How to Hire an Amazing iOS Developer


Meet Dustin Howett. He’s Apptimize’s lead iOS engineer. Dustin is a badass. He’s a prominent figure in the iPhone jailbreak community, where he has contributed to core userland components and sold numerous tweaks. He created some of the main tools used to develop apps for the jailbroken iPhone.

This blog post is about our experience as a small, no-name startup in the summer of 2013 finding and hiring a developer who had 100x more followers on Twitter than we did.

Dustin Howett

This is a story about how we found a brilliant hacker to create a product that no one had created before — a what-you-see-is-what-you-get editor of iOS apps that could work with any iOS app to make changes to copy, colors, fonts, images, layout… everything you can see on the app. We were not looking for someone to build our app idea (that’s a different challenge that we’re experiencing right now, so I’ll write a post about that in a few weeks). Finding someone like Dustin to build a slick new messaging app would probably be akin to hunting for the top of the line, precision x-acto knife to slice an apple. No, Dustin was made for specific work and the acid from an apple would make him blunt and unhappy. We’re going to find a German crafted paring knife for that apple, but again that’s a later blog post.

How to FIND great iOS developers

We’ve found good old word of mouth to be the most effective method when it comes to headhunting for very specific roles. Good developers tend to know other good developers. And highly specialized engineers tend to have other opportunities or projects going on, so they might not be actively looking for a job when you’re looking for them.

Nancy, our CEO, met Dustin through a mutual friend that she had met at rationality camp. The Singularity Institute started a Rationality Boot Camp to unite thinking enthusiasts who want to train to have greater “focus, non-attachment, social courage.” Nancy met many like-minded individuals who had a deep passion for technology and theories about how the robots will take over. She met Dustin and hired him based on a raving recommendation to contract on a small project to see how things went. He turned out to be brilliant, but the bigger problem is how to get Dustin interested in Apptimize.

Since hiring Dustin, he’s also introduced us to a number of amazing developers (iOS and otherwise) that we’ve worked with who’ve then introduced us to more. Finding one great engineer has ever increasing returns.

How to HIRE a great iOS developer

Dustin’s version of the story goes like this:

Jeremy (CTO): Is this possible? (referring to a feature he wanted incorporated into our editor)
Dustin: No! That’s impossible!
Jeremy: But is it possible?
Dustin: Well, it’s really hard!
Jeremy: But is it possible?
Dustin: Let me see what I can do in the next few days.

This is how we got Dustin hooked. We gave him a seemingly impossible challenge and it was up to him to figure out what the solution would be. Because we were specifically looking for the type of person that was naturally curious and motivated, it turned out that the best enticement for the kind of person we wanted was interesting and challenging work.

In addition to challenging work, Dustin also named these as important factors to him and many devs he knows:

Sharing in the company vision: From the beginning, Nancy and Jeremy drew a picture of a multi-billion dollar company that would help mobile app creators solve hard problems that they currently have to spend millions of dollars in time and resources to solve. Apptimize is going to solve those problems for them at a much lower cost so that they can focus on their core business.

Flexibility: Dustin works from home three days out of the week because it takes him 1.5 hours to commute from Berkeley to Menlo Park.

Stability: This sounds paradoxical to the startup mentality, but it makes sense. While some startups feel like they’re on the verge of death constantly, some startups are well funded and strategize months or years into the future. Giving potential and current employees a sense of stability is key since no one wants to worry if they’ll have a job in a week.

Food: While this isn’t particularly important to Dustin, it is important to a lot of developers these days since Google made company meals an industry standard. Consistently quality meals that require no thinking to appear help employees focus more on tasks by removing the distractions of thinking about what, when and with whom to eat. This is the same theory that Obama applies to his routine. Thinking about food is precious thinking that could be spent on engineering.

You’ll notice that we never talked about salary or other financial benefits. Take a look at Glassdoor’s averages for iOS and other software engineering roles. Salaries generally just have to be high enough. After that, increased financial gains give diminishing returns when it comes to keeping employees motivated.


Spending time to find a great developer is worth it because it’s a great way to find more amazing developers of the same caliber. Take care of the basic things like salary and food so that employees don’t have to worry about them, but motivate engineers with ideas that will help them produce better products. Dustin is driven by challenge, which is what we try to give him everyday.

About Apptimize

Apptimize is an innovation engine that provides A/B testing and feature release management for native mobile, web, mobile web, hybrid mobile, OTT, and server. Industry leaders like HotelTonight, The Wall Street Journal, and Glassdoor have created amazing user experiences with Apptimize.

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