For anyone hunting for Full Stack Developers, welcome to the same club as every other technology firm out there. You’re fishing in exactly the same pond as everyone else and you’re coming up short in the battle for the skills you’re hungry for. Everyone is looking for similar candidates, doing similar Boolean searches, and contacting the same candidates. And how’s that working for you?

I recently held a round table discussion at the Mars Discovery District with three very capable and connected CTO’s. We had Geoff Wells (CTO of Audienceview), Rob Osborne (CTO of Panl) and Johnathan Nightingale (Chief Product Officer of Hubba) talking about the challenges in finding great talent. Their comments were consistent.

  • There’s a shortage of excellent talent because everyone is looking in similar places.
  • As leaders, the great technical talent isn’t judged by a specific programming skill, it’s judged by aptitude and attitude.
  • It’s a struggle to educate recruiters on what great talent looks like, outside the hyper-specific search terms of a particular language/methodology etc.

In the 25 years that I’ve been recruiting in the technology sector, I have never come across a CTO or VP of Engineering who hasn’t said that they would love to have a programmer that was smart and hungry to learn.  The reality, however, is that recruiters use hyper-specific technical terms to narrow the field, and focus only on those prospects.

Here’s a chart that Rob Osborne and I put together. It represents the languages adjacent to the skills in greatest demand as well as approximate timelines to get programmers up to speed.


If we seriously want to help our industry, we’ll stop playing ‘let’s find that tool set/language/methodology’ and look further afield for bright capable developers who have the right stuff. In the same way that companies are looking for graduates from beyond Stanford and MIT, so should we be considering talent from adjacent skills.

Here are some additional thoughts that came up in the discussion:

  • Hire recruiters with operational experience of some sort. Let the live in the world that your managers live in.
  • Have recruiters sit in on interviews with hiring managers and really learn about what’s needed in the role.
  • Push back on hiring managers to clarify the nice-to-have versus must-have skills and get real about training and upgrading programmer’s skills.
  • Educate your recruiters on technical issues through lunch and learn’s.
  • Bring in coaches to support the management team and hi-potential developers to grow their skills.

Here’s a template that you may find useful to understand what the candidate’s overall capabilities are. List the skills in the table from strongest to weakest and this will provide you with a good overview of their technical background. Then ask the listed questions for their last main projects. Once this is filled out, then it’s time to present the candidate to the hiring manager.


By opening up the marketplace to people with great technical skills and the right attitude, you’ll have a long term employee who’ll be happier, who’s more engaged and who’ll  stay with you longer. They won’t have an overblown sense of self-worth. They’ll appreciate the opportunity you’ve presented them and you’ll open yourself up to a set of employees who have a vested interest in making your company better.

Hiring for attitude applies to all employees, including technical staff.