Hiring is often thankless work. Countless hours are spent organizing priorities, sourcing candidates, and wading through interviews. The end result is worth it, but the process itself can be agonizing, especially when there is pressure to hire talent, and quickly.
In the tech industry, hiring great developers is perhaps the hardest task for businesses to accomplish. Talent is in high demand, and the skillset that makes a great developer is notoriously difficult to identify. So how can you build a foolproof sourcing and hiring pipeline to find the developers you need?
Well, one of the easiest and best ways to hire vetted development and design talent is to leverage a network like Toptal, whom we highly recommend. They screen for the top 3% and offer a no risk trial for up to two weeks.
But just in case you wanted to build your own talent pipeline, here is a 10-step guide on how to hire the best developers.
1. Know Your Project
Before you even start looking for candidates, you need to know what you’re looking for. Why are you hiring someone? What tasks or projects will the new hire be working on, and what skills do they need to accomplish them? Not only does answering these questions ensure that you will hire a qualified candidate, but you also won’t attract talented developers unless you can tell them exactly what they will be working on.
2. Learn From the Market
As you begin your search, keep an eye on the market. Browse through resumes and get a feel for what skillsets talented developers have. This will give you a better understanding of what a reasonable hire will be capable of, so you don’t waste your time trying to track down a unicorn developer. In the same way that you should track different skill combinations, look out for pricing as well. Learn what certain skills, and combinations thereof, cost, so you can better know how your price range fits into market value.
3. Test Communication First
While the majority of the hiring process will focus on technical details (more on that later), the first step of the interview process should be screening for communication skills because they are the easiest to test for. First and foremost, make sure the candidate can fluently and clearly explain their past work and talk about development in a way that is easy to follow. This step is also your chance to ask about teamwork skills: how well do they function as a member of a team, and can they communicate and collaborate successfully? Great developers can work together to solve big problems, so make sure your candidate has top-notch articulation skills.
4. Use Hiring Managers with Technical Expertise
Now that you know the developer can communicate and is in your price range, it’s time to find out if they really have the skills you need. In order to determine this, your hiring manager needs to have previous experience in the job you’re looking to hire for, or, at the very least, expertise in those skills. Sure, tools like Codility can help you test for technical knowledge, but your hiring manager needs to be able to probe deeper. Without that ability, your hiring manager won’t ask the right questions or understand correct or partially-correct answers to sufficiently assess a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.
5. Look Through Their Portfolio
Analyzing a developer’s portfolio is a great starting point to talk about past projects, so use this resource to your advantage. During the interview, ask the developer to talk in-depth about a past project of theirs. Was it successful, and were they able to meet the original deadline? Even great developers make mistakes, so find out what mistakes were made, why, and most importantly, how they were fixed. Understanding the arc of a previous project is an effective tool to get a better understanding of a developer holistically, both their strengths and weaknesses.
6. Live Coding/Test Projects
Once you’ve gone through an initial process of talking about the applicant’s technical background, it’s time to put their talk to the test. Talking about past projects is one thing, but you need to give them fresh problems and challenges to determine that they’re telling the truth and to see how well they can adapt to and solve new problems. This is also an opportunity to find out how well they can estimate deadlines and how well they can work under pressure.
7. Talk to Past Clients
This is an often-underused hiring tactic, but talking to previous employers or coworkers is a useful tool to get another perspective on a candidate. Learning from previous places of employment can give you crucial insight into how well they work with a team, how well they can receive feedback, and how well they fit into company dynamic. Don’t take your candidate’s word for previous work experiences; do your research and verify their stories and claims.
8. Give a Trial Period
Once you think you’ve found the right fit, don’t give them a full contract right away. Sign them on for a few weeks or a month, and see if everything works out. Even if everything lines up on paper, the real day-to-day work experience can be a very different thing. Give your new hire a test run to see if they truly are the right fit for your team.
9. Take Your Time
Rushing the hiring process is one of the easiest paths to disaster. You may save yourself time and money by trying to make the hiring process as quick and easy as possible, but without thoroughly vetting a candidate, there’s no way to be sure they are actually qualified. If you do end up hiring a bad candidate, it will end up costing you more in the long term, through wasted time onboarding and mistakes that could potentially affect the entire team.
10. Leverage Online Platforms
While these steps are all crucial to hiring great developers, you don’t have to do them all yourself. If you don’t have the time or the technical expertise to hire developers yourself, there are ways around that. Online platforms like Toptal connect you with hand-picked developers that have already been vetted by a team of senior engineers who have deemed the candidate both talented and a good fit for your project’s needs. This ensures that your candidates are qualified technically and that your hiring process will consist of only a few interviews before you find the right fit, saving you time and guaranteeing a quality hire.
Hiring isn’t easy, but once you establish a methodology to your process, hiring new developers becomes streamlined. Use this 10-step guide to your advantage to better ensure that you find the talent you need when you need it.