How to Hire Software Developers for a Startup: a Step-by-Step 2023 Guide

2623 Updated 01.20.2023
Vasyl Polych

Founder & CEO at Northell


Table of contents

Hiring Developers for Startup: General Overview

How to hire programmers for a startup? Today, companies of all sizes and across all industries have to deal with web, app, and software development to stay competitive. Startups are not an exception. In today’s world, all startups need to leverage development to create outstanding experiences for their customers. The only problem that’s still there is that startups often don’t have well-established in-house dev teams and have no idea how to staff their companies with the best developers. Hiring a developer for a startup is a quite challenging process.

Does that sound like you? No worries! Read on to learn how to hire developers for a startup step by step and ensure the success of your projects!

3 Things to Know Before Hiring Software Developers for Startup

Before we will tell you how to hire developers for a startup step by step, it is vital to highlight that the recruitment process begins way before you craft a job description and start reviewing candidates.

It begins with some preparatory steps, during which you define the key details and goals of the process of hiring a developer for a startup. That’s why our guide starts with the top three things you have to know before hiring software developers for startup.

Project details

The details of the project will directly affect the type of developer you want to hire. So, the very first stage of hiring a developer for a startup is defining the key details of your future product.

The key details you want to focus on during this stage include:

  • Goals – What is the core purpose of the product? What is it going to offer to your customers?
  • Features – What are the key features you want to have in your product?
  • Web/Mobile – Are you planning to create an application or a website? Or both? And if it’s an app, will it be hybrid or native?
  • Deadlines and Milestones – Is it a long- or a short-term project? Do you want to complete it by a particular date?
  • Budget – How much can you spend on this product? What developer rates would be acceptable for you?

Answering all these questions at the early stage will help you set the process of hiring a developer for a startup on the right track as they will advise you on the type of developer you want to find, as well as on the skills you will be hunting for.

Market analysis

Whatever project idea you have, let’s face the truth – chances are that there already are some similar solutions on the market.

On the one hand, this fact toughens the competition. But, on the other hand, it also provides you with the opportunity to analyze the existing solutions and create something better, more complete, and more competitive. So, a thorough market analysis is the next thing you should do before you can start hiring programmers for startup.

Top things to focus on when conducting market analysis:

  • Industry overlook
  • Target customers
  • Competition

Once you research all the above-mentioned things, take enough time to analyze the collected data and formulate the key insights that will help you make your project better and more competitive.

How to Hire Developers for Startup and Choose the Best SDLC & Employment Model

Finally, the last thing you want to do before you can start hiring software developers for startup is to define the right employment model and software development life cycle.

Choosing the best collaboration model for your startup can be somewhat challenging. In the IT world, it can take many different forms. Namely, the most common types of cooperation include traditional employment, project-based employment, outsourcing, outstaffing, and dedicated team.

Every model has certain pros and cons. And the choice always gets down to specific project needs. For startups, in particular, a dedicated team model might be the best option if they don’t have a well-established in-house team yet. This model implies hiring a complete dev team (often remote) from a third-party service provider. This model is good for startups as it allows them to save resources and also fills in the talent gaps that might be there.

As for the software development life cycle (SDLC), there are also several different options, including:

  • Lean
  • Agile
  • Waterfall
  • DevOps

In a nutshell, a chosen SDLC model will define the way you handle the project. Thus, the choice depends on a lot of different aspects of the project, such as its scope, type, deadlines, and budget. For example, Agile works well for large and complex projects that have frequently changing requirements. The Waterfall model will suit smaller projects with fixed requirements and slight chances that a developer will have to make any amendments in the end. Analyze different SDLC models and pick the one that matches your project’s details best.

In-house vs. outsource

Earlier, we mentioned that delegating projects to outsourced teams (or individual developers) can be a good choice if you want to start hiring a developer for a startup. This is mostly because startups often have not fully developed dev and project management teams. In such cases, outsourcing talents can help you save plenty of time and effort. But, let’s look closer at this matter.

Although having all your employees by your side in the office can feel rather convenient and eliminate communication challenges, opting for outsourcing has many perks, especially for startups.

This model of work gives you access to international talents. Therefore, you can pick the best professionals for your projects. At the same time, outsourcing development projects to overseas teams is often much cheaper than hiring an in-house team. These two reasons should be enough for a startup to start outsourcing development.

How to Formulate Requirements for Hiring Software Developers for Startup

A big part of the success depends on well-defined job requirements. So, the next block of this guide on how to hire developers for a startup will take you through the most important steps for defining your requirements.

Types of developers you are looking for

First of all, once you have all the project details, you should be able to see which type of developer you need for your startup. The types include:

  • Software
  • Web
  • Mobile
  • Front End
  • Back End

Focus on your project goals to see which of these is right for you.

Key job requirements

Next, you have to put together all the core requirements for a job. That’s where you should identify what your ideal candidate looks like. What level of education should they have?

What tech stack do they have to possess to succeed on your project? How many years of experience do you want them to have? – These are some of the primary questions to ask yourself to define what your requirements are.

Top skills you are seeking

Lastly, pay special attention to the skills you are looking for. First of all, focus on the hard (tech) skills. Depending on the type of project, you want your future developer to be proficient with certain coding languages, tools, etc. Make a list of the core of them.

Also, don’t forget about soft skills. Be sure to include skills like communication, teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, and similar on your list of requirements.

Places to Hire Developers for Startup

Knowing what exactly you are looking for in developers for your startup, the next question is – where to hire developers for startup? Basically, there are two primary channels for hiring a developer for a startup – offline and online. Let’s look at each in detail.


One way of hiring developers for startup is to look for them offline. There are quite many venues where you can look for talents. Namely, some of the most common places of concentration of developers include all sorts of meetups, conferences, universities, and hackathons.

Attending such events and locations can let you discover potential employees. However, we have to admit that looking for developers offline is somewhat outdated. Besides, attending different events and places is quite time-consuming. Therefore, these days, most companies, including startups, are hunting for talents online.


Another way to hire developers for startup is to look for them online. As was mentioned earlier, this option is much more time- and effort-efficient. Now, let’s look at the main online resources that can be used for finding talents:

  • Job Portals. One of the most obvious places to hunt for talents is to seek them on different job portals. This is an old and time-tested method. Such portals give you access to a large pool of talents of different proficiency levels. You can check their resumes and portfolios and pick the candidates that suit you best.
  • Social media. Another online medium that you can use when hiring software developers for startup is social media. Using different social networks, in particular, LinkedIn, you can discover thousands of outsourcing and outstaffing agencies, as well as independent developers, and connect with them.
  • Outsourcing agencies. If you decide to outsource software development, you can find the right talents by simply contacting different outsourcing agencies. This is a good solution if you don’t know how to hire developers for a startup yourself. However, it is worth noting that finding a trustworthy outsourcing agency isn’t easy and can take lots of time.
  • Northell. Lastly, if you aren’t sure how to hire developers for a startup and value your time, the best place to find skilled developers online is the Nothell team! Northhell is a trusted development partner that can implement any idea in life and provide you with the best custom solution.

How to Hire Programmers For a Startup and Conduct Interviews

When you already have a list of candidates, you can finally move on to the interviewing phase. In this part of our guide, we will tell you how to approach the interviewing process to get the best outcomes.

Top interview questions

If you are not sure how to hire developers for a startup and who to choose, start with interview questions. The questions you ask candidates during an interview play a huge role in finding the right employee.

Here are some examples of great interview questions:

  • How long have you been in the industry?
  • What is your tech stack? What tools, practices, and methods do you use most often?
  • What areas have you worked in? What specific projects did you complete?
  • Tell about the key challenges you faced in your projects. How did you solve them? How quickly do you solve challenges in the workplace?
  • What results did you achieve in your projects?
  • Have you ever failed your projects? What were the reasons for that?
  • Tell us about your most exciting and successful project.
  • Do you keep up with the major industry news, best practices, and trends? Do you apply them in your work?
  • What is the key to your success?
  • What makes you different from other candidates?

How to assess candidate’s soft skills

When you want to hire developers for startup, you want to look for a candidate with a good set of both hard and soft skills. While hard skills can be easily assessed through the candidate’s work experience and test tasks, assessing the soft skills in an interview is much harder.

Often, these skills don’t lie on the surface. Still, you need to evaluate them in order to ensure that a particular developer looks good not only “on paper” but also “in person.”

The core soft skills you should be looking for include communication, work ethic, teamwork, adaptability, leadership, and critical thinking. The best way to assess them is by asking behavioral questions. Such questions typically ask a candidate to tell about certain situations and the way they solved them.

For example, to test communication skills, you can ask a candidate about a situation when they had to work with a difficult colleague and how they made it work out well. Use similar behavioral questions to assess other soft skills that matter to you.

How to test candidate’s tech skills

In order to hire developers for startup and ensure that they can succeed in the workplace, you also want to assess their tech skills. One way to do this is to look at the candidate’s resume. In particular, you should study the work experience and skills sections to see what a particular specialist can do. But, you shouldn’t rely solely on resumes.

The best way to confirm the skills a candidate specified on their resume is to ask them to perform a test task. There are several common types of such tasks:

  • Reverse coding assignment – This is a task when you ask a candidate to assess someone else’s code and perform its analysis. It helps you assess the candidate’s quality standards and testing philosophy. It’s also the least stressful type of test task.
  • Live coding assignment – This is a task when you ask a developer to solve a specific coding challenge right during the interview. Such assignments show you how a particular specialist approaches work, what practices they use, etc. Often, it is the fastest and most thorough way to test tech skills. Also, it is considered the most stressful type of task, so it lets you assess a candidate’s ability to work under pressure.
  • Take-home assignment – This is a task when you ask a potential employee to solve a specific coding challenge on their own at home. It can be a good way to test a candidate’s skills in a stress-free environment and give them enough time to show their full potential. But, it’s important to note that not all candidates will be able to perform this type of task on time, especially if they are still employed elsewhere. Besides, it will be hard to define whether they didn’t use additional help to perform the task.

These are the most common ways to test developers’ tech skills. You can choose the one that feels right to you. However, here is one more tip – when deciding to test candidates’ skills, always use real-life problems as test cases. For example, if you have already designed a specific feature for your app, ask a potential employee to solve the same challenge that your team faced. This way you will be able to see how a new specialist’s solution differs from the existing one and, thus, you will be able to hire developers for startup who match your needs the best.

Tips For Hiring Programmers for Startup

Now that you have a comprehensive guide on how to hire developers for startup, let us give you a few additional success-driving tips.

Keep your goals in mind

When you want to hire developers for startup, you can get pretty flexible with certain requirements. But, you should never forget about your ultimate goals. You want to ensure that the candidate you hire will be on the same page with you and help you attain your targets. Thus, the goals and needs of your startup and a particular project are the first and key things you want to keep in mind when hunting for talents.

Set clear and manageable expectations

When there is a shared goal, you always have certain expectations (both formal and informal) for everyone who can help you achieve that goal. The earlier you set them, the better.

The second tip on how to hire developers for startup and ensure success is to always set clear and manageable expectations for future employees early on. First of all, doing so will help you filter out candidates who don’t match your expectations. Secondly, it will help you clearly communicate your needs, goals, and values to potential team members.
Finally, if you set measurable expectations, this will also help you assess the performance of new employees and save you plenty of time and resources in the long run. When you set such expectations and clearly communicate them to developers during the recruitment stage, you can then use them to assess their success in the workplace and see if they really match your needs.

Put emphasis on communication

Whether you want to hire developers for startup to work inside or outside your team, there always will be the need for communication. Web developers, just like other specialists in your startup, are not lone wolves. In their work, they will certainly have to interact with the rest of the team. And the success of the whole project depends, among other things, on their ability to build a good rapport with other employees and communicate effectively.

Communication is essential in the web development industry. Without fostering effective communication inside your own team, it will be nearly impossible to bring your projects to life and ensure success. Therefore, one more tip for hiring the right talents is to always put emphasis on communication skills.

Don’t put tech skills over personality

Personality vs. skills. This is one of the biggest dilemmas in tech recruitment. On the one hand, in our guide on how to hire developers for startup, we’ve stressed the importance of tech skills often enough for you to see how much they matter. After all, a developer who doesn’t have the right tech skills won’t be able to bring your ideas to life.

On the other hand, we’ve already discussed the importance of communication inside the team. Needless to say, good communication skills aren’t enough to create a solid bond between your employees and help them collaborate effectively towards shared goals. Apart from communication, it takes the right set of mind and personality of every employee.

There is a solid corporate culture behind every successful company. So, if you want your startup to grow and prosper, you need to foster the right culture too. To do this right, you want to ensure that every new employee is a perfect fit for your culture in terms of both tech skills and personality.

So, here is a tip – do NOT put skills over personality. The personality of an employee matters just as much as skills. So, instead of thinking about what is more important, try to find a balance between personality and skills. This way you will be able to find the best talents to complement your team.

Assess new employees on small projects

Of course, when hiring programmers for startup, you will always take some extra time to assess candidates’ skills. Still, there are many other capabilities that you can’t assess objectively until you start working with a particular developer. These capabilities include:

  • Ability to follow guidelines and requirements;
  • Ability to meet the set deadlines;
  • Ability to communicate project details/ideas effectively with other team members;
  • Ability to solve occurring issues quickly and creatively;
  • Ability to respond appropriately to criticism and make the needed fixes, etc.

The list can go on. All these things are nearly impossible to identify at the early stages. So, here’s one last tip we have for you – always test new employees on smaller projects before assigning them to something large-scale.

This tip will help you prevent many potential challenges and save you lots of time in the long run. It will let you test new employees’ skills once more to see if they go in line with your needs and overall vision. Apart from this, following this tip will also help you see how capable a new developer is of all the things mentioned above. As a result, it will help you understand if new employees are actually good for you and prevent unwanted time and money loss on large projects.

5 Main Steps to Hire Developers for Startup

Earlier in this article, we have provided you with a detailed overview of every stage of the recruitment process. Now, let’s quickly recap the key steps.

So, here is how to hire developers for startup:

Step 1: Identify your key needs

In order to start looking for developers for your startup, you need to have clear job requirements first. As was already mentioned in our how to hire developers for startup guide, before shaping your requirements, you want to define all project details, run market research, and understand your employment and project lifecycle preferences and needs. Having these details will help you understand your ideal candidate persona.

Step 2: Shape your requirements

Once you have all the details, you need to organize them in a detailed job description. At this stage, you want to decide what kind of developer you are looking for. Also, you want to define what proficiencies and skills matter to you the most.

Step 3: Find suitable candidates

When you have a clear set of requirements, you should start making an initial list of candidates. If you didn’t know how to hire developers for a startup before, now you know that you can hunt for talents both offline and online, using different mediums.

You can also contact us, and we will select the right development team for your project. You will save time on hiring developers for your startup and get excellent specialists who will complete your project according to all your requirements and on time.

Step 4: Test candidates

How to hire programmers for a startup and test all candidates? Having a list of suitable candidates, you can move on to interviewing and testing them.

At this stage, you want to have a complete list of the right interview questions, including behavioral questions that will let you assess candidates’ soft skills. Also, you have to prepare a test assignment based on real-life problems to test every candidate’s tech skills.

Step 5: Choose the right talent

Finally, after assessing all candidates, it is time to choose the best one. Use the resumes, and portfolios, as well as interview and test task results to see which specialist is the perfect fit. Most importantly, when hiring software developers for startup, focus on your startup’s needs and goals. They will hint you towards the best candidates for you.

How Can Nothell Help You Hire Developers for Startup

Although our extensive guide should help you find and hire the right talents, there are still going to be plenty of challenges on your way. And, when the stakes are as high as the quality of your website or app and, respectively, the success of your startup, you don’t want to make a mistake.

That’s what Northell is here for!

We can help you staff your startup with the right developers. Here, at Northell, we have a huge pool of web development experts from the middle to senior levels. With the help of our expertise and professionalism, we create solutions that have a positive impact on business and drive growth.

How can we help? Nothell delivers full-cycle web development services that span all stages of a product life cycle, from the discovery to the quality assurance phase. We create custom solutions perfectly tailored to your business needs and goals. All that you need is an idea, and Northell will take care of the rest!

Northell can provide your company with a talented, highly experienced and skillful dedicated development team. We can provide you with the following:

  • IT Staff Augmentation Services. Using our services, you can gain access to qualified IT experts such as competent developers, designers, business analysts, domain experts, and QA specialists.
  • Back-end Development Teams. Our deep knowledge of modern and advanced technologies enables us to create high-performance back-end solutions in a timely manner.
  • Front-end Development Teams. Our front-end team creates scalable, highly functional and visually appealing user interfaces using the best tools, technologies, and years of experience.
  • End-to-end Teams. Our dedicated end-to-end team of specialists will evaluate your ideas, create attractive designs, develop your product, test it, and support it after release.
  • UI/UX Design Teams. Our designers will be able to turn your idea into reality using the best design practices and experience working with companies of various sizes and from different industries.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire Developers For Startup

Now that you know how to hire developers for startup, chances are that you are also wondering how much you will have to spend on this. Unfortunately, there is no single answer to this question, just like there is no one-size-fits-all development solution.

The final cost of the project will depend on various factors. These include the type of the project and its tech aspects, the type of developer you pick, the employment and payment model that you choose, etc. However, we can still give you a general idea of the cost of developers for startup:

  • Website Development – In 2023, the cost of website development can be anywhere between $1,000 and $30,000+. The key factors that affect the price include the complexity of the design, the number of pages, and the skills and experience of a developer(s).
  • App Development – The average cost of an app this year ranges from $50,000 to $300,000 depending on the complexity of the application.
  • Software Development – The price for a software solution can range between $30,000 and $100,000.

What about individual developers’ rates? The numbers indicated above represent the average total cost of a particular product. The rates of each particular developer will vary depending on their experience and skills. In 2023, a reasonably proficient developer can charge you between $50 and $100 per hour, depending on the project type.

The Best Locations to Hire Developers for Startup

At the beginning of our guide, we told you about the benefits of outsourcing development to external specialists. This can give you many benefits. But, not all countries are equally good for outsourcing purposes.

While hiring someone from the US can be convenient in terms of timing, specialists from this country charge significantly more than specialists from other locations. Namely, the best places for recruiting developers in 2023 include:

  • South America – This location is good for being so close to the US. Often hiring experts from South America will mean no issues with time zones and, at the same time, a significantly cheaper price. But, we have to admit that the IT market in South America is not fully developed yet, so there might not be as many opportunities as you’d wish.
  • Asia – This location is known for a huge number of freelancers and independent IT specialists willing to work for international companies at super low rates. The problem is that finding native English speakers here is not too easy. And the quality of services might not be the best.
  • Eastern Europe – The last location for outsourcing development tasks is Eastern Europe and it is the best one of all. This place is a treasure trove of IT talents. Eastern European developers are recognized as the world’s best ones. At the same time, their rates are notably lower compared to American specialists.

Hiring Developers for Startup: Conclusion

How to hire programmers for a startup? In today’s highly digitalized world, every startup can face the need to hire a developer, whether for creating a company website or app or for developing your product. Regardless of the reason, when hiring software developers for startup you sure want to find the right talent that can bring your vision to life. But, the problem is that, as a startup owner, you might not have any idea of how to hire developers for startup yet.

Hopefully, this article will help you get on the right track. Now, you have a compelling guide with expert tips that should let you find the right talents. Use it to implement your projects successfully. And if you already have an idea for your future project, get in touch with us today! Northell will gladly provide you with the best talents!

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