Hiring Tech Talent If You’re A Non-Tech Entrepreneur


One of the key mantras for entrepreneurs is hiring top-notch talent. But getting this right often means lots of trial and error. This is especially the case with tech talent. After all, if you did not get an engineering degree, how can you really make the right decision?

This is something that entrepreneur Stuart Wall has had to deal with. Keep in mind that he graduated with an MBA. What’s more, he then went on to work as a management consultant at Bain & Co .

Yet despite his lack of tech chops, he still was able to hire the right talent when he launched Signpost. The company, which leverages the cloud to help build lasting customer relationships, has raised $20 million from firms like Google Ventures and OpenView.

So what are his takeaways? Well, let’s take a look:

Don’t use lame sales tactics: The recruiting tactics can get downright wacky, with over-the-top promises and claims. But engineers often do not want to be sold.

“I want our candidates to shop around so they realize how great our company is,” said Stuart, “and feel they’d be fools to turn us down—not feel like they were railroaded into a major decision. You might lose one now and then, but you’ll make up for it in retention.”

Know your quarry: Yes, you need to get into the mind of an engineer. In other words, what does he or she really want?

According to Stuart, this includes:

  • Working with other great engineers
  • Not using tools and technologies that constantly frustrate them
  • Reporting to a manager who’s an engineer
  • Being challenged and given the opportunity to learn and develop new skills
  • Having an opportunity to build a great product

It’s quite a bit. And in the early days, it will be tough to get all this right. But setting these kinds of goals can be extremely helpful in putting together an awesome team.

Hire for strength, not lack of weakness: Actually, this is a good approach for any kind of hiring. But when it comes to tech talent, the strategy is perhaps even more critical.

“If a great candidate doesn’t have a personality you love, but their technical skills fit the role,” said Stuart, “make the hire. You’re building a team to carry out a mission, not filling out a guest list.”

Don’t compromise on aptitude: When thinking about a candidate, it’s a bad sign if you keep trying to imagine how things will work out.

They usually don’t.

“Your goal isn’t filling seats,” said Stuart. “There are engineers out there who are 10 times as valuable as the average engineer, and they only cost twice as much. Because of this, elite teams are actually cheaper to run and easier to manage for a given level of output.”

Don’t compromise on attitude: When interviewing tech talent, you need to get a sense if whether the person is a team player or not.

“Coding is communication and engineering is almost always collaborative,” said Stuart. “If an engineer can’t communicate clearly and precisely, they probably don’t think clearly and precisely. Communication skills are not nice-to-have for an engineer, they’re the heart of the matter—truly great engineers tend to have exceptional language skills.”

Tom Taulli, a JD and Enrolled Agent, operates Pathway Tax, which provides year-round tax prep and help with IRS actions.

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