How to hire a programmer in this market

Illustrates the intersection of supply and dem...

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I get at least 2 people a day who email me something similar to this. I’ve combined a couple of emails from today to give you the flavor and anonymized it.

Hi Joe,

My name is redacted, and I attended the meet up at redacted.

I’m trying to hire a programmer and thus far found it challenging.

Are you interested in or do you happen to know any reputable developers looking for work right now?

Thanks so much for your help.


I’m writing this post so I can refer to it and save myself from rewriting the same reply every day.

Security guard hitting on promo girl

Security guard hitting on promo girl (Photo credit: San Diego Shooter)

First of all, there is something to be said about the laws of supply and demand. However, I believe as a result of VCs being very sharp, they have created an environment where programmers are expected to work at a certain rate for their field. When no one is available at that rate, instead of increasing the rate, companies are not finding employees.

That said, if you understand the market, you can pretty easily find someone. Here’s how:

* Understand that no one decent is “available”. It’s like trying to date a pretty girl. Based on the experiences a friend regaled our dinner table with, they can get hit on multiple times a day at least. Whether they have a boyfriend or not. So the chances that you hit on a model/developer the moment they left their partner/job, are low. Therefore:

* To hire someone, you need to “steal” them from where they are. Identify someone you know. And offer them above market rates. You’ll probably need to go about 20% above what they make to entice them.  If enough people do, then the artificial imbalance will go away and the laws of supply and demand will function as they’re supposed to.

That’s really all there is to it.

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3 responses to “How to hire a programmer in this market

  1. I agree. I am with a game development studios in Laguna Hills and we are in search of a MySQL DBA. We are willing to do as you say. Profit sharing too and yet this is still a challenge. It’s not just being able to offer that special someone above market rates, it’s finding them in the first place.
    A MySQL DBA Gamer! (

    Jeff Lawniczak
    Director of Talent Acquisition
    Laguna Hills, CA
    949 870-0171

  2. I’d say participate in the meetups. Everyone says they can’t find people but one company CTO came (and still does come) to most of our meetups and hired a full team of people he met at meetups.

  3. This is a great post, Joe. The problem I’m having is that we don’t need an in-house team. We need our web application redeveloped and then maybe update it once every 6 months (and continously de-bug it). I’ve done this once outsourced to China, but I want a local team that can do it this time with better scalability and quality. How would you go about finding a local, not in-house team?

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