The Non-Developer’s Guide to Hiring Software Engineers

You know the drill. Great startup idea meets meets huge roadblock: how does a non-developer go about hiring a software engineer? For us non-developers, this obstacle is pretty make-or-break. We don’t have the luxury of skipping it, since we can’t do the coding ourselves, and if we don’t hire someone, we can kiss our project goodbye.Thankfully, there are a few tried and true steps to getting the right programmer for your team. They’re not set in stone, but they’re guaranteed to make the process a whole lot easier. Try these out, and tweak them until they work perfectly for you.


Plan ahead. Before you start reaching out to developers, you should have a pretty good idea of what your project’s going to look like. If it’s a website, what differentiates it from other similar sites? Are there going to be different membership plans? If it’s an app, what market are you looking to enter? Are there going to be unlock options? If you have some apps or websites you really like, pull a list together and be able to talk about the specific features you’re drawn to, why, and how you think you may want to incorporate them into your project.


Crack some code. It’s tough to know exactly what to look for in a developer if you don’t have the slightest idea what coding is. You don’t need to become Mark Zuckerberg. Logging a few hours on one of Code Academy’s free tutorials should at least help you understand some of the basics of what’s involved in programming. Learning a bit about how software works might also give you some ideas for your project that you hadn’t considered before.


Get help. You’re not going to find a good developer on your own unless you’re extremely lucky and your college roommate was a coding whiz who owes you one. Though there are millions of developers out there, most of them are sitting somewhere behind a computer screen, and it’s going to be tough to get in touch. One of your first steps should always be to go to a hiring website. It’s going to cost a small commission, but it’s definitely worth the price, since without a good coder, you’ll be making exactly zero money. Our current favorite is Toptal, an awesome company that vets its coders with a super intense application process.


Don’t forget personality. Your coder is probably going to be working remotely. That doesn’t mean that you won’t care if they’re annoying, lazy, or rude. Make sure you pick someone who’s going to fit in seamlessly with your team, has a great work ethic, and is an excellent communicator.


Dial down the stress. We’ve all been there. You want your app to get to market as quickly as possible, so you feel like you should hire a programmer as soon as possible. Don’t rush the process. Taking an extra week or two to vet candidates will pay off in the long run when you get the best person for the job and avoid a subpar programmer who seemed really great during your first interaction. Slow down, and you’ll thank yourself later.


Present a challenge. Coders like coding for a whole host of reasons, but chief among them is a hunger for challenges. Don’t be afraid to present your developer with a tough predicament (so long as it’s sufficiently detailed and clear) and let their drive carry them forward.


Two at a time. If you need a lot of developers, you’re probably feeling even greater pressure to hire quickly. Don’t do it. The only thing worse than hiring one subpar developer is hiring a bunch of them. Make sure to limit yourself to hiring one or two developers at a time so that you can see how they fit in with the rest of your development team and the rest of your company. You don’t want to wake up one day and realize that you need to fire half of your programming team, so make sure to take things slow, especially at first.


Check them out. Look at your candidate’s past work. What sorts of apps have they developed, and how satisfied were their customers? Are they frequent contributors to open-source sites? Do they have a website that lists their past accomplishments? Make sure to do your background research so that you can ask them direct questions about their strengths and weaknesses in your interviews.


Top talent. Especially when hiring for a long-term project, you want to take the best coder possible, which isn’t always the same thing as taking a coder whose skills line up perfectly with what you’re looking for. Obviously, you shouldn’t take someone with absolutely no experience in the field you want. On the other hand, when you’re picking between an all-star with slightly less experience and a dud with slightly more, you should always take the all-star. It’s much easier for a developer with heaps of talent to pick up a new skill than for an average developer who has studied a lot of languages to quickly learn a new one.


There you have it. These are just a couple of the best tips for finding a developer who’s right for you. Play around with them, and see which ones work best for you. You may rewrite some, add in your own, or place different levels of emphasis on the ones we suggested, but this is a great base from which to expand. Good luck!

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