How to Hire a Programmer for a Startup ?

The startup hiring process is intimidating even for the most seasoned CTOs and hiring managers. There are so many choices to make, so many factors to consider, and so much money on the line that getting this right the first time is key. Get it wrong and you will likely go out of business – get it right and you could become a unicorn (a billion dollar company). Find out how to find a programmer that’s the perfect fit for your needs in today’s post.

As a startup, are you looking for a  programmer to help you build your idea?

Then you should take the time to do your research to find the right programmer for you and not just hire whoever is first in line.

This is so because hiring a bad programmer for your startup can cost you a lot of money and resources.

Don’t make the mistake that so many other startups have made by hiring someone who says they can do it. Instead, you can hire remote software developers.

Which is why you should pay careful attention to this post. 

We’ll discuss a few things (albeit, very crucial) you need to know about hiring programmers for your startup. In addition, we’ll also share some deep-level insights we used ourselves when hiring programmers for our own startup.

Let’s get started.


Step 1: Understand your needs

First, you need to have a detailed understanding of what it is that the programmer will be doing. You should have a very clear idea of what you want to build, how it should function and all the other aspects.

The first question that you need to ask yourself is whether you need a programmer who can build the entire product or just some of its features?

If it’s more than one feature, you’ll need to break it down into smaller tasks. This will allow you to know how much time each task would take and also help identify the requirements.

Along with this, you’ll need to figure out the skills required for each task. You should also keep in mind that what might be a basic task for one programmer might be a complex task for another.


Step 2: Consider Your Options

A lot of people make the mistake  of hiring the first “qualified” programmer they find. It’s never a good idea to hire someone  who’s not the best for your needs.

There are three types of programmers you can hire based on your needs: 

Front-end programmer: 

Responsible for the user interface  and designs of a website or application. 

Back-end programmer: 

Responsible for the server-side – logic and database of an application, as well as the security and integrations. They are responsible for making sure that all data is stored securely and never lost due to a technical glitch or hacking attack.

Full-stack programmer:

This is a term that’s not used as often, but it means someone who can do both front-end and back-end programming. They have a well-rounded knowledge of the entire application and all its components, which makes them more versatile than either type on their own.

Furthermore, if you need to hire a programmer for your startup and want someone with experience, there are three great hiring options. 

They are:

Employing programmers full-time

The first  option for hiring a programmer is to employ them full-time. This route has its own set of advantages and drawbacks, so it’s worth considering the options.

The benefits of this route are that there is a sense of stability in the programmer’s job, and they will be able to devote more time to the project. This route also allows you a greater degree of oversight with how they spend their time, and there is no need for negotiation in terms of what they will be paid.

The drawbacks with this option are that often programmers may not want to work full-time for a startup, and the cost associated with this option is often higher than what you would spend on contracting them.


Hiring an agency

Sometimes it’s not possible for a startup to hire an in-house team. One option is hiring an agency with the needed skills. 

The major benefits of hiring an agency are that the startup doesn’t need to worry about the day-to-day management of the team and can focus on other aspects of building their business, such as sales, marketing, or design.

However, there are a few downsides. Software development agencies usually charge a high hourly rate with many hours billed up front and the agency’s fee as well for recruitment, interviewing, and hiring. Also, the fees are usually not negotiable. This is not a problem for established companies with a steady cash flow but can be challenging for startups. Also, the startup will also need to be willing to dedicate a large amount of time up front before the team is hired and ready to work on projects.


Hiring a freelance programmer for your startup

The final option for hiring a programmer is to hire them from freelancing sites. This may be more affordable than using an agency, but the startup will need to do more work recruiting themselves, and they can’t rely on the agency’s expertise.

Freelancers are self-employed programmers who can work remotely. This option will allow you to hire a programmer with experience without committing to them for longer than you need. Freelancers will do the job that’s assigned and you can pay them per task, hourly or on a fixed contract. 

Who should use freelance programmers? 

  • If you need to hire a programmer quickly and don’t have time for the interview process
  • You’re looking for an expert who has experience with a specific framework
  • You need to hire someone for an ongoing project, but don’t want to commit to anything long term 

What are the benefits of hiring freelancers? 

  • Hire a programmer with specific skills without the commitment – you can fire them at any time if they’re not right for the job 
  • You can hire a programmer from anywhere in the world, so you don’t have to restrict your search geographically 
  • You’ll get a quote for the job right away, so you can compare prices and find someone who will do quality work at an affordable cost 

What are the downsides to hiring freelancers? 

  • You won’t have much direct communication with your new programmer – you’ll have to rely on the website or chat tool they’re using 
  • You don’t know how a freelancer’s day is going, so you’ll have to make sure they’re well motivated.

Where to find top quality freelance programmers for startup

More and more startups as well as established businesses are turning to freelance programmers. This helps them avoid many of the risks and costs that come with hiring an employee or contracting a full-time programmer, but it also means you’ll need to take on some of the work yourself. 


If your startup is looking for a freelance programmer, there are many things you can do to find the best candidate, including:

  • Use freelancing sites to find the best programmers for your project
  • Check out coding competitions and hackathon websites
  • Try posting on forums and social media for programmers, like Stack Overflow or Reddit’s programming subreddit
  • Look at your network of friends and professional connections for recommendations

Step 3: Craft an Effective Job Description 

When hiring for a startup, it is important to be as specific and concise about your requirements as possible. The more details you have available on what you are looking for, the easier it will be to find a candidate.

A great job description is not a long list of skills or requirements, but rather an understanding of the company’s needs and how you can fill them.

So what should your job description include? 

The answers to this question will differ for every startup. The answer should reflect the company’s needs as well as what you are looking for in a candidate.

For example, a typical job description could be written under the following headings:

  • Type of Programmers Needed (front-end, back-end, or full stack) 
  • Skills Necessary 
  • Experience Required 
  • Deadline to Apply for Position 
  • Salary Range 
  • Company profile.

Step 4: Post your job description to receive applications from interested programmers

Once you have a well written job description of what you’re looking for, it is time to post it on all of the appropriate outlets. This includes job boards like Monster and Indeed, as well as social media sites like LinkedIn or Facebook.


Step 5: Consider these key factors to select the right programmer for your startup

After posting your job offer and applications from interested candidates have started rolling in, it’s time to screen the applicants.

So how do you find the right person for the job?

These are the key factors you need to consider:


Reputation is key in any business. It’s important to take the time to research a programmer thoroughly before selecting them for your startup, as it will help you avoid any future issues.

A programmer’s reputation can be determined by their previous work, and the ratings they received from past clients.

Check their Portfolio:

Visit their website, or look at the past work they have submitted in order to determine whether he/she is a good fit for your company.

A portfolio is an indicator of the quality and experience level of a programmer. When you see that a potential candidate has created high-quality, well-organized projects in the past, you know they are serious about their work.

If a programmer has no portfolio or only partial portfolio on their website, this might not be a  good sign.

Vital Tip:  When considering a candidate, take into account the relevance of their past project experience to your startup. The more projects they have completed similar to what you want, the better. 


Check to see what is been said about them

In other words, you should check to see if they have any testimonials or reviews from previous clients on their website, or elsewhere.

A testimonial from a previous client can not only be a good indicator of their abilities, but it will also show that they are reliable and trustworthy.

This is especially important for a startup, since it will be vitally important to have someone who can be relied on in such a small team.


Technical Expertise and Experience

The most important considerations in selecting the right programmer for your startup are their technical expertise and experience.  The more skilled they are, the better chance they’ll have for success in your company. 

The technical skills and experience required for the position will depend on what type of company you are running, and how much complexity your projects will have.


What skills you should look for in a programmer

In the very least,  the programmer must be skilled in:

  • The technology stack that is being used by your company or that which your project requires.  This includes all of its nuances, such as libraries and syntax, which will need to be mastered for them to succeed. The most popular programming languages are Java, PHP, C++ and Python.
  • Basic understanding of algorithms, programming paradigms, data structures and design patterns.


Other technical skills to keep in mind are:

  • Database design and development
  • Object-oriented programming  
  • Operating system and network administration skills
  • GUI development
  • Software design and architecture
  • Software metrics  (e.g., measuring and analyzing software quality)
  • Testing and Debugging 
  • Hardware and software integration
  • Quality assurance for web applications 


A programmer who can do all of these things is rare and will be very expensive, so try to find someone with the skills you need and adjust accordingly – consult your job description.

Qualities of a good startup programmer to keep in mind

  • Communicate well with team members: The programmer will need to work closely with design and development, so they’ll have to be able-bodied communicators.
  • Be able to think on their feet: The programmer will need to stay flexible and adapt quickly to new requirements.
  • Be able to take constructive feedback: You’ll be giving lots of it, so the programmer must be able to take it.
  • Be receptive to change: The programmer should be open minded and able to adapt quickly as the company grows. 
  • Have a good attitude: You’ll be working with a small team, so the programmer will need to maintain a positive attitude and have a strong work ethic.



How much does a good programmer for a startup cost?

This can vary widely depending on the country, experience, and education of the candidate. However,  according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the US a good programmer can cost $89,190/year as of May 2020. 

The cost of freelance programmers 

Hourly rates are generally between $25 to $850 per hour, depending on the experience level of the developer.


Service Delivery and work processes

We want to believe that you are looking for someone who can deliver software projects on time, within budget and with high quality.

The first question you should ask is: what are their values? 

Do they put customers  first, do they have a service mindset or is it all about the numbers? What do they care about? You want to partner with a programmer with shared values.

The second thing you should ask is: how do they work? What’s their style and process for delivering software projects?

Do they use agile methods or waterfall approaches for software development? Can they execute on a project?

It sounds like simple questions, but  in our experience, every programmer has a different way of working and this can impact the performance of your startup. The key is to think about how it will work for you and what challenges they might have based on their style and process.

For example, Agile is a good approach for startups.

This type of programming is iterative, and it encourages cross-functional teamwork to build software in an incremental way.  This philosophy is perfect for a startup, because it promotes rapid design and development.  With this approach in place, you can adjust as you go and will have a better sense of what to prioritize.

Furthermore, you should ask them about their process for working with customers and other stakeholders:

Make sure they have a clear process for managing changes because that’s one of the most difficult issues to solve  in software development today. If a programmer doesn’t have a great process for managing change, it will impact your startup.

Additional considerations:

Do they have the ability to work remotely, or do you want them on-site where your office is?

Are they willing to work overtime, or do you want them to have a fixed weekly schedule?  Show the programmer all of your documentation and your processes if you want them to follow it.


Support is an important factor in selecting the right programmer for your startup. You want to ensure that you can get help when needed and have someone to turn to with any technical question.

When you have a startup, there are many different moving parts and new things happening at all times – it can be difficult to know where to turn for help when something goes wrong.

If you have a team of people, the person who is in charge should be able to answer questions and direct you towards someone if they’re not the one who knows the answer.

If you don’t have a team, make sure to hire someone who is available for support in-person or remotely.


Step 6: Make your decision

Once you have found the perfect match for your company’s needs after carefully considering the points in step 6, it is important to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

Make a contract or work agreement between you and the programmer, with all of your expectations spelled out. This is a very vital decision you need to make when hiring a programmer for your startup.

We hope that these steps will help you hire the right programmer for your startup and we wish you luck in your search!