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How Startups Can Win Against Big Tech to Recruit Top Talent


Finding great tech talent has become increasingly challenging, especially for US-based startups competing for skilled software engineers against major tech players.


It’s not just traditional US tech hubs where competition is increasing – startups and large enterprises alike have turned to rapidly-growing markets like Toronto and Vancouver to expand their software engineering teams. 

In the search for strong software engineering talent, startups have to compete with big companies like Google and Amazon to scale up.

To make things more complicated, in the San Francisco Bay area alone, there are nearly 8,000, if not more, like-minded tech startups searching in the same talent pools as big corporations.


But startups have many benefits to offer that can help them succeed in the race for tech talent. This article will show US-based startups how they can compete for – and win – top software engineering talent. We'll look at what startups have to offer top tech talent, as well as 4 ways to win the talent race against big tech.


Expedite the process for candidates (be faster)


Leverage equity and stock options


Provide career growth and development opportunities


Speak your candidates' language

4 WayS

To win the talent race against big tech

What Startups Can offer top tech talent

For driven, high-performing developers and software engineers, there are many advantages of working for a startup.

Leaders Shaping Young Tech Minds

Impact & Ownership

Startups offer the opportunity for tech talent to take ownership and be accountable for delivery.


In enterprise organizations, people typically have very specific, focused responsibilities and operate within stricter confines. However in startups, the breadth and scope of responsibilities is often greater, with team members taking on a wider variety of tasks that can take them outside of their comfort zone and help foster professional growth.


As such, employees have the chance to make a bigger impact and play an integral role in the overall success of the company – all while expanding their knowledge and skill set.

Cutting-Edge Tech

Generally speaking, startups are fast to adopt new, cutting-edge technologies. From the latest in ML and AI, to nascent technologies still in their infancy, the impetus for startups to innovate quickly sees them experimenting with and incorporating the latest tech to tackle challenges and drive success.


The prospect of being able to work on and learn bleeding-edge technology is a major benefit for software engineers looking to grow their skills.

speed of 

For startups, speed of innovation is integral to success, creating a fast-paced, dynamic environment. These companies are often challenging traditional ways of doing things and solving problems in fresh and exciting ways.


Many startups also pivot to evolve and innovate based on changing needs, market conditions and learnings. Tech workers in this type of environment have the opportunity to help spearhead innovation, constantly learn, and continually challenge themselves.

Startups have the unique ability to get their employees in on the ground floor. Joining an early stage company on the path to explosive growth offers the opportunity for huge rewards, particularly when equity is on the table.

Opportunity for big rewards

4 Ways to compete against big companies and win the talent race

1. expedite the process for candidates (be faster)

There is more competition than ever before, and it is an employees vs. employers market, especially when it comes to hiring software engineers and other in-demand tech roles. The last thing any employer wants is to lose out on a great candidate because their recruitment process is too slow, but it happens. 


In fact, seventy-six percent of employers have reported being ghosted over the first year of the pandemic – with 57% of employers saying it's more common than before, and 20% of candidates who "ghosted" saying it's because they received another job offer. 


Speed not only leads to a better candidate experience, it significantly improves offer acceptance rates. Technological research and consulting firm Gartner warns employers that taking longer to make a decision results in a 16% reduction in candidates accepting offers.


For startups, ensuring the hiring process is agile and the time-to-offer is streamlined will help improve the ability to successfully hire great tech talent.

"Speed is always a competitive edge for employers who can quickly respond after candidates apply and move them through the process quickly," said Scott Bonneau, Vice President of Global Talent Attraction at "Often times being the first one to get an offer out there can be an advantage." From Indeed via CNN

2. Leverage equity & stock options

As mentioned above, the possibility of huge rewards is something unique to early-stage companies on rapid growth trajectories. Startups are able to provide employees with equity or stock options at a discounted or fixed price – and the payoff can be massive if the company succeeds.


This is more attractive than a competitive salary alone because employees will, in turn, become part-owners that have a larger equity stake than they would at an enterprise organization that offers stock options.


Offering equity and stock options is also beneficial for the company because employees who have a vested interest in a company tend to be motivated to work harder, and rightfully so. If the company continues to succeed, its stock or equity value will increase.


Additionally, having a stake in a startup promotes retention. Employees are often required to stay with a company for a predefined number of years (four years is standard) before being entitled to the total equity.


3. Provide Career growth & development opportunities

According to Skillsoft's annual Global Knowledge, IT Skills and Salary Report, Fifty-nine percent of tech workers surveyed cited a lack of growth and development opportunities as the top reason for leaving their job in the past year.  


Luckily, startups are typically able to mitigate such stagnation. Organizationally, they can allow for flexible career paths and development, given their dynamic natures and often flatter hierarchies. Tech workers can more easily move across departments or job functions, and gain exposure to different aspects of the business. 


Working for a startup often requires all hands on deck and, in turn, the opportunity to wear many different hats, which keeps day-to-day work engaging and fast-paced for tech workers. Startups thus have a unique ability to offer software engineers an incredible opportunity to quickly learn new skills, drive real change, and utilize cutting-edge technologies.

4. Speak your candidates' language

When it comes to hiring tech workers, it is imperative to involve the company's current top talent in the recruiting process. For example, if a startup is hiring for a software engineer position, it should have an existing software engineer involved in that process. They will be able to better relate to potential candidates and empathize with them, but they can also advocate for the startup and communicate in a way both parties understand.  

That's why at DevTalent, we have software engineers recruiting software engineers. We help startups understand and source the right people for the software engineering roles they need to fill. Our technical recruiters have decades of experience hiring, vetting, and leading software engineering teams.

"The reality is that techies want to talk to techies rather than to HR people with limited tech knowledge." (McKinsey)


Knowing how to hire tech talent and compete with big companies is tough in such a competitive market. But it's not impossible. In addition to implementing the tactics listed above, startups should consider partnering with the right software engineering recruiters. Partnering with the right recruiter is critical to expediting the hiring process and finding and securing the right talent to drive growth.

DevTalent has recruited, developed, and retained teams for many US venture-backed startups based in New York, the Bay Area, and across North America. We are experts in fine-tuning engineering teams with the right mix of talent, processes, and tools to ensure optimal velocity, code quality, and long-term sustainability.

If Canada has been on your radar, we can help you enter the market. We focus exclusively on recruiting for technical roles, with decades of experience recruiting software engineers in Toronto, Vancouver, and major Canadian tech hubs for companies across North America.​


If you're ready to start scaling your software engineering team in Canada, get in touch here.

Scale Smarter With DevTalent

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