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5 Top Mistakes Hiring Managers Make When Recruiting Software Developers

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The tech world prides itself on its ability to push boundaries and question long-held assumptions, but it is all too easy for hiring managers to get trapped in traditional hiring mindsets, especially when they recruit software developers.

Related: Top Predictions for Hiring and Retaining Software Developers

Here are the top five mistakes they tend to make:

1. Overvaluing experience.

It is risky to bet too heavily on the particular languages and technologies a candidate already knows. Programming languages evolve quickly and the developer will need to invest time in learning new techniques and technologies.

Languages are tweaked and improved all the time; Facebook developed Hack to improve PHP; Google created Dart as an upgraded form of Javascript; and the C programming language has continuously spawned new incarnations every few years. Just look at the success of Go.

2. Mistaking credentials for aptitude.

Credentials from educational institutions, riddled with problems of unequal access, are poor proxies for intelligence. There is little reason to rely on them when there exists an abundance of tools and tests that accurately gauge cognitive abilities.

Given that developers will need to continually adapt and upgrade their skills, it is more important to know if they have the drive and mental horsepower to improve, rather than a handful of credentials they accumulated before joining the team.

Google, for instance, has moved away from a reliance on GPA and brand-name schools that it says can condition for “one type of thinking.” Instead, the search company prefers to hire candidates with the ability to learn, process on the fly and integrate disparate pieces of information. 

Related: 8 Clumsy Mistakes to Avoid During the Hiring Process 

3. Assuming future developers will (literally) look like current developers.

Currently, only 20 percent of software developers are women (in contrast to 36 percent of physicians and surgeons), and only 10 percent are black or Hispanic. Studies have documented the benefits of diversity in avoiding groupthink and making better decisions -- and tech companies are finally catching on. “If we [recruit women], there’s no question we’ll more than double the rate of technology output in the world,” Larry Page, chief executive of Google, told the New York Times.

Now, here's a surprise: Hiring managers could learn a few lessons from the history of orchestras. In the 1970s, the top symphony orchestras were less than than 5 percent female, but today, partly as a result of blind auditions (where musicians perform behind a screen), some of them have over 30 percent female musicians. What might an equivalent “blind audition” for developers look like?

4. Not accounting for team dynamics.

When looking for a developer, you should aim not to hire an individual but rather an additional member of the team. It is important to look beyond, “Does he or she know Java?” and determine if the new developer’s personality complements other team members’ and fits in with the company’s culture.

5. Limiting the search within geographical boundaries.

Talent is abundant. Smart hiring managers will look for the most talented candidates wherever they are, not simply the best talent that happens to live 10 blocks away.

Worried about relocation expenses? Consider hiring a distributed team spread over different time zones.

More than 81 percent of software developers already interact with colleagues from different sites, and many companies, like Wordpress, consist of a completely distributed workforce.

As futurist James Ware, executive director of the Future of Work research and advisory firm, recently wrote, "There are two things we know without question about the future of work. It will require significantly more collaboration, and it will be dramatically more distributed.”

Related: 4 Hiring Mistakes Most Entrepreneurs Make 

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