How to Find Software Developers for Startups


Talent is the lifeblood of most tech startups.

From the bustling streets of Silicon Valley to the emerging tech hubs scattered across continents, the quest for exceptional minds knows no limits. And with technology moving faster than ever, the demand for talent is skyrocketing.

According to a Deloitte study, 86% of companies say they struggle to hire tech talent, with the top challenge being finding candidates with the right skills and experience.

Source: Deloitte

Here’s the thing: the best talent isn’t always where you expect it. But you must look to the right places. We should know. We hire the top 1% of global engineering talent at Appetiser.

In this blog post, I’ll share a few tips for finding amazing talent for your team. Whether you’re a startup trying to get off the ground or a big company aiming to stay ahead, these strategies can help you find the right people.

So, if you’re interested in learning how to find and keep top talent, keep reading. Let’s explore together how to build a strong tech team that can take your company to the next level.

3 top challenges startups face when hiring developers

When you’re just starting out, hiring software developers can be tough. Here are some common challenges faced by startups:

1. Competition with the big techs

Startups often find themselves competing in a fierce talent market dominated by big tech companies. These giants have deep pockets and can offer enticing salaries and perks that startups struggle to match. You must find creative ways to stand out and appeal to developers who may be drawn to the stability and prestige of established tech firms.

2. Lack of clarity in technical requirements

Without a well-defined roadmap and technical requirements, startups risk attracting developers who may not be the right fit for the job. This lack of clarity can lead to inefficiencies, delays, and ultimately hinder the success of the startup’s endeavors.

Investing time and effort into articulating precise tech needs is crucial for attracting developers who can contribute meaningfully to the project’s goals.

3. Retaining talent

Once you manage to recruit talented developers, the challenge shifts to retaining them. Bigger companies often swoop in with attractive offers, tempting developers with promises of higher salaries, better benefits, and greater stability.

In the face of such competition, you must prioritize creating a positive and supportive work environment, offering opportunities for growth and development, and providing competitive compensation packages. By fostering a culture that values and nurtures its talent, you can increase your startup’s chances of retaining top developers.

A Startup’s Guide for Hiring Developers in 2024

1. Identify your needs

When it comes to hiring software developers for your startup, one of the first steps is to identify the specific technical skills required for your project. This process involves a careful assessment of your project’s goals, objectives, and technical requirements. Here’s how you can effectively identify the specific technical skills needed:

Assess your project requirements

Before diving into the hiring process, take the time to thoroughly understand your project requirements. Consider factors such as the type of application or software you’re building, the technology stack you’ll be using, and any unique challenges or complexities involved.

For example, if you’re developing a mobile app, think about whether it will be for iOS, Android, or hybrid, and whether you’ll need native or cross-platform development. Understanding these details upfront will not only help you identify the skills and expertise you need in a developer but also ensure a smoother and more efficient hiring process overall.

Identify key technical areas

Based on your project requirements, identify the key technical areas that are essential for its development. This could include programming languages, databases, frameworks, and other tools or technologies relevant to your project.

Prioritize technical skills

Not all technical skills are created equal. Prioritize the technical skills that are most critical for the success of your project. Focus on those that align closely with your project goals and objectives, and those that are necessary for delivering high-quality results.

Consider specialized expertise

Depending on the nature of your project, you may require specialized expertise in certain areas. For example, if you’re developing a mobile app, you’ll need developers with experience in mobile app development frameworks such as React Native or Flutter. Or if you’re building a website or web app, you’ll need to hire a specialist in front-end development.

Consult with technical experts

If you’re unsure about the specific technical skills required for your project, don’t hesitate to seek advice from technical experts or consultants. They can provide valuable insights and guidance based on their experience and expertise.

2. Determine project scope and duration

Once you’ve identified the specific technical skills required for your project, the next step is to determine its scope and duration. This involves defining the overall objectives, deliverables, and timeline for your project. Here’s how you can effectively determine the scope and duration of your project:

Define project objectives

Clearly articulate the objectives and goals of your project. What do you hope to achieve by the end of the project? What problem are you trying to solve, and what value will your project deliver to users or stakeholders?

Outline project deliverables

Break down your project into specific deliverables or milestones. What are the key features or functionalities that need to be developed? Create a roadmap that outlines the sequence of tasks and deliverables, and identify any dependencies or prerequisites.

Estimate project timeline

Based on the scope of work and the complexity of your project, estimate the timeline for completion. Consider factors such as development effort, resource availability, and any external dependencies or constraints. Our guide on How Long Does It Take to Develop an App offers relevant, in-depth insights. I encourage you to check it out.

Consider agile methodologies

If your project is complex or involves iterative development, consider adopting agile methodologies such as Scrum or Kanban. This approach emphasizes flexibility in adapting to changing requirements or feedback throughout the development process, resulting in a final product that meets the needs of users more effectively.

Set realistic expectations

Be realistic about what can be achieved within the constraints of time, budget, and resources. Avoid overcommitting or underestimating the time and effort required for your project. Set achievable goals and milestones that align with your overall project objectives.

3. Explore hiring options

Software development is inherently complex, making it extra challenging to find developers with skill sets beyond basic tech knowledge. Fortunately and interestingly, technology offers various avenues to reach talent across the globe, including hiring remote developers. In this section, we’ll delve into the most popular options to hire developers.

Hire freelance developers

Freelancers offer flexibility and specialized skills for short-term projects, enabling startups to scale without long-term commitments. Despite challenges in communication, vetting freelancers carefully can yield valuable contributions to projects.

Moreover, freelancers often bring fresh perspectives and innovative solutions to the table, enriching the project with diverse insights and experiences. Their ability to work independently can also alleviate some of the management burden for startups, allowing founders to focus on other aspects of growing the business.

Assemble an in-house team

Building an in-house team fosters cohesion and control over projects, enhancing collaboration and company culture. Additionally, an in-house team provides your startup with the opportunity to nurture talent and cultivate expertise within the organization.

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With a dedicated team working closely together, knowledge sharing and skill development become inherent parts of the company culture, driving innovation and efficiency in the long run.

One major downside, though. This option requires significant investment in recruitment, training, and retention efforts to maintain quality and continuity.

Partner with external development agencies

Partnering with external development agencies is an effective strategy to optimize the advantages of both hiring freelancers and establishing an in-house team.

Remote development agencies provide access to global talent and specialized expertise, offering flexibility in project scope and resource allocation. Effective communication and clear expectations are crucial for successful collaboration with remote teams, balancing the benefits of scalability with the challenges of remote work dynamics.

Furthermore, remote development agencies often operate with streamlined processes and workflows, allowing startups to benefit from their efficiency and expertise. By leveraging the infrastructure and experience of remote agencies, startups can accelerate project timelines and deliver high-quality results while maintaining flexibility and adaptability in a dynamic business environment.

4. Utilize online platforms

Imagine the early days of Airbnb, when co-founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia were struggling to get their startup off the ground. In those fledgling stages, finding app developers who shared their passion for revolutionizing the hospitality industry was a daunting task.

Chesky once shared an anecdote about their search for a CTO, where they resorted to reaching out to potential candidates through Craigslist ads.

Fortunately for you, there are more specialized platforms that link startups and candidates. These platforms serve as hubs where both employers and job seekers converge, facilitating connections and streamlining the hiring process. Here are some popular ones:

  • GitHub Jobs. It connects developers with companies, especially those involved in open-source projects, making it a prime platform for finding talent within the software developer community.
  • AngelList. This platform specializes in startups, linking them with both tech talent and investors, fostering an environment conducive to entrepreneurial growth.
  • Stack Overflow Jobs. Highly popular among developers, it offers job listings and profiles, providing valuable insights and resources for those in the tech industry.
  • Toptal. Matching companies with top freelance developers, it maintains strict screening processes, ensuring the highest caliber of talent for projects.
  • Hired. Employing a matchmaking approach, it connects companies and tech talent while providing transparent salary data, streamlining the hiring process for both parties involved.
  • Dice. Catering primarily to tech professionals, it hosts numerous job listings in the industry, serving as a comprehensive resource for those seeking employment in tech-related fields.
  • Concentrating on remote job opportunities, it includes roles such as software development, catering to the growing demand for remote work options in the tech industry.
  • Upwork. Enabling connections between companies and freelance developers, it offers flexible hiring solutions, allowing businesses to find the right talent for their projects, regardless of location.
  • LinkedIn. Acting as a vast professional network, it facilitates connections between job seekers and recruiters, serving as a valuable platform for career development and networking within the tech industry.

Making the most of online platforms requires strategy and finesse. Another smart way to handle this is to automate your sourcing candidates process to ensure you find the best talents. You should optimize your profiles on these platforms, showcasing your company culture, values, and projects (More on this below).

5. Delve into your personal and professional networks

In the early days of Netflix, Marc Randolph knew that assembling the right team was crucial for success. Drawing from his experience in the tech industry, he understood the importance of finding individuals who not only possessed the necessary skills but also shared his passion and vision for disrupting the traditional movie rental market.

Randolph tapped into his extensive personal and professional networks, reaching out to individuals such as Reed Hastings, who he believed could contribute to the Netflix vision. He attended tech events and conferences, immersing himself in the vibrant community of innovators and entrepreneurs, all the while keeping an eye out for potential team members.

Moral of the story: Building relationships and tapping into existing networks can yield high-quality candidates who are a good fit for your startup’s culture and mission.

Leverage your personal and professional networks to source potential candidates. Tech events, conferences, and meetups also provide fertile ground for networking and talent scouting. Seize opportunities to connect with industry professionals, showcase your startup culture, and promote job openings. Offering referral incentives to employees and existing network connections can also incentivize them to recommend qualified candidates.

6. Craft job listings

Job listings are advertisements or notices posted by employers or recruiters to announce available job positions within their organizations. They are a great way to convey the opportunities your startup offers.

Job listings can be found on various platforms, including company websites, job boards, professional networking sites, and recruitment agencies. Here are some tips for crafting job postings that resonate with your ideal candidate:

  • Include a clear and concise title. Use a job title that accurately reflects the role and is appealing to your target candidates. Avoid jargon or overly technical terms that might deter potential applicants.
  • Write a compelling introduction. Begin with a brief overview of your company and the opportunity. Highlight what makes your organization unique and why the role is exciting.
  • Provide a detailed job description. Provide a clear outline of the responsibilities, qualifications, and expectations for the role. Be specific about the skills and experience required, but also mention any opportunities for growth or development.
  • Give insight into company culture and values. Include information about your company culture, values, and mission. Candidates are often attracted to organizations that align with their personal beliefs and goals. One survey even found that 72% of candidates need to comprehend a company’s culture before accepting a job offer.
  • Use keywords. Use relevant keywords and phrases throughout the job posting to improve visibility in search results and attract candidates with the right skills and experience.
  • Focus on benefits and incentives. Highlight any unique perks offered by your company, such as flexible work arrangements, professional development opportunities, or wellness programs.
  • Include salary and benefits information. Research found that 67% of job seekers believe job ads should contain information about salaries, benefits, location, commute time, and employee reviews
  • Optimize for mobile. Ensure that your job posting is mobile-friendly. This is because 45% of job seekers actively search for employment opportunities daily on their mobile devices, and 89% perceive mobile devices as playing a crucial role in the job search process.
  • Close with a call to action. Encourage interested candidates to apply by including a clear call to action at the end of the job posting. This could be a link to your online application portal or instructions for submitting a resume and cover letter.

7. Screen and interview candidates

You should develop a structured screening process to assess candidates’ technical expertise and soft skills. This may involve conducting coding assessments, technical challenges, or portfolio reviews to evaluate candidates’ proficiency in relevant technologies and programming languages.

Now, here’s the tricky part: While you want to ensure a thorough screening, you also have to streamline the process to ensure a positive candidate experience. After all, how you handle the hiring process speaks volumes about the efficiency and professionalism of your organization.

Take a look at these intriguing statistics:

  • 60% of job candidates will stop an application mid-way through because they find the process too long or unwieldy.
  • 70% of job seekers don’t want to complete an application that will take longer than 15 minutes.
  • 49% of candidates would consider applying instantly if the process appeared simple.

Simplify job applications by focusing on essential information and eliminating unnecessary steps, while providing clear instructions for submission. Additionally, establish clear timelines for each stage of the hiring process. Maintain transparency with candidates about expectations and next steps. Lastly, review and refine your hiring process to identify and address any bottlenecks or inefficiencies.

Once candidates pass the initial screening stage, you can conduct interviews to assess their fit for the role and culture. These interviews provide you with an opportunity to delve deeper into candidates’ experience, skills, and motivations, as well as gauge their communication and interpersonal skills.

Watching out for body language can also help you find software developers with the right culture fit.

During interviews, ask behavioral and situational questions to assess a developer’s soft skills, including problem-solving abilities, teamwork, and cultural fit. Doing so gives you insights into the candidate’s suitability for the role and ensures alignment with your startup’s values and objectives.

If you’re unsure what to ask, check out this article: 18 Valuable Questions to Ask an App Developer Before Hiring

8. Negotiate offers

Research industry benchmarks and salary ranges to establish competitive compensation packages for candidates. Factors such as the candidate’s experience, skills, and market demand should be taken into account when determining salary and benefits. You can also consider non-monetary incentives such as stock options, equity, and more.

How Appetiser Helps Startups With Their Development Needs

At Appetiser, we understand startups because we are one. Built by startup founders, our agency is uniquely positioned to cater to the specific needs and challenges of emerging businesses.

We’ve been in your shoes, which is why we’ve built a development team that operates more like an extension of your internal team rather than a separate entity. Unlike traditional outsourcing firms or freelancers, we function as your strategic development partner, working alongside you every step of the way.

Our approach is simple: we work with you, not for you. This means that we prioritize collaboration, transparency, and communication to ensure that your project stays on track and meets your objectives.

By choosing Appetiser as your external development partner, you gain access to a team of top-tier talent, experienced product managers, and a wealth of startup expertise — all at a fraction of the cost of hiring internally.

With our comprehensive solutions and personalized approach, we’re committed to helping you succeed on your startup journey. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can support your development needs and drive your startup forward.


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