How to Recruit Engineers in San Francisco

small teams looking for more people


6 months ago, Nikhil and I were the only developers at our 4 person startup. With business growing steadily, we were so spread thin that there was no hope of improving our product if we didn’t bring more help onto the team. So, Nik and I put our recruiting hats and began our journey to find talented engineers to join us. Fast forward 6 months to the present, and our Engineering team is about to grow to 7 (including 2 interns!), and I can safely say that I’ve learned a whole lot in the process:

Never consider recruitment work “a waste of time”

Time spent finding the right people for your team lays the foundation for everything else at a startup. A great product starts with a great team. So no matter how disheartening it feels to comb through resume after resume and still not find the right fit, always remember that recruitment work is as important as building a new feature or optimizing a process. So do yourself a favor and put quality time into doing the following:

Work your network

Our second engineering hire, Brett, came from Nikhil’s extended network and not from any job board or recruiting company. You never know who’s looking and with social media, it’s easier than ever to let all of your friends know that you’re looking to hire. It’s also easier to bring someone onto the team if they’re vetted by a friend than if they are a stranger. Not only do you feel like you can trust their competency, they can also better trust your competency!

Post a Quality Job Post

Know what people are looking for in their next job.

Hint: it’s probably Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose

And know why your job is what people are looking for.

Your job post should highlight your strengths.

For example, our strength is our company culture. Our mission is to build a company culture that champions transparency, fairness, happiness, and sustainability. And we make sure to highlight that in our job posting:

  • Profit Sharing - We split 20% of all revenue made over 100k and distribute it evenly among the team.
  • Team Transparency - We calculate compensation based on a formula that we all agree on. Cap table is made available to all employees. Business financials are known by all teammates.
  • Personal Autonomy / Consensus Driven Culture - We foster consensus-driven rather than top-down decision making when it comes to important business decisions. From what features to build next to what furniture to buy for the office, we believe it’s the fairest way of making decisions.
  • Customer Driven Culture - We’re very in-tune with our customers and they love us. For example, we decide what features to build based on surveys we send directly to customers. Check out this one that we sent out last year to decide what we would build this past quarter.
  • Personal Development Stipend - A monthly stipend designed for self-improvement. Whether it’s books, yoga classes, or a fitness tracker, we want our teammates to improve themselves.

Send Quality Emails

Quality recruiting emails are emails that recognize and understand the candidate. Here are some tips to add some empathy to your correspondance, embedded in a sample Tint recruitment email:

Thanks for scheduling a time with me! To prep for our interview, I’d recommend reading up on our company, getting familiar with what we do, and coming up with a few questions to ask us.

Here are some helpful links to peruse:

Key Observations:

  • Give the candidate a small assignment to assess their interest in the listing.
  • Arm your candidate with the basic knowledge you expect them to know so you can have a productive discussion.
  • Give the candidate the motivation they need to get excited about the opportunity.

Protip: Use to schedule your interviews. It’s a Gmail extension that allows you to easily give candidates a way to instantly book a meeting with you and have it show up in your calendar!

Protip 2: Use Yesware to create templates for your common recruiting emails, saving you further time.

Use a CRM

Handing resumes manually through email is incredibly time consuming. Use one of thousands of resume tracking Applicant Tracking Software (ATS in recruiter lingo) such as Resumator, Jobvite, or JobScore to simplify your life.

Find creative places to post to

A job listing link can travel far! But it’s your job to take it there. Consider the following places we posted our link to:

tint craigslist

  • Craigslist - We posted our listing on 10 major metro tech centers advertising paid relocation and had some success on attracting some good candidates. At $25 a posting, it was an affordable way to reach attractive candidates in markets that have much less competition than San Francisco.
  • Hacker News - We found some quality candidates (including one of our interns) from posting our listing as a comment within the monthly “Who’s Hiring” thread. It gets posted on the 1st of every month, so don’t miss out!
  • Indeed/Careers/Monster - Surprisingly, these mainstream job boards are frequented by talented people too! Most ATS systems will post to these major boards automatically, so be sure to configure your system to do that.
  • Github Jobs - We found some alright leads from this paid posting, fewer applicants but the average quality was higher.
  • StackOverflow Careers - We paid to run a campaign on StackOverflow but found that all of the submissions were overseas Java developers at big corporations looking for visa sponsorships. Maybe we were doing something wrong, but we ended up asking for a refund.
  • Reddit - Plenty of subreddits to explore if you’re looking to find a community of people who you think would be a good fit. Think /r/bigdatajobs or /r/sysadminjobs


If you’re looking to expand your team, you have to recruit like a pro. It’s better to do things thoroughly from the get-go than to lukewarmly recruit for a longer period of time. Follow the tips above, and finding an engineer in San Francisco shouldn’t be as impossible as everyone says.