With so many startups popping up and so many large successful conglomerates saturating the market share in nearly every industry, brand new startups are always facing increasing pressures when it comes to making a name for themselves. To remain in contention and root the brand enough to survive, startups must be at the forefront of technological prowess. But with so much competition, the demand for forward-thinking, technology-versed leader figures far outweighs the current supply.

This does not change the fact that startups need a guiding hand in terms of technology. This is especially true when the startup head, or the heading team, are great minds that lack the technical knowledge and skillset to move a new business forward onto success. Therefore, startups are under pressure to find a quality candidate to examine their long and short term needs and appropriate their capital with investments within the scope of their technology or engineering departments. This requires the company to review some aspects of how to hire a CTO. This position is referred to as the startup’s CTO (Chief Technology Officer). A quality CTO will oversee the technology aspect of a new business and push the company closer to success through their efforts.

A finite amount of qualified candidates

A man and a woman having a job interview
A man and a woman having a job interview

The number of potential quality CTO candidates is finite, and with many startups vying to fill the role, finding the right candidate is especially challenging. There are multiple reasons for this being the case. One is that a CTO hired externally may not share the vision of the startup’s founders, and unless a person with enough tech knowhow has bought in from the onset into the startup’s idea, it could be challenging to align with the team. Aside from that, because a quality CTO is in such high demand, their asking salaries could be astronomically out of range of what most growing startups can afford to pay them. Startups can certainly take a chance on a CTO that is not so experienced, but this could be a risky move for a company trying to take every precaution to survive its infantile stages.

This seems to put startups in a bind. They either settle for a risky choice or eat into their budget for the chance of hiring an experienced one. Of course, most experienced CTO candidates would need to be ‘lured’ away from their current positions where they have likely received several pay bumps and are loaded with incentives to stay in their current roles. Most CTO candidates are not actively seeking positions outside of their current ones, and if they are, it is generally just passively. In a lot of cases, the CTO search gets put on the backburner by startups who either cannot find or cannot afford a quality choice. Depending on the nature of the startup, however, some budding businesses need that type of role filled early on.

How can you put yourself ahead of the pack?

A man and woman shaking hands after a meeting
A man and woman shaking hands after a meeting

So how exactly does a startup address hiring a CTO in such a competitive race to acquire their services? It all starts with defining a job description for the CTO. A startup that clearly illustrates their vision, what sorts of skills they are looking for, and what an ideal candidate for the position would look like. Setting certain expectations for the future of the position is a great start. What does the future success in such a role look like 3 to 6 months from now? How about 1 to 2 years? How does the role add value to the company? What problem is the company looking to develop a solution for?

Perhaps this job would be suited for a talented software developer who wants to lead a technical team and would see this as an opportunity to ascend a career ladder. Another aspect to consider is the candidate’s experience in the startup world. Some people prefer to come in on the ground floor for startup companies and help them grow, only to exit once the company has been established with a firm footing in the marketplace.

Startup founders interviewing for a CTO position should put a heavy focus on finding someone who either shares their vision of the company or is, at the very least, adaptable to their mindset. Someone who believes they have all the answers is only willing to work with a certain type of technology, wants to use only what they know and not learn and grow, or someone who primarily wants to focus on coding and developing is unlikely to be an ideal candidate.

Look for someone who has the same goals in mind

A man and a woman talking to next to a computer
A man and a woman talking to next to a computer

Keeping in mind that your startup is unlikely to be the only one interviewing a candidate. Remember that the interview process is not strictly about the candidate’s qualifications, but also your method of selling them on the role. A candidate who is given a lot of information about the vision, goals, and motivating drive behind the startup is one who is more apt to be excited by the prospect of working for them than being a peg that fits a hole or a role filler position with lots of expectations.

Finding someone passionate about what they do might be the key factor. Not every candidate will possess such attributes and it is important to recognize that finding the best and the brightest is not your goal, but finding someone eager to learn, adapt, and use their skills to help guide is essential for the longevity of the position and the retention of a quality candidate when challenging times come about (as they most certainly will).

What incentives can you offer?

A woman working on her laptop on a balcony
A woman working on her laptop on a balcony

While a startup is not going to have the budget to throw a lot of financial incentives (high starting salary) at a quality candidate, there are other ways to sell a desirable prospective CTO on the job, and that is through incentives. Think about why a CTO would choose your startup among dozens or hundreds of others they could potentially serve as an asset for. Most people value employer flexibility a lot more than money. Time off, profit-sharing bonuses, availability of flexible remote work, and even allowing the candidate to have some equity in the company can be a great way to appeal to a prospective CTO candidate.

Finding a full-time CTO for a company just getting off the ground is going to be tough. Luckily, advice and services that can be offered by a CTO can be acquired by a consultant or a technical advisor on an interim basis. This would be a temporary solution while the startup either builds up enough of a budget to attract a quality CTO candidate or can conduct a thorough interview process, but with the help of a consultant while doing so. You may find that your startup does not require a full-time CTO, and the technical advisors who work for your company for 4-to-10 hours a month are fully able to supply you with more than enough adequate service.

Do you have any tips for hiring a CTO as a startup? Let us know in the comments!

This article originally published on GREY Journal.