What I look for when I’m hiring a developer

People, people, people.

I’m Baz and if you send people out on site-visits and it’s keeping you up at nights, we should probably talk.

Anyway, I’ve been hiring recently. Most of my software developers are abroad, so it’s quite a skill getting the right staff, and over the years, I’ve lost a lot of money hiring in the wrong people.

But now, I like to think I’ve got it down to a fine art.

If I need a new developer, it normally takes about a week to find the right one. And I know within two weeks if they’re any good.

But, because it’s an online hire, I have to make sure I follow my own rules, or it just goes wrong.

First thing is the job description. When posting a job online, use the “brown M&M” trick – ask a question in the middle of the posting and ignore anyone that doesn’t answer it. If they can’t read instructions then they’re a no straight away.

Secondly is the interview. Again, this is online (Skype, Slack, Hangouts or iMessage) – but I always start with a bit about myself. This isn’t ego; it’s an important stage, letting them know that 1) I’m a software developer myself, so I know what I’m talking about and 2) I’m a human being with a family and feelings – not just a series of emails with instructions for work. If the interview feels like hard work, then that’s a no. I almost take it for granted that you’ve got the technical skills I need. But if we’re going to work together, I need you to have the communication skills. When we work remotely, we need to make sure we can make ourselves understood. So if you’re not easy to chat with, that’s a no.

Thirdly is managing the work. After you’re hired, you’re added in to our systems and you’re expected to be present in Slack while you’re working. This isn’t so I can keep tabs on you – but more so that if there are any issues, they can be resolved immediately. In the same way that if you were in an office, you’d ask someone for help. I have an internal review after a week and we have a one-to-one after two weeks – by which time I know if the person is a good fit.

And those three steps mean that I have hired well (2 out of 3 hires) for years now.