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I'm at a pivotal point in my small software company where I have reached the critical mass of too much work and need to hire someone.

Simple question: Do I hire someone who is simply qualified and can do the work and possibly grow with the company, or do I hire someone overqualified for the immediate work I have to offer but who can significantly deepen the knowledge and experience pool of my company?

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closed as off topic by Karl Bielefeldt, gnat, Mark Trapp Feb 2 '12 at 0:27

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Hi Richard, general hiring questions like this are off-topic here: you may be interested in an upcoming site proposal, The Workplace which would aim to answer these types of questions. –  user8 Feb 2 '12 at 0:27
    
Thanks Mark. I will definitely look at that site. –  Richard DesLonde Feb 2 '12 at 1:37

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In general, hire for the future: hiring good people now means that in three to six months when they are up to speed, you can take on more work to keep them busy and generally grow.

If you do decide to hire just for "now", probably best to go with a limited term contract, or something that otherwise terminates when the work does, since you didn't have someone intended to do the next thing as well.

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Another benefit for hiring for the future is costs. Somebody who is "overqualified" will, typically, come with a bigger price tag. –  Jetti Feb 1 '12 at 20:32
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...and potentially leave sooner, putting you in a position to hire again. There's definitely a balance to be struck. –  jcmeloni Feb 1 '12 at 20:35

If I were you I would shell out the money for the overqualified person now. In a small company the risk of investing time and money in somebody who seems good enough to save a few bucks now could be devastating when you find out the person is seriously underqualified or unfit later, and then you have to deal with the sometimes enormous cost of getting rid of that person. Further if the person does work out and they happen to be junior or mid-level experience, they are more likely to jump ship every year or two than a senior person.

I wouldn't do good enough unless it was a contract to hire, because if the person doesn't work out then they have an expiration date.

The overqualified senior person is the way to go if you are looking to invest long term money and time into an employee. As long as you treat them right, pay them well, and make sure they don't get bored they are likely to stay loyal to you for years to come.

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In a small company the risk of investing time and money in somebody who seems good enough to save a few bucks now could be devastating when you find out the person is seriously underqualified or unfit later The person you invested in to spend some extra bucks can unfortunately have the same outcome. The interview process should address the candidates capabilities. Making the assumption that because you are paying less means your employee's capabilities will also be less then desired does not necessarily add up IMHO. –  Aaron McIver Feb 1 '12 at 20:53

You may want to do contract-to-hire. This can let you fill your immediate need and if you and your team mesh with the contractor you can bring them in perm. Just make sure that the perm salary you're willing to offer will meet the requirements of the person in question and that they're looking for a perm opportunity rather than ongoing contracting.

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Never give someone a permanent job if you don't have long term confidence in them. It is difficult, or at least hard work, to get rid of someone who doesn't fit.

If you must make a tactical short-term decision, make sure you offer a short term contract, not a permanent post. If they turn out to be perfect, maybe they'll accept a permanent job later.

More junior staff can be a good long term investment, but you'll also need more experienced people with time and ability to coach them – otherwise they'll never go anywhere.

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You need both. The qualified but less experienced/knowledgeable developers will do what they are asked to do and will grow with the company, as long as you give them the means and guidance to do so. The experienced/knowledgeable developers will provide valuable insight and direction that will help ensure the company grows in the right direction by helping to not only mentor the less experienced/knowledgeable developers but also by helping to influence key decisions during the company's growth.

If you can only hire one at the moment, hire the "overqualified" developer because they can still do the immediate work you need and will add more immediate value to your company as it grows.

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