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8 hiring tips for identifying superstar developers

Rich Hein | Sept. 19, 2012
Targeting Skilled Programmers/Developers

Targeting Skilled Programmers/Developers

Hiring developers is one of the most challenging tasks IT executives face. How do you find ones who code flawlessly but also are good team players?

Chad Lilly, director of recruiting at Lextech, has more than 16 years working in the professional services market connecting employers to talent. To help you make your next great hire, Lilly shares this advice for IT executives: "A superstar developer is rarely on the market, as they are well-regarded by their peers. In my experience, about 2 percent of developers on the market are superstars, 30 percent are solid developers and the rest are the remaining 68 percent."

Stats like these demonstrate the need for sound practices and skills when looking for your next developer, because failure can mean missed deadlines, bad code and poor standards.

What makes a great developer, a great developer? Most share these common traits: curiosity and a desire to learn, great problem-solving skills, the ability to deal with several layers of abstraction at the same time, solid communication skills and a belief that in most cases simpler is better.

Finding someone who encompasses all these traits is what Lilly describes as "finding a diamond in the river. You have to dig for them." To help you mine for these diamonds, Lilly shares some of the tips and tricks he uses to find talent in the vast mountain of IT professionals.

1. Be Forward Thinking

This is a huge part of finding the right candidate. Many companies don't take the time to consider the future when they hire a programmer. "With newer technology", Lilly says, "developers will have less of the actual specific technical expertise, so hiring managers must realize that it's more of the aptitude that matters. There won't be someone who has four years of experience with a technology that's only been around for two years, so this is especially where forward thinking on behalf of hiring managers comes into play".

Another example that demonstrates the point: Company "A" has been using a proprietary CMS for years but in the next fiscal year it is considering a move to an open source CMS, like Joomla or Wordpress, to save money.

You would imagine if they were on the market for a developer they would search for someone who knows open source but surprisingly many don't. Uncounted companies simply look at the skillset of the person that left or they consider only the current systems and technology that are in place. Be forward thinking--what is coming down the pipe, what will I need next year? "Recognize that new technologies will spring up and think ahead to what talents you'd want a developer to have in order to adapt to that new technology quickly," Lilly says.


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