How to hire great software engineers for an early-stage startup

Nikhil Prakash

Nikhil Prakash

5 min read

There are engineers. And then there are great engineers. Find out from Nikhil Prakash, Lead Recruiter, how Kumospace, a Series A startup, attracted and hired steller software engineers as an early-stage company.

Hiring Kumospace's first few software engineers in a competitive environment

When Kumospace set out to hire its first few engineers, the hiring environment was ridiculously competitive, and salaries were sky-high.

On top of that, the engineering bar at Kumospace is set extremely high and is non-negotiable.

With that, the team started by looking for “solid engineers with good tenures in tech progressive companies.”

🔶Translating desired candidate profile into nuanced, searchable criteria

This broadly translated into the following search criteria at the beginning:

  • 3+ years of experience
  • Came from tech-progressive, venture-backed companies
  • Also spent a few years at a FAANG
  • Graduated from top 20 Computer Science (CS) schools

For the needs of the engineering team, we were looking for candidates who had a strong computer science foundation, spent a few years at a FAANG AND currently work at a startup. This signalled superior technical skills, experience in executing at scale, yet also entrepreneurial chops that is important for an engineer to thrive at early stage Kumospace.

🔶Keep iterating on your candidate profile

Covey started sending drip campaigns to approximately 80 candidates per week in my name. After 2 weeks, the reply rates weren’t where they needed to be, hovering around 10%. We needed the reply rates to be higher, in order to yield stronger interest rates.

The Covey team and Kumospace team regrouped and modified the criteria to:

  • 2+ years of experience
  • Came from SaaS startups
  • And worked at FAANG
  • Came from companies that laid off employees in the last 2 weeks
  • Had experience in the videochat or gaming industry
  • Graduated from Top 30 Computer Science (CS) schools.

After some initial screenings, we found that candidates who had experience in the videochat or gaming industry had a higher affinity for our product and so we wanted to speak to more of them. We also broadened the schools that these candidates would graduate from so we don't miss out on amazing ones while still keeping the quality bar high.

When we broadening these criterias, we found more potential candidates starting to respond to our outreaches. We hit a sweet spot of volume and maintaining the quality bar.

🔶Getting founders to outreach candidates

Instead of outreaching candidates from the recruiter only, we added Kumospace's CEO’s email account to the mix, at a 50-50 split.

What we also discovered was that the CEO's outreaches yielded a higher response rate than the recruiter's. This is an extremely useful tactic if you are recruiting engineers for an early stage startup, and specifically if your founders have a technical background.

🔶Checkmate

The result was a response rate of ~20%, an almost 100% increase, yielding approximately 3 to 5 interested candidates for the recruiter phone screen per week.

Since then, we've had a continuous supply of candidates to chat with and are excited at the quality and quality we could hire.

🔶Note:

Some of these criteria wouldn't be able to be translated into a Linkedin keyword or Boolean keyword search. It required Covey’s augmented sourcing technology.

🔷 Chat with Covey if you’d like to learn more.

🔷 Find out how Kumospace chose Covey amongst other recruiting tools on the market.


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