more easily adapted to the corporate life, they like procedures and a sense of security. Other people feel stifled by those things, and what they really want is a challenge and a vision. If you want to hire software developers from a corporate THOSE are your people.”
So how do you sit opposite someone in an interview and work out if they’re really ready to make the move from corporate life?
“The best people, in my experience are challenge motivated. In an interview you should start with the challenge. ‘Here are the opportunities – to become a leader, to grow your skills, to do something which you identify with’. See how they react to that, see if they’re excited by that. It should be obvious if they are.”
Step 3) Sell the culture and environment
There are some obvious cultural and environmental differences between startups and more traditional corporates – relaxed dress code, funkier offices, beer fridges, lax pet policies. But the most important difference is less obvious, but is also a crucial edge to hire software developers away from their corporate jobs.
“Are you remote-friendly? Can they work from home one day a week? Do you have a flexible schedule and birthdays off? Because most corporates don’t offer that, but people want it. The best perk you can offer is being remote friendly, in my opinion. Many developers will appreciate the option of a day a week they can spend at home – do you ever see developers with noise cancelling earphones? It’s really structured thinking, they like to be in the zone, thinking about a problem; so working at home can be really valuable to them.”
On a simpler level, there’s also the team. “Unlike a corporate, you can talk about each team member individually in the interview, and you can say ‘here are the amazing people you’ll be working with, here’s what they’ve done’. Providing you’ve hired well up to this point, this will make people excited”.
Step 4) Be better than Google
Many startups have now become corporate behemoths in their own right; in London you have to compete against Facebook offices with incredible cafeterias and Google offices with skyline view allotments. So how do you fight against tech behemoths who have nailed the culture aspect and hire software developers from these companies?
The trick lies back in the challenge.
“As an engineer, at huge tech companies like Facebook you can have amazing engineers who end up working on quite unfulfilling projects and not feeling like their potential is being tapped. The software they’re working with has an incredible commercial value which doesn’t necessarily match the technical challenge behind it – so you may have a lot of incredible engineers working on something and not getting to develop their skills and challenge themselves, because they’ve employed more than enough people to ensure nothing goes wrong. The culture is good, but the challenge is not – that’s your avenue to hire software developers – sell them on the challenge.”
Why working on huge products used by millions can sap your enthusiasm, by an Ex-Googler, SOURCE via Quora
Step 5) Money
There’s an obvious way to make up for salary, which is with options, which “in the long term, if they’re sold on the mission, will make up for the salary cut and then more”, though Pedro also cautions that “not everyone trusts them or wants them”. Beyond that, “if you’re charismatic, people will work for you for less money. So be charismatic and if there are two founders, let the most charismatic one pitch the mission. That can easily shave £10k off a salary to start with.”
Step 6) Leave everyone wanting more
“Every person who comes in for an interview should come out, regardless of the process, wanting to recommend you. The attraction, the assessment, the engagement. Following up with people, giving them feedback, regardless of the outcome. If you don’t follow up with people you don’t want, you’re making a big mistake. But if you turn someone down from a job but they still like you and talk about you and recommend the jobs to others; you’ve succeeded. Make the entire process so pleasant, so interesting and engaging, that people say ‘I was rejected, but I love those guys and if a friend of mine gets it, that’s amazing – and then they recommend you to their friend. If you can turn rejection into a positive, then you will win”.