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The Dev Review

How to Hire a Software Engineer: A Complete Guide for Startup Founders

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Are you planning to hire a software engineer to build your startup's web or mobile application? 

While hiring anyone may seem easy at first, engaging the right fit for your project – in terms of technical skills and culture – is tedious, time-consuming and expensive. 

This is in addition to the high demand for experienced software engineers (more and more companies are building software and hiring), and your startup may be constrained by budget. 

This article is a comprehensive guide on how to hire a software engineer. It provides tips on where to find software developers, how to write the project requirements, and test technical and soft skills. 

Key Points

  • A software engineer designs and develops software code that powers operating systems, mobile and desktop apps, websites, APIs and databases.
  • There are different types of software programmers. They are front-end, back-end and full-stack engineers, quality analysts, DevOps and security engineers, and video game and mobile app developers.
  • The tips for hiring software engineers are understanding your development project needs, writing a good job description, choosing a hiring model, conducting technical and soft skills assessment and offering contracts.
  • The common mistakes businesses make when hiring software programmers are hiring the wrong programmer, ignoring cultural fit and not considering experience. 

What Is a Software Engineer?

A software engineer is an expert responsible for designing and developing operating systems, desktop or mobile apps, websites, databases, APIs, etc. 

Software programmers also build computer games and software a business can sell in the open market. These are some of the roles of a software engineer. 

  • Capturing requirements. The engineer is responsible for understanding the functional (features and functions) and non-functional (scalable, reliable and secure) requirements for making software.
  • Design. Software engineers help the development team to visualise the product. They create the software architecture – the blueprint that helps the team build a better product.
  • Development. The engineer will build the components and functionalities of the software. This process uses coding languages, frameworks and development processes such as the Waterfall Approach or Agile Methodology.
  • Testing. After writing the code that defines the features and functions of the software, the engineer will test it to ensure it works properly and detect bugs. This process uses automated and manual testing tools to ensure each feature works as intended.
  • Release. The software engineer will put the new product into the production environment where the customers can use it. Most engineers will use the CI/CD pipeline to make shipping code faster and more efficient.
  • Software maintenance. Maintaining the software is part of the responsibilities of a software engineer. The programmer will provide regular updates to improve the performance. 

What Are the Types of Software Engineers and Their Skills? 

There are different types of software engineers based on the function they perform. They are:

Front-End Engineer

A front-end engineer is a software programmer that specialises in building the user interface of a web or mobile application. The UI is the part your users will interact with and include all the components like layout, aesthetic and content. 

Front-end engineers also work with code. HTML, CSS and JavaScript are examples of code used in building the front end. Aside from code, front-end engineers use frameworks like React, Vue and Bootstrap. Also, they must be able to use CSS preprocessors, Restful APIs, version control like Git, etc. Knowledge of design skills will also help a front-end engineer to build a responsive web application. 

Back-End Engineer

Back-end software engineers are programmers that deal with the server components. This engineer specialises in developing the logic and code that keeps the software functional from behind the scene, which is done by integrating database and email systems, caches and APIs. 

Back-end engineers use a combination of programming languages and frameworks to build software successfully. Some of the roles of a back-end engineer include optimising servers for speed, stability and scalability. Aside from that, writing reusable code and building the database to store data are other tasks.

Examples of back-end technologies the engineer must be competent in are Java, Ruby, Node.js, PHP, Python, Kotlin, Golang, etc. Back-end frameworks are Ruby on Rails, Laravel, Symfony, etc. Database management technologies they should know are SQL, MySQL, PostgreSQL, etc. 

Full-Stack Engineer

Most websites and applications have three main stacks – front-end, back-end and the database. A full-stack engineer is competent in building all the parts of a web application. This expert is the "Jack of all technologies" in software development. Some of the skills you should look for when hiring a full-stack engineer are: 

  • Front-end technologies. HTML, CSS, JavaScript and frameworks like React, Vue and Bootstrap. Aside from coding languages, full-stack engineers must be able to apply design skills to build the UI components of a web app.
  • Back-end technologies. Python, PHP, Ruby, Kotlin, Java, Golang, C, C++, C#, etc. Frameworks are Spring, Laravel, Django, Ruby on Rail, Flask, etc.
  • Database technologies. The engineer must be able to design and build databases using MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, etc.
  • Servers like Apache, Lighttpd, Microsoft IIS, and NGINX.

Quality Analyst Engineer

This type of software engineer is responsible for validating the quality of the web or mobile application created. The QA engineer creates manual and automated tests, using tools and frameworks to ensure the product works as intended. Also, the QA engineer creates test summary reports and bug reports and fixes errors to ensure a seamless user experience. 

DevOps Engineer

DevOps engineers use processes and methodologies to streamline software development and maintenance and facilitate communication between development and operations teams. They are familiar with the processes used by back-end engineers to build, deploy and integrate technologies like cloud storage. Skills of a DevOps engineer are Kubernetes, Apache Mesos, Docker, Jenkins, Terraform, etc. 

Video Game Developer

Video game developers are software engineers that use creative skills in designing and implementing interactive and engaging gaming systems. Skills of a game developer are C, C#, C++, Java, JavaScript, HTML5, Unity, Unreal Engine, etc. 

Mobile App Developer

A mobile app programmer uses codes and various development environments to build an application that runs on the Android or iOS platform. Skills of a mobile app developer are Java, Swift, Objective-C, Kotlin, Android Studio, Dart, React Native, etc.

Security Engineer 

This software engineer works to create systems, procedures and methods that test the software security. Their goal is to exploit flaws and detect vulnerabilities to fix them before deployment. Security engineers use Python, Ruby, reverse engineering, C, C++, etc. 

Tips for Hiring a Software Engineer

Are you a non-tech manager struggling to hire the best software developer for your project? Here are some useful tips on finding and hiring the right software engineer to build a go-to-market software product for your business. 

Understand Your Hiring Requirements 

Why do you need a software developer or engineer? What kind of software engineer do you need? Asking these questions is necessary because the kind of programmer you hire depends on the technologies needed to build your project and the complexity. 

The more you prepare for your hire, the higher your chances of getting the right fit to build your product. So, start by clearly outlining the skills, knowledge, and experience you want from your candidate. 

This process requires a little bit of research. For example, you will need to hire a mobile app developer if you are building a mobile app. Should you decide on an iOS app, you need an iOS developer. The same goes for Android development.

So, list all the required skills iOS or Android app developers must have and use them as a guide when hiring. If you need a web application, you should hire a programmer with web development skills. 

To hire front-end programmers, look for skills in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Bootstrap, Vue, React, etc. For back-end programmers, look for skills in Python, Java, PHP, Django, Flask, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, etc.

About your project requirements, you should understand that the more complex it is, the higher the experience. If you want a small MVP, you will need a software developer who can handle both the front and back end. 

If you want to build a complex product or you want someone to lead your development team, you need to hire a senior engineer. The project complexity also determines how long it takes to build and deploy. 

So, as a recap, you have to determine the kind of software product you want to build and list the skills needed to develop it. 

Create a Job Description

Another tip for hiring a software engineer is to write a good job description. A clear and well-written job description will make hiring someone who meets the requirements easy. 

This part should be straightforward since you already understand your project requirements and have listed all the necessary skills. In the job description, mention the skills, responsibilities and experience level of the software engineer you are looking for. 

The way to go about it is by writing a short introduction about the position. Then, list the skills and experience a programmer will need to be successful. 

You should mention if the project requires sound knowledge of some coding languages or frameworks. Ensure you make the job description to be as concise as possible. 

Decide on a Hiring Model 

There are various recruitment models you can use when hiring for a startup. However, to employ the right software engineer, it is imperative to deploy the best hiring model to ensure the desirable speed and cost. 

A simple evaluation of your business size and needs is key to identifying the best approach. 

You can choose between hiring in-house software engineers or hiring freelancers. The third option is outsourcing your software development project to a nearshore software development company. 

Hire In-house Software Engineers

Also known as insourcing, hiring in-house software engineers means building software using programmers you have on hand at your organisation. All the software devs are employed permanently, performing tasks assigned to them without getting help from external developers. 

In in-house development, you will fill the positions based on the skill sets and experience you need to build the product. 

Pros of Hiring In-house Software Engineers 
  • Guarantee availability. One benefit of hiring in-house software developers is that they are readily available whenever you need them. Since they work from your organisation's office space, you can easily assign tasks to them.
  • Easy collaboration. You can easily communicate with your engineers since you are in the same office space. This will facilitate collaboration on a project and make it easy to get tasks done quickly.
  • A better understanding of your organisation's culture. Software engineers that work from your office will get acquainted with your business more quickly than freelancers, making it easy for them to build a product that appeals to your customers.
Cons of Hiring In-house Software Engineers 
  • High cost. One setback of hiring in-house software programmers is the high cost involved. You have to set up office space and pay in addition to salary, vacation, other benefits, etc. Most startups have little budget and cannot afford to hire programmers to work from their offices.
  • Takes time. It takes time to hire the right software programmer. You must post your job advertisements on various portals and vet and onboard the software engineer. All these processes can take months to complete, slowing down the speed of your project. 

Hire Freelance Software Engineers

Freelance software programmers work for different clients. Since they are not committed to a single client, they handle multiple projects simultaneously. 

Pros of Hiring Freelance Software Programmers
  • Cost-effectiveness. Hiring freelancers is cost-effective, unlike hiring in-house programmers. No need to expand your office, buy resources or pay for vacation and other benefits aside from the basic payment. Also, you can create flexible contracts with freelance programmers.
  • Huge specialists pool. Hiring in-house engineers might take time if you have little talent in your location. Freelancers are abundant and readily available, making it easy for businesses to access freelancer software developers worldwide. This increases the chances of getting any skills you want. 
Cons of Hiring Freelance Software Programmers
  • Lack of reliability. Since freelancers work for different clients, there is no guarantee that they will take the job 100% seriously. The possibility of not completing the task is high and can disrupt the speed of your project.
  • Quality. Most freelancers will not produce 100% quality software because there is no quality control monitoring and a dedicated project manager to monitor progress. 

Outsource Your Project to a Nearshore Development Company

You can outsource your project to an agency with many nearshore software engineers in their ecosystem. Nearshoring your project gives you a chance to access developers across tech stacks. 

Pros of Outsourcing Your Project 
  • A dedicated team of software engineers. When you outsource your development project to a nearshore agency, you can hire a dedicated team of programmers. Unlike freelancers that work on multiple projects, a dedicated team will work on yours alone, building a product that meets your business needs.
  • Team augmentation. You can enhance your in-house team by adding expert software engineers from a nearshore development company like Deazy. This will allow you to maintain visibility and control over your project while adding the right skills to make rapid progress.
  • Work with engineers within the same time zone. Hiring freelancers will not guarantee someone within your time zone. But when you engage nearshore software engineers, you work with developers within your time zone. 
Cons of Outsourcing Your Project
  • Not in the same location. The setback of nearshoring is that you and the software developers are not in the same country. This means spending extra if you meet with your team in person. 


The fourth step in hiring a software engineer is interviewing the shortlisted programmers. Many businesses will do a technical assessment and then a culture fit interview for those who pass. That is why it is recommended that you test the skills during the technical interview and assess the soft skills after. 

Give the Software Engineers a Test Project

The test project will help you assess the skills of the programmer you want to hire and ensure you engage the right fit. Ensure the test is tailored to the skills needed to build your project. 

The project should be designed to assess front-end skills if you want to hire a front-end engineer. But if you want to hire a back-end engineer, your test project should assess back-end skills. 

If you are hiring an Android developer, you should prepare a test project that evaluates the programmer's experience in using Android Studio, SDK, coding languages, etc. 

Assess the Soft Skills

Most organisations make the mistake of hiring based on technical skills without considering soft skills. They will end up with software engineers that are not culturally fit to work in their organisation. 

While technical skills are crucial, soft skills are equally important if you want the programmer to work in a cross-functional team. Soft skills to focus on are communication, problem-solving, analytics, time management and collaboration skills. 

The success of your project depends on how well the programmer communicates progress with all stakeholders. The engineer must be able to communicate their ideas clearly to non-technical stakeholders and implement feedback at each cycle of the development process. 

That is why soft skills are crucial when working in a team environment and indispensable to employing a suitable programmer for your development project. 


Based on the technical and soft skills interview's outcome, you can offer the programmer a contract. The contract should include all the deliverables, the completion date, the budget and how the engineer will be paid. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Software Engineer

There are several mistakes you should avoid when hiring a software engineer. Here are a few:

  • Hiring the wrong programmer. Hiring the wrong programmer for your project can harm the development process. A front-end developer or a full-stack programmer will best fill the role if you need a front-end development project. The same applies to mobile app development. Hiring an iOS developer for an Android development project wastes time and effort. The best way to hire software engineers is to consider your business needs. Identify your development project requirements and hire based on the skills needed.
  • Not considering experience. Experience matters when hiring a software engineer. Your project complexity determines the level of experience you will hire. Most businesses will make the mistake of hiring junior engineers because they will charge less, but will later realise that there is only so much a junior programmer can do. Always remember that complex projects require senior developers, while you can hire mid-level or junior programmers for less complex projects as long as a senior programmer supervises them.
  • Ignoring cultural fit. Cultural fit determines the likelihood that a software engineer will be able to adapt to your organisation's core values and shared behaviour. Most businesses will make the mistake of hiring engineers that don't share similar attitudes and priorities, causing constant friction in the workplace. When hiring a software engineer, remember that you are looking for a person, not a machine, that produces code. Your new software programmer must fit in with the rest of the team. To test for culture fit, you should look at your business and determine its core values. This will help you build a base for the candidate assessment. 


Hiring a software engineer requires due diligence – understand your project requirements, list all the technical skills you need, choose the best hiring option, evaluate soft skills, etc. While this might not be easy at first, you will realise that the more you prepare, the better the chance of hiring the right fit. 

Want the easy way out? We can help you build your software engineering team fast – hire dedicated software engineers or a dev squad. Based on your project requirements, we will assemble the best skills in our ecosystem to build a software product that meets your business needs. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Hire Software Developers for a Startup?

To recruit software programmers for a startup, you should define your hiring needs accurately, determine if you want in-house or outsourced programmers, write a concise job description, and test the technical and soft skills before hiring. 

Is It Hard to Hire Software Engineers?

Hiring software engineers can be a time-consuming and laborious process, especially for non-tech managers. From listing all the required skills to writing a good job description and assessing the technical and soft skills, the process never gets any easier. You can always outsource your project and let the expert do everything for you. 

What Is the Difference Between a Software Engineer and a Software Developer?

A software engineer and a developer contribute to the software development lifecycle, and their responsibilities sometimes overlap. The primary difference is that a software engineer works throughout all the aspects of the development, but a developer focuses on finishing very specific functions at a smaller scale.