What To Look For As A Web3 Employer

What To Look For As A Web3 Employer

Hiring talent in the Web3 world can be a high-stakes business. How can you make sure you not only find the right people for the job, but get the best out of them?

Despite the long crypto winter, interest in blockchain technology hasn’t abated. There is still keen demand for Web3 professionals, across every area of the industry, and a shortage of key competencies – not least developers.

As a Web3 employer, you will no doubt already be acutely aware how important it is to attract and retain the right talent. However, that can be a very different process than you’re used to in TradFi and Web2.

Getting Started

As in any other industry, your recruitment process will probably start with looking at candidates’ CVs: their education, the companies they’ve worked at in the past, and other relevant experience they might have.

While this may be a reasonable starting point, exclusively using such cookie-cutter processes don’t work particularly well for Web3. On paper, a candidate might appear to be perfect. However, even the most experienced candidate, who has a stellar track record working with Web2 technologies, might not be a good match for your Web3 company.

That’s because while many of the skills gained in Web2 are transferable, the mentality is not. There aren’t many formal courses for getting started in Web3, and what matters most is an independent and entrepreneurial mindset.

The best candidates self-select for Web3; they don’t wait for recruiters to come to them. Typically they will already be active in the space, whether that means working for other organisations, volunteering their services, or simply playing around with the technology, building software for fun, and teaching themselves the skills they need to be successful.

Look for these people and you’re already halfway to a great hire.

What Does ‘Experienced’ Mean?

Another major difference to Web2 is the amount of time you can expect the top candidates to have worked in the industry.

Web2 – the centralised, ‘read-write’ web – was established in the early 2000s. The best developers might therefore have almost 20 years of experience. Web3, meanwhile, has barely been around five years (the term was coined in 2014 but the technologies did not gain critical momentum until years later). Two or three years of solid experience in Web3 is enough to put a person head and shoulders above most of the competition.

In the world of traditional web development, two years is next to nothing – it’s the minimum you’d need for practically any junior developer job. This disconnect reflects the new and fast-moving nature of Web3. You also have to factor in the way that people engage within the Web3 industry. It’s not just a job; it’s more likely to be a passion, or obsession. People who want to make it in the blockchain industry tend to throw themselves into it and learn all that they can as quickly as possible. Because of this determination, two years is more than enough time to give a person ‘OG’ status.

Be careful, too, about paying too much attention to employment history. Working with some of the biggest and best organisations in the Web3 space can mean a person truly is a rockstar candidate. However, just because someone has experience with a well respected household name, doesn’t mean they’re going to be the ideal fit for your company – or that any success their previous employer enjoyed while they were there was a result of their input.

Gauging ‘Success’

Crypto has been through several market cycles, in each case growing dramatically in value as interest and money pour into the sector. Looking back, the stark reality is that many projects’ apparent success was more about timing than the competence of their founders or core team.

In short, it’s easy to make money in a bull market, when investors are throwing cash at anything that looks like it could turn a profit. As an employer, don’t be dazzled by candidates who built ‘successful’ projects when the market as a whole grew by 20x. Look at what happened when the bear market really started to bite, how they handled it, and how long they’ve been around overall.

It’s relatively unusual for a candidate to have made it through a whole market cycle (historically around four years). A lot of people who come late to the party and enjoy the good times will bail or burn out as soon as things begin to head south. After only a few months of a seemingly-relentless bear market, negativity and falling prices begin to take their emotional and financial toll. But if someone has the grit and determination to keep going through such soul-destroying times, they could very well be an asset to your company.

If you can manage to find someone who has survived two cycles, then it's probably safe to assume they’re in it for the long haul; they've seen the worst of what Web3 has to throw at them, and they’ve still managed to stick around.

Consider Social Reputation

Although Web3 is growing fast, it still maintains a small and tight-knit community. As such, reputation is everything. People tend to be good at identifying who gets things done and who just talks a big game but never delivers – and of course, who are just outright scammers.

In this way, social media and Web3 go hand-in-hand. Web3 platforms are social by nature: they are built around large communities of users, who help secure the blockchain network, provide liquidity to DeFi protocols, and act as informal sources of marketing, support, feedback, and more.

Most project founders and many Web3 users will be active on social media, maintaining their own Twitter profiles and engaging in multiple Discords and Telegram groups. Anyone who has worked in the space should be known in at least several different communities, and will have a public reputation that backs up any claims they make during the recruitment process.

This isn’t a question of following up a couple of references from trusted individuals (though feel free to do that too). Rather, dozens if not hundreds of people should know them and be happy to vouch for them to back up their claims.

Watch Out For Scammers

A quick warning about scammers, who unfortunately see the Web3 space as a rich source of income. Fraudsters have taken to crypto in a big way, thanks to several different factors: the relative anonymity of the space, the fact that crypto payments are irreversible and cannot be clawed back, and the general excitement that fuels FOMO and hasty decision-making – meaning it’s easier to sucker people in.

Some basic due diligence should be enough to identify anyone who tries to scam their way into a job. Most likely this will take the form of candidates inflating their expertise and past experience.

  • Ask to see their portfolio – code repos, content they’ve created, campaigns they’ve worked on, and so on. Make sure they provide evidence it’s really theirs. Don’t take anything on trust.
  • Ensure they really have worked for the organisations they say they have.
  • Check their reputation on social media and in the different communities they’re a part of.
  • If in doubt, ask them to complete a sample task.
  • Don’t pay them anything up-front.

Think About Soft Skills

While ‘hard skills’ like proficiency with different programming languages will be top of your list when hiring, don’t forget about soft skills. It doesn’t matter how good someone is if they can’t function as part of a team, or are unreliable.

Look for good communication skills: people who are responsive, able to articulate what they need from you and other team members, who are happy to jump on a call to discuss things, and who can express themselves well in written text – since a lot of communication will take place over messaging apps like Telegram and Discord. A lack of clarity can lead to misunderstandings, which can often take some time to resolve.

If you can find someone who is highly skilled but is also friendly and a strong communicator, that’s worth its weight in gold.

How To Work With Web3 Talent

One of the things that attracts people to Web3 is that organisations tend to be more informal than in Web2, and founders prefer to give employees a high degree of autonomy rather than micromanaging. The best candidates will not only be able to work without constant supervision, typically that’s the only way they will want to work.

Most people join Web3 for more than just the money, but don’t be mistaken; salaries are higher than similar roles in other sectors, and you should expect to pay your people well. It’s also a mistake to think that cheaper is always better. Top tier talent will expect high pay, however the time saved through their efficiency will undoubtedly be worth it long term. Outside of pay, the best developers will want to work on interesting projects that break new ground, where they’ll value and probably expect a high degree of freedom in how they help you achieve your desires.

Communicating With Development Teams

There can often be a disconnect between developers and their management or marketing teams. This is because they have very different skill sets, and at times, speak completely different languages. Developers are hired to build software, while the rest of the organisation is responsible for deciding what problems they should solve, managing budgets, getting the product out to users, and so on. There is often a lack of mutual understanding of the other’s role, and sometimes a lack of respect.

For this reason, it’s wise to have a link between the dev team and other stakeholders, including the board, in your organisation. That person (developer liaison) acts as a kind of ‘translator’, and point of contact, ensuring that communication between the dev team and the rest of the company remains smooth and efficient. A good project manager, who is responsible for the day-to-day planning and execution of a software project, can serve this purpose – though some project managers may still lack the deep technical expertise that software engineers will typically convey.

To improve your chances, include key developers in important conversations where appropriate, as partners and collaborators rather than service providers. Too often, businesses make decisions about what is needed, and then ask developers to implement them – without any appreciation of how realistic it is, how long it will take, or how much it will actually cost. In Web3, where you may find yourself working across timezones and language barriers, with advanced technologies, trying to do things that have never been done before, the scope for misunderstandings and miscommunication can be extensive.

Make sure the conversations you have are ‘high bandwidth’: in-person or over Zoom if possible, rather than text only. Listen to your developers (or lead developer, if you have a large number of them – it’s obviously not helpful for the entire team to participate in meetings), and try to figure out the scope and time frame for your project, together. Accept, too, that in an industry like Web3 – where things can move fast and you could be launching functionality that has never been created before – that it may be impossible to give guarantees or set firm deadlines.

Retaining Talent

Web3 can be a brutally competitive place. Within such a niche industry, there simply aren’t enough skilled professionals to go round, so it’s common for other companies to try to poach the best talent they can find. Therefore, it can be a challenge not only to attract, but to retain good people. While this is partly about money, employees who feel greater loyalty to you and your organisation are less likely to leave for a bigger pay cheque.

A little respect can go a long way. Remember that a dispersed workforce will have their own family commitments and sleep schedules, and you can’t always expect them to be online at fixed hours. (This is again a good reason to have a designated person to act as a developer liaison.)

In short: take the time to understand what your people want out of their Web3 career, give them interesting work and responsibilities, offer them a fair salary and the opportunity for progression, and make sure they feel listened to and part of the family. Treat them well, and there’s a good chance they’ll do the same for your organisation.

If you’re looking for freelance or full-time Web3 experts, check out the talent on LaborX.