Designing a Unique Hiring Process for Unique Needs
A software architect is the specialist you need to drive the development of your startup’s product or platform. When you hire the right architect, they will help you make important decisions, explain them to all stakeholders, and create a model that is highly transferrable with user friendly software and a high degree of flexibility.
Hiring software architects is different to hiring engineers and developers. When hiring developers and engineers, you usually hire for focus on a particular tech stack. Software architects are big-picture people.
With an average salary of almost $140,000 (salary.com, February 2021), a software architect is not only a key hire, but an expensive one if you hire poorly.
We asked Adam Stone – a software architect with more than 12 years of software experience – and Aaron Reny, Executive Recruiter here at Kofi Group, to give us their thoughts on how to find a remote software architect.
What Character Traits Should You Hire For?
Adam is very definite about the type of candidate that he hires into software architect roles.
“The defining characteristic of a software architect is that they are big-picture thinkers,” he says. “While your engineers are busy delivering features and solving support issues, your architects are putting in place platforms upon which those components rest.
Aaron looks for wide and deep experience in software architecture.
“One quality this individual needs to show is a proven history of him or her architecting not just one, but multiple projects from start to finish. Many engineers can be key components of the project from beginning to end, but architects have to plan the project from scratch.”
Aaron is also focused on sourcing talent with the right type of corporate experience. Some startups target candidates who are currently working for FAANG companies, but Aaron believes that this could have negative consequences.
“Another component I will be looking for is if the candidate has experience working with startups,” he explains. “Engineers who have worked in a startup environment understand their responsibilities will significantly expand and the day-to-day can be unpredictable.
“Individuals coming from larger companies may not be ready to accept these significant changes within their work lives. Also, candidates need to be able to show they can work with the desired tech stack or have the ability to big up new technologies.”
(For more info, read our article ‘The best way to tell if an engineer will fit your startup culture’.)
Do They Need to Be an Expert in Your Business Domain?
This is a question that we are asked often. The answer is no. While you must hire for the right mix of tech and soft skills, your software architect is not going to be focused on domain-dependent selection and integration.
“In order for them to make informed decisions about which third-party systems to use and which first-party systems to create to solve your enterprise’s unique challenges, they need to have exposure to a wide range of challenges,” Adam tells us. “So, when searching for a software architect, look for somebody who has experience working as an engineer in a large enterprise environment, or in numerous small-scale environments.”
He explains further:
“The success factors for a software engineer often depend upon depth of experience. By contrast, a successful software architect is usually someone with broad experience. You will want them to demonstrate their experience working with numerous third-party tools and platforms, even if they only spent one or two years working with them.
“This breadth of experience equips the architect with the knowledge they need to identify solutions to emerging challenges. And that’s a great opening line that you can use for their job description.”
Where Do You Start When Hiring for Remote Software Architects?
Opening your hiring strategy to remote workers opens your capability to attract a wider and deeper talent pool. But there are some unique challenges associated with remote employees.
“In my experience, the unique challenges associated with hiring remote information workers are twofold,” Adam says.
“You run into problems more often if your hires are easily distracted or not self-motivated. You run into other challenges if they thrive on social interaction, which you will deprive them of in a remote work role.
“Fortunately, the latter problem applies to fewer engineers than to people who work in other disciplines.
“To solve the former problem, you may try employing unconventional interviewing techniques. Ask your candidate to talk about their favorite hobbies. Self-motivated high achievers tend to derive a lot of satisfaction from reaching their goals, and so they set more goals for themselves. A great remote hire should be able to tell you about some things they accomplished in their spare time, without any external pressure directed at them to accomplish it.”
Aaron explains his client-centric process as follows:
“First, I will start sourcing within my network of connections, which consists of candidates who I’ve previously worked with or individuals I have had past conversations with.
“Additionally, I will target candidates who come from similar organizations as my client, to make sure I am closely targeting individuals with similar backgrounds.
“Once the sourcing is completed, I’ll start screening candidates using the specific guidelines I got from the client from the original job intake call.”
Adam is quick to remind us that hiring managers should work closely with their staffing agency and remain open to a variety of candidates.
“Ask your staffing vendor to show you resumes of professionals with broad experience – at least one large-scale environment, or at least three small ones,” he says. “If they find a sharp candidate without that experience, ask them if the candidate has a public GitHub profile or can otherwise demonstrate some relevant opensource work they’ve done.”
Sell Your Startup
It is also worth remembering that great software architects seek career and personal development. During the hiring process, they will be assessing your startup and the opportunity as much as you are assessing them. (In fact, when hiring engineers or hiring developers, this principle also holds true.)
“As I’ve said, architects are big-picture thinkers – and they like to solve big-picture problems,” Adam says. “It can be useful to help them understand what sort of challenges your team is trying to solve, especially if those challenges orbit around performance, security, reliability, or maintainability. And let them tell you about their successes in solving similar challenges. A capable architect will be eager to discuss these subjects with you.”
To Hire Great Remote Software Architects, Hire Differently
Part of our success is that we tailor the hiring process to our clients and to the roles they are hiring for.
“The main difference between hiring engineers from architects starts at the beginning of the sourcing and screening process,” Aaron explains. “As for engineers, you’re really targeting individuals with the right tech stack, educational background, and years of experience.
“With architects, you are doing the same search but you’re adding other components as well. For example, instead of looking for keywords like ‘developing’ and ‘programming’, you’re on the lookout for words like ‘designing’ and ‘planning’.
“At the screening stage, it’s imperative to make sure the individual is a part of the architect stage, rather than just being a key player within the development cycle.”
While sharing many of their technical skills, software architects are a different animal to engineers and developers. The role is crucial to your company’s evolution, helping to create sustainable infrastructure that is suitable for your business needs and reduces your operational costs, while simultaneously remaining highly scalable.
By their very nature, you might find software architects to be a little introverted. Certainly, many like to work independently as problem solvers and critical thinkers. That’s not to say they are withdrawn. They tend to be extremely confident and eloquent, able to explain even the most complex ideas in terms that make absolute sense. It’s a unique set of traits and skills. Which is why we design unique hiring experiences for our clients and candidates.
For expert help in defining your hiring needs and finding the talent, experience, and cultural fit that your company needs when hiring for remote software architects, get in touch with Kofi Group today.