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5 Tips for Hiring Developers

In today’s fast-paced tech landscape, securing top-tier talent for your organization can be a daunting task. This means the labor market for tech professionals remains tight. Companies must get all the pieces of the hiring process in good order, from larger strategic efforts like talent brand to the nuts and bolts of the interview process. Organizations must “set the table” right in order to attract the best candidates. Here are five ways you can increase your developer hiring success.

Create a consistent talent brand

To ensure you’re attracting the right talent, first discover how your company is perceived in the labor market. Brand is not just about selling to customers or clients, it’s also about selling to potential employees. Tech candidates want to grow their skill set, work on the latest technologies and know that they’re not going to stagnate. Find ways to weave this into your talent brand. For example, talk about the new technologies you’re using, or the way technology impacts the products that you’re developing. Make it clear how these potential employees can make an impact.

When candidates research your company, you want them to get excited. Positive Glassdoor reviews are always good but consider blog posts that highlight the new technology being created at the company. Also, current employees can blog about the company culture or real experiences they’ve had working for your organization.

The key is to project a consistent talent brand through all the avenues where candidates “see” you. Whether it’s GitHub, social media like LinkedIn, your company website, job postings, etc. the story should be the same – “This is who we are and why you want to work here.”

When the brand message is consistent across the organization – company brand, marketing, HR and technology department – finding good candidates becomes easier. The table is already set. Candidates are primed and interested when you post the job.

Write clear, compelling job descriptions

Let’s be honest. Too many job descriptions are cookie cutter. It’s easier to copy and paste when you’re anxious to post the job and start reviewing resumes. But when you put a generic message out there, thinking, “this is good enough,” then you’re going to get “good enough” candidates which is a waste of both your time and the candidates’ time.

It’s important to do the work up front on the job description. Think about what you need – what’s a “must have” and what’s a “nice to have.” List all the programming languages, and definitely include (if applicable) the cool new programming languages or technologies you’re going to use because this will interest candidates. Also, when customizing the job description, don’t hesitate to add some passion. If employees are excited about where they’re working, put that passion into the job description. The goal is to attract as much talent as possible and then have more candidates to choose from.

Plan your job posting strategy

Now that you have an overarching talent brand strategy and a well-written and enticing job description, it’s time to post the job. As with any marketing effort, this should be planned in detail. Go beyond the typical sites to post such as your company website or LinkedIn. Go where developers gather like GitHub, coding sites and tech-specific job boards. The more places, the more potential candidates and the more you have to choose from. Posting in a wide variety of locations also increases the odds that you’ll find more diverse candidates, be it diversity in talent, skills or interest, or other perspectives.

Encourage hiring managers and team members to post the job on their networks adding a brief personal message. Networks could include not just LinkedIn but developer’s networks, personal networks or college alumni channels. You never know where you’ll find that ideal candidate.

Prepare for the interview

Too often, interviewers wing the interview. “I know what we’re looking for,” is the typical thought, “and I’ll know when I see it.” With all due respect for experience, this isn’t an effective method for getting the information you need from the candidate. Without a strategy, you run the risk of wasting valuable time and effort, hiring the wrong person, missing the right person or even legal issues if you’re asking inappropriate questions.

The starting point is to identify the skills needed including both technical skills and soft skills, like teamwork, mentoring or management. Next, create interview questions that are tied to these skills and ask for specific examples of when the candidate has exhibited those skills (e.g., “Tell me about a time when you mentored a coworker.”) If you’re not getting the details you need, dig deeper. Objective, skill-based questions will lead you to the information you need to make a good hiring decision. The hiring manager should plan the interview strategy and communicate to the interviewers.

Technical skills can be assessed in a number of ways. Some employers ask candidates to take a pre-interview technical assessment to ensure developers have the basic technical level needed. Most interviews also require the interviewee to code in-person so that the hiring team can verify their skills as well as ask questions about their process.

Interviewers also need to be prepared to answer questions about the project or job. For instance, how long is the project? What tools are being used? What is the importance or impact? How do people learn and grow here? Ideally, the interviewer should answer these questions in a way that excites candidates. And because it’s more than just the technical, hiring team members should prepare to answer questions about the company and what it’s like to work there in an authentic and personal way.

Conduct an effective interview

Even before the candidate walks in the door or signs into the virtual interview, it’s the hiring team’s responsibility to set them up for success. Here are some tips to make this happen and get the data you need to make a decision.

  • Technical prep. If it’s a virtual interview, make sure candidates have the appropriate technology for the interview including meeting software and whiteboard technology. Communicate with candidates ahead of time which tools they will need for the interview.
  • Put the candidate at ease. When people are relaxed, they tend to share more information and that’s what you need. Do everything possible to make the candidate comfortable. Make it a conversation, not an interrogation. To that end, be sure to turn on your own camera. It’s not just a technical interview. You need to make a connection, especially in today’s tight labor market. And remember, the candidate is interviewing you as well, trying to decide if this is the right job for them.
  • Ask open-ended questions linked to skills. Open-ended questions (who, what, when, where, how and why) pull more information than close-ended questions, which are answered with a simple yes or no. Use these types of questions to follow up your initial skill-based questions. For example, “What did you do in that project?” “Why did you decide to solve the problem in that way?”
  • Use pre-interview assessment results. One of the advantages of giving developer candidates an assessment before the interview is that you can use the results to learn more. For example, “I saw on question #2 that you coded it this way. Can you tell me what you were thinking?”
  • “I” not “we.” Development work is often done in teams so it’s easy for the candidate to describe their work in that context. But you want to know what they did specifically in the project. If you are hearing “we did this” too much, ask follow-up questions. For instance, “Please explain your role, what you did and how you made an impact on the outcome.”
  • Hybrid, remote or onsite. There are questions that employers didn’t have to answer pre-pandemic like, “why should I work in the office?” But it’s a new world – and a candidate’s market – so be prepared to explain why you feel it’s valuable to have workers onsite, even if it’s a couple of days a week.

Hiring good tech talent is as difficult if not more so than before the pandemic. That’s why it’s important to have a strategy and to plan the details. Perhaps you won’t see the results immediately, but it will bear fruit in the long term.

Looking for more hiring advice? Check out our Step-By-Step Guide to Hiring Tech Talent.

Photo Credit: Canva

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