Ishaan Gupta

How to attract top software developers on a budget

Studies in the past have shown that when it comes to an ideal job, salary isn’t everything.
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In the early stages of your business/start-up, things are already quite constrained and you have to make the most out of the resources at hand. While you are out there to build your product, you need to get the best on board to help your vision turn into a reality. Given that recruitment is an extensive process, hiring top software developers while operating on a shoestring budget becomes especially challenging.

Recruiting top developers on a low budget is difficult because

a) You are a new/small sized company that not many are aware of and

b) The best developers have already been lured by the big companies with heavy packages and other perks.

Even if you manage to hire good developers, retaining them becomes a challenge. However, this doesn’t mean that small companies don’t stand a chance, there are several ways to work around a low budget.

Studies in the past have shown that when it comes to an ideal job, salary isn’t everything. Many developers prioritise work-life balance over salary, for instance, they’d prefer having fewer working hours with a lesser salary than a high paying job with more working hours. Apart from salary, additional perks such as leave days, early access to the product and services, etc. can significantly attract developers. On top of all of this, remote work culture can work in your favour as you get access to a wider talent pool and can hire developers from places where costs of living are low.

If you are on the look for creative strategies to attract and retain top software developers, we have got you covered with this article. Here’s what you can do:

1. Showcase them the potential for growth

While your startup may not be able to offer a huge campus with catered meals and an on-site gym, there are plenty of reasons a job applicant might prefer your company over Google. As a small startup, you’ll give a developer the opportunity to take a lead role in the development of a live product — he or she will have a crucial role in the business, rather than being one of many coders at a larger company. To quote one of our newest developers at Instore, “I’m having a blast working here! I get to work on customer-facing code that impacts our merchants every day. Better yet, I’m learning new skills and actually get to interact with company leadership.”

While salary and bonuses may be more appealing to the logical side of the brain, there is another way to attract a potential hire — by appealing to their emotional side.

At the core, all of us are driven towards finding a sense of purpose.

If you can get candidates invested in your company’s mission, then it can go a long way in shifting their focus from merely looking for a well-paying job to one where he/she could make a difference in the larger scheme of things.

2. Sweeten the stock option package.

While most tech company jobs include some amount of stock options, they are often relatively small at larger companies. According to an analysis by Wealthfront, the average equity package for a software engineer in the Bay Area at a company with more than 100 employees was 0.077 percent; for a company with less than 20 employees, the average equity share was 0.628 percent. By providing new employees with significant equity, you’ll motivate them to help turn your company into the next Facebook — and, if their hard work pays off, it could turn them into multi-millionaires after an IPO or acquisition.

Several companies offer equity or stock options as part of the compensation.

This would mean that the salary that the employee gets in hand would be much lesser since he gets to have greater skin in the game.

This is an excellent way to align the company’s interests with that of the employee.

The employee who chooses to take a lesser salary in lieu of equity believes in the company’s potential and is incentivized to grow the company so that her own shares also increase in value.

Microsoft is one of the early companies who offered stock options to its employees and created 3 billionaires and over 12,000 millionaires in the process!

3. Hire software engineers who live in less competitive regions to work remotely.

The Bay Area has a lot of great coders, but so do plenty of other parts of the country — and even the world. At Instore, we lured one top engineer from Minneapolis and another from San Diego, adding great talent without starting a bidding war. Given the Bay Area’s astronomical cost of living, it’s no surprise that most coders won’t live and work here for less than $100,000. However, talented engineers from other parts of the country will work for lower salaries if you allow them to work remotely. There are many tools available to help you successfully manage remote workers, including Basecamp, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Pivotal Tracker (a project management tool especially for software developers).

Developers have difficulty focusing in a distracting environment. Allowing these team members to work from home can be a huge boost to their productivity, which benefits your company. Those who work from home also report higher job satisfaction levels, which is good for retention. Additionally, if your workplace permits telecommuting, you’ll also be open to remote work, which allows you to hire professionals outside of your area, helping you pay less for specialists who live in locations with a lower cost of living.

4. Offer Benefits and freebies

One thing that gives larger businesses an advantage is that they can offer lucrative benefits packages that include medical, dental, and vacation time. While your business may not be able to set up a pension plan, you can start a 401(k) plan to start helping employees set money aside. Contractors and freelancers won’t be eligible for these benefits, but you can help them by occasionally hosting brown bag lunchtime discussions where you bring in an expert who can offer advice on preparing for retirement and finding the right insurance plan.

You may not be able to afford six-figure salaries or retirement plans for your workers, but you likely have access to free products or services your employees can use. If you sell products or services that might be of interest to your development team, occasionally hand out freebies. You’ll benefit from having them as actual users of the products they’re helping sell. If you don’t have products that fit these criteria, use your connections to occasionally get special deals or invitations to VIP events. The longer you’re in business, the more likely you’ll have a network that includes a business owner who is giving out samples to get the word out about a product. By capturing some of these for your team members, you’ll be able to offer an additional job perk.

Maybe you have a fancy cafeteria with unlimited snacks and all your employees are equipped with MacBook Pros. Or maybe not.

One thing we need to understand is that not all employees seek these fancy perks.

Quality bonding time with everyone over a piping hot cuppa and some munchies to go around may be just as appealing!

Most companies tend to overlook certain easy-to-implement and highly effective perks that would appeal to the employees, such as

5. Potential for growth

Some of the best hires are often looking for an excellent opportunity and a challenge as well! They are keen to know about the company’s growth prospects and their own professional advancement and career prospects. In a poll by Gallup, 87% of the millennials reported career advancement was very important in a job. A candidate who understands his current role, as well as the career prospects within the company, is much more likely to take a salary cut in lieu of career advancement.

While you might prefer to hire a veteran engineer who knows multiple programming languages, they’re few and far between on the job market. Instead, consider hiring a young engineer who knows one programming language well — he or she will be able to learn others, given the opportunity. Give your new programmer time on the job to devote to professional development, with opportunities to take part in tutorial programs through Codecademy and other education platforms. At Instore, we hired a server-side developer with limited server management experience and are training him to manage our infrastructure in addition to his coding responsibilities.

6. Use technology-enabled recruiting services to find potential hires.

Rather than using recruiting agencies, which often work to serve their own interests rather than their clients’ interests, we’ve relied on online tools such as AngelList, which includes a free job-matching service for tech companies and talent; and WhiteTruffle, a premium service that automatically matches employers with job candidates who have the skills you are seeking. These services can help you avoid wasting days poring over scores of resumes for under-qualified applicants by helping you spotlight the specific programming languages your applicants need experience in

There are other ways to cut costs — employ novel tools to identify talent, streamline the evaluation and interviewing processes, and manage employees — and weed out under-qualified candidates.

Automation can save several man-hours, which means you save lots of pennies too, and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your recruitment strategy.


The best hires are not merely looking for a job to earn money!

Instead, they are looking for a workplace that has the potential to grow and offers similar growth prospects to its employees.

In short, a lucrative career is what a top-class talent is looking for.

To convince a person such as this, you need to play up your company’s mission, its goals, its potential for growth, its team, and its work culture.

It is imperative to find a dedicated team of talented employees to boost your company’s success and without lucrative paychecks, these above-mentioned ideas can serve you well in attracting great talent.

Ishaan Gupta

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