5 Tips for Hiring a Great Web Developer


Courtney Hall


January 18, 2017

1. Hire A Developer You Can Connect With

Whenever the need arises for me to outsource web development work, the most important qualities that I look for in a programmer is his/her attitude and energy. I would rather vibe with someone who has a great attitude than someone who will be hard to work with. In my world there is always more code to write, another idea to validate and more code to ship. We all have our moments, but primadonas can be counterproductive not to mention expensive.

Let's say that you hired a really strong candidate to tackle that high visibility project that you have been scoping. Everything is going well and then all of a sudden BOOM, your coder cops a major attitude and makes the whole situation all weird. Now you have to not only hire someone else, but they have to get up to speed on where the last person left off AND you have to hope and pray that they can bring the project full circle on time and on budget.

To avoid all of this going in, it is best to outline some key personality traits that you are looking for in a developer. Do you want a person who can switch gears on a dime, grind the code out or even manage things for you when you can't be there to supervise.

One thing to keep in mind is that anyone can tell you what you want to hear so it is important to evaluate your candidate in multiple ways to really get a feel for their personality.

2. Test the Waters With a Small Project First

So you think you have a winner, not so fast. You may want to consider giving your candidate a smaller project to get a glimpse of their workflow and how they interact with your other developers if any.

Giving the candidate a smaller project allows you to see how effectively the individual can deliver the work product, review the quality of their code or designs and even more so, how well they get along with you and others under pressure.

3. Pick the Innovative Implementor, Not a Dinosaur Developer

As we all know, the life cycle of technology is relatively short. Most technologies are superseded by the next big thing every two to three years. Personally, I am not impressed with developers who know every SDK or framework by heart. Regurgitation of facts are useless if the developer does not have a innate sixth sense for locating documentation, synthesizing and implementing it.

If we decide to use Angular or React and all you know how to do is kick butt with Node, what good is that skill for the current project? What's even worse is someone who turns out to be a REALLY slow learner or completely against learning new technologies in a pinch. One way to short-circuit this potential gotcha is to ask questions like:

  • Tell me about some of the latest technologies that you have used?
  • What resources do you use to learn about new technology, tips and tricks etc?
  • What is the last tech conference that you have attended?

4. Don't Play 20 Questions About Coding

When vetting your candidate, don't bother asking them technology specific questions. Ask them more abstract questions where the candidate is required to think creatively such. Questions that you may want to stay away from are:

  • What does PHP stand for?
  • In what year was JAVA relased?
  • How many different ways can you print to the screen?

Questions like the ones above do nothing to measure a candidates ability to think. If you really want to put the developer in the hot seat, ask them questions like:

  • What is polymorphism and why is it important?
  • Can you name two design patterns that you used on a previous project?
  • How do use a trait in PHP?

Utilizing open ended questions such as these will help you to measure the depth of your candidates understanding of simple programming and/or language constructs.

5. Make Offers Quickly but Fire Faster

In making your selection with a candidate, don't hold up your project over thinking who is the perfect fit. There is no such thing, just make sure that you have all your ducks in a row regarding the classification of the candidate (W2, 1099 or employee). You want to be sure you understand how you are utilizing this individuals skills because there is some liability when it comes to employees and terminating the relationship.

The other big thing to be concerned about is making sure that you can immediately get access to the developers work and that you are able to remove access for this individual from any and all of your systems. There is nothing worse than a disgruntled individual trying to wreak havoc over hurt feelings.