Many business owners think they need a rockstar developer. But in most cases, nothing could be further from the truth.
The more entrepreneurs, appreneurs and tech people I talk to, the more complaints I hear about not being able to find the right candidate for development positions.
You only need to take a look at job boards to see the problem. The same ads for the same job are advertised by the same companies for month after month.
The reason is clear: lots of demand for quality developers, but far too few available to hire. It is an issue of supply outstripping demand. It is hardly surprising that salary costs are skyrocketing.
What then can we do about it? How can we find the right person without breaking the bank? Well, one approach is to outsource your development work. But that presents other challenges. Finding the right team is incredibly hard.
For the last six years, I have been running one such agency (B7Dev). We are a diverse team made up of developers from all around the world. In that role, I have heard many horror stories. Stories from business owners who turned to a development agency to make up for their shortfall in development staff, only to have a horrendous experience.
The problem is not technical efficiency. Finding people who can write good code is not the challenge. But, finding people you can work with to deliver on a project is more difficult. It means looking beyond coding ability when hiring.
What to look for when hiring a developer
We have all encountered the ‘savant’ developer. The guy who codes in his dreams. But hiring that person does not always lead to great results. There are other factors to consider when hiring a development partner:
- Time to respond.
- Communication skills.
Let’s review those in more detail:
Time to respond
Any developer you hire should be quick to respond to enquiries. Sure, he or she needs to be able to focus on coding. But you are going to be dependant on them, and that means you need to know what is going on. If they don’t respond quickly, it will ultimately delay the project. That is of particular importance when working remotely.
It may seem cliche, but a ‘can do’ attitude could make the difference between a new breakthrough or a flat feature. You need a developer who is a problem solver. Somebody who can work within the constraints of the project to come up with the most feasible solution. The last thing you want is a developer who just moans about the constraints or goes off on flights of fancy. Always pick a creative and persistent developer over the genius coder.
Price and availability often encourage many business owners to look further afield for developers. That means they often end up hiring somebody whose first language isn’t English. If that is the case, you have to ensure that as a minimum their written English is top notch. If that person cannot understand a specification, it will cause havoc with your project. A responsible developer should always be looking to improve his or her communication skills, whether a native speaker or not.
Often developers are hired by the hour, and that means you need to trust them. If you are worried that they might mislead you about the number of hours they work, you will waste all your energy watching them, rather than launching your project.
Then there is a fear of them stealing your idea. Sure, you can get the developer to sign an NDA, but enforcing them is not easy. You need to know you can trust the people you work with.
Of course, the question then becomes; how do you know if you can trust somebody? For that matter how do you know if they have any of the qualities I have outlined above?
How do you know if you have the right developer?
As somebody who hires developers all the time, I have become experienced in finding the right people. It all comes down to your initial interaction with them.
First of all, how long does it take for them to respond? In most cases, if the developer does not reply within a few hours it is an indication he is not that interested in my work. Of course, he might be on vacation or unavailable, but if that is the case, you should get an out-of-office notification.
Obviously, response time isn’t everything. But it is worth noting as it does say a lot about somebodies character and work ethic.
When she does respond, take the time to look at what she has sent through in detail. Does she seem to have a good grasp of the tasks involved and are her estimates realistic?
She may ask lots of questions, and that is okay. In fact, it is good! It is a sign she is engaging with the project. If people don’t ask questions, it either means they think they understand everything or they aren’t that bothered. Both of those are reasons to be concerned.
The chances of understanding every nuance of a project without asking questions are small. Equally, developers become bored easily and so may not be interested in your work. That can damage quality.
With that in mind, if you are hiring an agency of multiple developers, make sure they are investing in their staff’s training. It leads to a better quality and more engaged workforce.
But most of all, is whoever you are talking to open and honest. Is the communication a frank exchange or are you just being told what they think you want to hear?
All this talk of soft skills might make you think I am dismissing development proficiency. I am not. I am just saying you need to get the right person for the right job.
Get the right person for the right job
There will be times when you need an expert to do a highly complex, specialist piece of work. But that doesn’t mean you need to take them on for any length of time. These people tend to get bored easily, are expensive, difficult to source and challenging to manage. Instead, hire them for the shortest period possible.
Most of the work you will need doing will be fairly standard development stuff. You don’t need a rock star for that. Instead, you need somebody who is affordable, efficient and responsive.
In this way, you reduce your dependence on experts, save some money and help reliable developers grow their expertise.
B7Dev is a full-service development agency that business trust with their app development, big data, machine learning and service side needs.