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7 simple rules for hiring great developers

Dan Tynan | Jan. 22, 2014
The war for programming talent is full bore. Here's how to hire the best coders when competing with the big boys

Developer hiring rule No. 5: Being small can be your secret weapon
Sometimes being a smaller company is more appealing to many top devs.

Coders want to code. They don't want to wade through endless layers of bureaucracy or feel like tiny cogs in a very large impersonal machine. Small to midsize companies can use this to their advantage when going up against the Facebooks and Googles of the world, says Box's Schillace.

Schillace says that when the 900-person firm goes head to head for an employee against a certain well-known advertising and search giant, he pulls out his trump card.

"My single greatest competitive tool is a single word, which I use with people who tell me they want to work for Google," he says. "That word is 'Microsoft.' I think Google has had a pretty good run, but it's gotten so massive that it's difficult to be nimble any more. At Box we give developers a different challenge. We're big enough that the problems we have to solve at scale are massive, but still small enough that we can move fast and any one coder can have a big and lasting impact."

Schillace says if someone ultimately chooses Google, it's usually for reasons like comfort and security, which are antithetical to the startup mentality Box likes to foster in its devs.

Startups that can't match the big salaries offered by the Facebooks and Googles of the world can offer a more intimate experience that's attractive for engineers fresh out of school or new to an area, notes Will Harlan, director of new business for Yeti. The 10-person mobile and Web apps design and development shop holds weekly barbecues for employees and their friends on its rooftop patio.

"It's more about how the person fits in with a group of people, what their interests and passions are," he says. "In the tech world there are a lot of people with the same skills who can do the same things. At the end of the day you want to work with people you can hang out with, have a beer, and shoot the breeze."

Developer hiring rule No. 6: It's the work, stupid
The companies that offer the best payouts in terms of financials and perks are often lacking when it comes to less tangible rewards like job satisfaction. The bigger the company, the smaller your role is likely to be, at least at the start.

"What motivates the best developer is the work," says Dan Pasette, director of kernel engineering for MongoDB. "People are willing to take a risk and take a bet on a company that's paying a little less than a Google or a Facebook, simply because they want to make a difference and see their code in action."


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