Guest Post: How to hire a rock star developer

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Editor’s note: Today’s guest post is written by Yadid Ramot, the CTO of InvestedIn – a leading technology company that specializes in white-label crowdfunding platforms for reward, donation, pre-sales,  equity crowdfunding and lending applications. The company currently manages an  estimated $32 million in crowdfunding deals and in 2013 received the Los Angeles  Venture Association’s “Best Marketplace Platform for Funding Award”.

A great developer is one of the most elusive yet crucial hires for a successful start-up. Developers are the engineers that transform ideas into functioning products and software. They are analytical problem solvers with acute technical abilities. The competitive nature of Silicon Valley and the startup landscape, coupled with the shortage of professionals with in-depth development knowledge, makes landing a talented recruit whose abilities coincide with your organization’s vision a hot commodity.

Most of the top developers are already employed or maintain lucrative freelance careers, so luring them to your new, often bootstrapped startup may be a difficult task. The cream of the crop aren’t usually searching job boards; they are pursuing passion projects of their own or working for a top company. Asking a successful startup peer may not yield many results because founders are wary about having their valuable team members poached. In order to find top developer candidates, one must be resourceful in their search and look through unconventional outlets.

Posting a job description is a passive route that often leads to an influx of candidates and mediocre results. You’ll have to venture out to local meet-ups or hackathons which will help you informally network with potential talent and see them in action. However, gut instincts and great first impressions are not enough when trusting an individual with your technological needs. There needs to be a significant amount of vetting and forethought prior to hiring a team member that is central to your growth. Here are a few tips before plunging into the talent pool of developers:

Define Your Vision and Assess Your Needs

Are you hiring a full-time developer or contracting for a specific project? Are you searching for an applicant who can manage project workflow or simply a technician that can make it happen? Depending on the project, will the developer need skills for front-end, back-end, mobile or user-experience development? What if your answer is all of the above?

In order to begin the recruitment process, it is important that you have a clear vision of the end result so you may hone in on characteristics that are necessary for bringing it to life. If you are unsure of what capabilities the project truly requires, consult with programmer friends to get a better understanding of the process for hiring a great developer that will fill your specific needs. Review job descriptions from top technology companies to get a better idea of the language used to attract high-performing applicants. Lastly, the market for strong developers is extremely competitive. Having a concise, clearly articulated idea of the software or technology you need developed will also provide the applicant with a better understanding of how they can help you while delivering a positive impression.

Request Proof/Test Their Skill Set

Before scheduling an interview with a candidate that looks great on paper, be sure to request code samples. Most reputable developers worth hiring will already have an online portfolio that showcases their range of professional work. You should also take into consideration how applicants present themselves through the traditional cover letter and resume format. If an individual is unable to provide a properly formatted resume that goes beyond a stock template, they most likely lack the skills and creativity to make an impact on your team. You should also run a quick search to see if they have profiles on GitHub or other software development platforms in order to gauge how active they are in the space.

Ask Appropriate Questions

In order to quickly grow or scale a startup, it is crucial that each hire is not only technically competent, but also the right fit for the company’s culture. Candidates should be evaluated on whether they have the skills to complete the job at hand as well as the foresight to continue innovating and implementing as your company expands. Make sure that when hiring a developer it is not a unilateral decision, especially if you personally aren’t code-savvy.  If a new developer is joining a technical team, core members of the team should be part of the interview process. Typical questions that will help you assess a programmer’s ability and interest would be simple questions regarding their educational background, work experience and their project management skills. Many developers live off of freelance income, so be sure to ask about their current time commitments and availability.

Finally, as in any interview, situational questions will define whether or not an applicant will truly thrive within your company. Think back to recent technical issues you’ve encountered and ask the interviewee how they would solve them.  Another great question would be to ask how they approach problems and glitches they do not have the knowledge or capability to solve on their own. Generally, an applicant who accepts challenges and takes the initiative to research a solution will be a better fit in the long run.

Finding and hiring a top-notch developer is an important process that should not be rushed. If you feel half-hearted about your final candidates or have the slightest doubts about their capabilities, you are better off continuing your search than settling. Remember, rock star developers are the individuals that elevate business concepts into full-fledged reality an ultimately help you innovate and grow your company.

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