12 principles to recruit developers relentlessly! The mini bible of tech recruiters and CTOs.

Market overview

From the time I started my career in 2006, 13 years ago from now (2019), I have always been immersed into the strong ideology that there is a shortage of developers.

But wait a minute, if there is a shortage of petrol on earth, there is not enough production to satisfy the demand, so prices go up. Same thing happens with real estate, if there is too much demand compared to available properties, prices go up and people pay the price even if it means sharing a flat, because the value of sharing a flat is even greater than the value of being homeless. It is inevitable.

How come as developers, if there is not enough candidates to satisfy the demand, wages tend to go low or at the best remain the same no matter your experience? Ask developers around you. If you are a beginner, you will have chances to see your wage going up, but if you are already a senior, really talented developer, you will experience the glass ceiling, which is merely impossible in case of real shortage.

One good example is the wage of AI researchers, machine learning engineers whom wages rose up to 1 million per year, just because not enough people understand the technology, source here. The stagnation of other developers wages has been felt from 2010 (we are in 2019), some reading here. There is a wide variety of developers out there, and it all depends on the company, your college background, maybe the country as well.

So no, there is no shortage of developers, it is just not true at all, there are just people who gave up at recruiting them.

Why do people think of a shortage?

People (recruiters, HR people, CTO, tech managers…) do think of a shortage in my opinion, not in terms of candidates but in terms of quality and location.

It is difficult to find talented developers where a company is, and this is true. In Malta, London, Denmark or France by example, it is really common for companies to recruit developers from all Europe, even from North Africa and South America.

That tells us one thing: talent nowadays has no frontiers in the web development area.

Why is it still so hard to recruit good developers then?

In my opinion there is 1 MAJOR reason and 4 minor reasons that will not please everyone.

The 4 minor reasons are:

  1. Developers want first to learn and become better, talented developers won’t join a new company if they can’t learn anything valuable for their future.
  2. Most developers are already working for a company, and because the gap in wages to join another company can still be insignificant, it does not worth the risk most of the time.
  3. Bad management. Many developers faced at least one time a bad management within a company. A style of management they don’t want to experience again, so fear also plays a role. Developers in this situation must really have no choice to face their fear (like company going bankrupt, or decision to resign)
  4. No perspective of evolution. When a developer is so good to replace at his position, he will still be needed at his position, no room for him to access higher positions (head of engineering, CTO) better than lead dev. Developers change position when the company has no choice or when they can be replaced with ease. I know developers with more than 10 years of experience with the aptitudes of being development team lead and CTO who will never access those positions for the same reasons.

The 1 MAJOR reason is:

  1. Recruiters don’t know anything about the job of developer (at least 95% of them). They recruit most of the time with boxes to tick that have nothing to do with real performance and long term vision. I can not count anymore the number of talented developers (even if hired through recruiters) who prefer to apply directly to the final client, and run away from recruiters.

Many companies can still not grow because of lack of fulfilled positions

I’ve seen myself a fast-growing company with more than 200 employees, 600 millions of gross incomes, who planned in 2018 to hire 20 developers for the end of the year. We are going to the end of 2019 and from what I know, this company is still growing but hired 0 developer. Even worse, they lost one, a good one who resigned.

So how is it possible with such power to achieve so inefficiently when it comes to hire developers?

Is it because people there (recruiters, HR people, etc) are stupid? No I really don’t think so.

I think they just don’t have the right data anymore because times changed and they missed the train.

As a consultant, I have never faced a shortage of candidates (developers or content writers) every time I disciplined myself.

And if you don’t discipline yourself, the market will discipline you like it is already doing for various companies around the world.

The holy bible and its principles to recruit developers relentlessly

The way I use to recruit developers is really uncommon but it works all the time.

The reason why it is uncommon is based on my legitimacy, being a developer for 13 years (in 2019), lead dev, development team lead, CTO, I know what I’m talking about.

If you follow with discipline the steps I recommend you below, I guarantee you will never ever face a shortage of developers to hire in this planet. It worked for me and if it did, it will for you:

  • Do not recruit on cv, never qualify candidates based on cv, (don’t be stupid, no one on planet earth hires through a cv when the life of a company depends on an employee)
  • Never read the cv unless you are sure to hire the candidates (do not be emotional, the effect of a cv is purely emotional)
  • Always dispose technical tests that are a real reflection of day-to-day hard tasks (not complex tests that will please your ego and that are far away from day-to-day tasks… NEVER EVER EVA)
  • Do not EVER dispose non-practical tests, like theoretical questions only! NEVER EVER EVER SHOULD YOU DO THAT AGAIN unless you have a good reason to do so! You do not want someone scholar in your team, you want someone with experience who can prove the ability to solve real day-to-day challenges, not theoretical ones.
  • Always have tests available before approaching a candidate. Tests should answer their questions and excite them or do not recruit.
  • Never talk about wage before a test is concluded… NEVER EVER EVA. Until a test is performed, the expectation of a candidate is yours. You have a budget of 50k but the candidate is asking 80k? Fine, he may be the Christiano Ronaldo on his field producing more than two engineers, who knows? Let him prove his worth and he better do so. (price is a myth, when value is there price is never a problem and budgets are adjusted. Tests should assess accurately the value of a candidate… then later readjust expectations). I have seen communications stopped before even being sure a candidate is the right one… STOP THAT BEHAVIOR RIGHT NOW OR I WILL SEND YOU TO HELL, THIS IS STUPID!
  • Do not perform any interview before tests are done (invest your time only when real value is knocking at your door, why would you do otherwise?)
  • Let the tests qualify the candidates for you, it’s less emotional, more accurate (when the tests are done properly)
  • Do not only hire the perfect candidate that matches the boxes you tick, STOP THAT BEHAVIOR TOO. Why? Have you ever seen a football recruiter asking for Christiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messie otherwhise the candidate is not the right one? No, NEVER. You have some expectations, then candidates have richess in their proven experience that may be super promising. In addition, you don’t know which weaknesses withing the team can match with other strengths. Why would you only tick boxes? Think outside of the box.
  • If you are a recruitment agency, listen the most experienced of your candidates, not the supreme wish of your client. Unless your client is a kind of GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple) or as big, take into account that your client may not even know what he really wants, projects may change from week to week or day to day, and the personality plus experience of candidates may help them, or you to reassess their needs. If candidates can’t teach you, then follow your customer blindly.
  • If you still can’t find candidates, do whatever it takes… go remote! I know it may sounds surprising as bureaucracy and privacy policy may hardly prevent remote working, but here is the thing, companies that are having hard times recruiting developers and who refuse to play the game of remote working will be punished severely by the market. It already happened, it will keep happening. If you are a recruitment agency, it is also your job to advise your client to do whatever it takes.
  • Lastly, the developer is your friend, and friends recognize those who only come by interest. Give a true interest to each one of candidates you are trying to recruit, do follow ups (even after a successful hire, even after probation), keep a close relation and you will be rewarded in the future. As a recruitment agency, if a candidate has not been chosen, it’s fine, tell the bad news to your “friend” and keep him in your pipeline for future.


I have two other secrets to recruit developers, but I keep it for me. If you truly respect those principles, you have no reasons to fail at recruiting developers.

If you need any intervention during your recruitment process, contact me on my personal email address: edouard.kombo[@]gmail.com




Senior consultant and full-stack web engineer

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Edouard Kombo

Edouard Kombo

Senior consultant and full-stack web engineer

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