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June 28, 2023 · 4 min read

How to woo a developer: a guide for non-technical hiring managers

In the course of working with companies from every corner of the tech spectrum, we often find ourselves meeting with non-technical founders and hiring managers who have a great product in mind, but lack the skills to see it through. So the question then becomes: how do we attract the best tech talent when we don’t know what the best looks like?

Non-technical hiring managers can attract top talent by taking the time to understand what matters most to engineers, and marketing both the role and the company effectively. If you’ve got a good product, a solid path, and are willing to be open to ideas about architecture, language, and structure that can move you forward, you’re already heading in the right direction.

Know what developers want

Knowing what developers want and catering to that can go a long way in bridging the gap between your lack of technical expertise and your willingness to learn. Let’s take a look at four easy ways to do just that.

Exciting and challenging work

On the whole, developers like working in software, because it’s an opportunity to solve a problem with code. Present an exciting and challenging idea, and you’ll quickly garner the interest of developers who want to solve your problem.

Growth potential

There’s a misconception that growth == moving up the managerial ladder. While it is true that those opportunities should exist, growth can also mean providing an opportunity to improve upon already existing skills, learning new ones, and diving into other roles as an individual contributor.

Flexibility and autonomy

These are important in any work setting, but even more so when you lack the technical expertise to make decisions about the work being produced. You should be comfortable with allowing your engineer to work independently and without too much oversight. 

Competitive pay and perks

Really, you should be offering competitive pay and perks to everyone, not just your tech talent. But the reality is that tech talent, with its endless high demand, has traditionally been offered great compensation and killer perks. If you’re not willing to offer them, trust that someone else is.

Improve your technical pitch

You might start out as a non-technical manager, but at a certain point, you need to learn to walk the walk and, of course, talk the talk. Learn how to speak intelligently about your tech stack, development practices, and architecture. Work with a technical person to help you understand these in detail, and in a way that you feel comfortable talking about it. 

Highlighting key projects and tasks that appeal to candidates is another great way to build rapport. Talk about your greenfield projects. Layer in the opportunities a developer will have to work with and implement new technologies. Cover the various ways your product can be integrated with other applications and platforms, as well as the way those can support the product itself. 

While you may not be able to talk in great detail about the tech up to the point you joined, emphasize the aspirations the team has to build technically sound codebases. Tell a potential hire about the culture of innovation you’re building, the passion you have for R&D, and the budgets you have set aside strictly dedicated to innovation.

Woo developers yourself

All the tips and tricks in the world won’t mean much if you don’t make an effort to create authentic connections with your technical talent. Learn enough about software engineering roles and technologies to hold meaningful conversations about them and listen to your team when they share advice about how to structure future iterations of the team.

Sharing your passion for the work you’re doing, the work they’re doing, the company’s mission, and the product vision is another great way to build rapport. Everyone likes to work for someone who sees the big picture, is passionate about what they’re creating, and wants to make it a group effort. Finding out from them how they want to contribute to the mission and grow with the company puts talent in the position to see themselves as a part of the whole, rather than a contributor sitting off to the side. 

Wrapping up

Lacking technical expertise doesn’t have to be the hurdle to building a great technical team. Connecting with people, having a willingness to learn and get involved, and making the effort to grow and truly understand your engineers can help you to woo great talent.