informed recruitment for people in product

tips and tools for hiring and building a brilliant development team

15 November 2016

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From hiring managers within a large company to startup founders just striking out, hiring and building great development teams can be a huge challenge. The market for top tech talent is becoming more and more competitive and as we all know the successful development of your product is the key to the success of your business. Whatever your role, level of responsibility or the size of the company, for you to avoid costly hiring mistakes and potential impacts on production, it’s important to get it right from the start.


work it out

Plan the size and shape of your team. This will naturally be defined by your budget, project schedules, timescales etc., but the key to efficiency is knowing how to optimise your budget and what the structure of your team will be. For example, it may be appropriate to scale down your first idea of a larger team, that can free up more money for an extra senior role. There should be a clear plan on who reports to whom, but, in the spirit of today’s more collaborative approach, enough collective experience to allow for empowered problem-solving and self-direction.

With scarcity of top talent and the potential restrictions of location you are already up against it, and so remote workers may be a good option to consider. Stack Overflow give an excellent account in “Why We (Still) Believe in Working Remotely” of how it’s worked for them. The best talent never means the cheapest but, depending on your team structure and size, inexperience in some areas can be nurtured. If you are just starting out and on a tight budget you should consider the option to provide equity to founder members, this can not only save you money but engenders loyalty, passion and confidence which will filter down to the whole team. The guys at MaRS (network for entrepreneurs) give some great advice here in their “Hot Tips for Startups” video.



what skills do you need?

Think carefully about your skill requirements. You will of course have prior knowledge of your working environment and the technical skill-set needed, but as we know the success of your business is built on foundations of solid code – the DNA of your products. Senior developers should have management skills for ensuring thorough craftsmanship, and the skills to assess and manage interpersonal dynamics. You must be able to trust these guys; you should not be interfering later on down the line and making any technical decisions.


get help

The process of sourcing, screening and interviewing for a whole team or even individual roles can be overwhelming. When you use a good recruiter they should be able to select potential candidates for you from a pool of talented people. They should also be able to give you access to readymade teams that already work together with the right mix of skills and personalities and can be brought in as an entire solution. This can obviously save the trouble, time and costs of involved in making many individual hires. From a good recruitment partner you will also be able to get sound and up-to-date advice on the current market, availability of skills in your location and salary expectations. If using an internal recruitment department it is still very important that in addition to specific role requirements they have a clear overall picture of your team vision, technology and working structure. You must be available to them, spend the time getting it right and keeping communications open.


be attractive

When advertising for development roles these days a long job spec on a job board or your company website just won’t cut it. Your job adverts need to attract the best and you need to show your passion for your product/service, your company vision, values and culture. You should make clear the benefits and incentives (not just remunerative) for development and career progression. A specialist recruiter can translate your requirements, promote your brand and know where to attract the most talented people. There are lots of options for advertising and specialist sites specific to your industry, this needs careful research but more targeted and market-specific advertising can save costs in the long run.


think personality

A Head of Product client we’ve been working with told me recently of the old adage “the team gets on, they get the job done” and it’s important that you hire for good team and company fit. This sounds obvious but when the pressure of timescales is on and the most experienced/talented developers prove hard to find it’s tempting to cut corners. There are various tools that can help with this; video calls/interviews and psychometric tests can allow for greater scope, especially in the early stages. There are various techniques that can help to convey your core company values and to assess the compatibility of a candidate during interview. Will Stanley, Head of Global recruiting at Glass Door, gives some great advice and tips in “How to Hire People Who Fit a Company’s Culture”. Allow founder or senior members to help with interviews and be involved in decision-making, this builds team trust and personal investment before work even starts.


think process

This applies to individual positions as well as building whole teams. Different roles will require different hiring processes and it’s important to be clear on these however you are conducting your recruitment. What are your timescales? How many stages will take place? Will you be conducting video or phone interviews initially? How will you be testing skills? Will you ask for presentations? Who will be interviewing, who will be the decision-makers and will they be available throughout? Again, a good recruiter will help you with this, and provide you with pre-qualified and good quality candidates. It is important to take your time in employing the right people (you should quite rightly account for your time and budget and the impact of getting it wrong) however the last thing you need is to find your perfect candidates are being snatched from under your nose by your competitors because of delays and long drawn out processes.


be diversity aware

This is something that should be prominent in all our minds as employers and recruiters; to maintain and promote diversity and avoid discrimination, for example due to age, disability, ethnicity, gender. It is also worth noting how diversity in teams promotes innovation and productivity. Many studies have shown that a company that actively employs and nurtures diverse teams will attract top talent, foster creativity and have driven business strategies. This is comprehensively outlined and discussed in “Fostering Innovation Through a Diverse Workforce”, a Forbes Insights report - a really good read.


be ready

Having the right technology, resources and tools ready for your team allows for hit-the-ground running productivity. You know how you want to build and develop your product, but doing as much research in advance, listening to requirements and having these things in place builds trust and a productive and fun culture. Be strict on adhering to set working hours, as when the pressure is on at times to meet deadlines or a product launch you may need your team to dig in. This means the rest of the time you should make sure a sensible working day is enforced and time out is encouraged– no unfeasible deadlines and unnecessary overtime and arrange time away for off-site training/meetups/events. A team that works their given hours and is allowed time for their own creativity will not only be more productive, but will be developing their skills to pay you back on your investment and be happy to pitch in for you when it’s needed. 





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