Hiring a specialist in any industry can be extremely tricky. In the software world, processes, opinions and context vary to such a degree that the landscape is thick with misinformation and confusion. These five points seek to provide some simple and actionable ideas to help strengthen your approach to hiring a web developer.
1. Role specificity
This is the most important component to nail down before even thinking about having an interview. Write down exactly what you expect out of your developer role. In detail, consider the tools they’ll be required to use, the common responsibilities you need that person to handle, and outline what a typical work day would look like for the position. This will help you understand what personality traits would work best for your unique requirements.
For example, some developers have more direct client communication than others. In this scenario, hiring a quirky, introverted Mr. Robot type that panics at human interaction might not be the best strategy.
Being careful and thorough in this area aids tremendously to selecting the right candidate, and increases your chances of retaining them. Some coding jobs are just less sexy than others. Sugar coating a job description can make folks feel swindled into the wrong position. They’ll just end up quitting, and you’ll have to start the hiring process all over again.
2. Syntax structure
Ask them about their approach to code organization. Cleanliness and documentation (descriptive comments) are the keys to maintainable code. Messy syntax can destroy a project’s efficiency, causing less time to be spent delivering meaningful features.
It should be a developer’s point of pride to have easy to read, effectively labeled, and thoughtfully organized code.
Get them talking about specific methods and criteria they use to document their code, and try asking questions that help gauge the consistency with which they adhere to these rules.
If you’d like to go further, ask about their class naming conventions, and some common use cases where they might use semantic html tags, or their approach to heading hierarchy. You want someone who is scrupulous and almost fanatic about their code structure.
3. Process relevance
From a web developer’s perspective, entrenched in job postings with enormous, nit-picky lists of languages and required frameworks can get kinda old. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t good reasons and methods to inquire about a candidate’s abilities and specific technique.
At every level, software development is all about iteration. Essentially all programming languages receive updates and syntax revisions in their lifetimes. As languages and technologies evolve, developers must find a way to keep up, and avoid obsoletion.
You want someone who recognizes this constant part of their job, and enjoys the growth process of improving their skills. Ask questions around what they’re most fascinated to learn about or work with. You want to see them light up, and truly excited about their discipline.
4. DevOps / DNS competency
It’s not uncommon for a developer (especially a front-end dev) to have little exposure to different DNS and hosting configurations. Some outright despise altering Apache config files and using SSH to make changes to a server. Depending on your role requirements, this could become a point of pressure.
In larger organizations, this isn’t as big of an issue to contend with. Many agencies and businesses compartmentalize these needs excellently, and have processes in place to support the infrastructure.
However, if your project doesn’t have established resources, or you’re looking for a single freelancer, it’s important that person has the ability to not only build, but launch and maintain a site as well.
Ask questions about the developer’s preferred hosting configuration, and why it is their preference. Some might describe the raw benefits of using their solution over another, while others might choose a host for their fully managed support. Either way, the goal is to get them to reveal their capabilities (intentionally or otherwise).
Other good questions might be: what tools do they use to manage their server and access their hosted files? What is their process for launching websites? Specifics can be tricky in this area, but they help draw out any B.S., even if you’re not an expert on every component you’re inquiring about.
If you need your candidate to excel in this area, ask them if they have any experience working with a cloud hosting platform like Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure.
5. Don’t sweat the resumé too hard / focus on the body of work.
If a candidate submits a great portfolio (and you believe they aren’t misrepresenting their abilities), take a chance on them, even if their resume doesn’t stun you instantly.
I’m not saying that work experience or formal education isn’t valuable. But, unless you’re hiring for a specialization that requires (or strongly suggests) the prospect be certified in some capacity, a candidate’s body of work matters more than their credentials.