7 tips to hire the development team you really want

1. Get help. Seriously. I don’t care if you’re an expert in your field. Unless you’re also an expert in software development you’re not going to be able to tell a coder from a clown.

Not sure? Here’s a test. Can you tell at a glance that this code is bad?

for ( int i=0 ; i < this.MyControl.TabPages.Count ; i++ )
   this.MyControl.TabPages.Remove ( this.MyControl.TabPages[i] );

(Here’s why)

2. Hire the most important team members first, they can help you find the rest of the team. Start with the lead developer. Whatever you do, don’t hire a “project manager” who can’t code, regardless of their claims or apparent experience. If they can’t write code, they aren’t qualified.

3. Don’t forget – good programmers are not in thrall to IT recruiters. You just need to know where to look. Look on stackoverflow. Search twitter for developers bitching about the quirks in relevant technologies. Get your new dev lead to tell you where online she hangs out and look there.

4. Ignore offers of help from salespeople. It doesn’t matter if they’ve been fully trained in terminology. Their opinions should count only in proportion to how well they could design and build a system themselves.

5. Go for quality over quantity. This sounds obvious until I put it more pointedly – if you have thoughts of hiring more than one developer, consider combining two jobs into one and offering a salary twice as big. Top-notch programmers are worth it. This doesn’t apply if you’re intent on producing unmaintainable crap.

6. Avoid using any of these terms when advertising the job:

  • “fast moving” or “fast paced”
  • rock star
  • exciting
  • Don’t say SQL SERVER or PERL when you mean SQL Server or Perl.

In fact, probably best to get your new team lead to write the job description, or at least review it before it gets published. Don’t let sales people publish it for you, they will screw up and (to cite one example I witnessed last month) drop the # from C#, leaving your advert looking stupid. “.Net and C developers wanted!”

7. Don’t let yourself get desperate. Kind of self-evident, but worth remembering. If you get desperate you’ll end up hiring poor/mediocre programmers who will produce mountains of crap (oh believe me, I’ve seen this happen over and over). Plus, the programmers you should have hired will see the mounting piles of unmaintainable crap code and run a mile.


Posted in Hiring

Ed Guiness

I am the author of Ace the Programming Interview, published 2013 by John Wiley and Sons. In 2012 I founded SocialCoder.org, a volunteering organisation for programmers. I have been a professional programmer for more than 20 years, and a hiring manager since 2004.

Ask me anything.