5 Tips for Hiring a Great Web Developer
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
A web developer can be one of your most critical hires. After all, that's the person who will create the online face of your company and enable you to interact virtually with your customers.
So, it's especially important that you hire the right talent the first time out. Otherwise, you risk hurting your business, as well as wasting time and money seeking a replacement.
Here are five tips that can help in the selection process:
1. Hire for DNA first, then work experience.
When I hire web developers, their personal DNA is the most important consideration. While experience is important, the bigger predictor of success is someone's innate DNA and how it fits your company. Are drive, determination, persistence, curiosity, important to you culture? Or, are you more low-key and relaxed about time management and deadlines? Whatever characteristics make up your culture, you want to ensure that the web developer will fit in.
For example, a brilliant web developer who has worked at a large financial institution may not do well at a startup. Why? A startup typically requires traits like versatility, adaptability, risk-taking and a self-starter personality, but these may be less important at a large company.
So, make a list of your company's DNA requirements. Do you foster an environment of relentless drive? Do you want great team players? If you come up with five requirements, make sure the interviewee matches at least three. Hiring for DNA also can help you to start to define a company culture and ensure that your team will work well together.
Of course, it's easy for some people to fake it in an interview, so you may need to evaluate them in other ways to ensure they're a good fit.
2. Try out a new developer with a small project first.
Although you might think you've identified your ideal candidate, just to be sure you should give him or her a small, non-critical project. That can let you observe the person in action and provide additional information beyond the job interview.
You can see how efficient the candidate is in delivering products and how buggy the final product is. Did he or she go above and beyond to get the product delivered? How creative was the solution? How well did he or she work in a team and communicate problems and delays?
3. Pick a developer with aptitude, not a particular skill set.
In the tech space, skills become obsolete every two years, give or take. So, it's better to hire a web developer who can learn new technologies easily rather than someone who knows a specific technology now but may not adapt when a new one comes along.
The easiest way to detect whether someone will adapt well to change is to ask questions that will reveal whether a Web developer has a love for learning. For example:
- What new programming languages did you learn recently?
- What are your go-to places for learning new tech tips and tricks?
- What are your favorite technology conferences?
4. Don't ask trivia questions about programming.
These are examples of trivia questions you want to avoid asking when interviewing web developers:
- Who is the primary creator of the Java programming language?
- In what year was PHP released?
- What is the origin of the Python scripting language's name?
While such information may seem useful, trivia questions are often a terrible way to determine if someone is smart. They just single out people who can memorize things.
As a rule of thumb when I conduct technical interviews, I never ask questions that can be easily searched for and found online. Instead, I focus on open-ended questions and listen. What I look for is how much passion candidates show in their answers and how well they communicate and explain tech terms.
Some examples of open-ended questions:
- How do you manage conflicts in a web application when different people are editing the same data?
- Which design patterns have you used, and in what situations?
- Can you name any differences between object-oriented design and component-based design?
5. Hire slow, fire fast.
Take your time when hiring, but if you realize the person isn't working out, let him or her go as fast as you can. An ineffective web developer can be disruptive to the entire team and potentially the entire project.
At Webgrrls.com, I made a significant hiring mistake a few years ago and let that person stay on for far too long. Although he was a talented lead developer, he'd sometimes disappear for days, missing important deadlines. Missing deadlines can be especially detrimental to startups where resources are tight and the ability to develop and improve products quickly and efficiently can make or break them.
The fire-fast rule may be difficult to follow in small companies where there's often a feeling of everyone being in it together and forming close friendships. But don't let that stop you.