The Software Engineer Hiring Guide
Are you having trouble hiring engineers? Try not to beat yourself up about it, especially if you lack the technical knowledge to appraise candidates. It can be a complicated and involved task for anyone without a technical recruiter or senior engineer on the team. We’ll show you how to hire the right technical talent for your team, with tips and tricks from FirstJob’s very own lead web developer, James.
“I guess I could help you with this blog.”
-James Maddox, CTO and Full Stack Web Developer
Thanks James! Our first tip is that engineers can have wonderfully dry humor, so make sure you prep your team for a fun dose of healthy sarcasm ☺.
Our next piece of advice to anyone looking to hire engineers is that it’s crucial to have a solid understanding of the complexity of the engineering field. Pinning down the exact title of the role you’re looking to fill is one of the most important steps to hiring the right talent. There are many types of software engineers out there, and they tend to be highly specialized. For example, a front end web developer will generally not be interchangeable with a dev ops engineer. Here’s a quick summary of engineering domains to help you write a more targeted job posting:
- Web developers include front end, back end or full stack (those knowledgeable with both front and back end development) engineers. Web development is generally a bit more accessible, so James’ pro tip to rely on a portfolio and not on their school when you’re looking for a developer.
- Mobile developers are more specialized and will generally be working specifically in either iOS or Android. James recommends that if you’re looking for mobile devs, finding someone who’s worked on at least a couple of apps is usually a sure bet.
- Development operations, or dev ops, include the people who manage databases or IT functions at a company. What you should look out for when considering these candidates is whether or not they have actual work experience, as this area of technical expertise is learned on the job rather than in school. Look out for candidates who have contributed to an open source database such as Apache, Node.js or others.
Now that we have the title and role defined, one can easily go through a short checklist to weed out any truly unqualified candidates. First, we recommend ensuring that they have a Github account, essentially an engineer’s online portfolio, where their coding work is displayed. It also helps to know which coding languages your new hire should be proficient in, and to make sure those are listed on their resume.
“Hiring the right engineer can be tough for those without the right technical background, so try to outsource as many aspects of the candidate review process to trusted sources as you can.”
The most critical part of assessing any engineering talent is being able to assess the quality of their work. Now, we recommend that if you are able to contract a technical recruiter, you definitely should consider it. Just keep in mind one caveat of a technical recruiter. Generally, their priority will be to find you someone quite expensive because they usually take their cut as a percentage of the candidate’s salary.
There are other ways to assess a person’s technical skill level that can be great for those low on resources. Try outsourcing your hiring by reaching out to any technical friends you have and asking them to review a candidate’s portfolio. You can also get candidates to supply you with a technical reference. Ring them up and ask them to rate the candidate’s proficiency in the requisite languages and skills that you need. Other ways to test for technical skill level are to ask them in an interview what their ideal job would be like, and where they would like to be skill-wise down the line. Their answer should give you a good feel for whether or not they have confidence in their own technical abilities and the knowledge to project future skill development.
Need more help hiring engineers? Try FirstJob’s hiring solutions for curated quality candidates in half the time.
Amy Liu is a Digital Marketing Associate at FirstJob and graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from UC Berkeley. In her free time, she loves exploring San Francisco and trying out tasty new restaurants.