How To Hire Developers For Startups – A Definitive Guide

March 9, 2023

14 min read

Hiring IT specialists for startups can be a tricky task. Startups are often operating on tight budgets and have limited resources, making it challenging to attract and retain top talent. However, finding the right IT specialists is essential for the success of a startup, as they play a vital role in developing and implementing the company’s technology strategy. 

In this article, we will explore the challenges that startups face when hiring IT specialists. We will also share our experience in hiring a team for a healthcare startup, and tips for hiring a software developer at a startup. From identifying the right skills to offering competitive compensation packages, we will guide you through the process of building a strong IT team for your startup. Whether you’re a founder or a hiring manager, this article will provide valuable insights and practical advice to help you navigate the complex world of IT hiring for startups.

Startup Teams Growing Process Explained

It’s no surprise that startup teams grow along with the startups themselves, so let’s review the process of their growth. It typically involves several stages, including:

  • Idea generation: This is the initial stage where an entrepreneur comes up with a new business idea.
  • Validation: This stage involves testing the viability of the business idea by conducting market research and gathering feedback from potential customers.
  • Product development: Once the idea has been validated, the next step is to develop a minimum viable product (MVP) that can be used to test your brand in the marketplace.
  • Launch: After the MVP has been developed, the business is launched to the market. This is usually done through a soft launch or a beta test to gather feedback from early adopters.
  • Growth: This stage is focused on scaling the business and increasing revenue. This can be done through various growth hacking techniques such as increasing customer acquisition, expanding into new markets, and/or developing new revenue streams.
  • Maturity: This is the stage where the business has achieved stability and is generating consistent revenue.
  • Exit: This is the final stage of the startup growth process, where the business is either sold or goes public.

As a general rule, sometime between the launch and the growth stages, a startup that has proved the viability of its idea receives a second round of funding. At this moment a core team, which is usually around 10 people, starts to grow.

It’s often integrated into the investment agreement which specific goals a startup should reach in a certain time period, and the future team is being formed in accordance with this plan.

One of our startup clients, CtheSigns, created a cancer prediction system that helps clinicians to identify what type of cancer risks a patient has, within just 30 seconds. With early diagnosis of all varieties of cancer, healthcare providers give their patients the best chances to survive the disease.

They started with a small team who created this essential product, and after getting enough users in the UK, they decided to conquer new markets. This challenging task required a bigger team of bright specialists, so they turned to us, as they didn’t have enough internal resources to hire on their own. CtheSigns successfully hired 16 talented individuals within our cooperation, and they have played a critical role in driving its growth.

Who is Responsible for Hiring and Onboarding Employees at Different Stages?

In early-stage startups, the responsibility for hiring often falls on the shoulders of the co-founders, CEO, CTO, or a team lead. They usually use networking as the main tool to find candidates and they also take care of interviewing and onboarding. It’s worth mentioning that onboarding at startups often has a more informal and flexible structure compared to larger companies, and is usually performed by team leads. Later on, this function will be carried out by HR specialists.   

The ideal time for a startup to hire an HR manager varies based on the company’s size, growth rate, and HR needs. Generally, startups should consider hiring an HR manager when they reach around 30 employees and face HR challenges such as managing employee relations, benefits administration, compliance, and recruiting. At this point, HR functions can become complex and time-consuming, and an HR manager can provide specialized support and expertise to help the company scale effectively.

If a company plans to enhance its staff, the HR person can become an HR Generalist and perform HR management, recruitment, and some assistant functions.

When a company is starting the process of сontinuous and predictable hiring of developers for a startup, it’s time to hire an in-house recruiter. Often the demand for talent exceeds the capacity of the existing HR Generalist. As a rule, this is happening after 3-5 years from the beginning of the startup on average. A recruiter can help a startup streamline its hiring process, source and screen candidates, negotiate offers, and build a strong talent pipeline. 

What Roles Should be Filled First?

The role that should be filled first in a startup depends on the particular needs of the company and the CEO’s vision. Before hiring a team, the company must first identify a specialist who will lead it. Start-up teams always start with the most experienced and qualified members.

Once you have the backbone of your team formed with strong developers, only then can you hire middle and junior specialists. Depending on the development approach, start-ups also require a Scrum master or a Product manager. Our client initially hired 2 backend developers, 2 front-end developers, QA, and a Scrum master.  

When the company starts expanding its product line, new customers will come, and it will need sales and marketing managers. The team will also need an accountant or financial manager to keep track of income and expenses, plan budgets, and pay taxes.

A company can hire freelancers for these positions while it is small, and then hire full-time employees when it gets bigger.

These roles provide the foundation for a successful startup, but other roles may become important as the company grows and evolves.

Recruitment Specifics in Startups

There are still many questions regarding hiring the right candidates. Let’s dig in further. 

What to Look for in Developers

When hiring developers for your startup, there are several key factors to consider in order to find the right fit for your team. Here are some things to look for:

  • Shared values. As a startup grows, it’s important to retain its initial team atmosphere and values. That’s why much attention is paid to the candidate’s soft skills. According to our experience, start-ups continue their search even if a candidate has strong hard skills but doesn’t suit the values of the team. The hiring process for a startup is very specific and detailed, and it has a slow conversion rate when hiring developers. 
  • Intrinsic motivation. It is possible to find highly-skilled senior specialists who seek meaningful positions. Some of them have plenty of experience and tend to get bored in large companies with established processes. They are usually highly ambitious people who want to grow in their career and become team leads. The desire to do something significant on their own leads senior professionals to join startups.
  • Startup mindset. A person should be creative, have a non-standard approach to solving unusual or unexpected problems, and see the company’s goals strategically. If a person doesn’t like to take the initiative and just does tasks from Jira, this company is not the best choice for him/her.
  • Flexibility and adaptability. Startups are often fast-paced and require employees to be flexible in their approach. Sometimes there are no policies, no written procedures, no rules. Look for developers who are comfortable working in an environment with changing priorities and who can quickly pivot when needed.

Besides these personal traits, you should check their technical skills, presence of relevant experience, and teamwork skills. But the most important thing is their compatibility with your values. 

How to Hire Senior Developers When you Have Little to Offer?

Hiring senior developers for a startup with limited resources can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Sometimes, specialists are afraid to switch jobs to a startup because of the potential instability. There is a chance that the money will run out, staff reduction will begin, or there will be no demand for the product. However, senior specialists will consider such an offer if the product, salary, and work conditions are all good.

So, how to attract candidates if you have little to offer up front? Here are some tips:

1. Be transparent

Be transparent about the financial constraints of your startup and explain what you can offer in terms of equity, flexible working arrangements, and other benefits.

2. Offer good work conditions

You should provide essential work conditions for developers, such as insurance, enough days off, and flexible work environment. It doesn’t have to be constant team building or fancy gifts for different occasions. Instead of a big social package, it could be company shares for example.  

3. Create opportunities for growth

Offer senior developers opportunities to take on new challenges and responsibilities, learn new skills, and grow their careers within your startup.

4. Leverage your network

Utilize your personal and professional networks to find senior developers who may be interested in your startup. Employee referrals, professional associations, and online communities can be great sources for finding potential candidates.

5. Consider hiring contractors

Consider hiring senior developers as contractors, rather than full-time employees. This can be a more cost-effective way to bring in experienced talent, and can help you evaluate their fit for your team before making a full-time hire.

“If a company is very interested in a candidate, they can create a vacancy, especially for him/her, because talented people for startups are the number 1 priority.”

— Snezhana Khadzhy, Global Recruitment Team Lead at StaffingPartner

The most important thing is to be creative, flexible, and transparent in your approach, and to always prioritize finding the right fit for your team.

Geography Matters?

The hiring geography has changed dramatically after the Covid pandemic. Of course, some companies need offices for better security, but many of them consider people from different countries as well. Multicultural teams are ideally suited for start-ups, and this model allows them to reduce software development costs. 

When choosing a country from which to hire developers for a startup, there are several factors to consider, including cost, skills level, cultural fit, and access to talent. As for CtheSigns, they had a core team in Britain, and we hired another part of their team in Ukraine. The situation is obviously different today, so here are some steps to help hiring managers choose the right country for the startups’ needs:

  • Assess the talent pool: Research the talent pool in each country to determine the availability of developers with the skills and experience you require. Consider the size of the tech community, the quality of their technical education and training programs, and the presence of major tech companies in the area.
  • Evaluate cost: Consider the cost of living and the average salary for developers in the countries you are considering. This will help you determine your budget and assess the feasibility of hiring from each individual country.
  • Test the waters: Consider testing the waters by hiring a small team of startup developers from the country you are considering, to evaluate their fit for your team and to get a better understanding of the local market.

By following these steps, you can choose the right country to hire developers for your startup. Keep in mind that the right country will depend on your specific needs and circumstances, and that you may need to consider a combination of factors to make the best decision.

The Best Websites to Hire Startup Developers

There are several websites that you can use to hire developers for a startup. Here are some of the most popular ones:

  1. Upwork: This is a freelancing platform where you can find and hire developers for a startup from all over the world. You can search for developers based on their skills, experience, and hourly rate, and then interview them to see if they’re a good fit for your project.
  2. Toptal: This platform specializes in connecting businesses with top software developers. The platform screens developers to ensure that only the top 3% are allowed to join, so you can be confident that you’re hiring a high-quality developer for your startup.
  3. Freelancer: This is another freelancing platform that allows you to find and hire developers for your startup. It has a large pool of developers to choose from and a user-friendly interface to help you find the right person for your project.

These are just a few of the many websites that you can use to hire startup developers. It’s important to carefully evaluate each platform and the developers you’re considering hiring to ensure that you find the right fit for your project.

Hire Developers with StaffingPartner

StaffingPartner is one of the largest recruitment teams in Europe working worldwide. Since 2018 our team has been helping companies hire talented IT professionals from Europe, the USA, Ukraine and Latin America.

How it Works

Stage 1. Understanding your needs.

We arrange a call where we determine your requirements, your hiring strategy and make up an ideal candidate portrait. We discuss our work conditions and sign a contract.

Stage 2. Submitting the first 3 candidates. 

We submit the first three candidates within the three days, so you can quickly assess if our service corresponds to your needs.

Stage 3. Submitting 5-7 candidates.

We submit 5-7 and more candidates and you conduct the first interviews. We provide all the needed support in communication with the candidates.

Stage 4. Conducting a background reference check

We conduct reference checks for the candidates you are interested in the most. This way you can be sure that your future team member was honest during the interview. 

Stage 5. Supporting the offering

We help you to discuss the work and salary conditions with the candidates, and help you to convince the best ones to work in your startup, even if they have alternative offers. 

Stage 6. Receiving the payment

You give us feedback and pay a fee for hiring great specialists. You also get a 60-day guarantee period.


Hiring software developers for a startup is a challenging yet interesting process. We at StaffingPartner believe that forming a core team for a future company is the most commendable task of all. In this article we shared a good deal of our expertise, and really hope that it will help you to grow your start-up team successfully. 

To conclude, you should create a portrait of the ideal candidate and decide which way to go. It can be either hiring on your own or a partnership with an agency like ours. In any case, it’s important to form a list of advantages for candidates, such as a great start-up concept, good working conditions, and an impressive development plan. It would also help if you determined which country you would like to hire from. 

Feel free to contact us, and we will help you find the best startup developers.

How do I hire talent for a startup?

Define where there is an appropriate talent pool for your requirements and start hiring. Attract them with an idea of your product, good working conditions, and grand ambitions.

How much does it cost to hire a developer?

It depends on the level of the specialists and the country they are from. If you want to hire a senior specialist for a startup from Eastern Europe, they receive approximately $50 per hour.

How do I find new developers?

You can find a developer for a startup on job websites or with the help of our recruiting agency. Post a job vacancy, pick the most appropriate prospects from reviewing their CVs, conduct interviews with them,  choose the best candidates and make an offer.

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