Seven steps to success when hiring a developer

You want to create a startup. You have the golden idea. You know your target audience. You know how to market it and you’re pretty damn sure that it will make you a buck or two as well.

But it’s a technology startup – an app, or a website, or perhaps some sort of business-to-business platform. As luck would have it, you know how to sign up for WordPress and Tweet at the speed of a Ferrari, but your dev skills are somewhat lacking. This project is too big for you to do alone. It’s not the end of the world though. You have to hire a developer or even a team of them. Simple, right?

Well… developers are the in high demand at the moment, and there is night and day between a good one and a bad one. They have the power to make your idea the next Flappy Birds or turn it into something resembling a form from Centrelink. Despite what The Social Network would have you believe, not all developers have to be chosen via nightlong coding sessions that include copious amounts of alcohol. Stick to these basic tips and you have a really good chance of pulling off your idea.

1. Outsource!

If you can do this you certainly should. It’s easier to find a well run agency of developers that has a track record. Make sure you communicate your idea to them simply and listen carefully to what they have to say about it and how they would go about doing it. That way you can get a glimpse of whether you will gel or not. These agencies make their living from clients like you, so generally they want to impress.

2. Use your network.

OK, you are set on making a hire. Lean on your network for trusted sources that can help you with the interview process. Chances are someone you know or someone your friends know will be a developer or has hired developers. You will likely not know the right technology questions to ask or whether the responses from the candidate are relevant. Even if you have to pay for someone’s a tech expertise upfront to assist and guide you in the interview process, it will save you in the long run.

3. Research.

Do you know how much to pay a developer? What about how they should use their time and the terminology around developing? Ask around, use forums, speak to colleagues. You don’t want to turn down a great developer because you think their pay expectations are exorbitant when it’s your lack of knowledge of the market that has caused the issue.

4. Trust yourself.

Use your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right about a candidate chances are it’s for valid reason. After all, you will need to work very closely with your developer/s and trust is implicit. If you wouldn’t hire them as your 2IC, you shouldn’t hire them as your developer.

5. Cheaper is not always better.

Don’t fall into the trap of going for the cheaper junior option. Not all developers are the same. The skills margin can be huge. The productivity benefit of someone experienced but twice the salary could in fact be the cheaper option. Much cheaper if you end up having to bring someone else in to clean up bad work.

6. Past experience counts.

Look for candidates with skills in technologies that larger enterprises use. This can often be a quick way to separate the wheat from the chaff. Look at the previous roles and organisations the person has worked for. Is it a reputable organisation? Was their role of relevance to what you require? Did the candidate stay there for a while? Chances are reputable tech organisations will have stricter and more competitive recruitment standards than most, so rest assured they’ve done some of the hard work for you.

7. Do your due diligence.

Hiring a developer is exactly the same as hiring any other staff member. You must feel a connection, respect their work experience and check out their references.

The last is particularly important. Those who have worked with them will have an opinion that could alter your perception of them.

About the Author

Michael Scruby is the founder of Site Tour – an Australian startup providing a technology platform for buying and selling outdoor media. An advertising expert with little technology experience, he was thrown in the deep end when he had to hire a group of developers to create Site Tour.

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