How to hire a software developer

In recent years, various code schools have flooded the developer markets with hordes of beginners. These schools have done a great job of introducing people to the amazing and rewarding career of coding, but many companies are hesitant to hire these code school grads.

Many are talented, but their skills are still raw and narrow. It’s a big risk to hire someone without proven experience. How do you know if they will ever work out?

Most choose instead to hire for experience. I’ve talked before about the Experience Gap and what a poor indicator of success it is.

So if you are posting jobs, interviewing, and selecting quality candidates for your organization, what can you do to find the right people who will be successful in your organization?

Don’t look for a particular skill set.

For good coders, any particular language, framework, or technology is easy to pick up. You don’t need an Angular.js expert or a Java developer. You need a coder with the ability to learn quickly and a broad base of experience to draw from.

Don’t poach.

Hiring someone not currently looking for a job might seem like an good idea. Recruiters will even try to sell you off-market poaching as a service. You may see some short-term success, but most people who change jobs under those circumstances do not make good long-term hires. You’ll overpay for them, and they’ll soon leave for an even bigger offer that the same recruiter brings their way in the future.

Don’t trust your gut.

Many people approach interviews by bringing someone into their office, talking to them for a while, maybe asking a few litmus questions, then making a “gut” feeling decision. When you “trust your gut,” you're merely affirming that you are selecting someone who is just like you. In the process, you can unfairly exclude people of another gender, race, geography, or background. Your gut is an excuse for prejudice and will prevent you from growing the best, diverse team that you need.

Develop some objective success factors.

Look at the most successful people on your current team and discover what it is that makes those people successful. Write up a list of those characteristics and use those as objective measures in your interviewing and hiring process.

Interview on past performance.

Ask the candidate to tell you stories about the things they’ve done and the experiences they’ve had. "Tell me about a time when…” is a great start for an interview question.

Experience is not a number.

One number cannot possibly capture the depth or breadth of someone’s experience. Stop screening resumes with that number, stop putting it in your job postings. It is not a good indicator. More important is the trajectory of the candidates’ learning. Asking “What new thing have you learned in the past month?” will tell you way more about their capability.

Let 8th Light build your team.

8th Light’s apprenticeship program gives every one of our crafters a breadth of experience and a trajectory of learning that has them consistently out-performing other coders with 5 or 10 times more years of experience. It’s our secret sauce at 8th Light, and it has been working successfully for the last 10 years. When we join your development team, we bring with us a culture of learning and a focus on quality that can transform your team. We will let you hire your own apprentices, and we will help train them so that you can build a high-quality and long-lasting development team.

Contact us if you'd like to learn more.

Doug Bradbury, Director of Software Services

Doug Bradbury is a maker, a thinker, a craftsman, and a learner.

Interested in 8th Light's services? Let's talk.

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