Programmers have a lot of strong opinions about which qualities recruiters should prioritize for when they’re hiring developers. According to this year’s Developer Hiring Landscape, they feel that recruiters should be prioritizing developers with strong communication skills, a track record of getting things done, and knowledge of algorithms and data structures.
But I was still curious to learn more, so I asked a few programmers and engineering managers to elaborate on the competencies identified in our survey. Whether you’re an experienced tech recruiter or are just getting started, I’ve compiled suggestions from a combination of full-time programmers and engineering managers that will help you identify the right candidates for your team.
The first thing most tech recruiters look for when hiring developers is the ability to communicate with their peers. But on top of that, the best developers can explain incredibly complex technical issues to people who have no experience writing code. In fact, Fernando Andrade, Principal Architect at Work & Co, says that it’s a red flag when a developer isn’t able to do so.
“I'm always probing candidates about their approach to learning and teaching,” Andrade says. “I'll choose a project from his or her past. Then I'll ask about the process to see if the candidate can explain something they know a lot about to someone who barely does. It's a perfect exercise to gauge a candidate's communication skills.”
Prem Chandrasekaran, VP of Software Engineering at Barclaycard, says that a successful developer should have a track record of successful individual projects—but more importantly, a history of collaborating with a variety of teams. He adds, “Programmers with the inclination to collaborate are still hard to find. Consequently, there is high demand for developers who are willing to do so.”
Even if a candidate is clearly a top-notch programmer, ask that person open-ended questions about a time he or she worked cross-functionally. If you’re not satisfied with the response, don’t be afraid to wait for someone more willing to collaborate with other teams. Remember, unless you’re hiring someone to build whatever he or she wants, you’re looking for someone who can help you advance your company’s goals and mission.
If you’re like most non-programmers, you might be wondering what makes algorithms and data structures such an integral part of writing code. You could dig into some very academic-sounding answers, but the short version is that the developers who understand them are good problem-solvers. Without an understanding of algorithms and data structures, programmers can’t write code that solves real business problems.
Emily Davis, Director of Engineering at Skillcrush, says that she looks for developers who can get to the root of a problem, pinpoint the cause, and figure out the best solution. “I don’t want Band-aids,” she says. “We need real answers!” Based on what the respondents to our survey told us this year, today’s programmers need to know their algorithms and data structures to find those real answers.