Ask the experts: Tips for hiring technical talent

Ask the experts: Tips for hiring technical talent

The Scalefast team

Hiring tech talent was difficult even before the pandemic, and continues to be one of the greatest challenges for startups. 

As companies increasingly shift to remote and hybrid work, tech workers have more options than ever before, and large enterprises are paying out higher-than-average salaries in an effort to keep and attract tech talent. 

The shift makes it difficult for early-stage startups to compete for talent, particularly those working on cutting-edge technologies in AI, blockchain, cybersecurity, and more. And while it can be tempting to rush the hiring process when you desperately need help to scale operations, there are many common mistakes that startups can make when it comes to hiring for more technical roles. 

We called on some of the top technical leaders across the Adara portfolio to share what changes they are seeing in hiring for technical positions, what’s working for them, and advice for scaling recruitment efforts as a company grows. 

Read what they had to say below.

Jump to advice on:

Documenting your hiring process

Hiring in-house vs outsourcing

Hiring engineers

Technical tests

Soft skills & cultural fit

Competing with US companies

Incentives to offer beyond salary

Scaling recruitment efforts

Connecting with tech talent

Document your hiring process early

“Human resources needs to be managed by a professional early to put in place on-boarding processes, establish the culture, and put in place development programs. We had to reinforce this as part of ISO 27001 certification and it was a major effort without a proper HR structure.” 

Isabelle Mauny, Field CTO and Co-Founder at 42Crunch

“As the team starts to grow, it is essential to have a process where the recruiter, the hiring manager, and every involved person know what to do. Where should I share the notes about the candidate? Who is the person to notify once my step of the interview ends? Who is the manager of this process? All of these kinds of questions should be clearly answered and documented.”

Andrés Rodrigues, Head of Engineering at Seedtag

Outsourcing recruiting can help

“Always try to hire someone directly first. Advertising open positions is significantly cheaper than a headhunter (and sometimes you can get lucky). If a position is going to be hard to fill, then outsource it. If a position is easier to fill, or you have several vacancies for that position, then try to do it in-house.” 

José Jurado Tribaldos, Global HR Director at Scalefast

“We decided to lean on a small local recruitment agency specialized in technical profiles for those job vacancies that we considered would be especially hard to fulfill. This strategy worked better than we expected and, shortly thereafter, we had on our hands several resumes, one of which was a perfect match for what we were looking for.”

David Barroso, Founder at CounterCraft

Connect candidates with your engineering team earlier in the process

“At many startups, the candidate still doesn’t speak with any senior engineers until the last interview in the process. We dedicate a portion of our Tech Leads’ time for this – having them participate in employer branding, go to events, and even scout for key hires. 

Right now, especially for challenging positions in Data or Engineering, it’s one of our Leads who does the scouting and writes to potential candidates on LinkedIn. This results in much higher response rates and a better fit during the process than through recruiters or headhunters. We now start with an informal conversation with the Frontend Lead before the technical test or the People Team. The results are exciting, and we currently have 25 promising candidates deeply interested in joining the team, which is higher than our average for this kind of position.”

Andrés Rodrigues, Head of Engineering at Seedtag

“I have seen some very cool examples of companies sharing with candidates a look at what you will do in 1/3/6 months, and sharing an Engineering Culture Playbook in the interview process.”
JoseLuis Vilar, CTO at Caravelo

Make sure the technical tests don’t waste time

“One mistake is making crazy or unrealistic coding exercises. We’ve learned that certain profiles jump off the process when you ask for an exercise. And of course, if they have to invest more than 2 hours or do a boring exercise.”
JoseLuis Vilar, CTO at Caravelo

“When recruiting developers, we have devised a small set of technical tests that allows us to see not just if the candidate has a good knowledge of a given programming language (or languages) but, more importantly, they allow us to see how they approach the problems, in a few words, how they think.” 
David Barroso, Founder at CounterCraft

Don’t downplay the importance of soft skills and cultural fit

“Focusing on candidates’ hard skills and not giving importance to the soft skills and cultural fit can be a big mistake when hiring new employees. In general, it is not worth taking the risk of hiring an employee, no matter how good they may be from a technical point of view, if they will not be able to fit into the company’s culture.”  
David Barroso, Founder at CounterCraft

“Don’t hire a person out of desperation. Sometimes weeks go by and the right person doesn’t show up; it’s essential to keep calm and not hire out of distress. A bad fit hurts your culture more than any delay in your roadmap.
Andrés Rodrigues, Head of Engineering at Seedtag

Competition with US companies is heating up

“The increasing shift to remote work has had a bad impact with regards to hiring new talent as we now have to compete for new hires with companies that, until recently, did not allow remote working. US salaries are usually higher compared to EU ones – and, of course, small companies or startups would never be able to compete with big US companies with regards to salary, so you need to find incentives other than the salary if you want to have a chance of hiring skilled people.” 
David Barroso, Founder at CounterCraft

“Wages are growing a lot, and many American companies are hiring directly in Europe, which means a challenge for any startup because creating great teams will be more expensive and particularly hard for startups in the early stage.” 

Andrés Rodrigues, Head of Engineering at Seedtag

What incentives to offer candidates beyond a competitive salary 

“Do not pay high salaries for the sake of hiring fast. It not only attracts the wrong people but can also damage the local hiring ecosystem. While it depends on the seniority and type of company, in general people want to work on a great project and have fun. With that said, top perks we are hearing from the market in our interviews include: a meaningful project, flexibility and autonomy, and a market salary. The era of ping-pong is over.”
JoseLuis Vilar, CTO at Caravelo

“We apply uncapped leave worldwide and great health benefits in the US. We also give people flexible working hours (i.e. it’s not an issue to start at 12 PM and stop at 9PM as long as you do your job). We also help people build a nice working environment at home.” 

Isabelle Mauny, Field CTO and Co-Founder at 42Crunch

“When company values, mission and culture are in line with candidates’ interests and personality, there is a high probability that the candidate will get hooked by the project and will accept joining the team even if the salary conditions are a bit out of market.

Among other things we think people value besides salary are: flexibility, better reconciliation of work and family life for working parents, company culture, paid holidays, working on the same time zone or, for people that leave on different cities on the same country, being able to have meetings with teammates and other company staff in real life every month or couple of months without having to do a long journey.” 
David Barroso, Founder at CounterCraft

“Talented people want to work with talented people, which is something as essential as salary. If the company has a great career ladder, many processes, and fancy tools, but when you talk with your lead, she does not inspire you, the rest ceases to matter.”
Andrés Rodrigues, Head of Engineering at Seedtag

Scaling recruitment efforts requires a strategy, and letting each team takeover as soon as possible

“It’s important to define a hiring tech strategy linked to the team strategy. I recommend checking out this post by Gergely Orosz which explains the different approaches startups can take to hire junior/entry-level software engineers.”
JoseLuis Vilar, CTO at Caravelo

“You can face your hiring funnel precisely in the same way that you treat a product or marketing one, doing A/B tests, measuring as much as you can, and optimizing it as much as you can.

The CTO and the Head should also step aside when the team gets bigger, giving the ownership of the success of the hiring to the Engineering Managers for the positions they need for their squad.”
Andrés Rodrigues, Head of Engineering at Seedtag

“We created an internal Employee Referral Program in which we would reward those employees who brought new hires to the company. This has made recruiting a goal not only for the company but for all employees and everyone is aware of the importance of attracting talent to the company.”
David Barroso, Founder at CounterCraft

Harness the network of your strongest supporters

Hiring is one of the biggest operational challenges for early-stage startups. At Adara, we support our portfolio companies throughout the entire process, helping them build world-class teams by connecting them to talent and facilitating mentorship from other companies that have been in their place.

Our Talent Portal helps our portfolio companies source talented professionals for any position. If you’re looking to join a company building cutting-edge solutions in cybersecurity, enterprise infrastructure, devops, digital health, etc., join here and get matched with relevant opportunities across our portfolio