Monday, October 13, 2014

how NOT to hire for startup in India?

I've been trying to hire programmers for my startup for past 8 weeks and have learnt a few important lessons. I hope some of these lessons will help few people.

Which is the best job site in India for startup hiring? I've tried nearly all the job sites. Yeah, you heard it right: All. Indian job sites as well as Indian editions of global websites. Paid sites as well as free sites. All these websites claim to have thousands of actively-looking-for-job candidates who are eager to grab your job offer so you'll start with very positive note. Here is my first-hand analysis of few major websites:
  • is the biggest job site brand in India. It's just because of their brand influence that I paid them twice. First time for posting a job vacancy (they call that as 'hot vacancy') and the second time for their resume database access (their jazzy name for this is Resdex). Both these attempts proved to be a futile exercise. When you search as an employer on, it will show 2k-3k active candidates for your job criteria but that's just a mirage. 
    • For my Job posting, I got 42 candidates' responses. Many of the responses were from freshers (even though I clearly mentioned that I am looking for 2-5 years experience candidates). Most of the remaining candidates who fulfilled my job criteria had a very below average coding experience. They have mostly worked on small Wordpress/Drupal/Magento websites. None of them has worked on high traffic high performance websites. 3-4 folks had good website portfolio in their CV, but none of them could even qualify first basic screening round. 
    • In the second attempt, I took resume database access with Why did I try Naukri second time when they failed abysmally the first time? When I tried second time, by then I've been trying to hire for 5 weeks and exhausted all other options so I had to try this jazzy like database access as well. Database access feature allows you to mail suitable candidates in just 1 click. I mailed 1850 candidates (yeah, that's toooo many but I guess 5 weeks hunt and having tried all other possible options made me desperate). Plus I thought let people at least apply first, then later I can very well filter them. 40 of them showed interest, 10 of them were re-applicants from first posting, rest of them had so routine-nothing-to-brag-about portfolio that I didn't even call anyone for screening round.
  • is not so popular in India, but I anyways gave it a try. The majority of the candidates were outstation candidates (even though I had clearly mentioned that only Delhi candidates need to apply). No solid candidate applied hence nothing productive out of this website.
  • Linkedin India. I always had this firm belief that Linked is hoax (more on this some other time in some other post) but I had to give them a try as everyone I know is on Linkedin so I thought suitable candidates must also be on Linkedin. My belief tested positive and Linkedin didn't deliver. Stats: Got 40+ responses but none had good enough work experience.
  • AngelList ( proclaim itself as exclusively for startups. Most of the folks who applied here were freshers. I even tried to proactively approach many of the promising candidates, but no one seems to be interested in joining an unknown startup.
  • Third party recruiter/consultants: These guys claim to provide candidates' CVs and guarantee you job hire in 15 days. I didn't try them and neither should you. If you yourself wholeheartedly can't find suitable candidates even after scouring all possible job sites then how can these guys? They don't have any secret candidates who are waiting only for your job offer.
  • You may ask: did you try or or .....? yeah, tried them all.
Some of the above websites might work really well for big companies while others might work really well for well-known-established startups, but they are not meant for newbie startups. You might be willing to pay good salary or you might also have decent office in decent locality, but nothing works :)

The quality of candidates applying to startups: Most of the folks I got as candidates were from second rung engineering/MCA colleges with very poor work portfolios. Most of the developers have worked on basic websites for small businesses. None of the candidates I got had experience on high traffic decently successful product/website. Most of them didn't have working knowledge of git, unit testing or database/server performance measures. Most of these developers are employed with thousands of small (5-20 people) website-making companies that mostly get their business either from freelancing websites or from local businesses. These folks are not interested in startup idea or power/capability of the idea, they are just interested in their salary.

Does that mean India doesn't have rockstar developers? There might be small fraction of good developers in India but all of them are already working with big giants like Microsoft, Amazon etc who can pay them highest possible salary, provide them plush offices and best peers to work with in India. These coders are looking at startup only from a single angle: as a future founder/cofounder. I know most of them will not be able to leave their cushy well-paying job but still there is nothing wrong in dreaming about being a founder These guys won't even apply to your startup.

Let's find CTO first: I've seen many companies who, once they fail in hiring good developers, start to look for CTO. They think that once you've a good CTO then it will be easier to build the technical team. Plus CTO will start working on the product from day 1 so at least some progress is visible. Tell me one thing: If you are not able to hire a good developer, will you succeed in hiring CTO. The answer is NO. I've seen few companies trying this in vain so I didn't even try this.

Remote team: When I didn't find any good programmer in Delhi NCR, I thought let's find good developer wherever they are in India (I can't afford European/US developers) and work remotely with them. I tried this and burnt my hands. Working in remote team require highly disciplined self-driven folks (in addition to other technical skills) which is again a tough task to find. More on this later in some other post but for the sake of brevity let's say that remote working is not conducive for Indian startups.

Dude, Stop complaining. What's the solution? To be very frank, I've not found a solution yet. I think that having solid technical cofounder/s is the best bet. Cofounders together can design and code to launch MVP, gain some traction to make a name in the market and then start hiring. I would like to believe that better candidates will approach more established startup (I would write about that someday once I verify this:) ).

'Startup' is a glorified term that's mostly associated with glorious entrepreneurs, m/billions of dollars, innovation, brilliant people to work with, solving global problems etc etc but at first startup is just an idea. Everyone has hordes of million dollar ideas so no one cares about your idea. Cofounders are the only ones who will go through this unknown, not-glorious journey without plush office.

PS: Advice to Indian developers: I know Indian education system doesn't give you any practical training or right exposure but today they are so many open online courses from where you can learn everything from designing good UI to making large scalable websites. If you are not learning awesome stuff then you are just making excuses.

Edit: Do you have the technical capability and grit to change the world? If yes, I am looking for Technical Cofounder: