Engineering Recruitment: How Startups & Enterprises Hire Differently

So you’re there, a hundred digital resumes in front of you, all vying to be your next back-end developer. The question is, where do you even start? Sure, looking for keywords in those resumes can be a helpful piece of engineering recruitment. But if you’re going to find the right fit, that’s just one small part of a much more complex equation. Successful recruiting means taking a broader approach and looking at experience cohesively, where a much richer story about the professional in question lies.

When looking at those resumes, you’ll want to consider all elements of each candidate’s background. What can you deduce of their goals and motivations, the type of engineering they enjoy doing, and the level of risk they’re willing to take? While it can be tough to deduce, one key thing to look for when reviewing engineering resumes is the type of companies and work environments that the candidate has worked for in the past. Has this person primarily worked for startups or for enterprise companies? Hiring the right person for the type of company you are boils down to the differences in work environment and the type of engineer they each attract.

Engineering Recruitment for Enterprise Companies

Enterprise business is a large company where there are multiple teams and applications may coordinate a single business function. It usually means that engineering teams are operating in a more structured environment.

The Engineer Perspective

In the same way, enterprise engineers want to work in a structured culture with multiple teams. They’re engineers who are comfortable with low- to medium-risk opportunities, which means their ideal company has an established codebase and structured software development lifecycle. Engineers like these have a repeating pattern of enterprise application development and will consistently look for structured opportunities to meet their career goals.

The Enterprise Perspective

From the business side, enterprise companies look for engineers with previous experience in their tech stacks and enterprise applications. They also want evidence the candidate has an ability and interest in following established protocols. For the enterprise, this helps ensure a lower operating risk. If they hire an engineer who doesn’t work well in the environment, it’s only going to result in friction, the engineer leaving, and a waste of time for both the company and the candidate. 

Enterprise businesses like these are also likely to hire all levels of engineers. They’ll often hire junior engineers to maintain an application or add value to an established team. The business views this as an investment because they’ll train the junior engineer toward a senior position and have the right structure in place to promote from within. The larger teams within an enterprise environment, and the consistency in the workflow, help create that structure of support and career development.

Engineering Recruitment at Startups

Generally in a startup company, teams are much smaller, move faster and there is less bureaucracy than enterprise environments.

The Engineer Perspective

That means engineers exploring startup businesses enjoy working in a challenging environment that frequently goes through changes and are comfortable with medium- to high-risk opportunities. They aren’t offput by unknown business direction, unstructured processes and inadequate code quality. They also generally have experience in both enterprises and startups across multiple tech stacks.

The Startup Perspective

Startup businesses are looking for engineers who are willing to put in long hours and will show patience with unfocused company structure and code quality. It’s also why startups are more likely to hire mid-level and senior engineers who can hit the ground running without a lot of support.


It’s a matter of technology

A Java engineer is a Java engineer, right? Actually, it’s not that simple. A Java engineer at a large financial institution (enterprise) isn’t necessarily a good fit for a Java role with a startup. It’s the same technological skills, but most likely with radically different applications.

That’s why simply using keywords to match resumes to job descriptions can cause missed opportunities for the client, candidate, and recruiting department. To avoid that mistake, you need to have a base understanding of technologies in the roles you’re recruiting. Plus, you need to tap into the differences in the ways startups and enterprise businesses use those technologies.

Enterprise Engineers

Java engineers at large enterprise companies have a heavy focus on large-scale platforms and strict requirements around uptime, security, and maintainability. Most of their focus will have likely been on larger projects that have longer delivery times. They need consistency in their deadlines and their companies want consistency in their technologies.

Startup Engineers

Java Engineers at high-growth startups will be accustomed to managing a lot of moving priorities and building applications from scratch. These engineers like to be at the forefront of new technologies and prefer to work with companies who are continually progressing and trying new things. They may find the pace and level of technological innovation of an enterprise company to be too slow or monotonous.

You’re Hired

By taking a broader, more cohesive approach when reading resumes, you be able to take in the full picture of a candidate’s experience and look beyond the keyword. If you can understand an engineer’s history, experience, and career goals, you start to see how an opportunity presents challenges that interest them and align with their motivations.

Tapping into the roles and responsibilities of engineers and how they differ across enterprises and startups is your best ally for understanding the opportunity you’re presenting a back-end candidate. At the end of the day, it’s also one of your strongest tech recruiting tactics.

Continue Your Learning

What we’ve just covered is merely the tip of the iceberg. We’ve created a handy Tech Cheat Sheet to be an additional resource for you. Our Tech Cheat Sheet goes more in depth on what tools engineers are using, definitions you should know, and how to apply your new tech know-how in conversations with candidates. Download our Tech Cheat Sheet and start making better tech placements today.


About Recruiting Innovation

Recruiting Innovation is an industry-leading online tech recruitment training platform. Focused on teaching the technical concepts and key roles in the software development lifecycle to tech recruiters and sales teams, Recruiting Innovation’s online training programs help teams make better tech hires, faster.

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