5 Pro Tips for recruiting Software Developers

This article is part of my Better Return On Investment from Software Development series.
These articles are aimed at senior management funding Software Developer or IT Professionals attempting to show the ROI benefits of what can sometimes seem counterintuitive.
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5 pro tips to help you recruit the Software Developers that your business desperately needs.

I’ve been recruiting Software Developers for over 15 years for a variety of organisations. In this quick post I share my thoughts on how to attract the best – even if you don’t have the biggest of budgets.

Pro tip 1 - Sell yourselves

This is where I start with any recruitment. What can I sell into any candidate?

Software Development is a candidate led market. Simply put, there are more roles than candidates. And definitely more roles that really, really good candidates.

You need to be selling your role into those candidates.

By all means, feel free to go in with the "I’m giving them a job – what more that they want?" attitude. Just let me know and I'll go work for your competitor and I’ll steal all the best candidates from right under your nose every day of the week.

This isn’t going to be just a money thing (although it helps be at least at market level);

Every organisation is different. Some can definitely be a struggle to find the selling points – but (so far) I’ve always found something.

If you can’t find something, then you will be better served resolving that first.

Bonus extra tip: Never lie or oversell – it will simply come back to bite you.

Pro tip 2 - Prepare a briefing document

I find this really useful before talking to any agencies (or internal HR).

This goes beyond the "Job Spec" (you’ve got one of those right?).

This should really help an agency fully understand what you are after, what the company can offer and why the candidate would want to take the role.

I generally expand this with additional information like:

This may feel like extra work – but I find a few hours spent on this pays dividends with both agencies and the candidates. The agencies appreciate the additional input and candidates really recognises that this is an important role for you ... not just a seat to fill.

Bonus pro tip: Updated your briefing document based on questions you receive from agencies and candidates – it makes you even better prepared for next time.

Pro tip 3 - Work with the right agency

I’d certainly approach multiple agencies with the brief and get them to feedback on how they would approach. But, be crystal clear upfront that they should not approach potential candidates until you have officially offered them the role to fill.

This stage is about making sure you are dealing with an agency that are engaged and fully understand what you are after.

If, after providing the briefing document, you don’t feel on the same wavelength – then start to be concerned. You need to be confident that they are going to look for the right candidates and represent you appropriately in the market.

It can be very damaging to your personal or organisation brand if an agency behaves poor in the market in your name. Unfortunately it is a fact of life, like every industry, poor agencies do exist. And you need to avoid turning off good candidates by using one with a poor reputation (there are agencies that I will simply refuse to deal with).

Then choose one agency to work with. I find the benefit of this is that they can take their time and do a thorough job – rather than having to rush candidates through. When more than one agency is in place, you find that you will receive poorly screened CVs through to make sure they get "dibs" first.

I acknowledge that this would seem like a slower approach that casting a wider net. I have found in practice however that most good agencies have mature candidate databases, good local knowledge and access to all the standard job board tools – rarely have I found candidates “exclusive” to an agency.

Bonus extra tip: Don’t choose agency based on rate. Also be very cautious of "beating" an agency rate down too low. You want them to be incentivised to give you the good candidates – not your competitor who is paying them 5% more.

Pro tip 4 - Have a killer brand

Having a great brand in the market is really going to make your life so much easier ... but it does take time and work.

Wouldn’t it be great to have quality developers contacting you because they love what you do?

And that is where a killer brand can really help.

Things to consider:

These investments, while not free, can really help if you are looking to recruit consistently over the coming years.

Bonus pro tip: There is a good chance that your developers are already out in the community (open source, user groups, etc) – give them time in the working day to do this.

Pro tip 5 - Have appropriate expectations

Ok, let’s be realistic.

If you’re paying peanuts, expect monkeys.

If you’re rushing into it expect costly mistakes.

If you haven’t spent the proper time thinking about what you want AND how to assess it, then expect to have a very time consuming and painful time in recruitment.

In the current market, you’ll need to be flexible. You may need to compromise on skills and experience, you may need to wait 3 to 6 months for the right fit, you may even need to go to the contract market to fill that immediate need.

Bonus pro tip: A good agency should be able to advise you on what is realistic. If it sounds too good to be true – it likely is – move onto the next agency.


I hope the above tips help. I’d love to hear feedback on what you find works and what doesn’t.

Good luck with filling that next Software Development role.

About the author:

Mark Taylor is an experience IT Consultant passionate about helping his clients get better ROI from their Software Development.

He has over 20 years Software Development experience - over 15 of those leading teams. He has experience in a wide variety of technologies and holds certification in Microsoft Development and Scrum.

He operates through Red Folder Consultancy Ltd.