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How to select the best developer to join your team?

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So, it’s about time that you expand your devel­op­ment team with a new devel­op­er. How­ev­er, as such a tech­ni­cal­ly-ori­en­tat­ed field, inter­view­ing a devel­op­er entails a slight­ly dif­fer­ent process from most oth­er careers. Hard skills and capa­bil­i­ties aside, you also want to hire some­one with the soft skills and per­son­al­i­ty pro­file to fit into your team and the spe­cif­ic role you need to fill.

By fol­low­ing these steps, you’ll be able to iden­ti­fy the per­fect can­di­date and ver­i­fy whether they are up to the task.

Questionnaire

Everybody’s time is pre­cious, espe­cial­ly when it comes to work. Orga­niz­ing and sched­ul­ing an inter­view with every sin­gle appli­cant is out of the ques­tion, not to men­tion imprac­ti­cal. How­ev­er, you prob­a­bly also want to get a bet­ter idea of how some­one fits your cri­te­ria with­out rely­ing sole­ly on the infor­ma­tion they pro­vide in their CV.

A job-seek­er includes the infor­ma­tion they think are the most impor­tant and show­cas­es their capa­bil­i­ties best in their CV. Because every job posi­tion is unique, that means the CV prob­a­bly won’t cov­er every ques­tion you have.

A ques­tion­naire is an effec­tive short­cut that helps you under­stand your can­di­date bet­ter. By post­ing the ques­tion­naire online, it can quick­ly and eas­i­ly be com­plet­ed from any­where. Based on the answers, you can fil­ter can­di­dates fur­ther and con­tin­ue with the inter­view process with the most suit­able developers.

Here is an exam­ple ques­tion­naire you can cus­tomize to your unique posi­tion. Some of the most com­mon and use­ful ques­tions are:

  • Basic per­son­al and con­tact info (email, full names, address, rel­e­vant social media/LinkedIn profiles,etc.)
  • Present sce­nar­ios and ask how they would respond (con­flict with a team member/manager, dif­fi­cult client, etc.)
  • Work­ing habits, e.g, how do they han­dle stress? Do they pre­fer work­ing in a team or indi­vid­u­al­ly? How will­ing are they to com­mu­ni­cate with others?
  • Significant/prominent projects or work expe­ri­ence they have completed
  • Strengths, weak­ness­es, and traits they are will­ing to work on.
  • Near, medi­um, and long-term career goals.
  • Although not as com­mon, you can even include a short chal­lenge ques­tion or two that requires tech­ni­cal skills. An exam­ple is to explain a tech con­cept as if the inter­view­er is a novice.

Ques­tion­naires will also help smooth out the actu­al inter­view because they pro­vide talk­ing points that can be expand­ed on. And, it also makes com­par­ing appli­cants on even foot­ing eas­i­er because the ques­tions are the same for everyone.

Curriculum

For a devel­op­er posi­tion, a CV and port­fo­lio are equal­ly impor­tant and, in most cas­es, have become com­plete­ly insep­a­ra­ble. A CV is a job seeker’s oppor­tu­ni­ty to show­case their achieve­ments, strengths, and expe­ri­ence. And, a port­fo­lio pro­vides the employ­er with real-life exam­ples of the work and projects they have completed. 

You should already be able to see how they work and the qual­i­ty that they deliv­er from their projects. How­ev­er, keep in mind that many IT projects are com­plet­ed in a team, and you might not be able to tell what is specif­i­cal­ly the candidate’s work or that of a team member.

In the devel­op­ment world, expe­ri­ence also usu­al­ly tops edu­ca­tion. Com­plet­ing real-life projects where a client and your employer’s time and mon­ey is on the line is very dif­fer­ent from com­plet­ing a school project in a con­trolled environment.

The more expe­ri­ence some­one has, the more they have proven the abil­i­ty to solve new prob­lems, find solu­tions, and to deliv­er a result. The abil­i­ty to turn ideas into real­i­ty is the great­est hall­mark of an expe­ri­enced developer.

First Interview

Now that you’ve nar­rowed down your can­di­dates based on the most obvi­ous cri­te­ria, it’s time to get a deep­er under­stand­ing of their abil­i­ties and com­pat­i­bil­i­ty with your team.

A per­son­al­i­ty test might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of inter­view­ing a devel­op­er. How­ev­er, com­pa­ny cul­ture is becom­ing an increas­ing­ly impor­tant part of the pro­fes­sion­al world, espe­cial­ly in tech. 

Com­pa­nies want to hire indi­vid­u­als who rep­re­sent their val­ues and can oper­ate on their terms. Sim­i­lar­ly, indi­vid­u­als also want to find careers where they feel they fit in, which aligns with what they believe in, and that pro­vides them with the oppor­tu­ni­ty to grow in cer­tain per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al capacities.

These types of tests are very dif­fi­cult to set up if you’re not a trained psy­chol­o­gist or pro­fes­sion­al career coach. Luck­i­ly, there are many stan­dard mod­els as well as assess­ment plat­forms specif­i­cal­ly for this sit­u­a­tion.
For exam­ple, the HIGH5 test focus­es on help­ing iden­ti­fy the user’s top 5 strengths. Sim­i­lar­ly, there are many oth­er recruit­ment assess­ment tools to help hone in on spe­cif­ic fac­tors, such as:

It’s also a gen­er­al­ly accept­ed fact that cer­tain per­son­al­i­ties per­form bet­ter in cer­tain posi­tions or roles. Some com­pa­nies are even mak­ing use of well-known per­son­al­i­ty test frame­works, like the Tony Rob­bins DISC mod­el. Oth­er exam­ples are 16 Per­son­al­i­ties or MBTI mod­els.

Code Challenge

Now it’s the time to real­ly see what a devel­op­er is made of. Cod­ing is what you’re hir­ing them to do, so it’s only nat­ur­al that you want to see an exam­ple of their work. Plus, cod­ing is a wide field and this will allow you to test them accord­ing to the spe­cif­ic language/software/practices that will be most impor­tant to the job position.

The dif­fi­cul­ty of the chal­lenge should be decid­ed by the lev­el of the posi­tion, how much time you want each can­di­date to invest in it, and your lead developer’s pref­er­ence. A cod­ing chal­lenge is also a great way to weed out less seri­ous or com­mit­ted applicants. 

On top of see­ing whether an appli­cant can actu­al­ly com­plete the chal­lenge, there are a num­ber of oth­er things to look for:

  • Do they use best practices/standards?
  • Did they dis­play spe­cial prob­lem solving/creative solutions?
  • Is the code leg­i­ble and well documented?

Some chal­lenges are even meant not to be com­plet­ed, but to test the can­di­dates’ per­se­ver­ance, per­for­mance under pres­sure, prob­lem-solv­ing skills, and determination.

Cod­ing chal­lenges also don’t have to be com­plet­ed in-per­son. The code can be sub­mit­ted to your senior developer/hiring man­ag­er via plat­forms like codepen.io or JSFid­dle. CodeIn­ter­view is a plat­form specif­i­cal­ly for con­duct­ing cod­ing inter­views, with embed­ded video con­fer­enc­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion tools.

Practical Experience

By now, you should have an accu­rate idea of the candidate’s pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ence, per­son­al pro­file, and tech­ni­cal skills. How­ev­er, it might be pru­dent to hold off on mak­ing the work­ing rela­tion­ship per­ma­nent just yet.

To get a sense of your work­ing rela­tion­ship as well as to dou­ble-check their devel­op­er abil­i­ties give them an entire project to com­plete indi­vid­u­al­ly or as part of your team. How­ev­er, be cog­nizant and respect­ful of the fact that the can­di­date has already invest­ed a lot of time and has proven their seri­ous­ness. As this is a real-life project that will take a lot of time to com­plete, offer it on a paid basis — even if it is at a low­er rate.

This will help mit­i­gate the risk for you if the hire does not work out, but keep the can­di­date moti­vat­ed to apply and do their best.

Because it’s the first time you will work togeth­er, make sure that you are very thor­ough and clear when pro­vid­ing them with your tech­ni­cal require­ments. Set a real­is­tic dead­line and be ready to offer them the nec­es­sary sup­port when need­ed as they might have a lot of questions.

The task can either be part of a cur­rent­ly ongo­ing project or a past project you want the can­di­date to redo. What­ev­er the case, try to stan­dard­ize it so that you can reuse it in the future on a con­sis­tent basis.

Conclusion

This is a rig­or­ous devel­op­er inter­view­ing process. How­ev­er, if the can­di­date com­pletes every step and impress­es you dur­ing the one-on-one interview(s), it should leave you with very lit­tle doubt that you have made the best hir­ing deci­sion. Fur­ther­more, it will ensure that the devel­op­er knows what he/she is get­ting into so that both par­ties have real­is­tic expectations. 

Good luck, and may the best devel­op­er join your team!

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