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Key Considerations When Hiring a Software Developer

Tina Lj.8 min readApr 29, 2024Business & Life
Key Considerations When Hiring a Software Developer

What makes a great software developer? A question that a lot of hiring people are asking when assessing technical skills.

Many software engineers appear impressive on paper. The same goes for numerous roles in software development services. However, sometimes technical recruiters often overemphasize the skills listed on a resume, which can inadvertently result in hiring a "code monkey."

In this blog post, let's see what hiring for quality, not quantity, actually means.

1. Identify problem solvers vs. coders

Problem solvers

When it comes to hiring a developer, one key quality to look for is problem-solving skills. These individuals, often referred to as "problem solvers," excel at analyzing challenges and creating effective solutions.

Problem solvers can handle unexpected issues and think creatively, which makes them invaluable in software development. Their ability to adapt and devise strategies enables them to tackle complex issues that can arise in projects.

Coders

On the other hand, there are individuals who focus primarily on writing code based on provided specifications. These coders, or "builders," are skilled at implementing features and functionalities but may not excel when confronted with unexpected challenges or when a project requires innovative thinking.

2. The impact of problem solvers on development

Innovating solutions

In the software development industry, innovation is crucial for staying competitive. Problem solvers bring a unique perspective that allows them to come up with creative solutions to complex issues.

By leveraging their technical knowledge and soft skills, they can think outside the box and develop custom software solutions tailored to a project's specific needs. This innovation often leads to the best software developers creating groundbreaking digital solutions that drive business growth.

Real work is in the details

However, problem-solving doesn't just mean innovation and vision. As Linus Torvalds stated, "Successful projects are 99% perspiration and 1% innovation."

Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux kernel and the inventor of the Git distributed version control system, has shown that his method leads to effective outcomes.

Problem-solving in software development requires meticulous attention to detail and hard work. The real success lies in understanding that beyond innovation, a great developer must focus on perfecting the details and executing ideas effectively. The hard work and dedication needed to implement these solutions are what truly drive successful software development projects.

Ability to foresee issues before they arise

Problem solvers excel at anticipating potential challenges during the software development process. Their ability to foresee issues before they arise helps prevent costly delays and ensures smoother project execution.

This foresight is particularly valuable in projects involving complex backend development or when integrating distributed systems. By proactively addressing potential pitfalls, problem solvers contribute to the success of the development team.

Improving efficiency

Efficiency is key in software development. Problem solvers can streamline workflows by identifying inefficiencies and implementing solutions that enhance productivity. Their technical skills enable them to optimize existing systems, often improving database management or enhancing caching systems. The result is a more efficient development process, which is crucial when working with top developers or when deadlines are tight.

3. How to identify problem solvers during hiring

When hiring a software developer, identifying problem solvers is crucial. The first step is to carefully review resumes and cover letters for specific skills related to problem-solving and innovation. Look for candidates who have experience in diverse areas such as software applications, mobile app development, or web applications. Their past projects should demonstrate their ability to tackle complex issues.

During the hiring process, behavioral interview techniques can be useful. Ask candidates about times they've encountered unexpected challenges or had to learn new technologies quickly. Their responses will offer insight into their problem-solving capabilities and technical skills. Additionally, job seekers with experience in both backend and frontend development, or those with full stack developer skills, are often strong problem solvers.

4. How to cultivate problem solvers in your organization

Creating an environment that fosters problem-solving is important for organizations. While it's easy to talk about hiring problem solvers, true leaders focus on developing problem-solving skills within their teams. One way to cultivate problem solvers is through training and development opportunities. Encourage your software engineers and developers to expand their technical abilities and explore new programming languages or technologies.

Another key factor is building a culture that values innovation and continuous improvement. By nurturing talented developers and creating a supportive environment, you can cultivate a team of problem solvers who will drive your organization’s success.

For example, one of the pillars of our employer branding was that we are problem-solver engineers. This mindset isn't just for the technical part of the company, but it's a perspective we want in both tech and non-tech teams.

5. Be aware of these challenges when hiring software developers

Avoid the trap of overengineering - Sometimes less is more

While problem solvers excel at creating solutions, there's a risk of over-engineering. When hiring software developers, it's important to ensure they focus on practical solutions rather than adding unnecessary complexity.

Overengineering can lead to increased costs and project delays, ultimately impacting the effectiveness of the software development process. Even a skilled developer, such as a software engineer, can fall into this trap.

Recognize when problem solvers go too far

Sometimes, problem solvers can become overly focused on solving issues that aren't crucial to the project. This can lead to wasted effort and decreased efficiency. Recognizing when a problem solver is going too far is key to maintaining a streamlined development process.

It's important to align problem-solving efforts with the goals of the particular project to avoid unnecessary diversions. Even the top software developers can sometimes need guidance in prioritizing tasks effectively.

Balance innovation and practicality

Innovation is crucial in software development, but it must be balanced with practicality. Problem solvers should be encouraged to innovate within the constraints of the project and the needs of the business.

Balancing innovation and practicality ensures that the solutions created are not only creative but also relevant and effective in meeting the project's objectives.

6. Help with interviews when hiring a software developer

When you're hiring, it's important to ensure that the interview process effectively identifies problem solvers and qualified developers. The types of questions you ask during the hiring process can make a significant impact.

Create question variations

Creating variations of questions is a useful technique in technical interviews. This method, often recommended by psychologists, ensures that candidates are evaluated on a consistent set of skills while minimizing the risk of content leaks. For example, two candidates may be presented with different versions of the same problem, such as different data sets for a similar algorithmic challenge.

By doing this, you can assess a candidate’s ability to adapt to new contexts and think on their feet, which is crucial for problem-solving. This technique is not only beneficial for maintaining the integrity of the interview process, but also for identifying software developers who have a strong technical knowledge and the flexibility to handle a range of problems.

Situational questions

Situational questions are another tool in the hiring process for identifying problem solvers. These questions are designed to gauge how candidates approach complex issues and think critically about their work. For example, you might ask, "Describe a challenging technical problem you faced and how you resolved it," or "How do you stay updated with the latest trends and technologies in the tech industry?"

These questions encourage candidates to share their thought processes and problem-solving techniques, which helps to determine if they are a qualified developer who can handle the specific challenges of your organization​​. Situational questions also provide insight into a candidate’s soft skills, such as communication and teamwork, which are essential for successful software development projects.

7. Don't lie, and don't pretend to be something you are not

While candidates often exaggerate their resumes — like someone who claimed to have graduated from Harvard but actually dropped out of high school — interviews can sometimes be misleading as well.

As a company looking to hire a software developer, it’s important to ensure that your job descriptions accurately reflect the role and required skills. Misleading job descriptions can attract candidates who are not a good fit for the position. It's crucial to be honest about the specific skills and experience needed, as well as the realities of the role, to avoid mismatches during the hiring process.

Being truthful and transparent about the job requirements and company expectations helps to attract qualified developers and fosters trust. Instead of overstating qualifications or creating an unrealistic portrayal of the role, focus on clearly defining the key responsibilities and challenges of the job. This approach not only aligns with ethical hiring practices but also sets the foundation for a successful working relationship in the software development industry.

So, our advice is simple: do not be one of those misleading job descriptions.

8. Mistakes to avoid when hiring software engineers

There are a lot of things you learn the hard way when you hire software developers. I checked some things on Quora, and these are the takeaways:

Prioritizing technical skills over soft skills

A common mistake is focusing solely on technical ability without considering interpersonal skills. If a developer can't communicate effectively or work well with the team, their technical expertise won't prevent projects from suffering.

We talked about the importance of soft skills in the challenges of being a tech lead. It's important to hire developers who are not only technically strong but also good team players.

Hiring out of desperation

It's tempting to hire someone quickly when deadlines are looming, but hiring out of desperation often leads to regret. It's better to miss a deadline or two and find the right candidate than to hire someone who isn't a good fit and face greater issues down the line.

Overemphasizing buzzwords and tool versions

Hiring managers often focus too much on specific technologies or versions rather than the candidate's overall problem-solving abilities. It's better to focus on a developer's adaptability and their understanding of core concepts, rather than rejecting them for lacking experience with a specific tool or framework version. We talked about this in blog, but it's good to mention again.

Creating overly long job descriptions

Long and complex job descriptions can deter qualified candidates or create unrealistic expectations. Focus on key responsibilities and required skills rather than creating a wish list of every potential qualification.

Ignoring cultural fit

It's important to ensure that new hires align with the company culture. Mismatched expectations can lead to dissatisfaction, even if the developer is technically skilled. Look for candidates who share the company's values and can integrate well with the existing team.

Overlooking personal interests and curiosity

It's important to remember that work shouldn't be everything for employees, both in tech and non-tech roles. Developers who have hobbies, interests, and a curious mindset often bring valuable perspectives and problem-solving skills to the table. Hiring people who are well-rounded and have passions outside of work can lead to more innovative and engaged team members.

best software developers

At the end, be firm, but flexible

When you hire a software developer, it's important to be firm in your expectations. You want someone who will add value to the project and contribute positively to the team. It's crucial to assess their knowledge of many programming languages and their adaptability, especially when using talent platforms or working with freelance software developers.

However, it's also important to remember that we are all human, and flexibility can be key in finding the right fit. For example, if a candidate requests to reschedule an interview, it doesn't automatically mean they are indecisive or unreliable. They may be going through personal challenges or unforeseen circumstances. Being understanding and flexible in such cases can help you find dedicated and passionate software developers who might otherwise slip through the cracks.

In the end, finding the right balance between firmness and flexibility in your hiring process will help you identify the best candidates while fostering a positive and respectful interviewing environment.

If you have any questions about hiring the best developers, feel free to reach out to our Talent Acquisition (TA) specialist, Lina, at [email protected]. In the meantime, check out our careers page to see current openings.

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