Toptal Founders, Taso Du Val and Breanden Beneschott, on Hiring the Top 3% of Developers

Photo: woodleywonderworks via Flickr

Taso Du Val & Breanden Beneschott, Co-Founders,
Toptal

Formerly a lead engineer at Fotolog and Slide, Taso is the CEO and co­-founder of Toptal. Taso has been selected by Forbes as one of its 30 under 30 in Enterprise Technology. Taso has been a FoundersCard Member since 2013.

Breanden has been a founder, CTO, developer, designer, and consultant at a wide variety of companies, and is the COO and co­-founder of Toptal. B​reanden frequently writes about scaling a hyper­growth company and traveling as a digital nomad, and has been featured on the blog of Tim Ferriss, The Huffington Post, and many others.

Toptal prides itself on being a unique resource for hiring independent contractors for software development. How is Toptal different?

We’re different in several ways:

We’re a highly selective network of freelancers​We have an extensive screening process ​(our acceptance rate is around 3%). Contrast that to traditional open marketplaces, where anyone can simply sign up and apply to jobs.

We take fewer engagements but focus on an extremely high standard across the board.​ While other hiring solutions have more of a high­-volume approach, we typically only accept clients with serious jobs and focus on making every engagement extremely successful for all parties.

We have a team of engineers that custom-matches and supports all engagementsCompanies don’t just post jobs. Instead, our internal team of engineers meets with clients to understand their needs and hand­-picks a few developers who are well-­suited for clients to interview. We also provide support to both parties throughout engagements.

We don’t charge recruitment fees and we have a no-risk trial period. We have the utmost confidence in Toptal engineers and we have an extremely high success rate. If you’re not satisfied, you don’t pay (and we’ll pay the engineer for you).

How does the ‘top 3%’ set Toptal apart?

As a network, we’ve honed a rigorous screening process and look for great problem solvers with personality and drive, the types of people we’d want to work with (and learn from) ourselves.

The “top 3%” is simply the percentage of people that have passed our tests from the 50,000+ we’ve screened. We test for personality, communication and problem solving skills, computer science fundamentals, technical expertise, integrity, and more.

It’s this process that enables us to have the highest degree of confidence in the engineers we connect to our clients, and allows our clients to count on our engineers as core team members.

What are the top concerns generally had when outsourcing, and how has Toptal assisted in overcoming these concerns?

Outsourcing concerns are typically associated with the extremely unreliable quality of talent and poor communication patterns that often come when you try to arbitrage costs.

At Toptal, remote work does not mean outsourcing. Instead, we arbitrage opportunity and drive. There are extremely talented people all over the world. We’ve built a network of these types of people by rigorously testing applicants and fostering a thriving community and support system for those selected. We believe remote freelance developers should be able to seamlessly integrate into any team just like a full­-time employee would.

What is the biggest piece of advice you would give someone looking to hire a developer?

Remember the following:

  • A good remote developer is better than a bad local developer.
  • A great remote developer is better than a good local developer.
  • A top developer is a top developer regardless of where s/he is.

 

Aside from your company, what is your greatest success?

Our greatest success outside of Toptal has been how we’ve been able to empower thousands of people around the world (ourselves included) to create the lifestyle they want. No one should have to sit in an office staring at a clock their whole life. In the 21st century, driven people should be able to live and work the way they want, from anywhere they want. The externalities that Toptal and its community create are astonishing, and we are very proud of them.

We are a completely distributed company, so our meetings often happen in exotic locations. Here, Taso and Breanden are having a founders meeting in Svalbard, Norway.

We are a completely distributed company, so our meetings often happen in exotic locations. Here, Taso and Breanden are having a founders meeting in Svalbard, Norway.

What is one book you would recommend to everyone?

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman.

Who is someone we should be following on Twitter right now?

@PHP_CEO. It’s a very clever and very funny take on software engineering from a satirically poor tech CEO. Here’s a good one:

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 2.57.40 PM

What is one app that all FoundersCard Members should be using?

Podcasts. There are so many amazing podcasts where you get to be a fly on the wall during a conversation between brilliant people. Some of our favorites are: a16z, The Tim Ferriss Show, McKinsey Global Institute, The Changelog, Startup School Radio, etc.

Give us your best plug/brag a little about as to what you’re working on now/next.

The technology behind Toptal.com allows us to scale a hyper­-growth company with hundreds of distributed core team members coordinating thousands of incoming applicants and thousands of new clients each week—all without a single Toptal office. Everything runs virtually through our software. We’re at the bleeding edge of ERP and business operations software. Large companies have already approached us with acquisition talks but we are too focused on building our vision.

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