Hiring developers

Rob Walling and Mike Taber spoke to the challenges of hiring developers on their podcast: Startups for the Rest of Us (Ep 144). Rob kicks things off (starting at 16:30):

Finding developers is really hard. I think it’s hard because with development work, there’s more under the covers. There’s so much complexity that you just can’t see. Like when you hire a designer or a copywriter, we can all judge. We may have our own opinions but you can all judge by just looking at something or reading a couple paragraphs whereas code, there’s so much complexity there.

So someone could write a working app but it might not be maintainable or it might use five year old standards or they can just easily steer you wrong. You won’t know. So my advice is try to work your network.

Right now I’m trying to hire a developer. It’s a challenge. It’s a lot of work and I’m either looking at code or I’m having someone on my team do that.

It’s similar to me trying to hire an accountant or trying to hire a lawyer. You don’t really know how good they are upfront right? All you can do is get a referral and go with them and try them out. You can’t actually judge the value of their work, because they’re doing something that’s more complex. They’re an expert in the field that you’re not. I guess no issue answers start by trying to find out from people you know who they’ve used.

Mike follows this up with additional insight:

I think one thing you might be able to do is figure out how well they explain things. If you ask them for a code sample and then ask them to walk you through that code sample, they should be able to explain to you why it is that they made certain decisions and talk about those decisions, talk about the complexity of what it is that they were doing and explain any edge cases that they were encountering.

Just by watching how they explained it to you will give you a good sense of how well they understood what they were doing at the time.

Having been involved in the hiring process a number of times, I agree with what they're saying. I'd add that looking at someone's GitHub profile and Stack Overflow profile will provide a great deal of insight: how active are they in the community? Do they have side-projects? Do they contribute to open source?

What techniques have you used to hire developers for your team?

Photo by Luke Chesser / unsplash.com

Published on August 8th, 2013
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