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Programmers: here are some tips to be hired by a great tech startup

April 2, 2015

There are countless blog posts by recruiters who give advice to startups on how to recruit the best developers. But if we want an actual…

There are countless blog posts by recruiters who give advice to startups on how to recruit the best developers. But if we want an actual match, developers also need advice on how to find their dream job (and stay there)!

Editor’s note: If you are a developer with a strong entrepreneurial mindset, we have your dream job: technical co-founder of a great startup. Check it out.

Introductory word

Willem Wijnans, blogger at The Sourcing Monk

The good thing about the current state of tech recruitment (which is very shitty), is that there are always people not accepting the status quo and trying to change things for the better — in this case, the shitty tech recruitment scene.

Some learn to code in order to understand the developers they recruit, the others sit on every scrum meeting there is to fully grasp what the team he/she is helping is looking for, and some others perfect their reach-out to an extent that you just can’t go around, as a top developer.

This is happening, but this is just a drop in the ocean. The majority of the tech recruitment vertical is full with spam, ignorance, and filth. But rest assured, the ones working and hiring for the hottest startups search for you; so, as a young dude/dudette studying CS, you can up your chances significantly landing a job at a dream startup:

  • Start blogging, start sharing your beliefs and ideas on certain technologies, but also on your view on life, your ideals.
  • Start committing, start your Github account as early a possible, open source all your projects and assignments.
  • Start helping others, there are so many Q&A sites regarding tech (StackOverflow) or normal life (quora) where you can contribute on. This gives recruiters a perfect insight on your ability to formulate questions & answer questions and on your character.

Without one of the abovementioned variables missing from your profile, I, as a recruiter, am not even going to reach out. Start with these as early as possible and you’ll land your startup dream job in no time.

Last advice: avoid recruiters. If I were to be a developer and wanted to work at my dream company: I would find a repository, start pulling and joining a repo-chat on for instance http://gitter.im and chat with the repositories owner directly to woo him about my ability and interest. No recruiters involved.

Disclaimer: my approach is in no way a silver bullet and I do not claim that it is. I know I am missing out on many good devs/engineers who don’t have online presences. But whatever you do, be genuine!

The importance of side projects

Vianney Lecroart, Hacker in residence at eFounders startup studio

My first and by far the best advice I can give you is: show your motivation about what you love by doing things (even better if it’s related to the industry you are looking for).

I’ve never had to write a resume to be hired.

When I joined my first startup (a small independent video game company) in 1999 — yes, last millennium — it just took one interview.

I didn’t expect my school to teach me how to program and I spend tons of evenings and weekends coding all sort of things — just because I loved it. During high school and university, I wrote some perceptron, real-time 3d engines (with software rasterizers at the time) on Atari, Amiga & PC, chat clients, organized some coding parties, and so on…

For the game company, my profile was a perfect fit, I knew about real time and 3d engine thanks to my side-projects and knew about networking thanks to my studies. For an online video game company, it’s hard to ask for more. So when we discussed, it was more about what to do and how much I’ll be paid than selling me on why I should be hired by the company.

If you are not inspired, here are some example:

  • Take a free software project you like (or not), go to the issues page, take one issue, fix it, do a pull request and do it again.
  • Find a problem you have (or find a friend who has one) and fix it.
  • Write some technical blog posts about a tools / language / process you discover and share your experience.
  • Go to a hackathon, have fun and develop something.

Show that you are getting things done

Moritz Dausinger, CTO on a secret project at eFounders

For me, being a good fit for an early stage startup means that you are able to get things done. Excelling in writing code is for sure important, but you also need to keep in mind what the startup is actually trying to achieve.

Especially in the early stage of a project, it is important that the whole team understands the mission of the project.

There is a common pitfall to over-engineer things instead of just make something happen. This doesn’t mean that you should do dirty hacks all the way, but it is important to know the priorities.

A startup is meant to move fast in the beginning and things will change often. Sometimes it is just impossible to predict where things are going. This means that you will probably be wrong about lots of things regarding the architecture and the functionality of your code.

The more knowledge you have about your project, the further you go, the more likely you are to make the right decisions. Trying to make everything perfect from day one might just not be possible and most likely a waste of time.

A good startup developer understands that and can adapt his way of working towards it. It’s more important to have something which you can iterate on instead of a perfect solution which might not be used at all.

a peek at our offices in Paris

Meet the team. Then discuss the project.

Olivier de Marneffe, CTO at illustrio

Working in a startup can be amazing. It gives you loads of freedom and responsibilities. As a “manager of one”, you’ll have more than enough opportunities to code your way through a complex problem, alone in your corner. But, first and foremost, you’ll be part of a team. And, let’s face it: you probably didn’t pick up coding because you love spending time chatting with other people and need to meet new people every day. You may even well be at the other end of that spectrum.

So, when evaluating a position, I would urge you to meet with the team and check that it clicks.

Not only other fellow developers, meet the guy in charge of the customer relations, meet the gal in charge of the marketing. Do not let the C(T|E)O be the only one assessing that you are a good fit for the team. Check that the team is a good fit for you.

Then discuss the project. After all, would you rather be spending the next X years of your life doing something boring with people you love or doing something exciting with people you despise? (luckily, the world is not that binary.)

Find the stack you like and go meet people

Laurent Perrin, CTO at Front

Programming has changed a lot since its glorious beginnings. There are still passionate hackers who fell in love with programming when they were 12, but it has also become a reasonable career path chosen later on by many others. It’s ok, the world needs both, but startups need the former most.

So, there is a large developer market, but few startups and hackers that are struggling to find each other. When I first looked for a serious job, I didn’t know where to meet cool startups, and now that I have founded one, I do not know where to find good hackers.

Fortunately, there is now an infinite amount of informal meetups around most technologies. Go there, talk to people, make friends and find where you want to spend most of your waking hours.

We hope you found these advice useful. Here’s a final advice: check out our job offers, we have developer positions at several startups from studio. We are also recruiting (yes, recruiting) our Technical Co-founders to build our next unicorn with us. Learn more here.

And don’t forget to follow our collection Unexpected Token, we post shared experiences from great tech talents on a weekly basis.