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How to Win at Hiring Software Developers

25 July 2017 , by Danté Nel

Hiring high-quality developers in South Africa is not an easy task: demand has outstripped supply to such a degree that companies often compete for the same developer. Once a developer starts looking for work, a job is often right around the corner.

Based on our experience, around 60% of developers receive at least two employment inquiries within their first week on the market. By the second week, this figure jumps to 71%. We often see popular developers on OfferZen rake in 10 or more interview requests in no time.

Most companies’ hiring processes, however, are not geared for this fast-paced reality. We’ve gathered a handful of actionable tips you can use to avoid common mistakes and instead, win at hiring devs.


Hire quickly

Traditionally, job seekers apply for advertised positions. When hiring developers, this works the other way around: Gone are the days of posting a job advert and waiting for CVs!

Tip: Adopt a proactive approach and be quick in your engagements with developers. If your hiring process is too slow, another company will snatch the opportunity and most likely hire before you - this is how most companies miss out.

Optimise collaborative hiring

Being fast and proactive becomes tricky when hiring collaboratively in a team. We often see how clumsy internal processes cause companies to miss out on great developers. Ineffective hiring processes have hiring managers blocked for more than a day because a shortlist needs to be approved elsewhere. This stifles the entire process and puts companies at a disadvantage.

Tip: Ensure that all team members involved in hiring understand the need for a speedy turnaround.

Keep your hiring funnel stacked

To successfully hire one suitable developer, you will most likely have to speak to quite a number of others that don't fit. Therefore, it’s useful to think of it as a funnel with various stages where people drop out of your hiring process.


If you are looking to hire a whole team, you definitely have to think about the number of developers you have to reach out to every week. That’s why it can become problematic when companies don’t consistently stack their funnel. Here’s a scenario we’ve encountered frequently:

Company A decides to start hiring in Week One and reaches out to two developers. One of the developers declines, while the other schedules an interview for the following week.

At the end of Week Two, Company A interviews the developer who accepted. The company doesn’t reach out to any new developers because they are awaiting the outcome of the interview.

If they then decide that the developer isn’t a fit, the process can only begin again in Week Three. They would also have missed the opportunity to engage early with the entire batch of developers entering the market in Week Two!

At the other end of the spectrum, overly enthusiastic companies reach out to too many developers but then struggle to maintain the workload of responding to all their conversations. Nonetheless, the take-home message here is: If you see promising people, reach out to them as soon as possible.

Tip: Consistently reach out to slightly more people each week than could feasibly be interviewed. We’ve found that three or four interview requests per week are a good bet.

Responsiveness is the name of the game

We live in a world where near-instant feedback is the norm. Hiring correspondence should be no different. Lagging response-times cause frustration and risk diverting the dev's attention to competing offers. Here’s an example of a scenario we see quite often:

A developer deals with four interested companies and likes the prospects of all of them. Company A takes a few days to respond every time the dev engages with them. Throughout the different stages of the hiring process, those days of lost time add up to a week or two. In this time, the dev does interviews and technical assessments with the other companies and would likely have landed a job. Once Company A is ready to extend their offer, the window would already have closed.


The emphasis on speed and responsiveness is not just about being the first one to make an offer. It’s also about keeping your company name top of mind for the developer.

Tip: Keep a tight communication loop with potential hires. Again, reach out proactively to drive the process forward. This is crucial to maintain momentum.

Don’t drop the ball now: the antidote to competing offers

A particularly vulnerable time during a hiring process is, perhaps unintuitively, the moment a developer has accepted an offer. Once your prospective new team member gives notice to their current employer, they will likely receive a counter-offer. For obvious reasons, companies want to hang on to good people rather than going through the hiring process all over again. That’s why they will go to great lengths to entice an employee to stay.

Tip: Bear the dev’s notice period in mind and keep up the communication, even and especially after an offer has been accepted. Engaging the new employee through team introductions, onboarding guides and Q&As on what to prep for their first week all go a long way.

Being human and humane

Which message would you prefer?

1: “Send me your CV if you want to work here.”

2: “Hi, this is Danté from OfferZen. I’m part of our Customer Success Team and am really impressed with the work you’ve been doing at Project X! I would love to have a coffee and chat about the possibility of having you join our team.”

Aside from the promise of caffeine, the level of personal engagement in the second message likely makes it more appealing. It’s simply harder to dismiss a tailored message than an impersonal template.

If a developer comes across your company for the very first time, the tone of contact will influence their impression of your brand.

Tip: Every engagement demonstrates your company culture. Asking the question: “Would I like to work for a company that treats me this way?” is a great guideline for interactions with prospective employees.


Adopting a hiring mindset aimed at devs

Monitoring the data of over 500 companies hiring through our platform has given us a good grasp of South Africa’s developer landscape. Every day, we see how fierce the competition for the limited talent pool of software devs really is. Many companies overlook this reality and end up handicapping their odds of hiring a quality developer.

That’s why it is imperative not to underestimate the importance of a great hiring process. An excellent example of a company that understands this and applies the right mentality is Entersekt. Once the Stellenbosch-based company had streamlined their own hiring process, they started to win at hiring high-quality devs.

If you want to hear more, check out the talk I gave at DisruptHR:

Hiring Software Developers In A Competitive Market | Danté Nel | at DisruptHR

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